Yesterday I attended the funeral of a seven-year-old boy. That’s why the silly post about clothes shopping yesterday morning–this just wasn’t something I was ready to process yet. It was the saddest gathering.
He had leukemia and fought really hard, through multiple bone marrow transplants and graft versus host disease, all kinds of infections and complications, and after more than a year of that he just slipped away.
This is not supposed to happen.
He was just a little kid.
There were thousands of people gathered in the church to remember him and to celebrate his life. Everyone was crying, including the priest. Somehow his family will have to go on without him, and I hope they can take comfort in the idea that at least he has escaped the pain he was in for so long.
On my way home I started thinking about this community, and in particular this post by Infertile Revolutionary. The post is about social pressure to keep infertility and early pregnancy private. I was going to quote her, but you really need to read the whole thing–don’t worry, I’ll wait.
The family yesterday was (is) moving through enormous, unimaginable pain. They will never get him back, and he will never get to grow up. But they are doing it with the support of an entire community. The whole time he was sick there were friends sitting with them at the hospital, cooking them meals, taking care of the younger son who couldn’t understand why his brother never wanted to play anymore. And now that he is gone the community has once again embraced the family in their grief. This is not to diminish what they are feeling–just to note that there is a support system.
Contrast that with what any number of you ladies have been through. So many of you have lost children to miscarriage over and over again–but you’ve borne it alone because of this veil of secrecy around infertility and pregnancy loss. My heart aches for you–there should be a church full of a thousand people supporting you too. The world should notice.
And again, I don’t mean to take away in any way from what the family yesterday was feeling; I am wholly uninterested in the Pain Olympics, and I know that losing a seven-year-old is not exactly the same as losing a pregnancy. But I also know that the pain those of you who have miscarried experience is no less real than what those parents are feeling. What would it be like if you had the support of your community through your grief instead of an expectation that whatever happens prior to birth is your problem that no one else should be bothered with?
Infertile Revolutionary has taken a step that I haven’t–yet. She is telling people the truth, and she has found real evidence* of how pervasive fertility problems are. Before she told, all of those other folks in her post were keeping it all to themselves too. Someday I will find the courage to give an honest answer when someone asks me why I don’t have children. I haven’t been able to do it yet–but I do know that I have to be the change I want to see in the world. I know that this part is up to me.
And if enough of us tell, maybe infertility and pregnancy loss will become the public health emergency it is screaming to be, given how common it is. Maybe more states will mandate insurance coverage. Maybe more will be invested in research. Or maybe none of that will happen–maybe all that will happen is that each of us won’t have to bear our pain alone. Which would be an improvement.