A Whispered Awareness
October is an ocean of pink. Everywhere you look, you can buy affirmations of solidarity to let everyone know that yes, my licensed water bottle proves I am in this fight. Even my beloved Sounders sported their obligatory pink to support breast cancer awareness. A pink ball was used, to further the cause.
I'm sure that was super helpful.
Don't get me wrong. I am all for fighting all types of cancer, and I congratulate the Breast Cancer Awareness PR machine for their success. Truly. Job well done. I honestly feel that the world is better for all of the work that has been done for this important cause. I have zero history of breast cancer in my family, yet even I am overtly aware. I've done my regular self checks for years, pressing nervously at the tissue until at last I knew my own body.
That is a good thing, I'm thinking. I approve.
However, October is also Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. The fifteenth, a particular day of remembrance. How many people who have not been affected by baby loss know about this sorrowful plodding?
How many parents sit nearly alone in their grief, or find themselves resentfully grateful that somebody else's child died so that they could at long last find a sorry soul to understand?
I have dozens of friends I wish I'd never, ever met. And I know they hate needing me as much as I hate needing them. But we do need. We are filled with it; with a deep and roaring need to belong and be held and be cradled as we grieve the children who will never warm our wanting arms.
We find safety in our pockets of bereft humanity. We stick together and weep with both bitterness and gratitude: "Oh, you do get it. I thought I was all alone."
Yet again and again we do find ourselves alone, or nearly alone in a world that seems to fumble with the stark realities of loss. That only wants to rally against the truth of death and sorrow.
But there is no recovery from stillbirth. No medication that can undo a miscarriage. And once a baby takes her final breath, there is nothing more to do but bear the burden of emptiness. The only survivors are the families that loss leaves behind. Families like mine: heartbroken but not broken. Recovering but not forgetting.
Our children, our losses, our days of painful awareness are totally eclipsed by a bright and brilliant pink; by the commercialized success of a fight against disease.
And while that fight is a worthy fight, I can't help but wonder. Why?
Why are we the whispered secret; the forgotten children of October? Is it because breast cancer can boast triumphant survivors, while the only images that we can share are ones of deep, uncomfortable loss? We bring with our stories the inescapable truth of death. Of the remarkable preciousness and precariousness of life itself.
But hey, it's October. Let's paint the whole damn town pink. And if that strikes you with the memory of your empty pink nursery, well. Oh well.
Everybody loves boobs!
Can't we can do better than this? There's got to be room enough in a day, a month, a lifetime, for many kinds of remembrances. Surely we can be kind, and gentle, and even fight without being sold a cause by a company profiting from fear and loss.
I think we can. And even more importantly, I think that we should. There are too many things for us to hold in reverent remembrance. Too many heartbreaks we still need to mend.
And nobody's lifeless child should need a PR firm to make him worth a candle's flicker of remembrance.
While we may not be able to repair the damage of child loss, maybe we can start by holding the hands of those left behind. Maybe we can deal with being sad and uncomfortable in the face of bereavement, and let that be right for a change.
Maybe that's what we mean by awareness.
And maybe that's what we need to feel safe and held again.
The Tiny Hand I'll Never Hold