MORGANTOWN, W.Va — As October draws to a close, so does Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. After the loss of a child, many parents experience agonizing isolation.
“I think of the times that I sat in Noah’s Nursery in tears, depressed, thinking about killing myself,” said Jenifer Richmond. “And I think if the mailman had rung the doorbell, or if I checked the mail and gotten that package, how much better I would have felt.”
Richmond founded Now Our Angel is in Heaven Foundation, or N.O.A.H., after the loss of her son in 2011. The Foundation provides stillbirth packages to hospitals that nurses can easily provide grieving families. The boxes are labeled boy and girl, and contain information and items to help the parents in the those difficult first days.
Many parents experience loneliness, because people don’t know how to address the loss of their child. For Richmond, she found talking about Noah healing.
“People are afraid to bring it up because they don’t want to upset the parent,” she said. “What I can tell you is you’re not going to bring up something they’re not already thinking about. […] Let the parent know that you do want to hear about their baby.”
There are also certain things that health officials like Mon General Perinatal Nurse Navigator Jennifer Bender caution against saying to a parent grieving a loss.
“Things not to say: ‘God needed another angel’ […] or ‘don’t worry you’ll have another baby.”
For Richmond, starting the N.O.A.H. Foundation helped her during the grieving process.
“I decided I didn’t want anybody else to feel the way that I was.”Jennifer Richmond, N.O.A.H. Founder
The care and support for grieving parents starts from day one, with Mon General nurses like Holly Hudkins. Mon nurses in Labor and Delivery specialize in bringing life into the world, but they are also trained to deal with loss.
“We just set them up with everything they want, that they ask for,” said Hudkins. Part of that care includes supplying the boxes put together by N.O.A.H.
“There’s two diapers that they put in. They match one small and one bigger. The reason we do that is so they can bury the baby in one and then take the other one home as a keepsake. There’s things like buttons and candles that say ‘in remembrance of my daughter or my son’; there’s things to make ink handprints or clay handprints. ”
Bender says the moments families spend with their babies after a miscarriage or stillbirth are precious to parents. “There’s things to bathe the baby, which people don’t think about, but it’s a very special thing to bath your baby that one time.”
Families who previously have lost children pray over the boxes before they go out. They’ve supplied over 800 boxes so far. Richmond says she hopes her boxes can save a life.
“When we don’t talk about it, we’re leaving people in silence, and they hurt.”
Recently, the mayor of Lewisburg signed a proclamation recognizing Pregnancy Infant Loss and Awareness Month. Richmond says if other families would like to write a proclamation for their city, N.O.A.H would be happy to help.