Everyone seems to know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons, pink products, pink everything proclaims it, along with fundraising runs and corny pranks on Facebook. It affects a lot of people and is worthy of remembrance.
What many people don’t know, though, is that since 1988, October has also been recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Until you or a loved one has been touched by the loss of a baby, it can be hard to believe that in 21st century America, stillbirth still happens, but it does, in about one out of every two hundred pregnancies. Miscarriage (the loss of a baby before twenty weeks gestation) is far more common, occurring in about 15% of all pregnancies. Put it all together, and the accepted statistic is that one in four women have experienced the loss of a baby in pregnancy.
Pregnancy loss is a devastatingly common occurrence – and yet, it is one that makes the woman experiencing it feel so terribly alone. In part, the feelings of loneliness occur because it is so seldom spoken of in public, being considered a private loss — it is a loss without recognition, without concrete memories and momentos, without culturally accepted rites to say good-bye.
I have had several losses. Only with my first, my daughter Naomi lost at 18 weeks, did we have a funeral. With my others, I cried at home … and then went on. Nothing to bury, nothing concrete to mourn, although in each case, I was very aware of what exactly I had lost — not my “pregnancy,” not “products of conception,” but my child. My future.
Thankfully, the aloneness that parents feel after a loss is beginning, ever so slightly, to dissipate as more and more people dare to speak publicly about miscarriage and stillbirth, and provide places and ways to come together and find others on the same road. Here in the Midlands are several events where you can meet others at different places on the journey called Loss.
Monthly Support Groups:
Ongoing – see the Naomi’s Circle Events Calendar for additional information
Thursday, October 9, 6:30–7:45 p.m.
Naomi’s Circle has two support groups meeting at the same time. The Parenting/Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) group is for women who have experienced one or more losses, and are either pregnant or have another living child (born before or after loss). Women without living children are welcome, but babies may be present.
The HOPE Group is for couples who have experienced a recent loss, whether or not they have living children. No minors come to HOPE group meetings. Both groups meet at Spring Valley Baptist Church in the Platt Educational Building on the 2nd Thursday of the month, from 6:30-7:45 p.m. Sometimes the groups meet together and sometimes separately, depending on the needs of those present. Free childcare is available without advance registration. For more information, write to [email protected] or call 803-728-1162.
Memories Support Group
Thursday, October 9, 7–8:30 p.m.
A support group for parents who have experienced the loss of a miscarriage, stillbirth or early newborn death. Free of charge. Meets in the North Tower of Lexington Medical Center on the second Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m. For more information, contact Corrine Barbian at 803-781-1003.
When the Bough Breaks
Tuesday, October 14, 7–8:30 p.m.
Support group meeting the second Tuesday of the month, for parents who have experienced the death of an infant, toddler, or young child from stillbirth, birth defects, sudden unexpected death, SIDS, genetic disorders, accident, illness, or any other reason. It is held at the Joy in the Mourning Center for Life Losses, at Decker Plaza, 518 East Main Street, Ste. 2, Lexington, SC, 29212. For more information, call Linda Gill at 803-407-3185 or go to www.joyinthemourningcenter.org.
Wee Remember Support Group
Tuesday, October 28, 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Meets at Palmetto Baptist Hospital at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month for parents who have experienced infant or pregnancy loss. For more information, contact Rosalie Blair at 803-296-5636.
Thursday, October 9, 6:30-7:45 p.m. (during the regular Naomi’s Circle Support Group meeting)
Meets at Spring Valley Baptist Church (91 Polo Road) in Northeast Columbia in the Platt Education Building (which is accessible from the lower parking lot). No registration is necessary, and free childcare (provided by trustworthy, screened workers) is available. For more information, contact Kristi Bothur at [email protected].
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Sunday:
Sunday, October 12 or Sunday, October 19
Recognized by various churches around the Midlands as a time to stand alongside families impacted by pregnancy loss and early infant death by doing three simple things:
- Place a bouquet of yellow roses on the church altar. If you would like, consider including a label on each one with the Naomi’s Circle website to provide more information for bereaved parents, or add this information to your bulletin.
- Announce in the bulletin, “The bouquet of yellow roses on the altar is in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and in prayerful support of all families touched by such a loss.”
- From the pulpit, at an appropriate time in the service, invite anyone touched by this kind of loss to come to the altar after the service and take a rose home. If this is done earlier in the service, remind them again before dismissal.
To invite your church to participate, see www.naomiscircle.org/pail-sunday.html for additional information.
Heart and Hands Forever Memorial Walk:
Sunday, October 19, 3 p.m.
This memorial walk, sponsored by Palmetto Health Richland and Palmetto Health Baptist, is for all parents, families and friends who have been touched by the loss of a pregnancy or death of an infant. No preregistration is necessary, and there is no charge to participate. Meet at the Laurel Street entrance to Riverfront Park. In case of rain, the service will be held at the Palmetto Health Baptist Auditorium at 1501 Sumter Street in downtown Columbia. If you would like to meet up with the Naomi’s Circle group, contact [email protected] for details on where to meet. For more information, call Rosalie Blair at Palmetto Health Baptist at 803-296-5636, or Leitha Morgan at Palmetto Health Richland at 803-434-8454.
If there is another special event for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month that you would like to share with others, please tell us about it in the comments. If you have said good-bye to a child, and would like to share his or her name, or just “Baby ____”, please feel free to do so. When we step into the light and share our stories, we help others feel less alone, and we realize that we are not alone either.