Approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies worldwide will end in miscarriage. According to the World Health Organization, 4.5 million stillbirths occur each year worldwide.
The Lancet reported that more than 7300 babies are stillborn every day.
Approximately 1.2 million stillbirths happen during birth, usually because of delivery complications, and 1.4 million stillbirths happen before birth, usually because of maternal infections or fetal growth abnormalities.
In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month saying, "When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them." (October15th.com)
No, there is no name for those parents who have lost a child. There seems to be a divide between those who lose their babies as embryos, those who miscarry later or whose babies are stillborn, and those who lose their children after birth.
It is devastating to have a child who is stillborn or to lose a child after having a chance to hold and get to know them. The pain is more obvious and tangible and people are more understanding of the grief that accompanies such an event.
But for those who miscarry (a term use to describe the loss of a baby before week 20), the pain can be so easily dismissed by onlookers. “Oh, you can try again,” “you have a long life to live, "another baby will come along,” “get over it, move on and try again,” they might say.
What many people don’t realize, however, is that the pain is just as real for these parents because they missed the opportunity to hold their baby. It is extremely difficult to try again, some never do and people who haven’t gone through it are confounded as to why.
Light a Candle Together
Unfortunately, regardless of the circumstances, we who have suffered miscarriages all have something in common, we have all lost a child and reality doesn’t change that truth.
There is an increasing movement to help families remember and support one another on October 15. People all over the world are being asked to light a candle starting at 7 p.m. in whichever time zone they live. “If everyone lights a candle at 7 p.m. and keeps it burning for at least one hour, there will be a continuous WAVE OF LIGHT over the entire world on October 15th.” (October15th.com)
We will Never Forget
Here are some suggestions from the Miscarriage Association in the U.K. to commemorate your baby.
• If you miscarry before 24 weeks gestation, there is no legal registration of your baby’s life. Ask your hospital if they could provide a certificate of your baby’s birth.
• Have a ceremony. We have funerals to remember the lives of people who have died. While it is extremely painful to think of having such a ceremony for a baby, it is just as important for parents, family and friends to ceremonially remember the baby and to say goodbye. It doesn’t lessen the pain but it allows for some closure. Some hospitals organize annual services to remember babies who have died there.
• Ask the hospital chaplain if you can arrange for your baby to be included in the book of remembrance.
• Plant a garden of remembrance.
• Create a memory box.
• Buy something special in memory of your baby.
• Write a letter or poem for your baby.
• Make a donation to a favorite charity or get involved in creating a memorial event for other parents.
Marking Your Loss. Miscarriage Association. Web. Oct 13, 2011. http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/support/marking-your-loss
Web. Oct 13, 2011. BabyLossAwareness.org
October 15th Origination. October15th.com. Web. Oct 13, 2011. http://www.october15th.com
Still Birth Alliance. Web. Oct 13, 2011.
Stillbirths: The invisible public health problem. EurekAlert. Public release date: 13-Apr-2011. Retrieved on Oct 13, 2011.
Reviewed October 14, 2011
by Michele Blackberg RN
Edited by Malu Banuelos