October 15: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

October 15th marks an important day for many families. A day we wish didn’t need to be recognized but are thankful that it exists. October 15th marks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in the US, Canada and some parts of the UK. A day for those of us who have suffered the loss of a child to ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death to come together to raise awareness and honor those children no longer here with us.

Established in the United States in 2002 and in Canada in 2005, October 15th is a legislatively recognized day to raise awareness for pregnancy and infant loss. The purpose is to increase support for those of us in the aftermath and for those who will be affected directly or indirectly by this loss. Many of us who have experienced loss through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss can feel silenced, invisible and alone. A grief that is not often talked about because it is uncomfortable but the need to talk is very strong for those who have experienced loss.

Typically observed through community walks, flower/tree planting, balloon release vigils and other remembrance ceremonies, Pregnancy and Infant Loss is also known for the International Wave of Light Ceremony.

Every October 15th at 7pm, in which ever time zone you are in, participants light a candle for at least one hour in memory of their lost children and in support for others who have experienced a loss. The result is a continuous wave of light for a 24 hour period honoring our children’s memory.

There are many organizations out there working to increase awareness and support year round:

 

Unspoken Grief: Breaking the silence of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss. Working to build a community of individuals and families who have been touched directly or indirectly and create a supportive community to remove the stigma through sharing our grief. http://unspokengrief.com

Mason’s Cause: Infant Loss Support: One Place. Endless Hope. Mason’s Cause is the ONE place needed when you are faced with infant loss. Our generous collection of website, blog, and article links provides parents, friends and family with the answers they need NOW. http://masonscause.org

Cora’s Story: Cora Mae McCormick died at five days old of congenital heart disease (CHD). Now she saves lives. No mother should find out about the most common birth defect from the coroner. Cora’s story is spread to raise awareness of the most common birth defect (congenital heart defects), especially with expecting parents and most of all, spread Cora’s beauty. http://www.corasstory.org/

Healing Hearts Baby Loss Comfort: Healing Hearts Baby Loss Comfort was created in response to the reality that some pregnancies do not end happily. A place for women to feel comfortable looking for real, physical comfort, herbal remedies and spiritual nurturing, as well as a space to find resources, honor their grief and express their loss http://www.babylosscomfort.com

Count the Kicks: Chloe was stillborn just 3 days before her due date. Her umbilical cord had become tangled around her neck. Her death was classed as unexplained. 70% of stillbirths in the UK are classed as “Cause Unknown” – 90% are avoidable deaths, who could be saved purely by increasing awareness of risks. Count the Kicks wants to beat the taboo surrounding miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death and work to reduce stillbirth & neonatal deaths http://countthekicks.org.uk/

Second trimester miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death brings with it an added trigger for your grief. Your breasts will likely begin to produce milk and with that the physical pain of engorged breasts.  Some women may be offered medications to help dry up your milk but there are natural ways to reduce the pain of engorged breasts as well.

Reducing engorgement:

  • Ibuprofen is a great anti-inflammatory medication that can help reduce the pain associated with the engorged breasts. Talk to your doctor or a pharmacist to determine if you are safe to take it.
  • Cold compresses can be used for 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling. Avoid heat.
  • Chilled cabbage leaves placed on the breasts can also provide comfort.

Using a product like Organic No More Milk Tea from Earth Angel Mama Baby can help reduce the time it takes for your breasts to stop producing milk.  The added bonus of a calming hot tea can be a huge comfort as well.

Another option that has can be healing for moms of second trimester miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death dealing with engorged breasts is to pump their milk and donate it to babies in need. The feeling of being able to do good from your child’s death can help bring some light into the fog of grief.

The following short video shows the story of how a mother found meaning in her daughter’s stillbirth by donating her breast milk. {please note: Video contains emotions of a woman after hearing her child has no heartbeat. Might be difficult to watch for some}

Mother’s Milk (2009) from Kevin Douglas West on Vimeo.

For more information on where you can donate your breast milk contact the following organizations:

The loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death can feel very isolating. By coming together to raise our voices and share our stories we can help break the isolation and increase support for other families living through perinatal grief. What resources have brought you or a loved one comfort during loss?

You are not alone.

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Devan McGuinness is a mother to three living children and survivor of 9 miscarriages and one stillbirth.  Founder of the online support site Unspoken Grief, Devan works to raise awareness of perinatal grief and remove the stigma to increase support. For more information visit UnspokenGrief.com and join us on Facebook and Twitter.



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11 Responses to October 15: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

  1. Stacy says:

    Thank you for sharing about what so many women experience. I am one of those women.

  2. Ruth says:

    During Corbin’s stay in the hospital, I pumped every single day for him, in the hopes that he would someday need it. Unfortunately, that day never came but I felt good being able to donate it all to a baby who would. I feel bad that the parents have to pay so much to get the milk, but I hope it helped that one baby who needed it most.
    Thank you for sharing Devan. In memory of our angels <3

  3. angela bemish says:

    my little girl died at 1 day short of 2.5 months bc of so many issues. her biggest was truncas arteriosous. a heart disease. many other problem wer present but that was her cause of death. im a recent survivor of a hard miscarriage which may have permanent after effects. my daughter carlyrose was born nov 14 2001and this past sunday october 2nd 2011 i lost my baby at 18 weeks 9 days. it never gets easier but we push 4ward to all who r out there and know my pain and need to get theirs out there 2 plz feel free 2 find me. im here andi find nothing makes it go away but talking makes it easier and truthfully helps2 feel better. i can be contacted on fbat my name ( angela bemish)or at carlyrose1114@hotmail.com.

