For the last week and a half, my newsfeed on Facebook has been inundated with flood news. First it was where the waters were rising, then it was which roads were breaking up, and now it is where the help is most needed and how people are reaching out. Even though my home and family were safe from the flooding that so many endured, it is impossible for me not to be aware of the tragedy that hit our state two Sundays ago and also the incredible response by South Carolinians.
But there is another flood that regularly affects people not only in our state, but across the world. That is the flood of pregnancy and infant loss. It is a flood that struck our family twice in 2009, with the loss of our daughter Naomi at nearly 19 weeks of pregnancy and our baby Kyria at 8 weeks, once in 2010 when we said good-bye to Jordan only days after learning we were expecting, and then twice last year, in 2014, when we again went through the heartbreak of two “chemical pregnancies” (which are really very early miscarriages).
Five losses. Five children in Heaven. Five members of our family who we miss. Every. Single. Day.
As I have watched the events of the last ten days, I have been struck by the parallels between the loss of a child during pregnancy and infancy and the effects of a flash flood.
It hits without much warning, if any.
It disrupts life like you knew it to be.
It rearranges your future.
It steals your sense of safety and security from you.
And because it doesn’t impact everyone, you find yourself surrounded by people whose lives are going on as normal, completely unaware that your world has ended.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, with October 15 set aside as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It is a time to increase awareness of this flood that hits one in four pregnant women. One in four. Twenty-five percent of all pregnancies (at least) end in some kind of loss, whether miscarriage (generally up to twenty weeks gestation) or stillbirth, in addition to those who lose children in the first year of life. And yet, unless they have gone through this flood personally, most people remain unaware of this reality.
Awareness is a good thing. Because I was made aware of the flooding and destruction around the Midlands, I was moved to pray, and to give, and to act. In the same way, awareness of the reality and frequency of pregnancy loss can help us know how to walk with a friend when they are going through the loss of a baby. It can help us know where to give for research into how stillbirth can be prevented. It can help us find local support groups so that we, or a friend, know that we are not alone.
I’m so glad I am in a community that cares, deeply, for those of us on this journey and for the babies we are missing. This month, the governor of South Carolina, the Richland County Council, and the Columbia City Council have all issued Proclamations, recognizing October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and the importance of supporting parents and other family members through such a loss. There are many support groups in the Columbia area meeting monthly to support bereaved parents. The local Joy in the Mourning Center for Life Losses is regularly beginning classes and support groups for people dealing with all kinds of loss, including the loss of a child. All of our local hospitals partner with Naomi’s Circle through our Mommy to Mommy Outreach to provide newly bereaved parents with a Brie Bag filled with helpful items, including an Embracing Evan Bear.
If you have said an all-too-early good-bye to your child during pregnancy or infancy, you are not alone. I urge you to come this Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. as parents from across the Midlands gather for our annual Heart and Hands Forever Memorial Walk. Because of the recent flooding, the location has been changed from Riverfront Park to the Palmetto Health Baptist Auditorium at 1301 Sumter Street, but the program remains the same, and you will have a chance to meet others going through similar emotions and hear your baby’s name read aloud as part of the service.
As South Carolina continues to recover from the floods of 2015, I hope we will extend the same sympathy, understanding, and care that is going toward flood victims toward those enduring other kinds of loss and grief, including the loss of a baby.
Because no matter how early a loss, no matter the reason, a loss is a loss, and a life is a life. And those who go through this flood need so much to know that they are not alone.