Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pregnancy and Infant Loss - Still in the Dark

It's National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day - right in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and on the same day as Blog Action Day, when bloggers around the country post on a selected topic, which this year is poverty. Stillbirth, again, as always, lost in the shuffle of other issues - the economy, the election, other topics deemed more important, more noteworthy, more acceptable for public consumption.

But dead babies? Are they no big deal? It seems they are only a big deal to pro-lifers who picket outside abortion clinics, holding up their grisly photos for all the world to see.

Why are dead babies, those stillborn and delivered too soon, a big deal only to their grieving mothers and fathers? Today alone, 71 babies will be stillborn in this country. Think about that. That's approximately three 2nd-grade classrooms the size of my daughter's class, vanishing every day. Worldwide, approximately 10,958 babies will be stillborn today. That's about 4,000 more lives than the total population of that town in Alaska we keep hearing about, Wasilla, population 7,028.

How many articles in newspapers, magazines, on TV or online have you seen this year about autism? Dozens, I suspect. How many about stillbirth? One? Two, tops? Unless you are actively searching for news on stillbirth, you'll very rarely find it. While stillbirth takes the life of 1 out of every 115 babies in this country, autism affects 1 out of every 150 children. Why the disparity in the news?

Oh, right, I remember now. It's because stillbirth is about dead babies, and we don't want to talk about that. But if autism is an "epidemic," as I have read in some articles, why is stillbirth, which touches more lives, not?

You - we - can change this. There is currently a bill sitting in the House of Representatives, House Bill 5979, the Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act of 2008. By writing to our representatives, we could ensure that this bill is passed. Passage would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a national, standard definition of stillbirth and a standard protocol for stillbirth data collection and surveillance. This bill would also require the Secretary of the HHS to carry out a national campaign to increase public awareness and knowledge of stillbirth, much as the "Back to Sleep" campaign has done for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

We can save babies. We may not ever be able to save them all, but with research, we can certainly save some portion of those 26,000 we lose every year in the United States. No parent should go through the kind of heartbreak I have been through. No parent should spend the rest of her life wondering, 'What if?'

This day is set aside for remembering our little souls, who took a piece of us with them when they left us. Today, and every day, I remember Ben, and I remember Sam and Jack, Sophie, Henry, the twins, Dylan and Riley, and all the other babies who never came home.


Karen said...

Ginny, I think of you and Simon and Ben more than you know. I admire your courage and strength to share so that others can be comforted and helped. I will write letters about that bill and share your blog with others - I learned more by reading it and appreciate your honesty and advocacy. Peace, Karen

niobe said...

Thank you.

Monica H said...

You are so welcome, but you don't have to thank me for putting Ben on my Remembrance List. I think of him and you often.

And you're right about not saving all babies, but we can still try. If we don't try, then we'll always wonder "what if".

A fellow deadbaby mom once asked me why I was participating in the March Of Dimes. She asked me why I was raising money for them. She didn't understand. All she said was "It doesn't benefit you in any way..." I don't do it for me. I can't bring my boys back, but my (our) efforts may save someone else's.

Thank you for this beautiful post.

Russell said...

It is such a poignant entry today, and I know that it was not easy for you to write. You both have been an inspiration to many; more than you know. Thank you for letting us help.


Debbie said...

Thank you, Virginia. <3

Alice said...

Thank you for this. I know some statistics for the UK but not ones for your country and the wider world so that is helpful. I also am mystified why stillbirths are still such a hidden loss. Stillbirths are apparently ten times more common than cot death - but, as you say, who talks about them? I'm glad you feel as I do and send my love. Alice