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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This month long recognition of families that have loved and lost is centered around Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, which happens annually every October 15th.

October somehow seems fitting for such a solemn remembrance. Juxtaposed against summer’s loud sunshine, neon-colored swimsuits, and layers of sunscreen and bug spray, October’s falling leaves ask us to contemplate the things that have come before, and the things that have yet to arrive. October invites us to take a deep, crisp breath, hold it in for a moment, and then let it go along with our past hurts in preparation for a new year ahead. But for so many mothers and fathers this October, there are some things we do not let go of, cannot let go of, as they reside too deeply in our hearts.

In the United States, a miscarriage is usually definedas loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy. Miscarriages occur in about 15-20% of all pregnancies, with 80% of those miscarriages occurring during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy.

The loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy is considered a stillbirth. Each year, about 24,000 babiesare stillborn in the United States. That is about the same as the number of babies who die each year during the first year of life. It is also more than 10 times as many deaths as the number that occur from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

I share these numbers to honor the staggering number of pregnancies and infants lost, and to somewhat normalize an experience which is uniquely and harrowingly painful. I know that to parents that have lost their babies, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness means so much more than these statistics. It means remembering our losses, sharing our stories, sitting with our sadness, and, if we are lucky, relishing in the bittersweet joy of the rainbow babiesthat have blessed us since.

My FIT4MOM Baltimore City tribe has taught me that we are never alone in the pain of losing a child. Sometimes my loss seems so long ago that it feels like a dream; I’m not even sure how I survived it. At varying times, my grief has been muddled with feelings of guilt and anger and shame and overwhelming sadness. I choose to share my storybecause I believe it helps myself and others to feel less alone. In the same breath, I also know and appreciate other women that prefer to be more private, and that their reasons for keeping their losses to themselves are just as important and truthful as my reasons for sharing.

To the mothers and fathers in our community who have lost children all too soon, whether you choose to be seen or not, I acknowledge you and your baby in my heart. However you choose to honor your loss this month, know that your pain is your own, that you are allowed to feel your feelings deeply, and most importantly, that you are never alone in this.