If you or someone you care about has lost a child to stillbirth, miscarriage, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), or any other cause during pregnancy or infancy, please join us in raising awareness for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Every October, we honor, celebrate, and remember the lives lost too soon. The babies we carried but couldn’t hold. The babies we had but couldn’t carry home. The babies who were carried home, but couldn’t stay. Tens of thousands of mothers and families in the United States are devastated by the loss of their babies yearly, but the grief of these families is rarely recognized. In 1988, US President Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and Infant Awareness Month, a month to acknowledge the grief of bereaved parents to support mothers and families. Approximately one in four pregnancies ends in grief — but it’s rarely talked about. Women are encouraged to wait until after the first trimester to share news of pregnancy because it’s when most miscarriages occur. This alone contributes to the stigma surrounding miscarriage and leads to poorer support experiences. As a result, we don’t have a shared cultural framework for how to support one another through pregnancy loss. Pregnancy loss is a devastating loss, no matter when it occurs.
The consequences and psychological impact of pregnancy loss are often overlooked. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Research, almost one in three women develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after early pregnancy loss. For some women, signs of PTSD, anxiety, and depression are still visible nine months later. A lack of meaningful support can also increase feelings of loss. Often, friends or family members aren’t sure how to care for those who are mourning. If someone is processing trauma-related loss, it deserves to be validated, no matter when the loss occurs. Promoting awareness of pregnancy and infant loss increases the likelihood that grieving families can receive understanding and support, and how loved ones can support grieving families suffering through pregnancy and infant loss-related traumas.
Here are some ways to support those struggling with pregnancy or infant-related loss:
- Understand How Feelings of Loss Work
When one loses a baby or child, their whole world is turned upside down and forever changed. They’re going to have many thoughts, feelings, and experiences surrounding grief. These experiences, thoughts, and reactions, may be different from anything your loved one has felt before. Along with the loss of their child, they may also experience the loss of their identity as a parent, the loss of the dreams they had for their child and the loss of a sense of safety or control in life. Grief is healthy and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may have heard of the “5 Stages of Grief”, and while the stages of emotions may play some role in some experiences, a parent’s journey through grief isn’t linear. And that’s okay. Grief can be very personal. Your loved ones may find themselves full of depression one day and full of anger the next. They may still be able to laugh and experience joy in some aspects. While feelings of sorrow and rage may subside over time, they never completely disappear. Grief is often described as standing in the ocean. When you first stand in the ocean, the waves are intense and knock you down. As time passes, the waves remain, but some grow smaller and one is more able to predict them and brace for impact. The grief of losing a child doesn’t necessarily get easier with time, but rather, one becomes stronger and more resilient. Grief never ends, it changes over time. Encourage your loved ones to be honest and share their emotions if they feel comfortable enough to. Grief takes many forms and is not the same for everyone. That said, some emotions bereaved parents commonly experience are guilt, depression, shock, numbness, disbelief, fear, jealousy, anxiety, and more. It is important to note that these feelings and thoughts may change over time.
2. Avoid Assumptions
Because grief isn’t linear, it is important to be mindful of where your friends or family are struggling with pregnancy or infant-related loss on a daily basis. It is important to avoid assumptions and be careful with your phrasing, and ask “How are you feeling today?”, versus “How are you feeling?”. Their feelings and emotions are going to change frequently, and just because they appeared to be doing well yesterday, doesn’t mean they are doing the same today. Ask exactly how you can provide support. Can you prepare and deliver a meal for them, clean, run errands, or take care of the children? Is there anything you can pick up for them? Parents may need different kinds of help at different times as they grieve. It is important not to assume, and to check in frequently.
2. Choose Your Words Carefully
Losing a pregnancy can affect expecting women and their families in many ways, even if they struggle to express their feelings. As a friend or loved one, it’s important that you offer support. Unfortunately, some people choose to say nothing when they learn of a friend’s pregnancy loss, and it’s no surprise why. Miscarriage is more common than many people realize. It can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s time to destigmatize the conversation and support each other. A person who has experienced a miscarriage may need to tell their story repeatedly. Show you care by your attentiveness, gestures, and eye contact. Be prepared to talk about the baby. Hearing others say the baby’s name can help a grieving person heal. Know when to be silent, sometimes it is best to be silent. A grieving person may just want someone to listen.
