One angel. Two angels. Three angels. Four. Five angels. Six Angels. Tens of thousands more.
One dead baby. Two dead babies. Three dead babies. Four. Five dead babies. Six dead babies. Tens of thousands more.
I read every blog, article, and random ranting I post out loud to myself, over and over again, before I post. As I read this out loud I choke on the words as they jump off my tongue. My heart races and I find myself distracted by the impact. I regain my mental, emotional, and literary composure.
Click. Click. Tap. Tap. My fingers dance across the keyboard again. I’m ready now.
I’m ready to address the pretty sentiment of angels and to disclose the ugly truth of babies dying. Two different spins on thousands of stories, with the same finale. The loss of a child. The end. The beginning of nothing ever being the same again. Ultimately, a parent’s journey through the rest of their life, trapped in a special world of irony where giggles are a reminder of death. Tears are unprovoked. Silence is deafening. Conversations sound like static conducers. It’s an existence in the middle, between life and death; literally.
Goodbye, yesterday. Goodbye, tomorrow. Hello, today. You are all I have left. The reality in this statement destroys me. Yet, it is comforting too.
Miscarriage and prematurity are leading causes of death in infants. The numbers are humbling. The fight for prevention is endless. Public empathy is often based on the pretty spin of parents of angels,in-memory-of acts, along with the cliché and misguided assumption that time heals all.
The loss of a child isn’t a treatable condition that will go away with the right course of intervention. Time doesn’t heal death. Death is not a wound that a parent recovers from. Time is just distance and proof that life goes on with us and without the children.
This is an irreconcilable equation. It’s an awkward topic. It’s an uncomfortable thought. It’s a challenging conversation. Good.
I’m more concerned when it is not those things. I am compelled to remind people that the reality is ugly. Survivors use all means necessary, including romantic notions, so that they can live with, not through, their loss. That is not an invitation for the public to minimize a parent’s suffering, ignore it, discourage the topic, and demand recovery.
Parents are not supposed to lose their children. We are not supposed to be at ease with it.
Be uncomfortable. Feel the awkwardness. Acknowledge that there cannot be reconciliation. Expect victims of this terrible epidemic to move on with their loss, not to move on from it. Don’t be afraid to say the name of a child who lived. It is more comforting than painful to hear. Don’t think that you intruding on our club.
That’s the biggest misconception of all. Parents who have lost children do NOT have a club. Who would ever want to be in such a club?! Every parent I know who has lost a child would gladly give up all their subsequent acts of kindness, new friendships, and discovered strength. They would opt out of it all, without blinking, if it meant they would still have their child.
Sadly, there are people out there, so disturbed and desperate, that they prey on these parent-victims and pretend to be victims of child-loss themselves, for a chance to join.
There is no Dead Babies Club.
I have suffered from miscarriage in my life. I was told I might never be able to have children. I have five. My oldests are thirteen and nine. My triplets are thirty-nine months old. They each weighed just over two pounds when they were born. Their first-ever home was at Kaiser, in the NICU. That is where they were nursed into life. They are healthy toddlers now.
I don’t know why they survived while so many others don’t. I know I am lucky. I know I am humbled. I know I will keep fighting for other babies to have the same chance at life as mine now do. I am thankful for the advances in medicine and technology. I am appreciative of the selfless efforts of others to continue I am dedicated to this cause.
If you are disturbed and moved by these thoughts, I hope you’ll join me and the March of Dimes in fighting for prevention. I will be walking in the Bay Area’s March for Babies walk on April 28, in San Jose with Team Pirate Power. You can sponsor me with any size donation on my personal March for Babies page. You can join in the fundraising yourself. You can do neither, but still choose to unite and walk beside us.
Death by miscarriage and prematurity are not a choice. Fighting for prevention is. I hope you’ll choose to join me in fighting. In all of this, hope is still alive.
By: Alicia Gonzalez
Editor’s Note: I wrote this article in 2012. The page links are still valid for this year’s walk. The article was originally published on Patch. I have adjusted the ages of my children according to the current date.