October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month and a very special event here in Connecticut helps parents honor their little ones, gone too soon.
Formerly the Hygeia Foundation, Hope After Loss is currently growing, evolving and expanding. Along with a new name, logo and web site, the organization recently moved from Woodbridge to downtown New Haven to better serve it's clientele. It's all about reaching more parents - helping them talk about this difficult subject which can make a huge difference in healing.
"It's always an uncomfortable topic to talk about - pregnancy and infant loss. People don't know what to say...so, it's often silent. We're working on un-silencing and breaking the silence," says new Program Director Meghan Constantino. "What people need to know is: when you lose a child, we love talking about our children."
For Constantino, also a mid-wife, this topic is very personal: "Being a provider, I dealt with loss for a long time. I knew about Hygeia before I needed Hygeia."
Her daughter, Mabel, died in 2014. In-utero, the baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome. "We were very hopeful that things would go well in the pregnancy but at 27 weeks, we learned that her kidneys were failing and she had no fluid which would affect her lung development," explains Constantino, who went into labor at 36 weeks. "We were gifted 6 wonderful hours with her." Mabel's lungs were too small and she didn't respond to intervention. She passed away peacefully. Nine days later, Constantino found herself walking into a Hygeia support group meeting.
"It's sad but I'm sad regardless if I'm talking about her or not, so, when someone brings it up, it's music to my ears," she says, noting this is a common emotion amongst parents who have lost a small child. "They want to talk about it more but feel awkward, so, the more we talk, the more comfortable the community will be in dealing with this very common experience. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage."
The group is hosting a new support group in Middletown and has even more expansion plans. "Within the next year we hope to also extend into Hartford, Danbury and New London...there's a big need," says Constantino.
The upcoming walk is meaningful and collaborative. "We're coming together to honor and remember all of our babies who were gone too soon," says Constantino, pointing-out t-shirts bearing the babies' names. "It might seem like a small thing but, for us, when we don't get to see our babies everyday, to have something when their name is in print is amazing." Constantino, who gave birth to son Felix in June, says siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles all get involved in the special day.
Hope After Loss is also in the planning stages of forming a partnership with master's degree candidate students from the Quinnipiac School of Medicine and School of Social Work - who will attend support group meetings - to bring greater awareness to this type of loss.
Click here for more information about this important group.