7 December 2022

Finding hope through shared grief | Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

Saturday 15 October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Image: iStock.

Kirralee Nicolle

15 October 2022

Many of you who regularly read The Melbourne Anglican will know me, Kirralee Nicolle, as a journalist. I am known here as someone who reports on issues of faith, justice and spirituality which impact on the Anglican community.

As you may expect, in the rest of life, I wear several other hats. One of those is as a mother. My toddler is vivacious, outgoing and fun-loving. If you saw me at church, you would see a tired mum running after her child and sharing duties with her husband. You would see a family. Complete, warm. Happy. You might speculate about more children on the way (there aren’t any).

But before my daughter came along, it wasn’t always that way. I wasn’t sure I wanted children. When the desire to have a child came on, it was strong and sudden. I was just 25 and fell pregnant quickly. I happily told close friends and family. Nausea plagued me and reminded me that I was, indeed, pregnant. When it suddenly vanished around seven weeks, I wasn’t concerned. I could eat breakfast again. A small win.

That small win, I now know, signified a horror I hadn’t dared to anticipate.

When two weeks later my baby was dead, my womb empty again, I was unprepared for what ensued. I alternated between utter heartbreak and sadness for what could have been. I felt another very unsettling, seemingly incongruent emotion: relief that I didn’t have to face an entire pregnancy. I also felt like I’d been locked in a dark, noiseless room until I stopped feeling sad and could be ready to enter the world in a presentable state again. I was the bleeding woman pushing through the crowd just to grab a corner of Jesus’ cloak.

Read more: When grief is overwhelming, how do we cope?

Unfortunately, in the church I was in at the time, I found very little of Jesus’ cloak. People seemed uncomfortable acknowledging my loss as the loss of a child, not just an idea. It was stuffed in the same bag as period poverty, domestic violence and leadership inequality: women’s issues.

But it isn’t just a women’s issue. Today marks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, a day where we stop and remember the children gone too young and the parents facing a lifetime of grief. Child loss hits hard, often targeting those we least expect it to hit. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has spoken publicly about the tragic death of his seven-month-old daughter in a 1983 car accident.

ABC journalist Leigh Sales has written about the days which turn one’s life upside down in her book Any Ordinary Day. “The question of life being fair or unfair is one of the first things to drop away once you truly understand that you’re as vulnerable as the next person to life’s vagaries,” she writes.

What miscarriage taught me is that it is in our vulnerability that we find one another. It is in seeking intimacy that we learn both how to grieve and how to hope again. As I told my story over and over, people – women and men – told me theirs. Most were hesitant or shy at first. Others showed palpable relief that someone else understood them. Each one of them is dear to me.

I imagine the Heavenly Father collecting our tears, our stories. Collecting our anger. Hearing the relief or the confusion and nodding His head with understanding. Most of all, I imagine Him caring for our children until we meet again.

Christians in church typically aren’t comfortable talking about pregnancy or child loss, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. I encourage you today to remember the pain of your losses, no matter how small or unformed. I encourage you to speak to a therapist. I also encourage you to remember to speak to your friends, those who’ve lost and those who can listen. You just might spark hope.

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