One in one hundred sixty. That is how many babies are stillborn in the United States each year. That is 0.00625%. That is 23,600 hearts that stop beating prior to birth. That is 23,600 grieving moms. Per year.
I didn’t know any of this until my second daughter became that statistic. It never crossed my mind in the 40 weeks I carried her in my body that she wouldn’t survive. Stillbirth–the death of a baby in utero beyond 20 weeks gestation–that is something that happens to other families–not mine. After all, I’m a college-educated woman. I don’t smoke or use drugs. I abstain from alcohol while pregnant. I took vitamins before I got pregnant and continued taking them throughout my pregnancy. I don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure. I had already delivered one healthy child. I planned my pregnancy, this baby was wanted. And surely if a baby is wanted by her family then she should live.
There are a lot of things that really stink about one’s baby dying. There’s the obvious one–my baby is not here with me. She is not snuggled in the Boba wrap I purchased off of a Facebook swap and sell in the parking lot of TJ Maxx. Then there are agonizing questions like should we bury our baby or have her cremated? If she is cremated do we keep her or scatter her? What can a person really say at a memorial service for a baby who never took a breath? How can I possibly write my daughter’s obituary? These are the pieces of infant loss that scream in one’s head. But there are also whispers, quiet reminders of this living nightmare. Silent tears when a Pampers commercial comes on. Watching other moms cuddle their (living) babies. Toting 40 weeks of baby weight without a baby to show for it. Feelings of phantom movement inside my belly. Turning maternity leave into bereavement leave.
One thing that surprised me was how common stillbirth is. Yes, it’s only one out of one hundred sixty births per year. But that is 23,600 hearts that stop beating prior to birth. That is 23,600 grieving moms. Per year. I have had a number of people share with me that it happened to someone they know. Their mom. Their sister. Their aunt. Their friend. Themselves. In sharing this with me, I realize that I am not alone. And if this has happened to you, please know that you are not alone either.
Ten days after I delivered, I attended a local support group for parents who have lost an infant. A week later I received a card in the mail from the only other mom who attended that night. I will leave you with this excerpt from her note “I wanted to remind you that I am still standing and I know many women who are also still standing–not necessarily because it was easy or because we wanted to–but because it is the only choice we have. And it is worth it.”
Are you and your baby a 1 in 160 statistic? Do you blog to heal? I would love to hear from you.