Friday, March 23, 2012

Red-letter days

Yesterday, I noted in my last post, marked 14 years since the day I took a home pregnancy test. Aunt Flo was late, but she'd been late in the past & turned out to be only teasing me, in the 2+ years we'd been ttc.

So I was not prepared for the sight of two bright blue lines almost immediately popping into view. Off we went on a rollercoaster ride that, in some ways, has never quite ended. Today is 14 years since I went to have my blood drawn at my family dr's office; tomorrow is 14 years since I went to payphone, hands trembling as I dropped the quarters in the slot, and heard the nurse telling me, "The news is good!"

It's funny the power these "anniversaries" can hold on our memories and our emotions. For years & years after Katie was stillborn, I used to circle the 5th & the 7th every month in my calendar in red ink -- August 5, 1998, being the date I learned her heart was no longer beating; August 7 being the date I delivered her, the "official" date that's on all the paperwork and on her niche marker at the cemetery. I would also write in the box for that date "8 mo" or "9 mo" -- and then, as time passed, "1 yr, 5 mo," "5 yrs, 3 mo" and so on.

I did that for YEARS. Without rummaging through all my saved datebooks, I'm betting I did it for well over 5 years & probably more like 10.

Eventually, I came to realize I wasn't really noticing the dates anymore. And even when I did take note of them, circled & written in my datebook, more often than not, I felt... nothing. I would pause, remember ("oh yeah...")... think a bit about my baby girl... and go on with my day.

I did feel a pang of guilt when, filling out a new calendar for the year, I finally made the conscious decision not to circle & note the 5th & the 7th of the month anymore.

But there are still certain dates that are forever engraved on my heart (& still noted in red in my calendar), including:
  • Feb. 8th: first day of my last menstrual period, pre-conception in 1998.
  • March 24th: positive hpt (1998).
  • July 18th: the date of my first post to an iVillage message board for childless-not-by-choice women (which, sadly, no longer exists) in 2001 -- which I view as the start of my journey to acceptance of childless/free living.
  • Aug. 5th & 7th (as described above).
  • Nov. 14th: the first of many due dates I was given (1998).

Do some dates still have a certain power over you, even years later?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chicken :p

My division at work had a "town hall" meeting this afternoon, preceeded by a "networking" session.

The guest speakers at the town hall were representatives from our company's philanthropic program -- and prior to the meeting, we received an e-mail, which contained this line (edited):
"As a warm up to the presentation, take advantage of the networking session and talk about a recent volunteer experience, or a charity that you support, with your colleagues. "
So!! -- Who wants to hear about MY 10 years of volunteering -- with a pregnancy loss support group for bereaved parents -- or just how I wound up doing that??

Those closest to me at work, who were there at the time, knew about the group, of course. There may still be a few around who, if prodded, might remember. But as time went on & people left, fewer and fewer knew the full story behind my vague excuses about "other commitments" when everyone else would go for after-work drinks on Thursdays (party night downtown).

I can remember, once, early on, screwing up my courage to approach my coworkers for pledges for a fundraiser I was participating in to benefit the group. (Lord knows I've chipped in for umpteen Jump Rope for Hearts, danceathons, Relays for Life, etc., for THEIR kids.)

"You're STILL doing that?" one woman said to me with a quizzical look.

It was barely nine months after my daughter's stillbirth. Ummm, yes, we're STILL doing "that." Wonder what she would say if she knew we were STILL doing it, 9 years later too. ; )

Dh encouraged me to go to the networking session this afternoon, to speak up about our work, to be proud of what we did.

I AM proud of what we did in the group. I AM proud of my daughter. I would love nothing more than to be able to speak freely about her, about the amazing courage and strength of the dozens of parents dh & I met over those 10 years.


It's hard. Still. Almost 14 years later. Knowing the likely reaction. Watching the dawning horror in people's eyes.

