SYRACUSE The smell of Laurie Farrell’s daughter is starting to fade from the box of mementos she brought home from the hospital five years ago.
The contents of the hand-painted box — a Beanie Baby, a receiving blanket, a small knitted cap, a crocheted blanket, a tiny gold ring and a bracelet — is all Farrell has left of her little girl. Emily was stillborn in November of 2008.
“These are things she wore, and these are amazing mementos for me as a parent,” said Farrell, of Onondaga Hill. “Every year when I open it up on the anniversary date, I can still smell her.”
Sadly, Farrell’s story is hardly unique. Many parents have suffered the loss of an unborn child or infant. About 1 in 160 pregnancies result in stillbirth, and 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Infant loss is also all too common; in the U.S., about 19,000 babies die within their first month of life, whether it’s due to birth defects, prematurity, low birth weight or unknown causes (SIDS). October is Perinatal and Infant Bereavement Awareness Month, and Oct. 15 is set aside as a day of remembrance and awareness for these types of deaths.
“We’re not supposed to outlive our children,” said Janet Press, RN, perinatal obstetrical coordinator and bereavement coordinator for Central New York’s hospitals. “It’s not the natural order of things. It makes you question everything.”
Creating a network
Fortunately, there is support for those families who have suffered such a loss. Press is a founding member of the Central New York Perinatal and Infant Bereavement Network (CNY-PIBN), which brings together professionals from Crouse Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center (their program is coordinated by Mary Ann Dwyer), Upstate University Hospital and the Sudden Infant and Child Death Resource Center, as well as bereaved parents, to provide resources for grieving families, including literature, social events and referrals to counseling. Each hospital provides a variety of services to bereaved families while they are hospitalized. Upon discharge, those families continue to receive support be notified of CNY-PIBN services and support when they are discharged from the hospital.