I am currently taking a policy advocacy class. The professor was brainstorming ideas about issues that we will be advocating about in groups. It's a pretty big thing, like making billboards, TV or radio ads, etc. He was asking for the class to call out ideas and from then on, he would narrow them down into categories. From the start, my idea was Stillbirth Awareness. It's such a taboo subject. No one wants to talk about it, people feel uncomfortable about it it and many people do not recognize the baby that was born as an actual person or loss. It's a very passionate subject for me for obvious reasons. And it bugs me that I have a death certificate for my baby boy Cameron, but no birth certificate. How can someone die without being born? Why isn't that recognized by the government?
So, I was sitting in my chair, getting more and more anxious as people were yelling out ideas. I kept toying with whether or not I should say what I wanted to advocate about. I kept thinking in my mind about whether it was too person, whether it was too uncomfortable for people, etc... but then though, this is WHY it needs to be advocated for. For those very reasons! And then I got nervous - what if the professor rejects the idea or others? In the end, the issue was too personal and important for me to pass up. I needed to say it so I did. The professor was very responsive and talked about an abortion video (of all things!!!) after I bought up Stillbirth Awareness. I don't think he understands, but again, why we need awareness...
I felt so much better after saying it. I relaxed and my mind was at ease. That is until we had to narrow things down and the professor wanted to vote for things by show of hands. All of a sudden, I felt tense and tears building up. How can we erase something of such importance to someone? I heard a comment by someone in the row behind me, "I'm not even going to touch that stillbirth one." Come on, people! We are supposed to be social workers! This whole process did not seem like it took people's feelings into consideration. Not very social worky, if ya ask me!
Two students went up to the board and read off the list, waiting for hands to raise and be counted as each one was read. The list: Veterans, Unseen Disabilities, Child Welfare, Domestic Violence Against Men, Nutrition and Play in School, Transgender rights, Cultural Stigma, Previously Incarcerated, Legal System, and of course, my odd one out: Stillbirth Awareness. All got at least four votes... when they read off Stillbirth Awareness, I saw the person look around the room as to count several votes, but when she wrote the number on the board, it was 1. One. Just me.
I held back my tears as best I could. I was hurt. This is what I was afraid of. How could something so important to me, something that I lived through, not be important for anyone else? How could my baby be ignored? It was personal to me, and that is why I was afraid to speak up. And regret speaking up. I felt my face get red, my eyes hurt from tears urging to get out, and knew I couldn't speak for fear that my voice was gone. My heart was racing... I was about to leave the room to have a good cry, but then the professor went straight into voting for which policy we wanted to advocate for out of the ones that were left on the list. The one's that actually got votes... not just one vote.
It took me a few minutes to recover... but then I had to think about it from a different aspect. THIS IS WHY STILLBIRTH AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT. This just proved it to me and has changed my mission as a social worker. This is huge, guys! Why are people so uncomfortable about this? It happens so often and I want to talk about my baby, like I talk about Ethan and I hear others talk about their babies. Why can't I talk about Cameron without others feeling weird? He is my baby. I went through labor and delivery and had him. I held him. I touched his perfect little hands and feet. He was real. He is real. And he will always exist in my life and heart.
So, that leads to my next topic... Return to Zero. A movie about this very issue. It's reairing this weekend. Please watch. Get a glimpse into my experience. I'm one in four.