Volunteering with children, or for breast cancer or at a child's school, or at an animal shelter, or even a women's shelter, is viewed with approval. People want to know more about it.

Dead babies and grieving parents, on the other hand, just aren't as readily acceptable as topics of polite conversation (nevermind in the workplace). Still. It's something that people don't want to hear more about. (If they don't hear about it, they can pretend that it doesn't happen.)(Even if -- odds being what they are -- a sizeable chunk of the people in that room either could have used the group's services at some point in their past, or will need them in the future.)

So... I'm sorry to say -- I chickened out. :( I just couldn't do it. (What probably sealed the deal was being privy to New Grandma Coworker's daily call to her new-mom daughter to get the daily baby report.) I hid in my cubicle as others drifted off to the networking session -- and then joined them just before the actual meeting started a half hour later.

I didn't dwell on the fact that, exactly 14 years ago today, I took a home pregnancy test -- and watched in amazement as two blue lines immediately popped into view. But that was probably a reason too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

You just never know...!

I was waiting for the elevator at day's end the other night, ready to meet dh downstairs & head home from work. I was joined by one of the more senior members of my department's team -- a woman of more or less the same vintage as me. She's only been with us a little over a year, but has worked for my company for many years in other locations.

As we exchanged small talk, out of the blue, she said to me, "So -- are you and your husband still volunteering for [pregnancy loss support group]?"

I was a little taken aback. How did she know?? She's in an administrative position, and I thought perhaps she might have seen some paperwork pertaining to one of my old applications for an employee volunteer program grant.

I said no, actually, we stopped about two years ago.

"You're probably wondering how I know that," she acknowledged, then added, "I was part of the group myself."

"Really??" said I. "Were you a client, or a volunteer, or...?" She told me she had been a client (meaning she has lost a pregnancy herself) -- "It was in 1992, I'm coming up to 20 years now" ("1998," I responded. "I'm not sure how many people here would remember that now...") -- and was briefly a facilitator trainee. "I couldn't do it," she said. "It just reopened a can of worms that I wasn't prepared to deal with." I said I knew lots of people who felt that way, said dh & I had facilitated for 10 years, and some of the reasons why we had decided it was time to step down.

She mentioned she had seen our names in the support group's newsletter, acknowledging our company's employee volunteer recognition donations (several of them over the years). When she came to work in our department, she heard my name & thought, "Hmmm, that sounds familiar," & eventually made the connection.

As she spoke, I suddenly remembered seeing HER name in the newsletter, in connection with another one of our company programs, which provides matching grants for employees' fundraising activities. I remembered thinking at the time, "Hey, someone else who works for our company!" (there have been a few of them, over the years...) & looking up her name in the online directory.

As we talked, we eventually got into the elevator, reached the ground floor and reached the point where we cut the conversation short, said goodnight & headed off in different directions -- me to tell dh, "You'll never believe the conversation I just had..."

She's not someone I felt like I had much in common with before. I'm still not sure how much we have in common, other than the department we work for, and now the support group.

But wow. Her words made me see her in an entirely different light. As I said, you just never know...!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The talismans

I realized recently that I had never written about my nighttime ritual & good-luck charms. Maybe because I think it might sound foolish. Maybe because it's such an ingrained part of my daily routine that I barely think about it anymore. Maybe because it's the last thing I do before I crawl into bed at the end of the day, and it's not exactly the first thing on my mind when I get up in the morning, KWIM? ; )

It all started with this Boyds Bears figurine. As I wrote about it just before Mother's Day 2008:

MDay [Mother's Day] 1998 [when I was pregnant] was full of happy anticipation. I was about three months pregnant & just newly out of the closet about my pregnancy, so to speak. (After some pointed hints from me) Dh gave me a card & a Boyd's Bears figurine of a pregnant mama bear, called Momma McBear (photo at the top of this post). We'd started giving each other Boyd's Bears figurines as gifts & I absolutely loved this one. I put it on the night table on my side of the bed. After we lost Katie & started ttc again, & then turned to fertility treatments, the pregnant teddy bear became a sort of fertility totem for me. Every night, before turning out the lights, I would rub her pregnant belly. I still do (force of habit), even though I no longer expect results.

