I recently received an email from a woman who signed her note as a "mother to three angels." Her message was urging the media to shine a light on October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It was something I had never heard of, and the woman writing the email said that's exactly why she wanted people to know about the month's designation.
The mother wrote, "In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. 'When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them.' This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes. Please speak out. Don't let pregnancy and infant loss remain a taboo subject. There are too many people that suffer this tragedy alone that need the help of their family, friends, coworkers, etc."
She asked not to be identified but shared an incredibly personal story about her loss, writing about a miscarriage last year, when she was 16 weeks along in her pregnancy. She was at the hospital when the heartbreaking miscarriage occured, writing, "We were not given the opportunity to hold them or take pictures. We were not given foot or hand prints. We walked out of the hospital with nothing except a sense of devastation. This kind of treatment regarding pregnancy loss has got to change because women or parents who have never lost a child don't realize at the time what they will need to cope in the future."
Sadly this same mother had more heartache and loss to experience. However, losing her baby the next time was very different, at a different hospital. "With Pitt Memorial it was very different. [He] was born sleeping at 22 weeks, and the staff there immediately asked me if I wanted to hold him. Whenever [he] was taken out of our room, he was transported in a bassinet. We received foot and hand prints as well as plaster castings of his hands and feet. The staff bathed him and dressed him, they cried with us and took pictures of us together. These are the things that parents need to help heal."
The mother who emailed me is working to start a support group in Eastern Carolina for those who have suffered the same tragedy she has. Her goal, however, is that other parents will not have to suffer alone, that people will reach out to them in their time of need.