March 19 - May 28 is Infertility Awareness Week in Canada. These nine days are chosen to mirror the nine months of a healthy term pregnancy.
In honour of this week, I'd like to call attention to those we typically honour, and those we typically do not.
This week we honour women who want to, but never experience pregnancy. We honour women who experience pregnancy loss, still birth, and the loss of infants. We honour women who eventually experience a healthy pregnancy and birth, but who struggle in their efforts to achieve this. We honour women who have one or more successful pregnancies, but who struggle to conceive for a second or subsequent time.
Sometimes, we remember their partners. Usually, it is fathers who - along with their partners - experience these losses. That grief is real for them, too.
Occasionally, we remember the born children who share in mourning the loss of a younger sibling. Or born children whose lives began after the tragic loss of older brothers or sisters. Their grief is real, too.
We remember grandparents without grandchildren. Aunts and uncles without nieces and nephews. Cousins without cousins.
What we do not remember during infertility awareness week is the grief and loss experienced by our birth parents.
When do we honour their losses? They are given just one day ... sometimes shared with other mothers on Mother's Day. Sometimes honoured briefly the day before on "Birth Mother's Day". Separate or together, their entire experience is given just a single day.
It may seem ironic (birth mothers are by definition fertile, right?) but I like to think of my children's birth mothers during Infertility Awareness Week. Why? Because it's a week where grief and loss is publicly permissible in a world where private grief is still preferred. It's a time where women and men can share (if they choose to) and give and receive support for their losses.
Yet our birth parents remain in the background. If anyone in this world understands the loss of a pregnancy, the loss of a child, I can only imagine it would be my children's first parents.
I can grieve for my imagined children that were never born. But when I try to imagine life in their shoes, I cannot begin to appreciate the depth of grief a birth mother has for her born children that she is not parenting.
So this week, I honour my children's birth parents. I stand in good company with many people who are unable to parent biologically. But I also would like to stand beside birth parents. I want to acknowledge and respect those men and women who make or have made adoption plans. You are not forgotten. Your loss is not forgotten. Your grief is real, too.