October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
Did you know
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage every year, and an estimated 3000 babies die in Australia every year to stillbirth, and sudden and unexpected infant death, with similar numbers in the USA and UK (Red Nose Org. 2019; Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, 2019). This equates to 1 in 4 women who carry the burden of a devastating grief over the tragic loss of a precious baby - sometimes, for the rest of their life.
The grief surrounding this loss is oftentimes not talked about, hidden from view in everyday life. In fact, unless you’ve been through something like this yourself, it’s possible that the magnitude of such a loss remains of little significance. It is certainly under-recognised and underappreciated in the wider community. This lack of social recognition only serves to amplify the alienation and grief felt by the bereaved.
Declaration of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
The magnitude of this grief is in part the impetus that drove the late Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, to establish the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in 1988 in an effort to raise awareness around the impact and devastation of this loss:
When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and other causes.” (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, 2019).
As someone who has suffered this devastating loss, I cannot even begin to tell you just how much this kind of acknowledgement and recognition means to me and to the many, many women and men who suffer also.
My own experience of perinatal loss and involuntary childlessness and the grief around this is a key driver behind my establishing the Perinatal Loss and Involuntary Childlessness Alliance – PLICA for short in 2018. So many women have this silent grief that creates a bond between us. Very much a scared bond to my way of thinking.
In keeping with the theme of this month -and in fact, today because today is the day that little Joshua was born and then fell into his forever sleep – I am sharing with you a post from the PLICA blog from one of our amazing Ambassadors. Her story is disturbing but ultimately uplifting as Crystal has gone on to alchemise her pain, loss and grief into a way to help other women going through this tragic kind of loss.
A word of caution: If you are one of the millions of women who has experienced this loss, please be mindful of your own wellbeing if you choose to read on.
Introducing Crystal Webster
PLICA is thrilled to have four incredible women as Ambassadors to champion the cause of those who grieve perinatal loss and involuntary childlessness. Each of these women bring to their Ambassadorial role personal experience of perinatal loss and/or involuntary childlessness, knowing intimately the enormous grief this experience elicits, as well having first-hand experience of the possibility of healing and resilience forged through adversity. Jody, Brandi, Crystal and Janet bring a wealth of knowledge on this sensitive subject, as well as deep empathy for the heartbreaking journey our sisters find themselves on.
Here, PLICA Ambassador and author Crystal Webster from Sharing Solace shares her heartbreaking story of love, loss and finding hope.
My Madelyn Elizabeth died in my arms just one day after she was born in May 2010. We later found out that she had a genetic condition that made it impossible for her to sustain her own life - the condition, I now know, is something that I also have and unknowingly gave to her. My partner and I tried for 5 years to bring Maddie siblings through IVF, each time being devastated by the outcome. To this day, Madelyn remains an only child.
One of the most difficult things about this experience
Child loss and infertility is a daily battle. Every baby, innocent question, 'time of the month' and department store can be a trigger so powerful it brings you to your knees. The most difficult thing for me, especially early on, was answering the question 'Do you have kids?' and then 'How many kids do you have?' I often had to make split-second decisions about how quickly I wanted to get 'creepy'. If I lied and said 'no kids' I was killing a little piece of my soul.
If I told the truth and said 'one, but she's dead' I didn't know what reaction I would get...
Lessons of Love & Loss
I don't know if I would call it a lesson...but I would say it has provided the most freedom in my life since Madelyn's death. I get to wake up every single morning and say to myself 'the worst thing that could ever happen to a person has already happened to me. If you can make it through that you can make it through ANYTHING. Including today.'
I wrote 'Confessions of a Griever: Turning a Hot Mess into an Haute Message (Laughable Lessons for When Life Just Sucks)' because I couldn't find a book that spoke to me in the way I wanted to be spoken to. I didn't want to hear the sugar-coated platitudes or be told to 'pray your pain away.' I'm a big girl and wanted to hear the truth. When I couldn't find a book like that I created one (similar to why Sharing Solace w
Confessions of a Griever is part memoir, part self-help, part 'choose your own grief guide' and all irreverent honesty. It's a reminder that sometimes, life just sucks. You have to feel your freaking feels. You're NOT alone. You're NOT crazy. And this IS normal.
Being a PLICA Ambassador
Being a PLICA ambassador allows me to share Madelyn's story in a meaningful way that (hopefully) inspires and encourages others to share their story as well! Perinatal loss is such a taboo subject to discuss yet 1 in 4 families experience this grief. I hope to be there to allow others a safe space to share their stories of love and loss.
To purchase your copy of Crystal's book, please click on the link below.
For more about PLICA, click here: