Supporting a loved one through pregnancy and infant loss
Fifteen to 20 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, or pregnancy loss, according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. The majority of those miscarriages happen in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. But when women — and their partners and families — experience loss at any stage, the effects can be devastating, according to Dr. Ariel Dalfen, Head of the Perinatal Mental Health Program, within the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital, part of Sinai Health.
“There’s a lot of shame and self-silencing that goes on when this happens,” Dr. Dalfen says. “People often feel like they’ve failed or like other people don’t understand the depths of their grief.”
Click here to read tips on supporting a loved one through pregnancy and infant loss from Sinai Health Magazine.
In October 2018, we brought you the story of the Fisher Family. After the death of their son River, moms Kendra and Kristy Fisher turned their grief into action.
One of the most precious mementos the family has of their time with baby River is a handful of photos taken by their nurse. When choosing which of the pictures to print and take with them, Kristy and Kendra had a revelation: “we realized as we were going through the photos that there was something we could pass on for future families in hopes of offering them a tiny piece of light through the darkest moments.”
In 2018, the family donated 50 memory cards to Mount Sinai’s Labour and Delivery unit so future families in their position won’t have to try to choose prints of their babies. Kendra adds, “This means that they can take a card with them, so they can feel like they captured every possible second in the little time they had together.” Along with the memory cards, the family collected donations of stuffed animals to share with siblings impacted by the loss of a baby. Kendra remembers the stuffed animals being a huge comfort for her too, “I didn’t put down that giraffe for three days,” holding on to it to anchor her grief.
They’ve now made this donation an annual event, marking River’s birthday. Kendra says, “this is a small gesture for families to hold on to and know that they are not alone. It allows people to feel safe and supported, and it allows us to keep River’s memory alive.” This year, they’ve managed to give even more, and between the family and interested community members, they brought 70 stuffed animals and 64 memory cards to Mount Sinai Hospital to share with other grieving families.
The impact of their donation has come back to the family in ways they wouldn’t have expected. Kendra shares, “a colleague of mine who didn’t know my family’s story before, reached out to me after his cousin had gone through a loss at Mount Sinai. She had been given a stuffed animal and a memory card, and shared the impact that this had made on her to my colleague. It means so much to us to know we are helping other families through a difficult time.”
In April of this year, moms Kristy and Kendra and big brother Finley welcomed Bodhi, the latest addition to their family, pictured above with this year’s donation of stuffed animals.
If you’d like to participate in the Fisher family’s annual donation, you can contact the family through mentallyfit.com.