October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and we know so many of you have endured heartbreaking experiences. Part of our passion and mission behind our #WeAreWeCan campaign is sharing the stories of the collective struggles that we as women face, and to recognize that we are not alone. This month, we're sharing the stories of women who've experienced pregnancy and infant loss in an effort to create awareness about the issue and to help other women who may be in similar situations feel supported, inspired, and less alone.
Today we're sharing the story of Neena Earl. Neena has been through the unthinkable during the last 6 years, including the stillbirth of her beloved baby girl, Indi, multiple miscarriages, the birth of two healthy boys, and recently terminating a wanted pregnancy due to medical reasons (not to mention Neena's own health scare in recent years). Below, read more of Neena's powerful and emotional story.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS STORY?
IN WHAT WAYS HAS THIS EXPERIENCE SHAPED YOU?
I'd like to think it's made me a more empathetic person. You never know what someone is going through—what grief they're quietly holding. It's made me more aware of the fact that even though someone may be acting normal, going about their daily business, there is always pain running deep. Treating others with more kindness is something I strive for and I know I'm not perfect with it but I hope to spread the love and beauty of Indi by being more aware of other's pain.
HOW OR WHERE DID YOU FIND SUPPORT, PEACE, AND COMFORT FOLLOWING YOUR EXPERIENCE?
I've always been an open person that has shared my life with those around me so when I turned to social media to share our story I was shocked by how many people came to our help—people we knew, barely knew, and complete strangers. Whether they had been through infant or pregnancy loss themselves, they showed us the good that humanity has to offer. I frequently look back on my early posts after Indi's death to read people's love and support. Writing and sharing about our journey has also been cathartic for me. Getting the emotions and thoughts out on the screen or paper helps to process and give validation to my pain. I joined a support group called A Mother's Nature to connect on a more human level. We can laugh and cry together knowing each other's pain.
FOR OTHER WOMEN WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED PREGNANCY OR INFANT LOSS AND MAY BE STRUGGLING, WHAT ADVICE OR WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT WOULD YOU OFFER THEM?
There are days where you feel like you'll never be able to even reach a hand out of the dark hole of grief that you're in. Eventually that hole will become and easier place to be. I heard a quote once that said something like, "The grief you're experiencing is a hole in your heart that will never go away. In the beginning, that hole will be a dark, painful place, but slowly, over time, a garden will begin to grow around that hole in your heart. The jagged edges of that hole will smooth and you'll eventually be able to visit this hole without so much pain but remember the incredibly beautiful moments in your journey." I promise you the pain never fully goes away but it does begin to sting less.
I would also say, please allow others to help you and lift you up. I know it can be hard to allow others into your grief but sharing the load is what we are meant to do in this life. We are not meant to walk in this life alone. People will say and do the wrong things, but if they were saying and doing the right things, they most likely would have had to have gone through what we've been through and I would never want some one to go through child loss to know the right things to do and say. There are some that are able to provide you with what you need without this experience in their own lives but everyone wants to love you and support you. Don't let your pride or pain obstruct you from the beauty that humanity has to offer. Let people in.
WHAT'S ONE THING ABOUT PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS YOU'D LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW?
I know that it's hard to know what to say and do for someone that has lost a baby. I still don't know the perfect answer for this because each couple is so different, but just remember to say their baby's name to them every so often. I recently saw someone write, "Be the friend that stays forever, not just the early days." There will come a time when the support and love will start to wain. Not because people don't care, but just because life continues on. I'm almost 6 years out from my daughter's death/birth and when a friend sends me a text telling me they saw something that reminded them of me and Indi, I immediately feel so loved. A lot of people have told me they're afraid to bring anything up because they don't want to make me sad. There will always be sadness in my heart after losing Indi but knowing she's not forgotten and crying a few tears over it is never bad.
I also want to recognize the fathers. Yes, we as women have to bear the physical load of pregnancy and infant loss but the fathers rarely get recognized for how they carry the load of keeping their lives together while wading through their own grief while the mother heals physically. My husband has a hard time talking about it but always appreciates when someone gives him the recognition. You can do that merely by not asking how they're doing, that question is always too difficult to answer, but telling them you love them and you've been thinking of them. Simple and sweet and they know they're supported.