Until you or your loved ones have been affected, it can be hard to believe that one in four women in the United States has experienced the loss of a baby in pregnancy. That’s a million pregnancies a year that end in miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a newborn child. Stillbirth (loss after 20 weeks of pregnancy) occurs in nearly one in 160 pregnancies, and miscarriages (loss before 20 weeks) occur in about 15 percent of pregnancies.
Two months ago, I never could have imagined that I would become one of those statistics. Jamie and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our third child, and I was experiencing the easiest pregnancy I had ever had. But on Aug. 28, our world was changed forever.
I went to my doctor’s office for a regular prenatal checkup and was told that my baby did not have a heartbeat. At first, I was sure there must have been a mistake. I was two weeks away from my scheduled delivery date. I had heard his precious heartbeat just three days earlier, and it was strong. But the look on my doctor’s face told me there was no mistake. In that instant, I joined a secret society of mothers with babies born into heaven.
In the weeks since my precious angel baby went to be with the Lord, my family and I have been blessed by the outpouring of support from this community. However, many families who suffer a similar loss must grieve in silence, because infant loss is rarely spoken of publicly. It has always been considered a private loss.
Thankfully, that silent grieving is beginning to change, as more people begin to share their stories about miscarriage and stillbirth and there are more opportunities to come together and find others who can share their loss.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
The loss of a child stays with an “angel family” forever, and the emotional and physical impacts are often challenging for others to truly understand. Having support through grief is critical to recovery, and raising awareness is the first step to making sure families have access to available resources. I hope by sharing my story, I can help raise that awareness.
Tameika Isaac Devine