October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
One of my closest friends navigated a heartbreaking loss this year. She and her family experienced a pregnancy loss. Having lost my first pregnancy nearly 10 years ago, I understood much of what she was feeling. Time has passed, allowing me to grieve, reflect, and hold space for all of the emotions that come along with a devastating loss. I've also gained some new perspectives that I was able to share with her.
Pregnancy and infant loss is a very alienating experience. While friends and family naturally celebrate a pregnancy announcement, few, if any, are prepared to comfort grieving parents.
Here is what I wish someone had told me:
It's not your fault. I'm sure your doctor discussed this with you, and you listened attentively. But in the back of your mind you might be doubting yourself.
Was it something you ate?
Too much exercise, or not enough?
It isn't any of those things. As a scientist, I couldn't accept the explanation "sometimes these things just happen. It's a 25% chance." I researched this extensively, and I found out that this vague statement is actually true. There is no medical explanation for many of these losses. It's a 1 in 4 chance.
It's not your diet or lifestyle.
And it's not you. There isn't anything inherently wrong with or inferior about you as a woman or a mother. You are deserving, and your child loves you deeply. I wish I had given myself the love and grace I needed to accept this. I spent years punishing myself because I believed it was my fault.
That I had failed.
That I was unworthy.
Please don't make the same mistake that I did.
So why did it happen? This is my perspective.
I have come to believe that these precious babies have a strong spiritual connection to us. Call it whatever you'd like - guardian angels, spirit guides, soulmates. They are ours and we are theirs.
How lucky are we that we had the opportunity to connect with them in the physical world, however briefly? Not all souls need a lifetime to make their mark on this world.
These wise spirits chose us to be their earthly mothers. What an honor. Their time in our wombs was brief, but during that time they experienced nothing but pure and unconditional love. What a precious, rare, and powerful gift we were able to give them. Their time in our wombs helped their souls to grow and prepare for the next stage of their journey.
They gave a gift to us as well...the gift of their love and life energy. They will not complete their earthly journeys with us, but through us. They have ignited a light in our hearts that will shine forever. Their love makes us kinder and more compassionate. We share their gifts with the world through our lives.
That last part is a choice. They ignite the light within us, but we choose to share it. Losing my daughter gave me super-strength empathy and compassion. I honor her and give her life on this earth through helping and empowering others. All of her love needs somewhere to go, so I share it freely with those who need it. I have a feeling she guides me to the people that I need to connect with the most.
Our children live on through us in their own unique way. Pay attention to your passions and interests, they are guiding you toward the purpose that aligns you with your child. Keep your heart open to the connection. And never forget how much you are loved and treasured by your little one.
The work that I do through Radiant Journey is in loving memory of my daughter Natasha, who would have celebrated her ninth birthday this year on October 14th.
Dr. Lori Ana Valentín is an analytical chemist who holds doctorate and master’s degrees in chemistry from Binghamton University as well as a bachelor of science in biochemistry from SUNY Fredonia. She has worked with individuals and teams across the globe.