After I lost Katie in August 1998, I joined a listserv for parents who lost a baby & were hoping to try again. One of my initial e-friends on the list, who also dealt with fertility issues, had lost a son to stillbirth, shortly before I lost Katie. At some point while we were desperately ttc for another baby, she sent me this clear round green stone etched with the word "Believe." (Don't ask me why the photo keeps showing up vertically?? -- I swear I keep turning it horizontal...) I put it on my dresser, & started rubbing it for good luck along, with Momma McBear's tummy. (We eventually lost touch, but not before she went on to have another baby, a girl, who must be about 12 now.)

A little later, I made another friend through the same listserv, whose daughter was stillborn. Beanie Babies were all the rage at the time, & she ran a small business buying and selling them. She sent me this stork for ttc good luck. I perched him on the headboard of our bed (!), leaning up against our bedpost, and started rubbing his belly before I went to bed too. (She went on to have at least two more girls, and we eventually lost touch too. But a few years ago, I was looking for articles on stillbirth through Google News -- and found her in article, acting as spokesperson for her local support group's remembrance activities. The power of the Internet...

And somewhere along the way, I found this little unicorn with a keychain attachment. He was so cute, I wound up buying several. One went to my mom, one has occasionally adorned Katie's niche at the cemetery, one sits on the shelf in my cubicle at work, one sits on dh's nightstand, and one has sat atop mine, getting his horn rubbed nightly -- along with Momma McBear's tummy, the green "Believe" stone and the Beanie Baby stork's tummy.

So -- we made the decision to stop treatment, to stop trying for a baby, more than 10 years ago now. Why am I still carrying out my nightly ritual?

Let me be perfectly clear: at my age, I am NOT still hoping for a baby. If anything -- I figure I haven't had a baby after all these years of belly-rubbing, so maybe they're not fertility totems after all. Maybe they've been serving as de facto birth control, lol. If that's the case, I'm certainly not going to stop now, lol.

I'm thinking that once I am finally, definitively though menopause, the stork will come down from his perch & I will put the "Believe" stone away with some of my other Katie-related keepsakes.

But the Momma McBear figurine will always remain on display somewhere, I think (if not within nightly belly-rubbing distance). It's one of the few, concrete reminders I have that, once upon a time, I spent one gloriously happy Mother's Day, basking in joy and hope, because a tiny life was growing inside of me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Healing Salon comment

Further to my previous post, "Why I blog," and stemming from the upheaval in the ALI community this past week, Melissa has suggested we hold a series of "Healing Salons" to hash out some of the issues that were raised this week.

Pamela has generously volunteered to host the salon for those of us living childless/free on her old Coming2Terms blog. Please join in the discussion over there.

Not surprisingly for anyone who knows me (I was always the kid to turn in a six-page story when the teacher asked for a paragraph...), my comment on her post actually exceeded the character limit (erk!). So I am posting my full comment here. I may be back over there to comment (as well as on the other salons) as the conversation unfolds.

*** *** ***

At one level, I don't see a problem with people in similar situations clustering together. As Pamela points out, it's natural & kind of inevitable to gravitate to those with whom we have the most in common.

But the thing is, once you start splitting into groups and subgroups, things become very fractured. And you have to wonder where it stops?

I saw this in the real-life support group for pregnancy loss that dh & I facilitated for 10 years. I heard people who had miscarriages saying they felt guilty about their grief when they heard stories from people who had had stillbirths & neonatal deaths. People who had medical terminations wished for a separate group to discuss their particular issues. People who had infertility issues wished the same, while people who didn’t have trouble conceiving said they felt guilty listening to the stories of those who did.

