I'm writing to my local MP for the Federal Government of Australia, Joanna Gash -- I'm totally inspired by Ontario, Canada's decision to join the US in recognising Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day -- time for Australia to wake up too!
So here's my draft. I welcome your suggestions, feedback, etc because I want to make BIG waves!!! Let's kick butt!! Thanks. I apologise for focusing on m/c's and not later losses, but then the letter would have never ended!! Sorry it's long. Here we go...
Dear Mrs. Gash:
Re Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (15 Oct)
It’s estimated that 1 in every 4 women has a miscarriage. And for each of these women, others grieve too: especially her partner, their parents, and the baby’s older siblings. As both a miscarriage survivor and one of your constituents, I ask for your support.
Since 2006, America (and now Canada) have recognised Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day annually on 15 Oct (For details, please visit: http://www.october15th.com/transcription.htm). They hold remembrance ceremonies and with candles being lit at 7 pm in each time zone, to honour and remember their children. I’d like to see Australia recognise this official day as well.
Why is this so important to our healing? An estimated 500,000 miscarriages happen every single year. That’s an awful lot of deep grieving made all the worse because it’s predominantly suffered in silence. Social taboo prevents us from expressing our grief openly – we often fear we’ll be judged for having caused our losses when -- in actual fact – most often, there was no way to have prevented the loss (This is also the case in most incidents of stillbirth and infant loss, too). For example, my husband and I endured 4 miscarriages, each due to a blighted ovum. Each time I had treated my body ‘like gold’ – yet each baby was lost only because the pregnancy wasn’t viable from the start. I know this is to be true, but many people didn’t understand that our losses were unpreventable. So this taught me to suffer in silence instead.
Our grief is also compounded by the reactions of so many people who haven’t ‘been there’, rendering them often uncomfortable with our grief. They don’t know what to say, so tend to say the wrong (though well intentioned) thing. Inadvertently making it worse still, they then expect us to ‘get over it’ sooner than we can, because they think we should be able to – likely due to both their uncomfortability and ignorance.
I don’t fault these people, since ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. I don’t expect them to understand. Instead, I think they are actually doing their best, in response to our grief. But tragically, their reaction makes us ‘stuff our feelings’ way down – only to be triggered whenever we see a baby, a pregnant belly, or even a family. As you can imagine then, we are triggered maybe a hundred or more times a day. It is a horrible, prolonged and agonising grief silently suffered by 1 in every 4 women you see on the sidewalks of Gilmore.
In some cultures, such as Japan, the grief of pregnancy and infant loss is honoured and supported. There are special little temples and shrines devoted strictly to honouring their tiny angels. In the Shinto faith, there is also the Ojizo-san: the God who protects unborn babies. Statues of the Ojizo-san adorn these temples as well as private homes and gardens. The grieving have a place to go to honour their lost babies, and a social standard that is sensitive and caring towards their loss.
There is no doubt in my mind that those grieving in Japan have an infinitely easier ‘trot’ than do their counterparts in Australia. Silence, anger, guilt, fear and deep grief characterise the long, private struggle of each survivor in our country. Please, Mrs. Gash: it’s time for this needless suffering to stop. And I ask for your help.
Please help us smash this pain-inducing social taboo. Please help break down the walls of ignorance and uncomfortability. Please help every grieving Australian heal more quickly.
I ask you to represent the voice of 1 out of every 4 of your female constituents, by bringing this request to our Federal Government. Kindly ask them to recognise 15 Oct as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Please don’t let Australia lag behind America and Canada in this regard. Australians are progressive, innovative, caring and passionate. Candles should be lit here too.
I am fortunate to have you as my MP, and consider your slogan most accurate: “Getting the job done”. I had the privilege of hearing you open the first Shoalhaven Women in Business Conference (Spring 2006), and also passionately addressing the Shoalhaven Business Chamber (Spring 2007). You also made it official when I became an Australian citizen in Sussex Inlet (Summer 2006). In my opinion you exhibit integrity, determination and decency. Therefore I have the utmost confidence in leaving my passionate quest in your capable hands. I know, in my heart, that you’ll “get the job done” here too.
Thank you very much for your time today.