As a parent, everything becomes clouded and you experience so many various emotions when you are faced with stillbirth or early infant loss. At a time when you should be excited and overjoyed, you find yourself consumed with anger, grief, and sadness. Having to say goodbye to any loved one is difficult, but the grief is completely different for parents when they lose a child.
Unfortunately, too many parents are faced with this each year. In the United States there are more than four million confirmed pregnancies every year. Approximately a million of these confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. In addition, between 29,000 and 36,000 babies are stillborn, which is approximately one out of every 115 to 200 births!
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy that occurs before the 20th week of gestation, while a stillbirth is a fetal death that occurs during or after the 20th week. There are many different causes of stillbirth, yet there is much about stillbirth that is not understood. No cause of death is ever determined for up to two-thirds of stillborn babies, leaving parents even more devastated and confused as they are left to wonder what happened to their precious child.
There are also times when a baby is born live but does not survive. Early infant loss during the neonatal period, or the first 28 days of life, accounted for the death of over 19,000 infants in the United States in 2006. That same year another 10,000 infants did not live to see his or her first birthday.
These figures are staggering but reflect the prevalence of miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant loss. We need to continue to bring awareness to this tragic issue and support parents and families as they cope with their loss. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared the month of October to be designated as “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.“ Furthermore, October 15th was acknowledged as “National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day“ in 2006, and all across the world people join together on this day to light candles in remembrance of these precious lives lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss.
Although thousands are affected by either pregnancy or infant loss each year, it is a subject that is difficult to talk about and often kept silent. There is a good chance that you have heard a story about someone who suffered through this tragedy, but the reality is that one day you will likely know someone directly affected by this loss. More awareness surrounding stillbirth and early infant loss and their prevalence is vital. Parents and families can never be given too much support or too many resources when coping with the loss of a child. As parents of a stillborn son, the cofounders of Carrying Tender Angels know and understand the true importance of this philosophy, and have made it their mission to reach out to and offer help to as many parents and families of angels.
(Statistical data was obtained from the March of Dimes and World Health Organization.)