By Leslie Albrecht | June 26, 2015 10:28am |
PARK SLOPE — A Brooklyn beauty queen is using her moment in the spotlight to bring attention to something no one wants to talk about: stillbirth.
Marjorie Vail, Mrs. New York International 2015, lost her firstborn child in the delivery room 10 years ago and has made stillbirth awareness her platform as a pageant winner.
“I know that stillbirth is really a tough subject to talk about, but I think as women we should unite, whether it’s happened to us or hasn’t happened to us,” Vail said.
“We want to put it in the forefront, not to scare people, but we want people to know what signs to look for so it’s not a shock.”
Vail is the New York chapter leader for the Star Legacy Foundation, a group dedicated to raising awareness about stillbirth and supporting families who go through it. The foundation advocates for the collection of data about stillbirths, so researchers can better understand its causes. It also promotes hospital policies such as allowing families to spend time with stillborn babies.
This Saturday Vail is hosting an event at Park Slope Christian Tabernacle to raise money for the foundation, which was a godsend during a dark chapter in her life, she said.
“I didn’t know anything about stillbirth — I didn’t even think it could happen,” Vail said. “It was a very intense tragedy that we had to struggle through ourselves because there was no help.”
The event, called Healthy Women = Healthy World, will feature yoga and Zumba workouts as well as guest speakers and a session on how pregnant women can track their baby’s movements — an important indicator of fetal health.
Vail, who is Haitian, said she comes from a culture where pregnant women aren’t given bad news to protect them when they’re carrying a child. She was 27 during her first pregnancy and didn’t even know that stillbirth was something that could happen, she said.
Her pregnancy was normal until the moment the baby was born. At the end of her labor she and her husband saw the baby’s head crown, then something went wrong.
“At first we heard both our heartbeats and then we heard just my heartbeat,” Vail said.
She was rushed to an operating room but her baby, Aleksei, died. It turned out Vail had a condition called velamentous cord insertion, which deprived the baby of blood during labor.
Vail, who lives in Ditmas Park, is now a second grade teacher at P.S. 34 on the Lower East Side. She’s also the proud mom of a 9-year-old son. Next month she competes in the Mrs. International pageant in Jacksonville, Fla.
Some people are little shocked when they hear that she’s chosen such a dark topic for her pageant platform, which contestants discuss during the interview portion of the competition.
But Vail says she’s committed to spreading the word about stillbirth, which happens in about 26,000 pregnancies a year.
“The more we know, the more prepared we are,” she said.
Healthy Women = Healthy World, an event in support of the Star Legacy Foundation, takes place on Saturday, June 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Park Slope Christian Tabernacle at 98 Fifth Ave.