And on & on it went. We had to continually remind our clients that we were there to focus on loss issues – the common bond that brought us together – but it was difficult, because the loss was often tied up in so many other things. And of course, the organization had limited resources -- it was difficult enough to support the broad, generalized groups we had, let alone more specialized niches (we did have one or two specialized groups for clients who became subsequently pregnant).

Of course, the ALI blogging community is a lot larger than the group I belonged to, & there are a lot of thriving subgroups (facilitated by Melissa’s amazing blogroll). But as I said above, where does the fracturing stop? – at what point do the separate niches we’ve built for ourselves begin to
erode the sense of belonging to a broader community, and its strength? Personally, as Deathstar said in her comment to Pamela's post, I can’t quite forget about infertility & loss, and what I’ve been through to reach this point in my life. Which is why I keep reading and blogging about it.

If we can’t learn to relate to each other as members of a broader ALI community – if we keep turning inward and only hang out with and read and support the bloggers whose situations most closely match our own – how can we hope to connect to the rest of the world with our stories and gain their support and understanding for what we have been through (and continue to experience)?

Of course I love reading blogs by women who are childless/free not by choice. It is so validating to read that others have gone through similar situations – that they have struggled with the same issues and feelings – and that they are building good lives for themselves and their partners regardless. I am so heartened to see more and more of us out there. I think our voices are much needed. As some of the commenters on Pamela's post (as well as Pamela herself) have already noted, there is still such a stigma attached to this particular segment of the ALI community. People still in the trenches need to know that this IS a viable option – that (contrary to what some believe) it is possible to come through the fire, wind up without a child – and still build a good life, regardless. That is partly why I keep blogging.

But I still read blogs by people still in the trenches, by newly bereaved parents, by people who are parenting after loss and infertility, people whose children came to them through adoption, donor eggs, & surrogacy. I learn so much from them. It broadens my worldview and helps me understand & empathize better.

Obviously, if all you write about is baby, baby, baby, I won't be able to relate too well, and will probably lose interest fairly quickly. And I do know some people who became parents after infertility or loss who have moved on (or at least seem to have moved on) so completely that I sometimes wonder what the heck happened (“Did I REALLY just hear her say that? To ME??”) Most of the bloggers I read don’t necessarily write only about infertility. They have a compelling story and they tell it well. Their stories and their writing resonate with me in some way.

I am glad we are having this conversation, & even more so that the childless/free not by choice corner of the community is taking an active part. Looking forward to hearing more from others.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why I blog

Baby Smiling in Back Seat poses a different question to her readers each week on "Thoughtful Thursday." This week's question (stemming from some controversy in our ALI blogging community this week): Why do you blog?

I posted a comment that was pretty much as long as a post (erk, sorry, C.!), so I figured I would post an adapted version over here. : )

This is a great question (& probably worthy of discussion in the salons this coming week). I can relate to a lot of what BSIBS said, as well as the comments she received.

My situation is obviously quite different from someone who started their blog while going through infertility (or a loss), achieve & go through pregnancy (by whatever means) or adoption & is now parenting. I started blogging in late 2007, nine years after my daughter was stillborn and six years after we decided to stop treatments & remain childless.

I had participated on listservs & message boards at various stages of my journey, and still do. Blogging is (or can be) a different kind of writing. When I post on a message board (especially these days), it's often in response to something someone else has posted or to pose a question to the group. It's more of a conversation.

Blogging can be a conversation too -- but I think of it more like writing a mini-essay or a newspaper column — more thoughtful & analytical (& yes, usually longer). I like developing a theme (particularly on my longer posts), thinking about WHY I feel the way I do, what words I should use.

Whenever anyone asks why I blog, I usually start out by saying, “I blog for myself.” That’s true — but I would be lying if I said I didn’t also have an audience in mind.

