Today I stood in front of a roomful of people and told Reece's story.
If someone dared to tell me that I'd have the courage to do that two years ago, I don't know if I'd believe them. Sure I was, and continue to be, very vocal about my loss. But it's one thing to write it out. To expel the haunting thoughts that swirl in your head at night as you try to fall asleep, but can't, because you are all-consumed with your grief.
It's one thing to grieve out loud. To redefine grief. To tell the world about your loss. To write about it, blog about, email about it. It's one thing to post things on Instagram, to hashtag #anchorsforReece, and send up balloons on his birthday. It's one thing to tell your friends on Facebook what a tough day you're having, because the grief beast is sitting on your shoulders.
It's a totally different thing to stand in front of a room of strangers and take them down that path.
The thing with MY grief process is that, for the most part, people had a way out. Don't want to read about it? Don't click the link. Don't know what to say? Don't comment. I tried to be polite about it in person. I tried not to burden others with my not-so-easy-to-talk-about-in-casual-conversation story of babyloss. And when it DID come up, unexpectedly, and I had to explain that I had lost a baby, and they were left stammering, not knowing what to say, or how to deal with the dead baby information they just received, I tried to guide them through it. I had responses on the ready. "It's okay. It's not okay that it happened, but it's okay that you asked," often worked well.
But today I told his story to roomful of people who didn't know. They didn't know that I wasn't going to tell them a happy story. I didn't want to drop an anvil on their heads; I wanted to ease it down gently.
Sadira and I were invited to the Worcester County March of Dimes kick off, and with Sadira by my side, I told Reece's story.
I wanted to get it right. For so many years I've attended events like this, and I cannot for the life of me, ever remember hearing a story of loss. I remember the stories of the triumphant NICU babies turned chubby faced toddlers. I do not remember the story of the grieving parent. So when Jessica Hales from the March of Dimes asked me to speak, I wanted to do it justice. I wanted to get it right for Reece, and Kallie, and Charlotte, and Abby, and Brooke, and Sydney, and Jeremiah, and Olivia, and Nicholas, and so many other babies whom we had to give back to heaven. I wish their smiling faces were showing up in my Facebook newsfeed today, but they're not. So I wanted to get this right.
Today I told Reece's story...
"Good afternoon. My name is Nasrene Mirjafary and this is my daughter Sadira, and we're here to share what the March of Dimes March for Babies means to us.
Three years ago today I was almost halfway through my pregnancy with my second child. Like any second time mother, I was a little less anxious than the first time around, and busily prepping and planning for life with a new baby, a boy we were planning to name Reece. My partner was looking forward to another chance at parenthood, after the tragic and sudden death of his eldest son in 2011, and my daughter was eagerly awaiting her chance to be a big sister.
When you have one trouble free pregnancy, you are often lulled into a false sense of security that any other subsequent pregnancy would be just as worry free. When I started having some minor complications in March, it was nothing that a few reassuring trips to the hospital “just to be sure” couldn’t fix. Baby Reece continued growing at each obstetrician appointment, and my daughter even accompanied me on a doctor’s visit to hear her brother’s heart beat.
We had no reason to worry that we’d have any different of an outcome, other than a full-term, healthy, baby boy.
On the morning of April 30th, 2014, I very suddenly and almost unknowingly, went into labor. At just 22 weeks gestation, before paramedics could even arrive, Reece was born into my own hands, with only me present. He lived outside the womb for 6 minutes, and then passed away just as quickly as he came into the world. It was simultaneously the most beautiful and devastating day of my life, the only day I had to spend with my son.
Within days of Reece’s birth and death, my friends and family, both near and far, mobilized to show their support. Nationwide March of Dimes walks were being held the very weekend after, and from Connecticut to Virginia to California, our friends showed up to show their love and support, at a time when we were all feeling so powerless. As a grieving parent, I cannot begin to express how that show of solidarity and support in those early days helped me.
Babyloss resources on the March of Dimes webpage became a means for me to heal. Connecting with other parents who had lost children provided me a network of support that I could not have otherwise found on my own. Because although the sad statistic still exists that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, the even sadder fact is that these losses are often not even spoken about or acknowledged, making it even more difficult for loss parents to grieve. An alarmingly high statistic of marriages and relationships cannot survive babyloss, and ours unfortunately became one of them. Having a network to validate and support my feelings, and learn to cope during a time as difficult as that was essential.
When the one year anniversary of Reece’s birth and death was coming up, I struggled with how to acknowledge the date. My daughter, Sadira, was adamant, “Mom, we have to celebrate his birthday. Even if he is not here with us, we have to celebrate.” We decided there was no better way to celebrate than to form our own March of Dimes, March for Babies team, just as so many of our friends had done the year before. As anchors had become Reece’s symbol, and “Anchors for Reece” the name of a blog that I kept after my loss, Team Anchors for Reece was our obvious choice, and we celebrated his birthday that year with a team of 45, and raised over $9,000 in walks all over the country.
We kept the tradition going last year and moved our walk from our home in Baltimore City, to this walk “down the shore” to include local family members and friends, and were once again warmly welcomed into the March of Dimes family.
When you lose a baby, you don’t only lose your child that day, you lose their first steps, their first word, their first day of kindergarten, their first time riding a bike. You lose birthdays, and celebrations, and graduations. By coming back to the March for Babies year after year, gathering with our friends and family, raising funds to honor and celebrate my son, the March of Dimes has given us back an opportunity to make memories. We are not only able to remember Reece, to celebrate his little life that ended way too soon, but we are also able to raise funds to ensure that in the future, no other families have to suffer a similar loss.
I am so appreciative that the Worcester County chapter of the March of Dimes has given me the opportunity to tell our story. While it does not have the typical “happy ending” that I know we all wish to hear, it is still an important story to tell. It is a story of resiliency, community, and hope. Our road has been a tough one but we’re so proud to be with you today in remembrance of Reece and to officially kick off the 2017 March for Babies season.
If you like to join team Anchors for Reece (you can pick your own walk location), please click here: join our team.