Gathering With My People

watercolor of an iris with a sunset in the background
Image created via Midjourney

The annual Walk to Remember, honoring all babies lost, has been an important event for me ever since I first attended in 2016. It had grown to almost 1,000 attendees per year — continued growth a continued reminder that more and more people join the world of pregnancy loss every day.

Yet we haven't gathered for the past two years because of the pandemic. The event was virtual, a mere fragment of its usual impact. I know that the Walk committee tried really hard. But when the purpose of an event is to walk it's hard to replicate the experience.

Today, we were finally able to gather.

I hadn't seen some of my fellow loss mamas in person in years. Some of them had welcomed new rainbow babies during the pandemic — a stressor I can't fathom during pregnancy after loss.  

And I've changed as well. I've met several communities of new people. People who don't know what I've been through. I share when I can, but it doesn't always come up in the course of conversation. I've tried to raise awareness about bereavement policies, but most companies are still failing women.

Just the other day, I was on a plane to a marketing conference in Boston. A couple was sitting next to me, talking about where to put a crib in the nursery for their first baby. I guessed that the mother was about halfway through her pregnancy by looking at her. First baby, they told me. I smiled. They probably thought they were in the "safe zone," having passed the first trimester.

I joked that the conference was a way for me to escape my kids and they both chuckled. The father asked the ages of my kids. When I replied "13, 10, and 5" he said "Oh, lots of space between them!" and used his hands to emphasize the distance. I smiled again. A forced smile.

It didn't make sense to tell them why there is such a big gap between my kids. They have pregnancy innocence. Something I lost a long time ago.

The people I gathered with today for the Walk? They all know.

I made everyone in our household bundle up on this chilly morning. I didn't want anyone complaining about being cold. We arrived early so that I had plenty of time to mingle.

As we put on our event t-shirts, I saw an older woman walking by herself, crying. I went up to her and asked if I could give her a hug.

She told me that she was there for her grandson and showed me his picture. He died the day before his due date. She also told me that her son was uncomfortable with her grief, so she felt like she had to hide it.

I reminded her that everyone at the Walk understood her grief.

We all know.

That's why we gather.