This article was first published on October 13, 2017 at Little Munich Black Book.
October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month and I feel a responsibility to share my own experience of loss with the LMBB community. LMBB shows amazing strength through solidarity: we share and embrace the challenges of our every day, expat, sometimes very hard, lives as mothers. Now is the time to show the mothers among us who have lost a baby that we are not alone in our experience and we will be supported through our struggles.
When my daughter was born and I became a mother, I realized for the first time what my capacity for love is. I’m sure all of you in the LMBB community can relate. Later, when I lost my son, I learned that grief is actually an expression of that infinite love. Three days after my son’s estimated due date, my doctor confirmed that he no longer had a heartbeat and I gave birth to his little, lifeless body many hours later. My continuous journey, mothering my son without him in my arms, has taught me countless things about life, death and myself. He was stillborn, but I am still his mother, and now I know that even when a mother has suffered such a loss, she is still a mother despite the loss – Mia san Mama.
I hope most of you reading this have not experienced pregnancy or infant loss. For those who have, you are not alone. Whether from miscarriage, abortion, ectopic pregnancy and other intrauterine complications, preterm birth, stillbirth, genetic or developmental complications, SIDS, or any other reasons – what defines the loss is not the process, but the person you lost – your child. Perhaps better than the official Pregnancy & Infant Loss term (which you will find online) is the acknowledgment that it is baby loss.
Approximately 1 in 4 medically recognized pregnancies end in loss. This statistic doesn’t include those lost shortly after birth or within the first year of life. It also breaks down into different types of loss. The statistic relevant for me is 1 in 160, the number of pregnancies that end in stillbirth. I remember when I first heard this, I was appalled that no one had mentioned it before! I always thought it would be one in thousands. But then I learned that these tragedies still happen in our modern world – what has recently changed has not been medical advancement, but a lack of open discussions about the natural risks of pregnancy.
The Little Munich Black Book community, just over a year old, already consists of over 2,000 members. When I think about this in relation to these statistics, that means that about 500 of us live with baby loss in our everyday lives. For the other 1,500 – yes, we think daily about the babies we lost.
Mia san Mama
Whether our children live with us on earth or in memory, we are mothers. We are the bereaved and brave. As if it weren’t hard enough already, we grieve in a foreign land, far away from other loved ones, hindered by a language and cultural barrier. Finding support is an insurmountable challenge compared to life as an expat before loss. The moment when we open up about our losses, we expose ourselves to the possibility of misunderstanding, denial, judgment and other harmful reactions. This results in many mothers remaining silent when they could really use all the support they can get.
I feel extremely lucky. When I became a mother, I learned how much love is inside of me – when I lost my baby, I learned how much love is around me. My mommy tribe showed me how much love mothers are capable of giving, not just to their children. Before we were friends, but through sharing my loss, we became family.
Editor’s Note – The International Wave of Light is this Sunday, October 15 – people worldwide will light candles at 7:00 pm in remembrance of babies lost too soon. If you have lost a baby or babies, or someone dear to you has, or if you would just like to show your support – go ahead & light a candle. You can post a photo of the candle to the LMBB facebook group, leave a comment saying “I am 1 in 4” and even share your story if you’d like. Remember there are resources in Munich (in German & English!) for those who have experienced loss, are currently experiencing it, or know a friend who is and would like to hear more about how to show your support. Feel free to contact Darby at www.douladarby.com for more information.
Darby loves that moment when the person with whom she’s speaking German realizes… hey, this chick isn’t German! She’s been here for half her life – and even if she hides it well, she’s a Nevadan cowgirl at heart. She came to Munich to study German literature and ended up staying for good. Having children in Munich brought her back to her undeniable cultural roots and although she’s faced various challenges as a mother of children both on earth and in heaven, she finds strength in her calling as a doula, babywearer and cheerleader for fellow kick-ass, expat mothers. Find her here.
Photo credit: Feature image by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash / Wave of Light / LMBB image property of Doula Darby