October 9th to 15th is Baby Loss Awareness Week, which finishes with the Wave of Light. Every year I am moved by the photos of candles, lit in memory of loved and missed babies that fill my timelines and feeds. I am privileged to have become friends with other parents who have lost babies, and we are always touched by how many of our friends and family remember Benedict. It gives us a chance to say his name out loud and share our pride and love for our son.
This year, a Twibbon campaign has shed further light on the topic of Baby Loss Awareness. And I have been amazed at how many profile pictures have turned #pinkandblue. I shouldn't be. I know the facts and statistics. I know how many of my friends and family have lost a baby. But I have been surprised because it's not something we normally know about strangers; that they too carry the weight of this pain. It's understandable, we don't announce our loss to the world, it's personal and far too important to share with just anyone. But more than that, we know it makes others uncomfortable. No-one wants to think about their own mortality, much less think about losing their child. So often, even when we want to talk about our children we don't, not to spare our emotions, but others'.
I can't count the number of internal struggles I have faced since we lost Benedict. As simple a question as 'how many children do you have?' from a friend of a friend or a new colleague is no longer small talk. Timehop and Facebook memories don't discriminate. So often I want to remind people of what we lost and who we miss. But it never quite feels right to talk about him there, amongst the holiday snaps, the mock-Victorian memes and the funny animal videos. I think of him and I hope he understands that his name isn't on my lips as often as it is in my head or my heart.
Every day, my heart breaks over and over again. There are four toothbrushes in our bathroom instead of five; two car-seats in the back of my car, not three; two sets of shoes, coats and hats at the backdoor, ready for the morning rush. Every time I watch my girls together, and note their similarities and differences I daydream - who would Benedict be most like? Would he inherit my stubborn streak like his sisters both have? Did he have John's blue eyes like they do, or did one of my children have my green eyes? Talking about him isn't what make me sad. More often than not, it's the not talking about him.
Of course, the people that need to hear about this topic are the very people it's hardest to talk to about it. Expectant parents do not want to hear the stories of how easily and quickly things can go wrong. But as difficult as it is, we need to talk about our babies. Because only by saying out loud just how many babies die can we hope to reduce the numbers. So campaigns such as Count The Kicks are so vital in promoting awareness. I remember clearly the discussions about SIDS (cot death) at our ante natal classes - a whole hour long session was devoted to it, but not a word about stillbirth, yet stillbirths are 10 times as common as cot death. If we can save just one baby by telling the story of how we lost our own, than it is more than worth it. We need to have these difficult conversations. We need to remind women that their instinct is worth trusting.
So let's say our babies' names out loud.