The following is a guest post from my friend Brittney. I met Brittney at my DONA doula training back in 2009. She and I will be collaborating on a new book project—Light in the Mourning—a book for mothers grieving pregnancy losses. I was inspired to create this book last year, but the pieces weren’t falling into place until Brittney offered to help. I’m so grateful she did. I look forward to working with Brittney and reading your stories.
Light in the Mourning
By Brittney Walker
I’m sad to say we are latecomers to the Noelle Pikus-Pace fan club. It’s nothing personal. Before the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics I couldn’t have named a single athlete that competed there. Since the Olympics traditionally air during school hours, the boys and I have always missed out. So this, our first year homeschooling, I printed an awesome educational packet I found online and we’ve homeschooled the heck out of the winter Olympics. That means all of us, watching almost every night from 7 to 10:30 pm.
My boys invested like I’d never imagined. They’ve learned all they can about Sochi, the sports, the athletes and the countries they represent. Their excitement is contagious and I quickly joined them in Olympic fandom.
One of those first nights we saw that AT&T commercial where Noelle Pikus-Pace wakes up before her family to work out. Then she feeds the kids breakfast, takes them to school and plays soccer mom until her husband picks up the kids so she can go train late into the night. There were tears in my eyes by the end of the commercial. So I looked her up.
I never considered that some of these athletes were juggling parenthood with Olympic training. This still blows my mind. I can’t fathom the kind of commitment and sacrifice it would take to be Mom and manage to keep up with (and even crush) the competition, many of whom have nothing to worry about but themselves.
That’s how I think of my husband. We’ve been in school for 6 years now with three and four kids. He is now in an intense, full-time grad school program in classrooms full of single twenty-somethings and parental funding. It doesn’t matter if it’s finals when our toddler has a severe asthma attack in the middle of the night and has to go to the urgent care. It doesn’t matter how important the study session is when Mom is down for the count and Dad has to swoop in and save the day. He lost his dad during. We had a baby. Health issues have taken me out for months at a time but he always pulls it off. It inspires me to see parents do the impossible.
The night that NBC ran their interview with Noelle the kids and I crowded around to hear her story. She is a wife and a mom to two beautiful kids. We learned that she planned to retire after Vancouver Olympics to focus on growing and raising her family. She became pregnant with baby number three and excitedly prepared. Then came the devastating blow: a 18 weeks along, the family found out they had lost their baby. So, Noelle rerouted and committed to going back to the Olympics. But this time, she was going to come home with a medal.
As a viewer I wanted that medal for her! And it wasn’t just me. I realized my kids were quietly, intently listening to Noelle’s story. It was just two weeks earlier that we had to tell those boys that the little brother they were hoping for wasn’t coming home to our family after all. One year after the last time we had this talk. I lost pregnancy number five, a little boy, at fifteen weeks. I lost this baby at ten. And like Pikus-Pace, I had decided to channel the pain of my loss and create something great.
Days before I saw her heart-wrenching story on the Olympic coverage, I contacted my friend Lani Axman, co-author of The Gift of Giving Life. She had talked about writing a book on miscarriage for some time. I felt pulled to it after my last miscarriage but thought I just might contribute a story at some point. But in these last few weeks it became clear that I needed to be actively engaged in creating something that will bring peace, hope and understanding to other mothers and families who suffer from pregnancy loss. I need to write this book. It’s a tremendous leap of faith but something I need to do.
So, after hearing Noelle’s story, I wanted this for her. I needed her to succeed and so did my kids. We added her to our prayers and watched her compete from the edge of our seats. Her last run, we all gathered around the TV shouting and cheering. The whole way down the track we cheered her on. As she finished and it became clear that she had done what she came to do my boys jumped up and down screaming and pounding their fists in the air. I clapped and cried for her, hoping that this would help heal the hole in her heart, understanding why she had to do this and praying that I can follow in her footsteps. Noelle climbed the stands to her family, a wife and mother first and a new hero of mine.
I believe in the power of women to support and sustain one another. As I have struggled to understand and cope with the loss of another baby these last weeks, I have heard so many survival stories from the amazing women in my life who have been where I’m standing. Your words and experiences have strengthened me and I would so love to see those stories bound and in the hands of other women to help dispel the awful loneliness that comes with giving birth too early.
I am teaming up with Lani to write a book about miscarriage that I hope will bring peace, hope and healing to mothers and families who still wait with empty arms.
We are asking for your stories. We want to hear about your pregnancy loss, your survival and resulting peace and growth. We want to hear about pregnancy after miscarriage. If you heard from your baby, saw your baby in a dream or felt your baby nearby, we want to hear about it.
Please join us in passing the light and strength of our shared experience on to women, mothers and families in their time of darkness.
Email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.