October 15 is marked as the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in many countries. I would like to take this moment to share my personal story of what this day means to me.
My first job as a psychologist changed my career path forever. In my final stages of receiving my masters degree, I was required to complete a 300 hour practicum – essentially my first job as a future psychologist. After months of searching I finally found the perfect place for my first job!
I began my work at the Lois Hole Women’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. This hospital is unique in the sense that it serves women and their unique health needs. My job was to “counsel women who had experienced a major reproductive event”, that was the clinical description. What that really entailed was working with women side by side as they struggled with infertility or had experienced infant loss.
I will never forget my first week on the job when I met several mothers who had in that very moment given birth to their precious babies who were born still. The agony and the pain these women and families went through was unimaginable. No textbook teaches you how to deal with the raw emotion of such a tragedy. What can one say to a woman experiencing this pain?
From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life’s work to journeying with women and their families who had experienced such loss. I would often get the question “If I have no child, am I a mother?” my answer is always “yes, you are a mother.” Your child matters no matter how short their life was in this physical world. Your pregnancy mattered and you did the best you could for the precious time you had with your baby. Remember that first and foremost you are a mother, and you loved your child.
Along with miscarriage or a stillbirth comes guilt, anger and sadness – it takes time and support to heal the pain. Having a support system made up of family and friends is important. And sometimes a professional such as a psychologist can be an additional resource. That is why I help women who have been afflicted by this tragedy.
On October 15th and every day I remember the women and families who have experienced such immeasurable loss. Today my thoughts are with you.