Guest post by Amanda and Brent Spraker
This Thursday, Jan. 31, is our daughter Emily’s 10th birthday, a time that should be filled playfully gathering with friends and giddily unwrapping presents. But Emily will never experience any of those things – she was born still.
Stillbirth is an all-too-common tragedy. In the U.S., 26,000 babies are stillborn every year – that is one baby, one family, every 21 minutes.
We were so excited to be pregnant with our first child, we never considered the possibility of a stillbirth—it was the only chapter in our pregnancy book that we skipped.
We loved being pregnant. We did everything right. Ate the healthiest foods. Read up on birth and childrearing. Attended every prenatal appointment. And together, we’d dream of our future life with our new baby.
Then, without warning, our dream became a nightmare. At our 40-week appointment, there was no heartbeat.
Our baby had died.
The next 48 hours were the longest of our lives as Amanda labored to deliver our daughter, Emily Louise. Amanda gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, but we could not bring her home. Our grief was overwhelming.
Emily’s birth changed our lives forever. Grief-stricken, we didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. We told our family and friends not to come to the hospital, but they came anyway. It ended up being the best thing for us, knowing that we had those closest to us offering their support.
We have since welcomed two healthy daughters into our lives, and talk with them frequently about their older sister Emily. We have also become involved with the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children’s, which focuses on raising awareness and advancing research into these leading causes of perinatal death. We want to do everything we can to honor Emily and to help prevent other families from enduring what we did. We also believe it’s imperative to bring stillbirth into the public eye, so that families who experience the loss of their baby are not faced with the added burden of feeling they must hide their grief.
Breaking the silence
To that end, we worked with GAPPS and other parents of stillborns to create a video called Born in Silence. We hope this video helps break the silence around stillbirth, and encourages families and communities to bring the issue to light. The more we can raise awareness about stillbirth, the more communities will be able to support grieving parents, as well as encourage researchers to focus on finding ways to prevent stillbirth.
After Emily died, we heard from friends that they just didn’t know what to say. In our society, people simply don’t talk about this devastating loss that rocks marriages, families and communities. We want others to know that we love our stillborn baby the same way they love their children, and we, too, want the chance to talk about her and remember her.
No one is to blame
In a new article in BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, GAPPS researcher Dr. Maureen Kelley provides an analysis of parents’ and physicians’ experiences of stillbirth. She notes that “Research into the prevalence and causes of stillbirth is ongoing, but meanwhile, many parents suffer this devastating loss, largely in silence, due to persistent stigma and taboo; and many health providers report feeling ill equipped to support grieving parents.”
Feelings of guilt often follow a stillbirth, when in reality no one is to blame. We want parents to know that it is okay to work through the gamut of emotions they experience after a stillbirth, while also helping doctors and hospital staff better know how to support families in the immediate aftermath.
After you watch the video, which includes parents holding signs sharing their stories and feelings, please write out your own sign of encouragement or understanding and post a picture of it on www.facebook.com/healthybirths.
Additional ways to get involved:
Join a guild:
- The Stillborn, Still Loved Guild honors the lives of stillborn babies through advocacy, awareness and support. The guild is a place for people affected by similar experiences to partner in creating change.
- The Tiny Footprints Guild is dedicated to raising awareness and funds to support research and advocacy to prevent premature births and stillbirths.
Spread the word:
- Share the video on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
Advocate for more research:
- Write to Congress to encourage additional funding to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
To arrange an interview with Amanda and Brent or to talk with a GAPPS researcher, please contact Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.