By Regina Cyzick Harlow
It’s October. Pink ribbons are everywhere. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why? Because the disease has ravaged the lives of so many and people are no longer content to let it go by unnoticed and unaddressed.
People unashamedly sport bracelets, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. that show support for these important parts of the human anatomy and to raise awareness for the cause. Every sales flyer in our mailbox this month has a pink strip across the front with text about raising breast cancer awareness. Businesses, celebrities, professional football players, national and local media are all raising funds and awareness for this important cause. The more people who know about it, the more research is supported to prevent it.
I, too, stand behind it. People in my life have been greatly affected and even lost their battle to this dreadful disease.
However, I wonder how many people know that October is also National Pregnancy Loss and Infant Loss Awareness Month as well as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Dwarfism Awareness Month, Clergy Appreciation Month, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month, National Arts & Humanities Month, Black History Month, National Cyber Security Awareness Month, National Pork Month, Bossman History Month, Fair Trade Month and Filipino American History Month. (I’m probably missing some.)
My point is that the reason an entire nation rallies around a cause is because people refused to not be heard. Heartbroken families of women, mothers, daughters, wives and yes, even men who have had breast cancer have turned their tragedies into a call for cure and prevention. Petitions have been signed and laws have been changed addressing the chemicals in our food and environment in an effort to reduce the risk of the disease. I among many am incredibly grateful for every step forward we as a nation take to reduce its threat.
As a mother who has buried my child, I am equally passionate about raising awareness of child loss and pregnancy loss. According to a Sept 2011 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 28.6 percent of 100,000 children between the ages of 1 and 4 die annually. The leading causes of death are accidents (unintentional injuries) and congenital malformations. Another 15.3 deaths occur per 100,000 children between the ages of 5 and fourteen. The leading cause of death in those cases is accidents (unintentional injuries) and cancer.
One recent study by Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine reported that the global neonatal death rate is at 41 percent and in conjunction with the PLoS study, CBS/AP reported that the newborn death rate in the U.S. is 4.3 per 1,000 live births. According to the American Pregnancy Association among the 6 million pregnancies in the U.S. every year; 4,058,000 are live births and 1,995,840 end in pregnancy losses.
Obviously those of us who have experienced miscarriage, pregnancy or neonatal loss are not alone and yet so often we suffer in silence because society as a whole is not comfortable talking about this cause. Reactions when I talk about our daughter who lived for a total of 17 hours range from sincere sympathy to “be glad she didn’t live long enough for you to become attached.”
Hello! I won’t even go there. Every person is different. People can only relate to the loss they have personally experienced and they grieve accordingly. I have spent hours talking with moms who previously grieved in silence when their pregnancy ended as early as 5 weeks. They were tormented with lost hopes and dreams, guilt of what they might have done wrong, husbands who have trouble relating to the extent of their grief, worries of subsequent pregnancies and so on.
One of the cries I hear the most is that society doesn’t seem to validate their loss. Without birthdays, pictures, and public memories, these moms often feel (whether it is the case or not) that their losses are overlooked or considered not painful.
We did not ask for this platform. No one wants to pay the dues it takes to become a member of the Angel-loss community. In truth, we don’t even want people to “get it” because that means that they or someone they love has probably experienced it. But we’re here because this is the hand life has dealt us. We are rallying for all the babies we have lost and we will not stop until our babies’ cries have been heard.
People are becoming more aware, but I am here to stand up for this cause. I will not be silent until our losses are recognized and validated by society. As the old adage goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I am squeaking for all the moms and parents out there who have experienced miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal losses. I will blog, I will post, I will speak out and I will boldly sport my pink and blue Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness paraphernalia and I will delight when a nation rallies behind those of us who have been affected by this tragedy. As we raise awareness, more and more research will follow and hopefully fewer families will fall into the “Angel-loss” category.
Your turn: I want to hear how people react when you talk about your miscarriage, pregnancy and/or neonatal loss. If you have not experienced a personal loss, how does it make you feel when someone talks about their loss? How can we continue to raise awareness for our cause?
Statistical information for this article was provided by the following websites:http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/children.htm,http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001080#pmed-1001080-g006, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20099732-10391704.html,http://www.americanpregnancy.org/main/statistics.html