“This is for my Janey.” Mile 26 of Sunday’s New York City Marathon meant something special for FDNY Lt. Mark Donohue. This mile, like the 25 before it, was dedicated to a stillborn baby. But unlike the other miles, this baby was his own.
On Feb. 20, Donohue got a heartbreaking call from his wife. At 37 weeks pregnant, they had lost their baby, Jane. “I didn’t know what to do, it was a dark time,” he recalls.
Stillbirth, when a woman loses a baby 20 or more weeks into pregnancy, affects about 1% of all pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Donohue says he wants to change that statistic.
To raise awareness at each mile marker of the race, Donohue read a fact about stillbirth and dedicated that mile to a stillborn baby in a Facebook Live on his page Mark’s Miles for Babies.
“It’s an uncomfortable thing for people to talk about,” Donohue says. “The silence is deafening. And the silence impedes progress.”
The causes of many stillbirths are unknown, according to the CDC. Donohue says that’s one reason funding for research is so important.
“In my household, I have two daughters, I have a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old and I have Jane,” Donohue says. “We talk about Jane because she is part of our family. She is with us.”
Donohue and his wife Amanda helped to start the New York chapter of the Star Legacy Foundation, which is dedicated to stillbirth research, education and awareness. “We want to let people know that if they go through it, there are people there like us to support them.”
As he approached the 26th mile — Jane’s mile, Donohue says the emotional weight of his actions started to settle in. “It was the end of the marathon,” he recalls. “I was banged up. But I did it. I did it for Jane. This is my time spent with my daughter on this run.”