I came across a quote by President Ronald Reagan that says “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.” There isn’t a word to describe them. That quote is from a speech made in 1988, declaring October as “National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month”. That last sentence hit me like a ton of bricks: There isn’t a word to describe them.
While the words/phrases aren’t known to the population who hasn’t experienced a loss, there are now lots of words and phrases within the loss community. Words that have taken on a whole new meaning after losing a child. A lot of these words/phrases are used to help someone talk about their loss to people who haven’t experienced a loss. Other words/phrases are there to help talk about a hopeful future.
I found myself very confused in the weeks after losing Cora. The most amazing people were reaching out to me but I didn’t understand all the lingo they were using. Or the online support groups I joined, it was like interpreting a foreign language. Words and phrases that now defined me, my child, and future children.
Loss Mom. Hope Mom. Subsequent Pregnancy. Loss Child. Living Child. Hope Baby. Rainbow Baby. Fetal Demise. Still birth. Stillborn. Pregnancy After Loss. Maternal Condition. Angel Baby. Loss Community. Still a Mom. Heaven Day.
Sometimes I get frustrated when I look at my future. It’s not that I am not hopeful, just a heavy weight sits on my heart knowing that I will have to use these phrases. Of course, I don’t have to but it becomes more and more natural. I am a mom but I am also a loss mom. I hope to have other babies but the medical professionals call them “subsequent pregnancies” and loss moms call them “rainbow babies” or “hope babies”. Our future pregnancies are so defined by our loss.
I’m terrified my future children will bear the burden of a sibling that is gone. That they will have to live up to something extra special or feel like a replacement child. Like they won’t be enough for us because we will always miss Cora. She will never be replaced but we don’t want her replaced. She was her own person just like our future children will be their own person. But there is no nice, tidy way to say that. Instead, I have to try explain it with all these new phrases and words.
As the time is passes, I will accept these words and phrases. But I will choose to add my own to my story: Brave. Strong. Hopeful. Kind. Courageous. Empathetic. Sympathetic.
And just plain Mom.
Stronger, better, braver.
Cheers to the bright side.