Breaking the Silence of Pregnancy Loss | Tanika Dillard | TEDxGreenville

Translator: Louise-Marie Six
Reviewer: Denise RQ I’ve known since the age of five
that I would be a phenomenal mother. I’ve watched my grandmother,
the mother of 12, beam with excitement as she spoke about her children
and the multitude of her grandchildren. And I wanted to be like her
– just with fewer kids, of course. (Laughter) Nine seemed to be manageable for me. And I wasted no time becoming a mother. At the very mature age of eight, I was blessed with a beautiful
Cabbage Patch daughter named Jackie, (Laughter) — father unknown and unnecessary. (Laughter) Motherhood was paramount to my identity,
and I took that job seriously. The names of all nine of my children
were written in my diary by the age of 13. Motherhood was not just a dream.
For me, it was a guarantee. In 2006, I married the man of my dreams. He’s strong, and he needed to be. He’s full of faith, and he needed to be. And he has a rich, distinguished voice, which he needed to have, if I were
to hear him over those nine kids. It was the best of times. We were happy, in love, and well on our way
to living the American Dream. (Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s get it on”) (Laughter) Hold the music! (Laughter) Sometimes, things just happen. (Laughter) And on my birthday,
we found out we were pregnant. Amazing! Yes, we were in love with our baby
right from the start, and we shared the news with everyone. This pregnancy was perfect.
Flawless, in fact. Until my water broke at 16 weeks,
and our daughter Destiny died. We had never known
such pain, shock, and despair, until eight months later, when my water broke at 17 weeks,
and our daughter Briana died. Pain, heart-break, and despair
grew exponentially. One year later, as we were pregnant
with our daughter Madison, and my water broke at 19 weeks, that was on the evening
of my husband’s birthday. Madison was born two days later, and she lived for nine hours
before joining her sisters in heaven. Why is this important to talk about? Is it just another sad story
in need of sympathy? Absolutely not. I choose to break the silence
of pregnancy loss for many of you. I choose to break
the silence of pregnancy loss because the number of women
who came alongside me after each of our grief experiences
to whisper, “I know how you feel.
I’ve lost a baby too,” that number was alarming. It was as if a secret society of women
were emerging to say, “I’ve lost a baby,
but I’ve been told to get over it. ‘You didn’t know that baby anyway’.” Many of these women were just like me. They dreamed of becoming a mother since they were old enough to emulate
their own mothers and grandmothers. These women knew how it would feel to announce a subsequent pregnancy
without inhaling the fear of the past. They knew how it would feel
to attend a baby shower for a friend and pretend to be happy on Mother’s Day. These women knew,
– they had seen it intimately – that men grieve, too. But they are often overlooked
as unnecessary and invisible during pregnancy loss. Men, just like my husband, who were strong
because they needed to be, would grow utterly weak
at the pain of recurrent pregnancy loss. Men like my husband,
who has a rich and distinguished voice, would grow utterly silent as they were commissioned
to “be strong and take care of your wife,” but never acknowledged
as a grieving father. And many men, like many of you,
who may be full of faith, would be full of questions,
even anger, to God, as to “Why this happened to us?” Oh, yes. Men grieve, too. These women helped me understand how those well-meaning
but less than helpful cliches like, “You’re young,
you can just try again,” or “At least …” – anything. “At least, you didn’t know the baby.” Or my personal favorite,
“God needed another flower in his garden.” Don’t say that one.
Just leave that one out. I choose to break
the silence of pregnancy loss because what you give voice to
has the power to change your life. But what you refuse to confess,
you will never conquer. And what you openly acknowledge
invites instruction. Let me show you what I mean. A few days after Madison died, I blogged about my to-do list
for the upcoming day. Two simple tasks: pick up Madison’s remains
from the mortuary – there she is – and to find the expert who could help us
end our recurrent pregnancy losses. Within hours, I had an email communication
from Michelle, in California. She was part of the women
who knew the pain of pregnancy loss. She broke her silence, shared instruction, and I followed
those instructions to a tee. And because of that,
there’s our son, Christopher Ethan. His arrival was the angelic refrain to the painful melody
we had lived in the past. And here is our son, Israel Grayson, stillborn at 38 weeks
due to a chord accident. And here is our son,
Benjamin Evan, born in 2013. Now, if you are counting,
I’ve given birth to six. My husband and I parent two. I choose to break
the silence of pregnancy loss by boldly, passionately,
and intentionally saying the names of my beloved children: Destiny, Briana, Madison, Ethan, Israel Grayson, and Evan because I am not a victim
of pregnancy loss. I choose to break the silence for you because I understand
the power of broken silence. I break the silence to free you
from the shame of pregnancy loss, to be a voice of hope and advocacy
for those who grieve. Ultimately, what you refuse to confess,
you will never conquer, but what you openly acknowledge
invites instruction. And what you give voice to
has the power to change your life. So, today, I have a question for you. Are you silent? Is it about pregnancy loss,
or some other issue? Will you break your silence today? Ultimately, I choose to break
the silence on pregnancy loss, because I am not a victim. I am a voice. Because being silent helps no one. Thank you. (Applause)