When I became pregnant, I did not know how often women miscarried or what the chances of a stillbirth were. Nobody tells you that. Miscarriage is mentioned in a lot of pregnancy books, but it’s usually talked about in the “when to tell people about your pregnancy” section. The idea is that you might not want to tell anyone until you pass into a “safe period,” usually the second trimester. Now I know how ridiculous that is. I find it difficult to believe that there is such a thing as a “safe period” in pregnancy.

Stillbirth is hardly ever mentioned. On my first trip to Barnes & Noble after returning to the States, I stood in the pregnancy section and checked every single book. I found three books that had stillbirth in the index. Only one book (the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book, which I have) actually had a whole chapter about babyloss, stillbirth, grieving, and what to expect when it happens to you. She doesn’t dance around the subject; she straight-up tells you that it happens and that it is the worst thing that can happen. No other book tackled the subject in that way. The other two had perhaps a sentence dedicated to something that affects 70 women each day in the United States.

You see that? I threw a statistic at you. Does it make what happened to me more real, does it make it more categorical? Or even inevitable? After all, in order for the statistic to be what it is, babies have to die. This is something real, something that happes every day, but people don’t seem to understand that. Even when there are numbers like that floating around.

Think of it this way: I graduated in a high school class of around 350 (give or take). What the statistics say is that 5 people from that graduating class will experience a stillbirth, either through their own pregnancies or the pregnancies of their spouses. That’s not even including other persons known to them. We’re just talking about a single group of 350 people.

You might be thinking to yourself – if you’re someone who hasn’t experienced babyloss – that those numbers don’t sound too bad. 5 people out of 350? That’s a lot of live babies. If it doesn’t happen to you, why should it matter?

Permit me to explicate.

While I was pregnant, I read a webcomic (Anders Loves Maria – some pages are NSFW) done by a Scandinavian artist. It was more along the lines of a graphic novel, with the intent being that the story would eventually come to an end, as stories sometimes do. I hate to spoil the ending, but my point is going to be lost if I don’t. The story ends with one of the main characters dying in childbirth. Again, I was about three months pregnant at the time and that may have been why I found the story so extremely moving. What really got my attention was some of the comments left by readers. A couple of them felt that the ending was all wrong because “things like that don’t happen in real life.” One person even came up with the statistic (even had a link, though it was all in a language I could not understand) that, in Scandinavia, only 5 women in 110,000 die in childbirth every year.  They felt it was an unrealistic ending.

I thought about that a while. If that statistic is true, then yeah, the odds are with you. But what about those five women? They’re still dead, aren’t they? Their families are still going to mourn them. Just because they happened to be the ones that got dealt the unlucky hand doesn’t mean that their lives or their stories are worth nothing. This webcomic isn’t a true story, but it easily could be. Some women die in childbirth. Not many, but some do. This just happens to be a story about one of those five women.

So, what exactly does a statistic mean? In my estimation, not much. All it means is that the worst can happen. The odds show that it doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. After all, 26,000 stillbirths (in the USA) a year means that about 1 in 115 pregnancies will end in stillbirth. That’s not so bad – if you’re the 114 that get a live baby out of the deal. But what about that one woman who doesn’t? Being a statistic doesn’t do much for you, although it does grant you a deep insight into how truly terrible life can be.

What it also shows is that someone you know has probably lost a pregnancy or a baby. If not stillbirth, then miscarriage. It’s incredibly difficult to get statistics on the prevalence of miscarriage, simply because so many of them happen before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. Estimates range anywhere from 25% to 50% of all pregnancies. Suddenly, that doesn’t seem like such a small number. Suddenly, that seems like a lot more women having miscarriages, whether they know about them or not. Suddenly, it seems more likely that you know at least one women who has lost a baby. Suddenly, birthing a live baby really does seem like a miracle, not something to take for granted.

There’s no point to all of this. It’s just something I was thinking about. I read a lot of babyloss blogs, and another question I see a lot is “why doesn’t anybody talk about infant mortality?” The fact is that babies die more often than we think. We know it can happen, but nobody talks about it. Unless you know personally someone who has experienced babyloss, you probably don’t think about it at all, not unless you read about it in a novel or in regards to history. Many women who experience babyloss don’t talk about it, which may be why other people don’t talk about it. I can’t say that I blame them. It’s a difficult subject. But it’s not one we can – or should – hide from.

So, here I am, talking about it. I know all about it. For me, a statistic isn’t just a number, it’s my life. It’s my daughter. She lived, and she died, and a mere number can never do her justice.

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