There are so many things I love about this month. The chance to tell our babies' stories, to say our babies' names, to stand with other parents of babies in Heaven and let them know that they are not alone. To remind other people that Loss exists and that those walking this road need comfort and understanding from those who are not.
In other ways, this month is very hard. For one, it is the anniversary of my pregnancy with Kyria Hope. We didn't lose her in October, but we knew there were problems, and the cool October days bring all of that back for me. For another, as much as I love hearing other parents' stories, hearing them can be hard. It brings back memories of the pain of loss. It reminds me again of what I am missing. It makes me angry that loss exists, that babies die, that people hurt. I remember how last year, by October 31, I was done. Ready to focus on something else. And that made me feel like an awful mommy, because this month is for my babies in Heaven, and they don't have much else, so how could I resent this one month?
Whether this is your first, or your fifth, or your fifteenth, PAIL Awareness Month, you may be dealing with some of the same ambivalence. Appreciating the recognition of your babies' lives, but maybe a little apprehensive of opening your heart, or getting too close to the pain of others. May I make some suggestions of how to navigate the month?
Learn about the history. Take a few minutes to check out the October 15th website. It contains the story of how October came to be recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and the woman behind it, Robyn Bear. It may help to see your place in the historic community of babyloss parents standing together to support each other.
Find the events going on in your community. Again, the October 15th website is a great starting place. If you live in the Columbia, SC, area, you can check out my Naomi's Circle ministry website to see what is coming up in our area.
Decide on one or two events to participate in, and how public those will be. If there is a memorial walk, do you want to go, and do you want to invite friends or family, or just make it you and your spouse? Do you want to attend a specific candlelighting ceremony, or have one in the privacy of your home? There are many social media "events" that involve photography or sharing our stories. Do you want to put your heart out there on Facebook or Twitter or keep it to yourself? Either is okay, really!
Be careful not to overdose with social media and the internet. Speaking of social media, set good boundaries. It can be easy to get pulled into reading one story, then another, then a blog, then an article, then the comments for an article...and before you know it half the day is gone and you may or may not feel encouraged. Consider what will do you good and what will leave you feeling defeated.
Look for ways to raise awareness in real life. Maybe it is as simple as wearing a pink and blue ribbon or pin. Or bringing a tray of cookies to the labor and delivery nurses at your local hospital, specifically in honor of this month. Or contacting your local government to ask them to recognize October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Or volunteering to help with an outreach for other parents. Or asking your church to participate in Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Sunday.
Allow yourself to take a break. PAIL Awareness Month doesn't have to consume your days. Don't feel like you are letting your babies down if you spend a weekend doing something fun and relaxing. Don't feel guilty if you skip a day of posting about it, or if you don't participate in a certain activity. Remember, this month is for you. Do what is best for you.
Guard your heart from bitterness. I find myself falling into the trap of resenting others for not knowing about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. (Of course, the whole idea of awareness is that we need it because people are not aware! Duh.) Sometimes, although I know it is a worthy cause, I will get irritated at all of the pink ribbons when pregnancy loss impacts more women (one in four) than breast cancer (one in eight). I get mad when more people don't like or respond to something I share about loss.
But I also see some posts on Facebook about breaking the silence surrounding pregnancy loss regardless of how uncomfortable it makes others, and I think back to conversations I have had with people who have not experienced loss who want so much to comfort a loved one and feel so unsure of what to say and what to do, and I don't want our month to become us against them. It is not us in the babyloss world making sure everyone else not in our club finally gets it. It is us as a greater community enfolding one another with love, both educating and learning from one another, supporting one another in the difficult times, including Loss. It is using gentle words, not sledgehammers. Because most people who say the "wrong" things want desperately to say the right things, they just don't know how.
Ask God for wisdom. In all of these things, ask God to enable you to make wise choices - what to participate in, what to say, what not to say, how to reach out, how to take care of yourself. And keep going back to him. Because PAIL Awareness Month will end on November 1, but your journey continues the other eleven months of the year, and onward. Use this month to find and connect with a community that will support you, and to find and focus on God as you let him help you find your new normal. My friend Teske's pregnancy loss ministry, Mommies With Hope, has a great series going this month, 31 Days of Praise. Yes, praise in the midst of Loss. Because even here, especially here, God is still good.
If this is your first PAIL Awareness Month, I am praying for you, that in your raw grief you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. If you have been doing this for a while, I am praying for you, that though your journey may be more familiar, you will experience the peace of knowing that there is life after loss. If you are a leader of other parents, I am praying for you, that you will be used by God to help others find peace and hope in Him during this special month.