October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I never know what to say or feel when people mention this. I have had two miscarriages, and I still grieve them both, but I don’t know how to talk about them in public – or even if I want to. Those who have lost babies before they are born live in a strange middle ground: are we parents or are we not? Are we allowed to stand for the Mother’s Day blessing at church? Is it worth explaining to near strangers that I have three children on earth and two in heaven, or should I just answer “three” because I know that that’s what they’re really asking? Am I allowed to talk about the babies who were never born?
One aspect of pregnancy loss that surprised me is how intensely personal it is. Before losing my babies, I thought I would be the kind of woman who would speak of something like that openly without fear and without shame – as if women who do not speak of it keep silent because of fear or shame. But I quickly learned that, for me, fear and shame have nothing to do with my silence. If I seldom speak of my losses publicly, it’s because the grief is more personal than I ever expected it be, partly because, unlike the loss of a grandparent, for example, most people don’t have a context for it. Most people simply do not know what it feels like to lose a child. How do you explain that you are a mother when no one else can see that?