Over this past year a number of people close to me have suffered either a pregnancy or infant loss. Even though my doula training and the handful of counselling classes I had taken in University had attempted to prepare me for this eventuality, I still felt really ill equipped to help these women. It was also quite obvious to me and those seeking comfort in the midst of their grief that our local resources for women and families experiencing the sadness that comes from losing a child, were seriously lacking.
I was quite surprised to learn, as I started to do a little research that approximately 15 – 20% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. In Victoria, it is conservatively estimated that there are at least 450 miscarriages each year. Deaths in the second half of a pregnancy are considered stillbirths. In 2010, Vital Statistics reported 457 stillbirths in BC. At least 50 of those stillbirths occurred in Greater Victoria (Source:http://www.urbanbaby.ca/littlespirits/
Not long after I began my quest to better inform myself about perinatal or infant loss, I became aware of a group who had just begun work on a new place of remembrance for parents at Royal Oak Burial Park
This group’s goal is to create a special place of remembrance for parents, families and the community to acknowledge perinatal loss or loss of a baby at birth, support one another and raise awareness about perinatal and infant loss.
The Little Spirits Garden
project is receiving support from the Board of Cemetery Trustees of Greater Victoria (a not-for-profit organization) who has contributed $50,000 to developing the plan for the Little Spirits Garden and dedicated land within the Burial Park for the project. The board has partnered with the Saanich Legacy Foundation to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the project. Community and Corporate and Foundation support is welcome to help make this garden a reality. For those wishing to make a donation “In Memoriam”, please visit www.saanichlegacy.ca
On a related note, I recently had the opportunity to attend a candlelight vigil at Royal Oak Burial Park as part of “Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day” observed world-wide on October 15th of each year. This ceremony allowed families who have experienced the loss of a baby or pregnancy to listen to messages and stories of loss and hope and to light a candle in honor of their ‘Little Spirit’. I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming emotion I felt as the invitation for those wanting to light a candle to present at the front of the chapel was uttered and almost instantly the line up was to the back of the room. Even more heart-wrenching to me was the woman who enlisted the help of the chaplain to help her carry her candles to the front table, as her hands couldn’t hold each precious flame.
As a doula, I know that my ability to empathize, while remaining somewhat emotionally unaffected is what helps my clients in times of struggle or hurt. But in this moment, as a woman behind me quietly sobbed, I found it extremely difficult to maintain my composure. Even as I write this post, there are tears falling softly onto my Macbook…I hope AppleCare covers this kind of water damage!
I cannot imagine the hurt and pain that pregnancy or infant loss brings to a parent, but what I do know is you are not alone. Whether you lost a child at 8 weeks or 8 months, whether it’s been 5 years, or even 50, the life you cherished can be honoured through the Little Spirits Garden. While stigma still exists and the words “miscarriage” or “stillbirth” may cause people to put up all kinds of walls or barriers, there are small pockets of people and organizations trying to work towards changing this and providing much needed support to those who are suffering.
I would strongly encourage you to reach out and seek out people who can be there to listen and support you for whatever time you need. Check out the links placed through this post and/or speak to your physician, midwife, religious leader or counsellor for assistance.