In the United States and around the world, the announcement of a pregnancy has been cause for celebration, followed by months of speculation (boy or girl?), photos, nesting, and all manner of noisy mommy/baby/new parent/grandparent celebrations.
But when a baby dies before, at, or shortly after birth, the silence can be deafening.
Up until a few years ago, healthcare facilities have had few, if any, protocols or standards of support in place in the event that a woman suffers this type of loss. Miscarriages, stillbirths, and neonatal losses leave a wave of psychological conditions in their wake including OCD, anxiety, and depression, among others.
Unless you have experienced this type of loss yourself, it may be hard to understand the emotional and physical toll it takes on the parents, especially the mother. And, although it is uncomfortable to talk about, silence and avoidance are not the way to go. For years, advocates and awareness groups have worked hard to start open, honest conversations and offer safe spaces for parents to talk about their loss. Many hospitals and healthcare groups are now on board; grief counselors help guide families through medical forms and decisions such as funeral arrangements. Some help parents create memory boxes, which include photographs with their baby and items that have touched an infant, such as blankets and stuffed animals. Support groups help as well.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In 2006, October 15 was declared Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (PAILRD) in the United States and Canada, but it took until 2006 for the day to be recognized in all 50 states. Now observed around the world, PAILRD focuses on raising public awareness about the problem of pregnancy loss and infant death with remembrance ceremonies and candlelight vigils.
A perfectly healthy, low-risk pregnancy can end at any time, without warning, and without explanation. The National Institutes of Health advise pregnant mothers go directly to the hospital if they experience any of these symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Severe headaches with blurred vision
- Fever and too weak to get out of bed
- Severe abdominal pain
- Fast or difficult breathing.
- Swelling of fingers, face and legs
Of course, it’s always wise to see a medical professional before, during, and after a pregnancy.
How to Find Help
The number of miscarriages, stillbirths and newborn deaths remains at approximately one million per year in the United States alone, leaving millions of parents and families looking for ways to honor the little ones gone too soon. Below are some places to find help, hope, and remembrance.
First Candle provides 24/7 grief support via their hotline, (800) 221-7437
The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation is a network of more than 5,000 volunteer photographers who will provide a portrait session of parents and babies and photos on CD or DVD.
Mommy Interrupted provides awareness, advocacy, and peer-to-peer support.
On October 15, parents and families around the world participate in the Wave of Light and light candles at 7 p.m. local time; candles stay lit for one hour.
Make sure your medical professional has a license in good standing with the Medical Board of California before deciding on one.