Things you can say:
I’m sorry that you have lost your baby.
I’m here to listen.
This must be really challenging for you.
- Help Connect Them With Resources
Offer your friends or loved ones actionable help — if they’re ready for it. If you sense the person who had the loss could use some help, let that inform what you say to them. Offering support to help do the research for them may be helpful.
Resources for Families:
The MISS Foundation www.missfoundation.org Provides support and resources to families after the death of a child from any cause. Also participates in legislative and advocacy issues, community engagement and volunteerism, and culturally competent, multidisciplinary, education opportunities. Provides online support groups, listings of local in-person support opportunities, and a regular newsletter for parents. The Foundation is committed to providing long-term support to families after a child’s death.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support www.nationalshare.org Provides support and information for families who have experienced the death of a baby through early pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or in the first few months of life.
AMEND: Aiding Mothers and Fathers Experiencing Neonatal Death www.amendgroup.com Offers a free counseling service to parents who have experienced the loss of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. The main purpose of AMEND is to offer support and encouragement to parents having a normal grief reaction to the loss of their baby.
- Continue to Check In
Grieving doesn’t stop after a year, it can be a lifelong struggle. Many parents feel supported right after a loss, but the support disappears over time. It’s necessary to keep checking in on your friends and loved ones by asking how they are, and if they’d like to talk. Helping them maintain a connection can help them heal. When milestones such as birthdays or holidays come around, plan to do something special to honor their baby.
For those struggling with pregnancy or infant loss…
Be gentle and kind to yourself.
Grief can be isolating and make it difficult to perform daily tasks such as thinking, sleeping, or even eating. One day you may feel a variety of emotions, and the next you may feel numb.
You may feel guilty, but try not to blame yourself. We don’t know why this happens sometimes, it just happens.
Take one day at a time.
You may feel guilty, but try not to blame yourself. We don’t know why this happens sometimes, it just happens. Reach out to your employer as soon as possible to request time off. Sleep, eat, and spend time with your loved ones.
Share your loss.
Talk with your friends and family about your loss. Join a support group for bereaved parents, or connect with someone that has been in your shoes. It helps to know that you’re not alone.
Consider making memories.
Find ways to memorialize the baby. It can be healing to hold a funeral or memorial service for your child.
A loss of a pregnancy, the loss of a baby, the loss of a dream is never easy. Being able to acknowledge your loss and pain and lean on others for support to help you make it through, one day at a time.
If you are having trouble performing daily activities, it’s wise to speak with a therapist. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-TALK) if you are having recurrent thoughts of harming yourself or no longer wanting to live.
They are wasting my time! she shouted as she closed the front door behind her. Our startled team of case managers looked up to see a frustrated mother standing in the hallway with tears in her eyes. She spoke again, this time, much louder and with much more emotion than before. “They are wasting my time!” Then, she bent down slowly to put her shoes away. When she stood up, the tears were already rolling down her cheeks. The outburst surprised the team because they were waiting to hear the good news about her first day on the job.
The staff gave her the time she needed to collect her thoughts. As the tears slowed, she shared that there was a slight mix-up, and her start date was the next day. Carried To Full Term is a long-term housing program for women who are pregnant, and homeless. The women who contact our 24-month program are already in crisis, and in need for stable housing. Additionally, our program’s six objectives are designed to help women become independent and self-sufficient.
On this particular day, this mother was looking forward to starting her new job to meet her employment objective. The excitement on her face earlier that morning, could not be hidden, as she prepared for her first day of orientation. After she had calmed down, we helped her explore other areas where she had greater control. We asked if she would be interested in taking care of her garden bed? She agreed and went outside. A few minutes later, one of our staff joined her in the garden. No words were spoken until the staff member noticed that she had some leaves from the squash vine in her hand. After asking, “what was in her hand?” the mom shared that she had pulled some weeds.
