Trigger warning: This article discusses pregnancy and infant loss.
Callan is born, like his brother and sister before him, into peace and love. Callan doesn’t cry, but it doesn’t change anything. I need to hold him. I need to feel him against my chest. I say, ‘My baby, my baby. I want my baby.’ The midwife lays him on my stomach and I look at him with love. My breath catches. I didn’t know I would love him so much, as much as his brother and sister. I look at his perfect little body. I hold him tight. He may not be alive, but in this moment that doesn’t matter. All I feel is love, pride, happiness. I hold him for hours. I don’t have to put him in a crib. I cuddle him, I sleep with him in my arms, I make memories to last a lifetime. – Jane Lê, 2016
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and the fifteenth of the month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day – a time for grieving families to honour their babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and postnatal causes, and to share their profound loss with others.
To shine a light on the experience of pregnancy and infant loss, I speak to Inner West Mum Jane Lê, whose precious son Callan Raphael was born on 22 January 2016 without life, to ask what Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and Remembrance Day, means to her and her family.
Jane says: ‘Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month provides an opportunity to bring conversation to a topic that is too often draped in silence. It makes it okay to talk about our babies and our experience of loss, and in so doing helps to raise awareness of an important issue that affects thousands of families. It is my hope that this awareness encourages action. Action in terms of government focus and funding for the issue, but also action in terms of helping people understand how to support a friend or family member experiencing such a significant loss.’
What do you wish others understood about this kind of loss? I ask Jane. ‘Someone asked me the other day if I think about Callan often,’ she says. ‘Taken aback, I replied, “How often do you think about your baby?” The woman said, “Every day.” I told her that just because my baby died, this is no different for me. Callan is my baby. And I think about him all the time. Just like any other mother. The difference is that I don’t get to talk about my baby. He isn’t acknowledged as a part of my life. So, I wish that people understood that Callan will always be my son and that I will continue to mother him until the day I die.’
Beautifully and articulately, Jane describes the grief she has felt for her son’s loss. ‘The journey of grief is a lonely one. No one can truly walk alongside you, unless they have suffered a loss like yours. That’s the tragedy of bereavement; it’s a loss that is felt so deep, that it isolates, and that isolation compounds the loss. It’s hard for people to see us suffer, to see us in the depths of despair. Most people look away. A well-intended action, arising out of the misplaced belief that we don’t want to show our vulnerability. But we do want to be seen. In all our vulnerability, weakness, messiness, and rawness … You need to grieve actively. And you need to be at peace with the tears, to accept that they will come whenever they want. That’s life. And life is messy. And that’s okay.’
I ask Jane if there is anything special she and the family will be doing to honour their son Callan at this time. She explains: ‘I am participating in a month-long project which encourages families to “capture their grief” by sharing an aspect of their loss each day with their social media network. It’s an opportunity to openly remember your child and to reflect on your loss and pain. My reflections have been intense, possibly eye-opening – even upsetting – but this is part of my grieving process. Heartwork is hard work, but it’s important work too.’
Jane says that this October she won’t be attending any of the formal events and activities run by pregnancy and infant loss groups, such as Sands Australia, SIDS & Kids and Bears of Hope, as well as local hospitals, cemeteries and funeral homes. ‘I might like to attend these kinds of events in future, but at the moment, we will just take some family time for ourselves. Bereaved parents honour their children every single day. This is just an opportunity to do it alongside people that understand.’
Bears of Hope Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support
SIDS and Kids
24-Hour Bereavement Support Line: 1300 308 307
You can learn more about Jane’s story and watch her deeply moving memorial video, here:
More from Ginny:
How to Support a Friend through the Loss of a Baby
Photograph: Callan’s dedication, March 2016, supplied by Jane Lê