Rachel Lewis has endured five miscarriages in the past four years.
Last week, to commemorate Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day (Oct. 15), Lewis, 34, published a series of stories on her blog, The Lewis Note. They were accompanied by photos bearing a watermark: “I am 1 in 4.”
One in four. That’s how many pregnancies end in miscarriage.
“I wanted to bring awareness to the fact that when you see normal, beautiful, successful women, you’re also seeing people who are struggling with the loss of a child,” Lewis said. “Giving a voice, a name and a face to pregnancy loss is one of the most meaningful contributions I feel I can make in this world.”
The women in the photos have all lost babies, and shared their stories with Lewis.
Lewis’ post begins with her own watermarked photo and the words, “I am your friend. Your coworker. Your barista. Your accountant. Your personal trainer.” Each woman’s story is unique, yet they share a common pain.
They are women we see at work, the grocery store and soccer games. Though they may be surrounded by children, they mourn the one they’ll never hold:
You see me at the grocery store with my kids. My baby swaddled up to my chest, my two older kids hanging off the cart I push around. You comment on how full my arms are. I smile on the outside. On the inside, I cringe.
There’s the childless woman who carries her loss with her, the heartbreak tucked deep inside:
I’m the last one out of the office, and the first one in. I never leave early, or request time off to attend field trips. Sometimes you comment on how much easier my life must be without balancing work AND family. You think I’m childless. I know you are wrong. Living without my children in my arms is anything BUT easy.
There’s the soon-to-be great-grandmother who longs for the child she never had the chance to meet:
During the holidays, my home bursts at the seams with my children, my grandchildren, and soon, my great-grandchildren. No matter how full the table, I know there is a place setting missing. The baby I lost. The one they wouldn’t let me see after I gave birth. The one no one ever spoke about again. It’s been 60 years. But every night before I sleep, I whisper my child’s name.
Lewis and her husband, Ryan, 34, live in Bremerton, Washington, with their biological daughter, Madelyn, 7, and their daughter Leyla, 4, who is adopted. A third daughter is due in December.
Lewis says when she updated her Facebook profile picture with the “1 in 4” watermark, 40 of her friends quickly reached out to ask if she could put it on their profile pictures, too. Unable to accommodate all the requests, she decided to make a downloadable version of the watermark so anyone could use it.
“I think the graphic is a way of saying, ‘You might not know this, but I've endured the loss of a child I wanted,” she said. “There are so many women who really want to share their story but feel like they don't have the opportunity, or are afraid of others' reactions.”
Miscarriage — when a pregnancy ends on its own in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy — is the most common cause of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Eighty percent of all miscarriages happen within the first trimester. The most common cause is a chromosomal abnormality with the fetus. October has been designated Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Despite the pain she has experienced, Lewis said she is grateful for the opportunity to connect, support and help other women who are suffering from lost pregnancies.
“If I can make one person feel understood, comforted and less alone in their loss,” she said, “then everything I've gone through has been worth it.”