If I think back to the very beginning, one BIG reason I started the blog was specifically to connect & participate in the community Melissa had built up at Stirrup Queens . I LOVED reading the book club posts in particular, & was dying to take part & add my $.02. ; ) I was doing some commenting, but realized I’d get a lot more out of the whole experience if I had a blog myself.

Also, anyone who is travelling the childless/free path quickly realizes that there’s not a lot of support out there for this particular option. Pamela Jeanne was already blogging on this topic at Coming2Terms and was a huge inspiration to me. I thought she captured our experience so well — but I knew there were more of us out there, and felt we should be speaking up more about our experience & lighting the path for those following us.

And now there ARE more of us out there in the blogosphere. Not nearly enough, of course (I believe there are many more of us out there than our numbers on blogs & boards would indicate) — but it’s slowly evolving & getting better. And people aren’t just writing about the sad stuff; they’re writing about the ways in which their lives are good, even though they are not parents.

And of course, it’s nice to get feedback (particularly the positive kind). Really — who doesn’t like to get comments & to hear that their work has resonated in some way with readers, whether they agree with my point of view, can offer an alternate opinion, have a similar experience to share, learned something new or just plain liked my writing? Yes, I would probably still write without the comments, but they sure do make the whole experience a lot more fun & rewarding.

But I don’t specifically write to get comments, or worry if I think they've dropped off (well, not too much...) or about offending readers by writing about certain topics. Of course, as I said, I’m coming from a different place than most bloggers.

I’ll be frank — I found it kind of interesting to hear the parenting after loss bloggers saying how isolated they felt & how many readers they lost when they got pg/had their babies, that nobody wanted to hear their stories.

As I commented to Esperanza:
...there are parallels that could be drawn between PAIL (Parenting After Infertility & Loss) & the CF community. The CF community is certainly not as big as the parenting after infertility/loss group — but we do have a few “hubs,” like Pamela’s Silent Sorority & Lisa’s Life Without Baby. The difference being that everyone aspires to become a member of PAIL (metaphorically speaking, if not literally). I don’t think the same can be said about OUR “club.” ; )

I started my blog post-loss & infertility, but I can only imagine the drop off in readership, had I started when I was in the trenches & then made the decision. Nobody likes to think this will happen to them, but the hard truth is that not everyone comes out of this with a baby.

And it’s also true that it’s not the end of the world.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gives a whole new meaning to "the 2-week wait"...

Many of us in the ALI community, and particularly those of us who have lost babies, are familiar with the work of Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, who founded the MISS Foundation after the loss of her daughter Cheyenne in 1994.

Dr. Joanne is speaking out against a proposed amendment to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) used by psychiatrists & psychologists to diagnose and treat mental disorders. Now, most of us who have been bereaved in some way know that there are a lot of similarities between grief and depression. Sometimes a bereaved person will also be depressed -- and grief can certainly contribute to depression -- but just because someone is bereaved doesn't necessarily mean that they are clinically depressed. They are just... grieving. And grief is a NORMAL reaction to the loss of a loved one.

Recognizing this, the DSM currently stipulates that someone grieving a loss cannot be diagnosed as clinically depressed until at least two months after their loss. (In past versions of the manual, it was one year.) The proposed amendment would shorten that period to just TWO WEEKS. In other words, after two weeks, grief could be classified as abnormal behaviour. You could be categorized as mentally ill if you're not deemed to be sufficiently "over" the death of a loved one. After just TWO WEEKS.


I read about this in the news a few weeks ago, but nobody has laid out exactly why this is not a good thing the way that Dr. Joanne has on her blog. Please read her post and help spread the word. (I don't often post openly about ALI issues on Facebook, but I shared this post on my wall today.)

