Did you know October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? This loss is more common than most people realize. Local mom and KAG Guest Contributor, Tanika Dillard, is sharing her story of infant and pregnancy loss with us today in order to raise awareness and let others know they are not alone.
This article includes:
2023 Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Events in the Upstate
October is a month filled with raising awareness for many noble causes; some of which are less popular. Breast Cancer Awareness, Breastfeeding Awareness, Bullying Awareness, Domestic Violence Awareness, and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness are just a handful of the focused topics of support for the month. While I have been most familiar with Breast Cancer Awareness in the past, I have become passionate about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
President Ronald Reagan experienced the death of his daughter, Christine Reagan, in 1940. Some reports believe she died at birth while other reports suggest she lived for nine hours before passing away. Whatever the story may be, President Reagan carried Christine’s legacy with him over forty years later as he signed Proclamation 5890 on October 25, 1998, recognizing October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Since 1998, many who have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss have been personally compelled to not only participate in these events but also to be a voice of reality and encouragement for others. In December of 2007, I became marked for the cause of breaking the silence when my flawless pregnancy morphed into the fetal demise of our eighteen-week-old daughter, Destiny. Just seven months later, (July 2008) our second flawless pregnancy ended in fetal demise of our seventeen-week-old daughter, Briauna. And July 2009, our third daughter, Madison was born at nineteen weeks. Astoundingly, she lived for nine hours before joining the road her sisters had traveled before her.
Somehow I knew I had to unearth the strength to break the silence of pregnancy and infant loss. Statistics show one in four women experience loss due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or SIDS. I completely felt as of the statistics were not in my favor. Despite how “unfair” our experiences seemed, I knew there were others who also knew the hollowness in my heart but did not have a safe outlet to share their pain, frustrations, dreams, anger, etc.
My passion and priority in life is to break the silence of pregnancy and infant loss, support those who grieve, and dispel the myths and unrealistic expectations of those who are fortunate to never experience this type of heartbreak.
After our first miscarriage with Destiny, I was amazed at how many women pulled me aside to whisper, “I’ve lost a baby also”. Most of these women were twice my age. Not only had they experienced loss but the common theme echoed in each sacred, tearful conversation was how they never told anyone about the loss and how they tried to just ” Get over it”.
Breaking the silence
Can I break the silence and give you permission to speak of your loss? Many carry memories in their heart for decades and never open their lips for fear of shame and the expectation to be “Over that by now”.
My grief experience has changed my life forever in part because I choose to give voice to my suffering! In doing so, I received support from a community of people who knew a similar pain and I found the strength to live!
It doesn’t matter if you’ve experienced loss last week or 20 years ago, you have permission break the silence and receive support.
In August of 2010, our story had a different ending and a new beginning. My husband and I had a living baby to bring home. Our entire world became better the day Ethan was born. Surprisingly his amazing presence and beautiful face were perfect but they were not enough to replace the painful memories of the past.
This is one of my favorite pictures! Ethan was just a month old and I could not express my love to him enough. I watched him sleep, I held him for hours just because and I thought of how perfect life was now that we had a “take home” child. In reality, underneath the overwhelming joy in my heart, I also felt emptiness and an increased longing for his precious sisters Destiny, Briauna, and Madison. Fear gripped me many days and I wondered if something would happen to him and I’d be forced to say goodbye to him also.
At night, I’d kiss his sweet face four times…one for each of his sisters and a kiss for himself. …just in case… The whole truth is, although my faith was renewed in God and my doctors, fear visited me frequently. Daily, I had to choose faith over fear.
Having a successful pregnancy after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss can never erase the pain or cause one to forget the hopes and dreams for the child they no longer hold.
Our story did not end with Ethan’s arrival. In December 2011, our second son, Israel, was born silently at thirty-eight weeks due to a cord accident. The complexity of this cycle of grief is incomprehensible. In spite of all we had lost, the message of hope was beckoning us to not give up. Thankfully, we held on to love for each other and our dream of a family and welcomed our third son, Evan in April 2013.
My grief experience has evolved from dark, cold sorrow to warm, compassionate support for those who are hurting.
I choose to break the silence on the emotions and reality of pregnancy after loss.
Help for others, too
Have you experienced a loss and carry the weight of a heavy heart behind a smile? How can you break the silence?
Please visit www.ShareUpstate.com if you’re local and want to connect with a loving support community.
If you’re outside of the Upstate of SC, please visit www.NationalShare.org to find support in your area.
Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Events in the Upstate
Walk to Remember, Share Upstate
Each Fall, Share Upstate hosts the annual Walk to Remember & Memorial Service in memory of the babies that have been lost. The 2023 Walk to Remember is September 30th 2023 at 1:30 pm. There is no charge to participate.
You have permission!
In October 2015, my digital single “I Am Dreaming” was released in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This is a captivating melody and sacred lullaby which hopes to inspire grieving parents, grandparents and anyone touched by the pain of pregnancy and infant loss to dream.
To download “I Am Dreaming”, please click here.
If you’d like to hear more of the story behind the melody, I invite you to read my best-selling novel, “Building A Family Breaks My Heart”. Visit this facebook page for more information.