Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

Two people sent me pictures of the same rainbow this evening because it made them think of Ellis. This made my heart swell. I think of him every day. I feel his presence in moments when I am present—feeling steam from a cup of ginger tea, a cool refreshing breeze, and raindrops on my skin. The changing season makes me aware of how far I’ve come. Fall brings a welcome change. I have hope.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I want to share a few things I’ve learned since Ellis died:

— 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a loss. This includes both early miscarriages and late term stillbirths. Many parents suffer in silence because their babies die early in pregnancy.

— 1 in 160 pregnancies in the US ends in stillbirth. That’s about 26,000 babies—ten times the rate of SIDS. A stillbirth occurs when a baby dies in the womb at 20 completed pregnancy weeks or later. I was 31 weeks pregnant when Ellis died.

— 60 percent of stillbirths are unexplained. This was the case for Ellis. Every test the doctors performed, including genetic tests, came back “normal” leaving us with no answers.

I recognize that many outcomes of our health are largely out of our control, but with greater awareness, perhaps these statistics could improve and families could be better supported.

In my first follow-up appointment two weeks after Ellis was stillborn the medical staff did not acknowledge his death or my grief. Even worse, the midwife who was on call at the hospital with Ellis forgot that he died. If we cannot prevent babies from dying, then we can at least change the way we support their families.

I tell my story to help raise awareness and break the silence and stigma around pregnancy loss. Obstetrics professionals should be trained to support bereaved parents. Our culture should know the realities of pregnancy loss. So many parents have shared their own stories of loss with me. Their resilience, in spite of a lack of understanding, gives me hope.

When you see a rainbow maybe you’ll think of Ellis and remember that no matter how hard life gets, there’s always something to be hopeful for.