LANDSTUHL, Germany – Landstuhl Regional Medical Center held an observance in honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, Oct. 15.
The observance is held annually on Oct. 15 to remember pregnancy loss and infant death, which includes but not limited to miscarriage, stillbirth or death of a newborn while also providing support to families who have suffered a loss. Traditionally, a candle is lit for each loss at 7 p.m. around the world symbolizing a wave of light in remembrance.
“It would be arrogant to say, ‘I know what it feels like,’ because I don’t know what it feels like,” said U.S. Army Col. Michael Weber, commander, LRMC. “To hear the names, to watch the candles, to participate in the memory means these children live in our hearts, too.”
The observance was broadcast live over social media, allowing nearly 2,000 viewers to join in the ceremony and virtually include their baby’s name to have staff members light candles in remembrance of their loss.
During the ceremony, U.S. Army Capt. Spencer Edwards and his wife, Jeanette Edwards, shared their story and the loss of two of their children.
“We are deeply saddened at the immeasurable losses experienced which bring us all together. I hope you, as my family, are strengthened and warmed by the unified effort to memorialize and honor our sons and daughters,” said Edwards. “We’re honored, truly honored to be able to share our family’s story.”
“My husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our third child, not too long into the pregnancy, I knew something was wrong… call it mother’s intuition,” said Jeanette. “We went to get a checkup at 10 weeks, and were told there was no longer a heartbeat. In that moment, I felt like my heart would stop.”
Although at 10 weeks pregnant, a baby is barely transforming from an embryo to a fetus and only a little larger than a grape, the loss was significant for the Edwards family, who were already planning for their growing family.
“It wasn’t just the loss of a pregnancy. It was the loss of a child that we had already placed in our family dynamic. My husband and I had each other. But we were alone,” said Jeanette. “We heard things like, ‘At least you have other children. You can always have another one.’ The same things people say to try to comfort you because they don’t really know what else to say.”
Unfortunately for the Edwards family, years later they would suffer another loss after the delivery of their stillborn son at 28 weeks. The parents were consoled by Holly Bryant, a bereavement nurse at LRMC who is trained in bereavement and grief counseling.
“She encouraged us to spend quality time with our dear sweet boy and care for him as we had the last seven months,” recalls Jeanette. “She told us bathe him, dress him, care for him because this is the only chance that we’re going to have to be his parents. We spent five hours loving on him and trying to memorize every inch of him.”
Following their loss, the Edwards family has advocated for Down syndrome awareness and education, after a prenatal diagnosis revealed a high possibility of their son being born with the condition.
“We tried very hard to turn attention away from our grief towards support and education. We want to help others, especially expecting mothers with prenatal diagnoses, want to educate hospitals and positive methods of delivering prenatal diagnoses, and in bereavement support for families experiencing a loss,” said Spencer. “We’re thousands of miles away from home, from families and friends, trying to process a loss all at once. Without our nurse Holly, we wouldn’t have been in the mindset to make the memories that we did.”
According to studies by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 10-25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage (under 20 weeks of gestation) with risks intensifying depending on several factors. The annual observance not only remembers those babies, but aims to raise awareness of those who have suffered such a loss as well.
“There’s nothing I can do to really provide you comfort. There’s nothing I can say. But we can all be present for each other,” said Weber. “We can be part of the testimony that these lives existed and these stories will live with me.”