October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Allie Kelsey, Viewpoints Editor

A month dedicated to the loss of a baby is very important to my mom and me. It is extremely significant to us because I was a twin, but several months into the pregnancy my mom was rushed to the hospital where she miscarried.

After a week of still not feeling well, my mom returned to the doctors to find out that she was still having me. The doctor explained that although rare, there was another baby hiding behind the baby she lost in the hospital. That baby was me and the lost baby should have been my brother, so National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is of special importance to my mom and me. It gives a chance to mourn the baby and brother we lost that day, but it also gives us a chance to rejoice in the fact that after a long and hard pregnancy, labor, and delivery my mom had me against all odds.

I am the only child born to my mother and she feels beyond blessed to have me as her daughter. Despite the comfort in having me, she did suffer a loss and has this special time to remember that loss, wonder about what could have been, and light a candle on October 15 for her lost angel. I did not participate in this when I was younger because it would have been difficult to explain to me, but as I got older I started to light candles with my mom on October 15 each year and spend some time thinking about my twin and our loss.

This awareness month is not just for babies who are lost by miscarriage. It is also for babies born stillborn, babies who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and babies lost unexpectedly in the beginning of their lives. The American College of Obstetricians and the Mayo Clinic estimate that 15-20% of known pregnancies are lost to miscarriage, 26,000 are stillbirths, and 4,000 infants under the age of one dies unexpectedly each year.

The sufferers of infant loss have an overwhelmingly large number, 40%, that feel alone after the loss and find themselves in a dark and empty place. Years ago it may have been considered taboo to discuss such a tragedy with others, but now people recognize the value in having open conversations about their loss. Many celebrities have come forward to share their stories to show others that it is okay to talk about it and it helps to talk about it. The singer Pink came forward and talked about her fear when she was pregnant because she had suffered a previous miscarriage. (She had a daughter.) There are many stars coming forward and sharing their stories with the hope that it will help others.

The movement to shed light on this awareness actually began back in 1997 in the United States. On October 25 in 1988, President Reagan made the entire month of October, 1988 Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The goals and ideas behind this movement was to end the suffering in silence experienced by so many who lost a baby. In 2002, a movement began in America and 50 states signed a proclamation to recognize the goals and ideas of this movement. On September 28, 2006, the House of Representatives passed National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day to encourage American people to honor October 15 as a special day of remembrance for these angels taken too soon. All 50 states have yearly proclamations with 8 having permanent proclamations. These 8 states include: Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. I am proud to live in one of the states who declared permanent proclamation in this national tribute to create awareness and give support to those suffering.

October 15 has become to be known as The Wave of Light. It provides families, friends, and sufferers with an annual date to observe the loss of their loved one. This day is now called Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and has expanded to other places including, Canada, the United Kingdom, Western Australia, New South Wales and Italy. On this remembrance day, at 7PM in all time zones, candles are lit and left burning for one hour in memory of the precious angels lost. My mother and I hold this candle vigil wherever we are, sometimes just the two of us and sometimes with other loved ones. My grandparents also leave a candle lit for their lost grandchild.

This day has become so important to people that there has been a hashtag made for them, #PregnancyAndInfantLossRemembranceDay. People use this hashtag to post photos on social media to spread the message of this day and get the world to know and understand the importance of it to many people and their loved ones. There are many helpful websites such as Remembering Our Babies that post information about activities, walks, and events all across various states, as well as provide support, education, and awareness. First Candle provides grief support. There is a support page on Facebook. There is a blog tour on nationalshare.org. Throughout the various states, there are events planned from Walks to Remember to Light up the Sky. Two events here in New York on October 15th, 2016 include: the J.R. Lewis Sky Lighting at 200 Ocean Parkway in Wantagh, New York where the sky will be lit up with white lanterns at 7PM and there will also be a Baby Step Walk in Brooklyn at 3 PM. Sufferers are encouraged to attend and bring family and friends to support them in their remembrance.

With awareness, an opportunity to remember and grieve, and the ability to talk openly about a tragic loss many victims can heal or at least find some peace in their loss. My family is grateful that this movement was acknowledged and for the events and support groups available to us and others like us.