The following is a note from Pastor Jason Herring, Director of Ministry Outreach at Stanton Healthcare in Boise, Idaho. We are thankful for his father’s heart and encouraging words.
In 1988 then President Ronald Reagan declared October to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He issued a declaration on October 15 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. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
Nine years ago my wife and I experienced a miscarriage only a month before our youngest son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His four-year-old life would be brought to an abrupt end after falling into a coma on a Make A Wish trip to Disney World. Six months later in October of the same year, we went through a second miscarriage. Unlike the first miscarriage where there was only a void on the ultrasound, with this one we were able to see and hear the heartbeat … until it was gone.
It’s interesting how society perceives pregnancy loss and the peer pressure it exerts on the grief process. I often mention our miscarriages when sharing Josiah’s story because it is part of the tragedy, but would I talk about them if we hadn’t loss Josiah? Probably not. It’s one of those things that you are expected to move on from, and sooner than later. This is because even 30 years after President Reagan’s declaration, many people are still uninformed on pregnancy and infant loss.
One out of four women will experience miscarriage in her lifetime. One out of ten will experience stillbirth. And the number of children who are stillborn is equal to the number of deaths in the first year of infancy which is around 24,000 per year according to the CDC. 3,500 of those are the result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Behind every one of these numbers is a precious little life—a child who never saw the light of day or a baby who never made it beyond the crib. These numbers represent parents who never got to celebrate their kid’s first birthday. All they have left to hold is several months’ worth of pictures, or a few ultrasound images, or a haunted emptiness.
Mitch Carmody wrote the book “Letters to My Son, a journey through grief” after losing his nine-year-old son to cancer. The bereaved father said, “Our child dies a second time when no one speaks their name.” This is what Walter Scott referred to as “doubly dying” when someone passes away “unwept, unhonored, and unsung.” When people view miscarriage like a bad period or treat pregnancy loss like an anomaly, a mother experiences the death of her child a second time.
That is why this past Monday people gathered in vigils all across our nation. They gathered to inform the community, to connect with resources, and to support those who have lived through the pain of pregnancy or infant loss. Their children were mourned. Their children were honored. And earthly voices joined in chorus to sing to our little angels in heaven.
A TIME Magazine article from 2010 stated that the number of miscarriages in the U.S. were equal to the number of abortions. 65% of pregnancies result in live births whereas 18% end in abortion and 17% are miscarried. This only underscores the fact that Stanton exists not only to serve abortion-vulnerable mothers, but also post-abortive mothers and post-pregnancy-loss mothers who are most often forgotten but just as much in need of healing.
At Stanton we offer therapy classes to assist with the healing process. We can educate you on grief response. And if you just need to talk to someone, we can connect you with parents who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss firsthand. We also have resources like our good friends at David’s Hope who send Memory Boxes to parents in honor of their lost children.
Miscarriage, stillbirth, and SIDS are not safe subjects. They are extremely uncomfortable topics and never really convenient conversation in a culture that shuns negative emotions. And if you’ve never experienced pregnancy or infant loss, dialogue with someone who has might feel like a minefield. But you won’t trigger the mines if you are willing to just listen because even though these are not safe subjects, you can be a safe place. Just like Stanton.
Pastor Jason Herring
Director, Ministry Outreach