Honoring National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy, exciting, and joyful experience. Even the actual words used to
express pregnancy— “I’m expecting”—denote the anticipation of a healthy, full-term delivery. Unfortunately for some women, the happily-ever-after is abruptly and dramatically interrupted when something goes wrong. It’s a hard truth that babies can and sometimes do die during pregnancy, labor and delivery, the postpartum period, and infancy.
While many advances have been made to enhance and improve perinatal care, these losses can occur with or without warning, and with a staggering frequency. On a global scale, close to 40% of pregnancies end in loss, 3 million deaths occur within the first month of life, and over 4 million infants die before their first birthday. The reasons for these losses are broad and varied, ranging from medical to genetic to environmental reasons, and even causes unknown. All are tragic and emotionally devastating, and create an extraordinary disruption to the path a woman was expecting to pursue for herself, her family, and her life.
Millions of women and their families are impacted by pregnancy and infant loss every year, but sadly, many suffer in silence. Reproductive losses often entail a sense of shame and depression that many women internalize or don’t express, not recognizing (or having society recognize) their losses as valid (particularly those that occur during earlier gestational weeks), or that there is any path forward. But there is. The overwhelming majority of women—an estimated 80%—will go on to conceive again. While no parent will ever “get over” losing a baby or child, parents can find ways to learn to live with their devastating loss, and even find life after loss (while never forgetting their deceased baby).
For over two decades, I have dedicated my professional life to working with parents who have experienced these losses, as their stories captured my attention and my heart. As a therapist, I provide crisis intervention and ongoing individual and couples therapy, guiding parents through the acute pains of unimaginable grief and loss, and then through the lingering effects of trauma, depression, and anxiety in the months (and sometimes years) that follow.
Over the years, my patients have taught me much as I listened to the aching and raw emotion of their losses. I learned how to help parents understand and process their grief, and to deftly attend to and care for their emotional wounds. I learned how to teach parents to find ways to honor and remember their deceased baby. I learned how to help parents confront their worst fears and work through and then beyond them. I also learned how to help them tread the terrifying and uncertain path to pursuing a subsequent pregnancy. And, I learned how to help parents pace themselves through the days, weeks, and months ahead as they navigated the delicate path to parenthood again.
Eventually, I found a way to help turn thousands and thousands of parents’ grief into something beautiful and meaningful. This extensive experience enabled me to create a road map so that other grieving parents wouldn’t have to feel as lost, afraid, and alone.
I have been deeply moved by my patients’ experiences of loss, and inspired by them to raise awareness, improve education, and deepen sensitivity surrounding this cause as I continue to work beyond the finite limits of my private practice. Those efforts have culminated in my extension from a therapist to now author of Rebirth—The Journey of Pregnancy After a Loss, aptly being released during National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This book supports those who have experienced a tragic loss and guides them when they consider the unthinkable—conceiving again.
For over three decades, October has been recognized as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. During this month, others are encouraged to demonstrate support for grieving parents and join in the shared remembrances of those who have experienced such a tragic loss. Although the entire month is increasingly being observed, the designated day of commemoration is October 15th. On this day, people are encouraged to light a candle at 7 p.m. to create a continuous wave of light across time zones and around the world. This is important. But there is still much more work that needs to be done to provide comfort, healing, and hope to millions of parents.
My wish is that the October candle of remembrance designating National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month serves as an encouraging light amidst the dark for every single woman who has experienced such a loss. My wish is that the candle's flame ignites ever more conversation within society about these losses. And that this light illuminates a path to hope for those who will eventually consider another pregnancy. While another pregnancy or baby will never make up for or replace the baby who came prior, another child can confirm there is indeed life after loss.
For those women who don’t conceive again, and those who do, I will light my candle this year to honor and remember your lost pregnancy, your deceased baby, and you. May you feel the comfort of community, the warmth of compassion, and see my light of hope…even though on some days and in some moments, that may feel impossible. You can and will find yourself and your life path again in time, and with work. For now, it’s enough to know you are not, and never will be, alone.
Information about the book Rebirth
Information about National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day/Month