Today, October 15, is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. It's a type of loss that may not always be fully understood, even by the parents' closest friends and family. That's why we and other support groups are bringing attention to it today – both to help our readers understand the devastation that comes with the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, and to show those grieving that help and support are available.
We spoke to Cheryl, who has lost two pregnancies, about her experiences. She shared her story with us, and we think this is so important – hearing others' stories makes it easier for those who are grieving to speak up, and it helps everyone better understand what a grieving parent might be going through. Cheryl was candid with us in detailing the events of what must have been an intensely painful year:
I had the unfortunate experience in April of 2004 of losing a son, Benjamin, at 36 weeks gestation. He was my first pregnancy. I went in for a regular 36-week checkup at my OB. The doctor couldn't find a heartbeat. She then did an ultrasound in the office. I could tell by the tone and pitch of her voice, and by the way she turned the screen away from me, that she was concerned.
She thought he might be in an odd position. She asked me to call my husband to take me to the hospital for fetal monitoring. We drove to the hospital in a state of utter panic. It took two hours for them to do a sonogram. A nurse stood between me and the screen. It wasn't more than a few minutes later that my doctor came back in, sat on the bed, held my hand with tears in her eyes, and told me that our son had died. I was induced that evening, on Monday, April 19. After 3 days in labor our sweet angel was born sleeping. The doctor determined that a knot in the umbilical cord had been the cause of death. Leaving the hospital without my baby was the hardest day of my entire life.
Two months later, I learned I was pregnant again. We felt it was a miracle! I lost that pregnancy at 13 weeks.
We went on to have 3 healthy daughters now ages 7, 2-1/2 and 1. They know about their big brother who is their guardian angel. But the pain of losing a child never goes away. I wish I never had to have such a personal interest in October 15.
We asked Cheryl what advice she would give to parents who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or an infant.
My advice to parents is to seek support, whether that be from friends and family, a support group, a therapist, or all of the above. Losing a child is the loneliest kind of loss there is. I have made friends with other angel mommies that will last a lifetime. No one else knows the true pain of the loss unless they have been in those shoes.
We agree – the support of others is crucial when you're grieving. Whether it's friends and family, a local support group, or the Loss of a Child group here on LegacyConnect, we hope parents mourning a pregnancy or infant will reach out to others.
Cheryl also shared with us some thoughts on resources for grieving parents.
The best resource in California for support is HAND, Helping After Neonatal Death. There are several places that they conduct support groups. The internet makes finding support in your local area easier. Enlist a friend or family member to help. Contact a hospital social worker. They should be aware of support in the area.
At 7:00 pm local time tonight, people worldwide are asked to light a candle to – in Cheryl's words – create a wave of light in honor of babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Today is also a day to reach out for help… or to extend a hand to a friend you know is grieving the loss of a pregnancy or infant.