Today is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Very recently I had a life-defining conversation with a stranger.
One day this week whilst hunting for dark chocolate coated raspberries in a health store, a woman in the shop looked down at the book I carried in my hand and asked me "are you reading something interesting?".
I value connecting with people, especially over books. I explained to her, "yes, it's a book about building community", showing her the cover. I went onto to say "I'm reading it because run a community that supports women in IVF."
She responded "Oh I know all about IVF. It is tough. My husband and I tried for many years. We stopped and ended up fostering children instead."
Her grief, I could see it. I've seen it before. I responded with what I hope was compassion, but honestly, I can't begin to imagine the enormity of her pain. I said, "I'm sure you still grieve that loss."
She responded with strength actually, "I do. I still struggle when seeing pregnant women." We spoke about the IVF process, and how hard it is on you both physically and emotionally, as well as your relationship. She said treatment took its toll on her body and she hated the drugs and the process. I shared my story with her too. She met me with compassion and understanding, "I can see how it would break even the strongest of marriages" she said.
We spoke about how all women are nurturers and have that feminine energy of creating and nourishing within them. I can tell she would have been a wonderful foster mother. I could also see that she lives a fulfilled life.
She went on to share with me that she and her husband once stumbled across a movie that helped them grieve. She explained that movie was about a couple that had miscarriages just like they had, and couldn't conceive in the end. She explained the plot to me.
The couple had written of their dream child and locked away their dreams in a box. One night there was a storm, but the storm was only over their house. They woke in the morning to find a little boy walking through their front door.
He was everything they had ever hope for and imagined. They loved him and he loved them. They were parents finally. Yet, the little boy began to grow leaves on his legs and they realised that he was not going to be with them for long. He was there to help them heal the loss of their dream child.
By this point, the women and I were standing facing one another in the shop with tears running down our faces. She said, "it was as though that movie was sent to us. It helped us begin to heal." I was at a loss for words, "that's so beautiful."
"I will find the name of the movie for you," she said. She'd like for me to share it with others at that devastating point in their quests. I gave her my number and asked if I could hug her. We hugged.
I hold so much admiration and respect for this woman, and for other women and men that have had to abandon their dreams to have a biological child. I commend her for bravery and her resolve. As I said, she still lives a very fulfilled and beautiful life with her loving husband.
I went back to see her the next day and asked her permission to write about her story. I said "we need to share your story. I want people to be aware so they can begin to meet you, other women and men in a similar situation with compassion ." She agreed, and added gently "please don't use my name".
She also shared with me that she and and her husband have always put one another first. She said, "in the end, after all the children leave, that is the person you will be spending the rest of your days with." I couldn't agree more. Even if you are not grieving the loss of child or in the depths of IVF with a spouse, remember to hold one another close and to nurture your relationship for your children will grow up and embrace their own lives.
I can only understand a small part of her journey, the one of longing to be a mum. She has had to accept the loss of never being a biological mother. She and her husbands dream of being parents to their own child will not come fruition in this lifetime. This is the loss of a dream of child, the one they dreamed of but never birthed.
Pregnancy, miscarriage and infant loss have many intersections and different narratives. Today I send my love and deepest compassion to all the women and men grieving the loss of a child.