This is what losing a baby feels like
Paula Harmon’s daughter Grace had only a five per cent chance of surviving when she was born in distress at just 26 weeks.
After more than seven months in intensive care Grace recovered, one of two twins to survive a lethal listeriosis infection suffered by Harmon.
Three years later on Dec. 28, 2016, Grace was back in hospital what seemed like a simple infection, but was really an unforeseen complication from her traumatic birth.
“Eighteen hours later she died,” recalled Harmon. “After Grace died, I now had to find a new reality.”
Part of that new reality for Harmon is her organization Gardens of Grace in Dartmouth, which fights for Nova Scotian families who lose babies to have the emotional support, counselling and other services they need.
Harmon is also joining forces with fellow mother Raylene MacPherson and Pictou East MLA Tim Houston to re-introduce the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Act.
If passed in legislature, the bill will proclaim Oct. 15 as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, which Houston said would encourage people to speak out and demand broader change to help grieving families.
“We all know a family that has experienced the devastating loss of a pregnancy or child,” said Houston. “They’re heartbreaking losses, but for many years people only spoke of them in hushed tones and the secrecy attached to the subject meant that too many women and their families suffered in silence, they grieved alone with no support.”
MacPherson, who suffered two miscarriages, said that lost babies and infants were already honoured in communities across the globe and urged Nova Scotians to do the same on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m.
“If you have suffered a loss, or know of a loved one who has suffered a loss, I encourage you to find a vigil near you or light a candle in your home in memory of our sweet babies gone too soon,” said MacPherson as she fought back tears.
Twenty-eight Nova Scotian municipalities and counting already recognize Oct. 15 as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. According to MacPherson, 25 per cent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage, but Nova Scotian families can only access support groups at the IWK in Halifax or in Sydney, leaving out many in smaller communities.
She said that Pictou County had to “set some standards,” for doctors and other healthcare professionals caring for families who lose a young child.
“The subject is so taboo, I didn’t know it was such a common thing before I had my first miscarriage,” said MacPherson.