Today would have been the 17th annual Walk to Remember, an event held by the local chapter of the SHARE support group for pregnancy and infant loss. Instead, like last year, the Walk was virtual: a livestream from the Wings of Hope Angel Garden that honors all babies gone too soon, a reading of the baby names from Walk registrants, and parents sharing photos from their homes or parks, together in spirit.
It struck me as I drove to the hospital this morning to pick up my Walk packet and t-shirts that I've missed as many Walks as I've attended. I don't think I was even aware of the Walk the year that Nelle died, since it would have taken place only a month later. The following year, I went to the Walk, but felt incredibly alone. I hadn't even attended a SHARE support meeting at that point, so I knew no one. Other parents warmly greeted each other, smiling and celebrating their babies. Even though a year had passed, I was still in so much pain from losing Nelle, and then Iris. I wasn't yet pregnant with Autumn, so I felt like I was in a constant state of "not knowing how the story will end."
In 2017, the Walk was rained out by a torrential downpour that flooded the park grounds where we were supposed to gather. Autumn was a few months old and by that point I had been a regular attendee of SHARE support meetings. It was devastating to cancel the event. By that point, I understood the expressions on the faces of people I'd seen in the year prior. Most days, our babies are in the background... though never far from our own minds, we don't get the chance to talk about them. The Walk was a day where the babies lost are front and center.
2018 was beautiful weather; 2019 was freezing. Each year, I knew more and more people. It's a group that will never stop growing, and the club that no parent wants to be part of. Yet, the Walk is the reminder that the community of support is wide. By 2019, there were over 1,000 Walk participants.
Then 2020 came. The Walk had to be cancelled due to safety concerns, and the state of Illinois wouldn't have even permitted a gathering that large at the time. The event was livestreamed and the babies' names read aloud as they are every year. But it felt like one more thing that Covid had taken from me, and event that I look forward to every year and with a permanent home on our family's calendar.
The event was virtual again this year. Even last October I couldn't have imagined another 12 months would pass and we would still be in the middle of a pandemic. I missed being with the people I care about. My kids were antsy during the livestream, so I was frustrated, feeling like some of the meaningfulness of the day was dragged down by their inattention.
I have attended three walks, and missed three walks. It feels like a reminder that the world of pregnancy loss is so often unfair. And now more than 18 months into the pandemic, I feel like being so separated from my support community has made me feel disconnected from Nelle and Iris. I don't get to be around the people who really understand how I feel. Perhaps this is in part to the passage of time since their deaths, but that's hard to separate while still underneath the weight of the pandemic.
But the day was warm. Hot even. And this afternoon, the five of us went for our own Walk. We put on our purple t-shirts and walked to "The Secret Park"—a name we have affectionately given to a park tucked behind a subdivision that seem to be often overlooked. The trees are so tall and thick that Autumn often calls it "the green park" because it is a wall of greenery along the path before the trees finally separate and reveal a small playground.
The kids enjoyed the walk to the park and the sunshine was good for me. While we walked, I played the song "What I Did For Love" through my phone, singing along, with a lump in my throat.
Love is never gone
As we travel on
Love's what we'll remember
Kiss today goodbye
And point me toward tomorrow
We did what we had to do
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for love
-from "A Chorus Line"