It is one day in a month that hosts so many awareness initiatives. Amongst them, Down Syndrome awareness, Breast Cancer awareness and Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness. Each one of these things has touched me. Each in different ways.
After losing my son Xavier as a newborn, I could not imagine supporting any charity other than one that saved the lives of babies. When I heard the terrifying statistics that 1 in 135 births end in stillbirth, I could not fathom why more wasn’t being done. Like many before they enter into the world of child loss, I thought SIDS no longer occurred and that stillbirth belonged in Victorian times. But this isn’t the case. When people find out these statistics (usually in the most terrible way possible) they are horrified that more isn’t being done. And their voice joins the others shouting against the wind. This beautiful and brave community is trying so hard to make themselves heard, and their voices are often lost in the wilderness. But there are inroads being made. The beautiful Carly Marie has brought a generous and clear voice that is being heard. Her images touch hearts – whether that heart holds a missing child or not. Each year, she hosts an October initiative called Capture Your Grief. Those who have experienced the loss of a child are invited to document their grief through photographs. In amidst my Instagram feed of clothes, little moments in my life and my lovely boys, there are images that talk about my grief. As incongruent as the images must appear next to the lighter moments, I choose to be part of breaking the silence.
I shunned other charities for a long time. Then a few things happened. A terrible tragedy struck an old school friend. I read a few different and gentle perspectives. One of my close friends learned that her daughter had Down Syndrome. My compassion, which had been turned inward on my own struggles, started to turn towards the very real battles of those around me.
There is a beautiful and true saying:
Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
When you are in the midst of your own battle, it can be hard to remember that. But kindness begets kindness and compassion breeds compassion. The best way to have good friends is to be one. And so I let the other stories touch my heart.
My dear friend has a daughter who is a few months older than baby E. She has a gorgeous, cheeky smile. She is quite determined as children her age are wont to be. She loves playing with her mum and her sister. And she has one more chromosome than I do. Her slightly flattened button nose and her wide beautiful eyes signal to others that she has Down Syndrome. But more than anyone else on earth she looks like her gorgeous older sister. She is a happy soul, not because she has Down Syndrome, but because she is surround by love. She will face challenges in her life, as will her family. She will need help and assistance. But her biggest challenge will be one that doesn’t need to exist. The prejudice of others. This is why Down Syndrome awareness month exists. To expel the myths. To let people know that Down Syndrome might be part of a person, but it’s never the totality of a person. That parenting a child with an extra chromosome can be challenging, but it’s also beautiful, wonderful and full of adventure. If you want to follow my friend Maddies’ adventures, you can here: The Adventures of Maddie Moo I also follow Mumma Love , which is a beautiful blog about parenting first and foremost and also charts the ups and downs of parenting a child with Down Syndrome.
I have seen many of my friends lose their mothers to breast cancer. Vibrant, beautiful, kind women taken much too soon by an insidious disease. It touches those that are dedicated to their health, it touches those that are not. We should take a moment for ourselves and our health and make sure we check our breasts. Not just this month, but every month. We should take a moment and remember the women that fought bravely but did not survive and those who have. Not just this month, but every month. This month I am also supporting an initiative called Frocktober. The aim is to raise funds for research into an early detection test for ovarian cancer. Two things drew me to this initiative – yes, wearing a frock each day but I have a soft spot for the unsung charity. So this month I am delving through my wardrobe and keeping my spending money to donate. I am posting my daily frocks on Instagram along with other lovelies with the #Frocktober.
My first passion will always lie with the charities that support research into Stillbirth, SIDS and early childhood health issues. But I have discovered room in my heart for more. Because we all walk on this path called life. That path can hold the devastating and unexpected. That’s when we carry each other.