Odds & ends

  • I just realized that the last post I published was #600!!!
  • The recent death of my cousins' aunt was, unfortunately, just the beginning of a string of deaths I heard about in the space of a week.
  • At a bridal shower I attended a week ago Sunday, I learned of the death of dh's cousin's wife's grandmother (if you've got all that...!) -- and last Monday, dh, BIL, SIL & I, along with several other cousins, attended visitation at a local funeral home. (The grandmother was 90, so her death was not received with quite the same sadness that a younger person's might have been.)
  • However -- it just so happened this was the SAME funeral home where dh, my mother & I went to plan Katie's funeral. We drive by there quite often, but this was the first time we had set foot in the place since paying the bill shortly after the funeral. We never went beyond the office near the front door then but, even so, it was a surreal experience to be back there.
  • Then, speaking with my mother last week, I learned that my cousin's ex-husband, father of her two daughters, had died of a brain aneurysm. This cousin is a few months older than I am; her ex had just turned 53.
  • I remember attending their wedding some 30 years ago, when I was in university. My cousin wore her mother's wedding dress; my aunts sobbed in the pews behind us, commenting on her striking resemblance to her mother.
  • My cousin's mother (my uncle's wife) had died in childbirth some 15 years previously, along with one of the twin girls she was carrying, in the early 1960s, when my cousin (the bride) and her older sister were barely school aged. She was being rushed by ambulance from the small rural hospital into the city, but sadly died en route. I have very few memories of her -- the chief one being that she offered me puffed wheat cake when we visited their farm one time -- but the lingering impression (confirmed by the stories I have heard from my mother & others) is that she was a warm and cheerful woman, much loved by everyone. My mother remembers that she was at a church group meeting when my dad called her with the news; he was crying so hard he could barely choke out the words. They piled us into the car & drove all night to join the rest of the extended family, some 600 miles away on roads that were not as well developed as they are today.
  • Both the funerals/memorials for my cousins' aunt & my other cousin's ex were held last Friday.
  • And then -- if I didn't feel like I'd had enough sad news over the past week, & that the links to my childhood were beginning to disappear far too quickly lately -- I found out Davy Jones of The Monkees had died of a heart attack at the far-too-young age of 66. The Monkees were among my original childhood pop star idols (along with The Beatles and Herman's Hermits)(and I do mean childhood -- I was 5 when their show began and 7 when it went off the air). We didn't get their show on TV where we lived, but of course we heard their songs on the radio & saw the show in reruns at my grandmother's house in the States in the summertime -- and Davy, of course, was my favourite.
  • I couldn't even exclaim about it aloud at work -- I didn't want to hear the inevitable question -- "Who's Davy Jones?" -- from the 20-something coworkers who surround my cubicle. :p
  • Seriously -- how cute were these guys? (Justin Bieber, eat your heart out, lol.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recent reading

It's been an interesting week or so for ALI issues in the news. I've run across a number of articles lately that I've wanted to bring to your attention & comment on. Here are a few of them:

*** *** ***

First, "Canada's national newsmagazine," Macleans, published an article by Anne Kingston on its website last week, posing the question, "Are we over-sharing lost pregnancies?"

One of the key points I took away from the article was the suggestion that bereaved parents are being encouraged to share their stories and assert their rights by right-wing anti-choice advocates (in Canada as well as the U.S.) looking to forward their own political agendas -- "Which means that the evolving focus on perinatal death potentially affects far more than bereaved families." (This is the concluding line of the article.)

There may be some truth to this. However, to dismiss my grief and my feelings for my stillborn daughter because they can somehow be tied to Rick Santorum or Michelle Duggar's religious & political beliefs is lumping apples with orange, in my opinion. Borrowing & inverting the logic from the Greek father of the bride at the end of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "in the end we're all just fruit" (bereaved parents), even if we come from different trees & believe different things.

I am about as far from the Santorums and Duggars as you can get, politically and religiously speaking. I firmly believe that how, when, whether and why we become parents (or not) is a highly personal choice -- with emphasis on the word choice. I believe birth control and sex education should be widely available. In the memorable and oft-quoted words of one of our former prime ministers, Pierre Trudeau, when he was minister of justice in the 1960s, "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." If only more of our politicians still believed that...!

