Recently, a friend of mine shared a beautiful post about her daughter in response to this year's Capture Your Grief. One of her friends shared it on her own timeline. And then this happend...
Infant Loss is too sad and personal to talk about. It is worthy of prayers, but not of a month of awareness. Because having breast cancer isn't personal at all. Because women are so excited to talk about their battle with a deadly disease. Both are important, but most people don't understand why. To be fair, my friend constructed a fantastic reply and this person apologized. However, you have to think about why that happened She apologized because she was educated. She learned why October is not just for breast cancer. She learned why infant loss is important to talk about, why mothers want to share their children, why a personal journey can also have a public platform. Awareness!
If you asked any adult in our country what the pink ribbon stands for, odds are pretty good they would be able to tell you breast cancer. They could probably also tell you ways to prevent breast cancer. They may even be able to name a few women in their lives who have been affected. It's highly possible their office had a "Dress Down for Breast Cancer" day. Breast cancer awareness has the power it has because it is comprised of an active community that people aren't afraid to be a part of. The same cannot be said for Infant Loss. When the profile pic app became available last week and my Facebook feed became a sweeping sea of pink and blue, I noticed many of my friends were getting comments like "What's the pink and the blue for?" and "Pink is for breast cancer. What's up with the blue?" People had no idea. Because it's not talked about enough. It's swept under the rug. Mothers are told to "get over it", to "stop bringing everyone down", to "just be happy for others." Who says that to a woman with breast cancer? Monsters, maybe. Fellow humans, though, tell her she's strong and a fighter. When she's having a hard day, they rally behind her. Inspirational facebook posts go viral of women who have tattooed their chests or who are fighting for their lives and not giving up hope. (They are beautiful and wonderful, indeed. I am in no way knocking breast cancer awareness. I am just pointing out the differences in the movements.) The most recent Facebook post that went viral outside of the loss community was a heartfelt essay written by a mother who had recently lost her daughter. The post included very moving photos by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I read multiple comments on multiple posts where these pictures were called "repugnant", "disgusting", and "gross". Where people said the story was "too sad to read" and that she should keep things like this to herself. The ignorance made my blood boil. And, yes, while I know internet trolls exist (remember the guy who said babies should be burned in the trash instead of placed in a cuddle cot?), most people are just uneducated. The span of awareness hasn't reached them yet. And there's only so many internet comments I can respond to. We need MORE. We need the month of October. We need advocates outside of our community to stand up for us and say, "Hey...this is not right." Or, "Hey, this happens more than you think." Or, "Hey, give her a break. She's having a tough day missing her kid."
My friend's post got me thinking about just how much people don't know about Pregnancy and Infant Loss. To help illustrate how uneducated the general population is about our not-so-tiny community, I asked the ladies in my loss group to provide a few memes that they felt were hurtful, ignorant, trivializing of loss, or just plain horrible. Here is what they shared:
Please be advised, some of these have graphic images or language.
(This one translates to: When you're in the uterus and you listen that your parents are naming you Brayan)
Look, I can take a joke. I am sacrastic and witty. I appreciate dark humor every now and then. The issue isn't whether or not these are just jokes. I know they are. The point is not whether or not they are offensive, the point is that there are people who don't understand WHY.
In my two and a half years in the infant loss community, I have been witness to countless heartless or thoughtless comments or jokes. As I have found my place within this community, and have become less crumpled in grief, I am able to take most of them far less personally than I may have in the beginning. However, many of them still hurt and offend. Many of them cut deeply. Often, when loss moms cry in outrage over some of these things, they are met with "They don't mean anything by it." or, "Geez, it's just a joke." or "I can't help it if everything offends you. It's not my job to protect your feelings." We live in a world where no one is ever allowed to be upset about anything because everyone is upset about something. How does that even make sense? When did the attitude, "I don't care if you're offended" become the norm...and why? Why does no one care if they cause another person pain? If someone says, "Hey, that hurt my feelings," why is it commonplace to respond with "Oh well...it's not my fault you're easily offended." When I say something that is hurtful to another person, I feel bad. I apologize. I try not to do it again. What's that saying... "when we know better, we do better"
October is Pregnancy Infant Loss Awareness month. It is just as important as any other cause attached to this month (and there are many). We need this month of awareness because there are still people who aren't aware - and our community grows by over 100 women each day. Women who will have to face a world that no longer understands them. This is a problem. Help me fix it. Be an advocate. Share our stories - share your story. Correct misconceptions. Spread awareness. #gopinkandblue