This article was written and submitted to Share by Lisa Weber, RN, for the Mother's Day/Father's Day edition of the Sharing Magazine.
Society, in general, is experiencing an evolution in recognizing the significance of the loss parents and families feel when an unborn child dies. From our silent tears of pain to our shouts of anger and resentment, bereaved families are making others sit up and take notice of our grief. The impact of the death of an unborn child is not going unnoticed by those open enough to bear witness to our struggle. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, whose empty arms long to hold a live baby, whose voices speak of the sadness of death, whose minds sometimes wander off to dreams of cooing babies, whose nurseries remain untouched and whose lives will always remember the promise of new life, are testimony to this struggle.
The journey through grief is filled with ups and downs. The “up” moments don't seem to come around often enough. The “down” moments are exhausting and seem to last for days. Bereaved parents are forced to learn patience. You can't rush grief; the healing process takes time. We learn ways to accept, embrace, and even understand that death is a part of our lives. Grieving moms and dads do not “get over” their loss.
We do not deny our feelings; we learn to incorporate them into our lives. Gradually, we focus on our future, as a person, as an adult, and always as a parent.
Our identity is determined by many factors: What we do, the job we have, where we live, and many more factors. For some, being a parent is a major part of our identity. There are those of us who have no living children. I do not believe that makes us any less parents. We nurture our children even before they are conceived. We have dreams of the glow of pregnancy, delivering a healthy baby, the impact a child will have on us as a family, as partners raising a toddler to young adulthood. We nurture the expectations of parenthood, of being called “mommy” and “daddy.” Even though the differences in a family who have experienced death and those who have not are complex, the similarity of our desire to raise a family cannot be denied.
I have a son. I have a daughter. I am a mother. I am a father. I do not take my child to the park like some parents do—but I take my baby everywhere in my heart. She was denied this earthly existence. I don't know why. He will play catch in the stars, not on the ball field. She will never shop for a prom dress at the mall, and he will never ask for the keys to my car. But they are our children nonetheless. I will wear her birth stone around my neck. I will think of him everyday.
Acknowledge me on Mother's Day. Wish me a pleasant Father's Day. I need that support and acceptance as much as you. I am a parent. Mother's Day is to honor all mothers. Father's Day is to honor all fathers. As spring brings forth new life following the quiet healing of winter, let us welcome a rebirth of hope in our own lives. In recognition of childless parents, and those who have loving children but also have felt the heartache of the death of a child, this Mother's Day and Father's Day, my wish for you is one of peace, love, and to call to mind the dignity of parenthood. Share this newsletter with family and friends. It may help others understand our struggle to be recognized as unique parents.