As we change from 2019 to 2020, social media has been full of people sharing reflections on their past decade. For many this has been a way to say goodbye to the 2010s and to state their hopes for the decade ahead.
To the courageous parents who don’t want to reflect on the past decade, I am with you.
To those of you who are sad to mark this change and leave the 2010s behind, you are not alone.
I know it doesn’t make sense. You feel like you “should” want a fresh start. You feel like you “should” be glad to say goodbye to the sorrow that was the last year or large portions of the last decade.
But, if you are like me, you have been there before. I remember being so happy to say goodbye to 2016, the year my husband and I lost our first son at 20 weeks. We toasted to a better year to come in 2017. At that point we believed we were moving past the most difficult time in our lives and that the best was yet to come the next year.
Then, ten months into 2017, we lost our second baby. This time we held him in our arms and found out that we had a 25% chance of losing each baby we conceived. So, as the time came to usher in the new year of 2018 just a few months after our loss, I was not looking forward to the new year at all. I didn’t want to hope things would be different next year. I very clearly knew that I could not predict the joy or sorrow that the future held. I surely didn’t feel like I had control over the outcome of the new year by putting my wishes out into the universe.
To the loss moms and dads who are sad to mark the change of decades, even if you are expecting another baby or parenting after loss, I understand you. It is scary to try to hope for anything when your hopes have been so shattered before.
To the mamas who cried at midnight because ushering in a new decade put too much distance between you and the babies that you miss, I shed tears with you.
I know that logically I was just one minute further away from the months that my baby boys were in my life, but the thought of being in a different decade from when I carried them in my body and held them in my arms sounds much more distant.
To the fathers who can’t comprehend how it could possibly be 2020 because for you time paused when your baby died, you are in good company. My husband and I frequently talk about the sense that we lost 3 years of our lives in the time that we were aspiring to become parents to a living child. The turn of the decade is another sign of the years that feel lost.
Even if you have a child born after a pregnancy or infant loss, the new year indicates the passing of time in the life of your family.
My first living child was born in 2019. The turn of the decade is a sign that my baby, the baby I worked toward for so long and went through so much to get, is quickly becoming a toddler. If you are not planning or not able to have another child, the close of the decade may solidify the close of the baby phase of your family.. The beginning of a new decade adds to the pain of time passing with your family not looking the way you want it to.
To the mamas who don’t want to share a comparison photo of themselves 10 years ago, I am with you.
It pains me to look at the young couple one decade ago who didn’t know the sorrow that was ahead of them. I know there have been many happy moments in the past decade as well, but comparison photos feel like a before and after. It is difficult to quantify in a few words the intensity of the pain, the impact of the trauma, and the anxiety that it has left in its wake.
Courageous parents, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. Your sadness makes sense. Your emotions are valid. Your fears are understandable.
The beginning of a new decade doesn’t have to be happy or exciting. It’s okay if it feels scary.
The reality is that it doesn’t have to mean anything. You are no further from your babies than you were last week. Your babies are with you in the way you carry them with you each day. They are with you in your home and the traditions you create. They are with you when you talk about them.
The reality is that your future, just like your past, will hold joy and sorrow.
I hope for you that it holds the most joyful of joys and the least painful kinds of sorrow. Whatever your next decade holds, you are not alone. The community of parents who know your pain, who hold your fears, and who feel the intensity of your joys will be with you along the way.