This post was previously published under the title, “Stillbirth & Statistics: What Does it Mean to be “Rare”?” That title was re-used for a more recent post.
After my son died, one of the things that haunted me most was that I didn’t know previously that stillbirth was a realistic possibility. I had seen exactly one instance of stillbirth depicted on TV (Spoiler alert: “The Secret Life of an American Teen”), and the way it was presented led me to believe it was something that happened to one in a million, not one in 160.
1 in 160. That’s the rate of stillbirth in America today. Other countries may be higher or lower, but most hover around similar points. 1 in 160. Less than 1%. Sometimes called “rare.” It’s interesting how we define “rare.”
When I was first thinking about having a child, one of my close friends told me about miscarriage. This was before the days when the “1 in 4” statistic was commonly known. In a very gentle way, she told me that miscarriage was pretty common, and that it may happen to me when I was ready to try. She prepared me mentally for the possibility that my future pregnancy might not succeed at first try.
I don’t know how most people feel about that knowledge. I was thankful. I was glad to know the dangers, even while hoping for the best. And when my first pregnancy passed the “safe point” at 12 weeks, I felt relieved. The scary part was over. The only danger I had known was gone.
And I think this is where the community failed me. Because I did all the reading. I joined all the groups. I spent my pregnancy buried in knowledge about breastfeeding and co-sleeping and the best ways to counter fatigue, but no one ever spoke to me about the real risks; the ones we keep locked in a secret closet where knowledge is painful, and just too scary.
Because the truth is that sometimes babies die. We’re familiar with miscarriage. We talk about SIDS. Why don’t we talk about other types of death?
1 in 160. One out of every 160 pregnancies in the United States ends in the death of the child at or after the 20th week. Less than 1%. It’s called rare — uncommon; seldom occurring — But I read the stories. I hear all of you. And as the mother of one of those “1’s,” I don’t consider it rare.