You see those faces in the photo? That there, is pure joy. Those are the faces of relief, disbelief and excitement. They are of perseverance and resilience, stubbornness and determination. Those faces—our faces—are the reason we kept pushing through seven losses, to bring home our first child. Truth be told, there was a time we weren’t so sure we’d hit this milestone, and our faces, not to mention personas, were a far cry from this joy.
Hiding in Public: The Stigma of Pregnancy Loss
It’s no secret there’s a lot of guilt and shame associated with pregnancy loss and baby loss. For me, and many other loss moms I’ve met, the self-imposed shame runs like sports players watch their films. We replay events in our mind to analyze every aspect of each day of the pregnancy. We review each action taken or not taken, wondering if we could pinpoint the exact moment that led to the death of our child.
I’m not sure which is worse: wondering what caused it, or actually knowing that there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome. Regardless, the notion that as a woman, I was supposed to be able to carry and deliver a child, but couldn’t seem to, led me into a shame spiral. And yet, somehow, together with my husband, and the help of a strong therapist and compassionate doctor, we kept moving forward.
After each loss, we hid at home and in public, surrounded by strangers who didn’t know our story. When we finally ventured out to a family or friends gathering, we would have to deal with the Richard from Friends head-tilt talks. And I get it, unless you’ve been through this, you don’t know what to say or do. At the same time, nobody likes to be pitied. Those conversations would often turn to Why don’t you “just” adopt? And while we did wind up adopting, there is no “just” about it.
Perhaps what bothered me more, was when we “came out” during subsequent pregnancies, and got the Nina Katz to Carrie Bradshaw face from family and friends. That face, and that judgement, represented all of the fears we didn’t want to acknowledge. It was as though they were questioning, “Why are you doing this to yourselves?” and more so, “How could you put these babies through this?” It was a question I often asked myself…Am I being cruel to my children? Am I putting them in harm’s way? At the same time, after all of the testing I went through, the doctors continued to tell us there was no reason we couldn’t have a successful pregnancy. So we kept trying.
PAL Moms and Dads Need Love and Support
The thing is, pregnancy after loss is hard enough with all of the fear, anxiety and PTSD. PAL takes tremendous courage and vulnerability every moment, of every day of those 40 weeks. And as vulnerable as we make ourselves, PAL warriors need to suit up in armor each day to tune out the noise, both internal and external, and make it through. PAL Moms and Dads need love and support, not shame and judgement. We need people to remember that we are trying again because know in our hearts we’re meant to be parents.
Some may say we have a happy ending. But I don’t quite see it as that. Yes, we are extremely fortunate enough to have adopted our son, and then go on to have two additional sons biologically. For these three boys, I am forever grateful. It’s the ending part I don’t agree with. Our story is our story, and all of the joy in the world doesn’t negate what it took to get here. The way I see it, the birth of our living children is more of a beginning, if not a continuation of our journey. And if we didn’t try, we’d never know.