(An aside: My own sex education sadly consisted of one week covering the human reproductive system toward the end of my Grade 12 biology class, by a red-faced and clearly embarrassed male teacher who seemed to want to get through the material as quickly and with as few questions as possible. Thankfully, I was a voracious reader with a budding feminist sensibility, and that got me through to the point when I finally felt ready, willing and able to take on parenthood.)(Of course, my body then refused to co-operate... but that's another story...)

I believe it's entirely possible to be pro-choice and mourn the loss of your own much-wanted baby. A good book that outlines an alternative approach to "personhood" is "Motherhood Lost: A eminist account of pregnancy loss in America" by Linda L. Layne.

Despite our political/religious differences, my heart still went out to the Duggars and the Santorums when I read of their respective losses, as one bereaved parent to another -- particularly when I heard some of the awful things that were said and written about the ways they handled the loss of their babies.

Moving past the political implications of sharing about pregnancy loss -- I think there is some truth to this assertion in the article:
"Given the obsession with female fecundity—tabloid scrutiny of “baby bumps,” gushing media coverage over the birth of celebrity babies like Beyoncé’s—it’s hardly surprising perinatal death has migrated into the mainstream."
And this:
"The public focus on pregnancy, now routinely announced before the high-risk first trimester via Facebook’s new “Expected: Child” option, can heighten the sense of loss and stoke anger among women whose pregnancies end suddenly, says Purdie. The Web’s virtual nature is a haven for celebrating unborn children, some of whom even have their own Facebook pages. “There’s pregnant people and babies everywhere,” one woman grieving an early-term miscarriage vented on Ling’s website. Purdie notes that returning to work or social circles where women have children or are pregnant can be alienating for those who’ve lost their baby: “Women feel it’s a club they don’t belong to.”
My problem with the article is that, in answering the question "Are we over-sharing?" the evidence presented appears to be heavily slanted in favour of the "yes" side. Advocates for the bereaved parents' point of view are few; voices of bereaved parents themselves are mostly not included. While there are some observations in the article I an agree with (see above), and while the author does provide some "experts" speaking to the experience of bereaved parents and some of the practices that have been adopted in recent years to help them cope, the bulk of the article tends to focus more on the discomfort experienced by others, including the opinion that mourning our babies more openly than previous generations is unhealthy and prolonging our grief.

I will concede that there are a handful of bereaved parents out there who may or may not be grieving in an unhealthy way. In 10 years as a support group facilitator, there were a few -- a very few -- clients whose grief sometimes felt beyond our limited abilities as volunteers (albeit highly sympathetic ones) to handle, who caused us special concern. (On the other hand, the group was sometimes the only place where they felt safe in venting their feelings -- so who was I to judge?) I don't know what's happened to all of them over the years, but I do know that many of them eventually managed to move to a new stage of their post-loss life.

My own opinion is that most of us are NOT "oversharing" -- we're just sharing (if we are sharing much at all). It's just that people are not used to hearing about the topic. We're still highly squeamish as a culture when it comes to death, and the death of a baby is still the most taboo topic of all.

As Layne observes in her book, part of the problem is there are no common or "approved" cultural scripts we can all rely on when it comes to perinatal loss. It's only in recent years that perinatally bereaved parents have been validated in their feelings and provided with choices when it comes to the loss of their babies -- to see and hold them after delivery (or not), to hold a funeral or memorial (or not), etc. Even 20 or 30 years ago, it was common practice in most hospitals to whisk away stillborn or miscarried babies immediately after delivery, to be buried in common (mass), unmarked graves, or disposed of along with other hospital "waste." Parents were not consulted about their wishes in these matters and, stunned by what had happened, they mostly accepted and did whatever the hospital decreed.