  4. Heidi Solomon says:

    Here is my story about donating breast milk after our son, Jonah, died:

    Jonah’s Milk

    by Heidi L. Solomon
    September 3, 2012

    After a long battle with infertility, my husband, Deva, and I were thrilled to be expecting our first child. We spent our days dreaming about our son to be and happily anticipating his arrival in late August. I planned to nurse him and greatly looked forward to breastfeeding.

    What was a perfect pregnancy ended abruptly at 25 weeks when I went into sudden preterm labor. Our baby boy, Jonah Henry, was born weighing 2 pounds, 1 ounce, a good size for 25 weeks. He was immediately whisked away to the NICU. I felt so helpless – unable to hold or even touch him at first. Upon his birth, the nurse and lactation consultant got me started with pumping. They said the best thing I could do for Jonah was to pump breast milk for him, which would be given to him on his second or third day of life. So I began pumping and I felt so good doing something that could actually help him.

    Sadly, Jonah passed away in our arms after only two days of life. We were completely devastated. Within the hour of his passing, I was discharged from the hospital…heading home with empty arms. Because my milk had already come in and I was pumping every couple of hours in the hospital, I needed to quickly come up with a plan for what to do with Jonah’s milk. Should I stop cold turkey? Should I gradually cut back? What would I do with the milk? It was for Jonah but now our baby was gone. Emotionally and physically drained, I called a friend who is a lactation consultant hoping she would have the answers. Not only did she give me a plan to cut back pumping and gradually stop, she also told me I could continue pumping and donate my milk, if that was something I wanted to do.

    I continued pumping during the next day and did some soul searching about my options. At that point my milk had really come in and I was getting about ten ounces a day. I was so sad that I could not help Jonah by giving him my breast milk, but I realized that I could help other babies. I learned that when you have a preterm baby, your body creates special nutrients for whatever gestational age the baby is born. So my breast milk was specially formulated for a 25 week baby and those nutrients could actually save a preemie’s life. Plus, breast milk helps protect preemies from life-threatening diseases and infections and allows them to spend fewer days in the hospital. It gave me such comfort to know that other preemies could benefit from Jonah’s milk.

    With the decision to donate, pumping breast milk for sick babies became my focus for the weeks and months following Jonah’s death. Every four hours I watched the white milk fill the little bottles and got such joy thinking about how Jonah’s milk could save another baby’s life. I have now pumped for over 3 months, which yielded well over 1300 ounces of liquid gold. On July 23rd I shipped two giant coolers filled with Jonah’s milk (36 pounds!!) to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio in Columbus. Jonah’s milk will be going to the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital and other area hospitals to benefit preemie babies in their NICUs. In addition to donating breast milk to the Milk Bank, I have also been able to donate to three close friends’ babies and actually got to feed Jonah’s milk to each of them. Feeding Jonah’s milk to babies Callie, Payton, and Noah was incredibly bittersweet – my heart ached for the chance to feed that milk to Jonah, but in the reality of his loss, I was overjoyed to feed his milk to the babies of three friends I love so much.

    I continue to grieve the loss of my pregnancy, the loss of my baby boy, and the loss of my chance to nurse him. But I celebrate giving birth to Jonah. I celebrate his life. And I celebrate the chance to give Jonah’s milk to babies in need. Sometimes beautiful things come out of the saddest of tragedies.

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      Dear Heidi, Thank you so much, from the bottom of our hearts, for telling us your beautiful and heartbreaking story. We grieve with you, and thank you for your grace and generosity, and for being so very, very brave in sharing your story and your experience so that others can learn about the incredible gift of donor milk. You have touched us deeply.

      Love, Bettina, Danielle and the Best for Babes team

  5. On October 15th I will light a candle at 7PM for the baby I miscarried to hypothyroidism at 12 weeks in early 2009. I trusted my doctors completely and never doubted they knew everything there was to know about an underactive thyroid in pregnancy. This is the biggest regret of my life. The Thyroid Federation International estimates there are up to 300 million people worldwide, mostly women, with a dysfunctional thyroid, but over half are unaware of their condition. The scientific research clearly links hypothyroidism to miscarriage and still birth, yet the lack of awareness is pervasive. The day I miscarried my child unnecessarily to hypothyroidism, I vowed to research everything there was to know about hypothyroidism and warn other women. I kept my promise and on October 1st, 2012 I launched my blog Hypothyroid Mom in memory of the child I lost and in dedication to my 2 boys who beat the odds and made it to the world.

  6. Lee-Anne Distler says:

    This message is for my very first grandchildren: Though I never held you in my arms, I want you to know that I will forever hold you close in a very special place in my heart. My candle is burning brightly this evening in your honor. Hugs, Mimi

  7. Christian Moore says:

    Hi, my name is Christian Moore and I am starting the first ever support group for the state of Louisiana. It’s called the Braylynn & Karley foundation. I plan on working with Dr. offices for early miscarriages and hospitals for still births. I want a place where parents can go and talk for support from someone who has been in their shoes. As well as give them information on your cause, so they can contact you when they are ready. Is there any information that you would like to donate to the foundation that I can pass along to them. I have been on this journey for two years on my own finding out what i can on my own and it has been very hard. So with your help we can have this information in one spot. I’m starting with families in my own state of Louisiana but will eventually like to branch out in other states. Thanks for your time and corporation and I look forward to working with you in the future. You can respond here on Facebook or email me at braylynnkarleyfoundation@yahoo.com
    Thanks Again,
    Christian Moore
    founder

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      We applaud you for your efforts! Our suggestion would be to contact the donor milk bank nearest you. Wishing you the best of luck!

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