With a smile, the staff member told her that the leaves in her hands were not weeds. A lovely conversation was born between the mom and staff member. The mom wanted to learn to tell the difference between veggies and weeds. She shared, “the grass and everything looked so good growing together.” Together, they walked over to a small cabbage bed where some weeds had almost taken over the bed.
The mom was told, “anything in the bed that was not a cabbage, was a weed and how they have the ability to choke the cabbage, preventing it from reaching its full potential. Those unwanted plants must be pulled. They must be weeded out. It was explained that the grass and weeds, as pretty as they looked, were hindering the cabbages’ growth by taking up all the soil’s nutrients.
The mom wondered how she would be able to pull all those weeds? The best approach is to start with one cabbage at a time, weeding anything growing around it. That meant all the grass and weeds needed to be removed because they were choking the cabbages from growing. She said, “well that is a perfect metaphor for my life right now. I need to pull out all the things that are stopping me from growing.” She was reminded that everyone has problems. Some people have learned healthier ways to process and manage their responses, but that takes practice. She said she was extremely frustrated earlier, and needed to find different ways to express her frustration. Then, out of the blue, she added, “you know what? I actually like being out here in the garden, to help the cabbages grow. It is so peaceful out here;” and she kept pulling the weeds.
Life in our resident program is in constant motion. Sometimes, the series of events can be fraught with frustration, other times, peace prevails from start to finish. Whatever the scenario, there is no denying the safety and security that come with stable housing. Sometimes, residents feel safe enough to feel all the feelings in the moment; other times, it might be to experience the peace that comes with gardening. Carried To Full Term exists to facilitate the success of each mother’s decision to commit to becoming independent and self-sufficient. You can be a part of the change journey by joining us as a guest or sponsor at our upcoming gala, as a monthly donor, or in support of an expansion project. You can visit our website to learn more.
Thank you for reaching out to Carried To Full Term. Completion of this form is not an automatic admittance into the CTFT home program. This will be the first part of the application process. All of your answers will be used to make contact with you. Please ensure the phone numbers and email addresses are entered correctly. CTFT home program recognizes that our established programs might not be appropriate for everyone. All applicants are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. CTFT staff will work collaboratively with other agencies in the community to assist pregnant women in finding programs that best fit their individual needs.
Complete the initial Intake form.
Our 5th annual gala is swiftly approaching and we couldn’t be more excited. On Friday, November 19th, 2021 we will host our largest fundraising initiative and look forward to seeing you there! Many of you have asked: “How can we help?” Below are some of the ways you can help continue to support the house and the initiative via our Every Baby Deserves a Home event.
Table, seating for fourth Every Baby Deserves a Home gala
• (2) Invitations to the private reception with our Guests of Honor
• Ads in our Every Baby Deserves a Home booklet
• Recognition on our Carried To Full Term website and in our Every Baby Deserves a Home.
• Live on-screen ad recognition at the event
* Purchase Your Tickets to this year’s Every Baby Deserves a Home event!
* Become a sponsor at one of our business levels
Purchase an Ad
* Purchase an advertisement in our program
Donate a Silent Auction Item
* Donate a silent auction item(gift cards; baskets; sports tickets)
Your donation by any of the above will help ensure that the doors to CTFT remain open to continue to support women in need. Our moms are thriving and the demand for our services is at an all-time high. Join us in helping our moms thrive.
Carried To Full Term is a nonprofit organization created to provide long-term residential support to mothers in crisis as a result of pregnancy. Our program is designed to provide housing to mothers for up to 24 months in a very structured setting. Mothers will be responsible for maintaining the home, caring for their children, securing and retaining employment, completing their education, and participating in our program with the primary goal being self-sufficiency and independence. We are well aware that we cannot do this alone. Your faithful support and time will be the reason our doors remain open.