The key to the article, I think lies in these lines:
Couples were once expected to “deal with it” and “move on.” The newer message is that the loss will never disappear but will shift with time.
One gets the sense from this article that the first sentence is the preferable situation. The discomfort that the fortunate non-bereaved still feel when confronted with the reality of grief is highly evident. And is proof, I think, that we need to do a heck of a lot more talking and sharing to ensure that our voices are not only heard but listened to and empathized with -- if not entirely understood.

As you might expect, the comments can get quite heated at times, on both sides of the debate. Read with caution.

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The New York Times' Motherlode column recently ran a guest post with the provocative headline "Why I Won't Adopt." The author and her husband have their own personal reasons for taking adoption off the table, including some I could relate to and others I could not. I found myself nodding when I read this passage:
"...occasionally, it feels like in these forums, too, there’s an unspoken hierarchy of who’s willing to go the furthest to be a mother. Who’s open to donor eggs, sperm or embryos? Who will pursue adoption after one failed I.U.I.? One friend found something similar in the adoption community: are you willing to adopt an older child? Another ethnicity? A special-needs kid? What does it say about you if you’re not?"
Surprisingly, perhaps, most of the comments were fairly civilized. (One commenter said the post was "so incredibly offensive to me in so many ways.") I did find it somewhat amusing that several offered up questions along the lines of "Have you thought of using donated eggs? Surrogacy??" A fair number of commenters were adoptive parents asserting that they could not imagine life without their children, and while some urged the writer to "open her heart" & reconsider her decision, most commended her and her husband for knowing their hearts and their limits.

One of my favourite comments (among the first):
No one "just adopts."

As a parent of two adopted children, I completely understand your perspective about not wanting to go down the adoption road.

Adoption is a wonderful way to build a family, but it has its own issues. It's not a perfect solution that is the right choice for everyone. And there are a lot of myths about adoption that people (including the adoption biz and adoptive families) don't like to talk about. And I say this with 18 years of experience in two successful open adoptions.

It takes a lot of effort to adopt, so if your heart is not fully committed, if your husband has reservations, don't get on the adoption train.

Don't feel guilty, either about how you choose.

And if it happens that you don't have a baby with your husband, you will make another kind of life that will be different than the one you expected. I can say in my heart that I am sorry that my husband and I never conceived a child--that would have been a wonderful miracle ...It's a road I didn't take...But the life I have has grown around that loss.

All the best to you.

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Speaking of adoption, the Toronto Star had a fascinating article in its Insight section this weekend about identical twin girls adopted from China at the same time by separate families who quickly realized the relationship (denied by the orphanage but later confirmed by DNA testing) and have been working to ensure that, despite living with separate families in different towns several hours' drive apart, the girls grow up as sisters.

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And speaking of Motherlode, the most recent column asks for reader wisdom in this "Parental Quandary: I'm Pregnant; My Friend is Struggling with Infertility." Comments are still open, if you want to share.

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Finally, this article from The Guardian in Britain, written by Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women: "I may not be a mother -- but I'm still a person." Like Jody, and like many of you, I'm sure, I've often felt like an outsider in the middle of a group of mommies talking about their kids -- although it's gotten slightly better as the kids have gotten older. (Now it's starting to be the GRANDKIDS...!) Day points out that 20% of women now reach menopause without having had children. That's a sizeable chunk of the population, yet we continue to feel shut out, abnormal.

Thankfully, more & more of us are speaking out about our experiences. As Day writes:
Too often, women who are child-free by circumstance are left with the sense of not having a proper life. And many women who are childfree by choice find themselves vilified as heartless, selfish types lacking some vital quality that would make them "real" women.

We women without children need to become a more cohesive bunch if we're to survive in the Mumsnet era. We want to show how much we have to offer and that we have meaning in our lives – it's just that this meaning is something other than our offspring. I'm going to use the energy that would have gone into raising my family to speak up for childfree women like me. Our tribe is expanding – and it's time we had a voice.