Why do I work with Star Legacy Foundation toward stillbirth prevention?
by Lindsey Wimmer, RN, MSN, PHN, CPNP, CPLC - Executive Director
Like so many advocates in the stillbirth community, my "why" began with a personal experience. My first son, Garrett, was stillborn at 38 weeks gestation. Shortly after, I addressed our loss with many of our family and friends through a letter. I tried to describe how much this experience had changed my husband and me positively and negatively. I wanted to share what we had learned about ourselves, what it means to be a parent, and how we included our son in our lives moving forward. It was important to us that we found meaning in our grief and wanted to communicate that as a significant part of Garrett’s story. We received mixed reactions, but it was a significant step in my journey.
However, I didn’t share in that letter that I was pregnant again. We were starting our journey with pregnancy after loss. The innocence of my first pregnancy had been shattered, and I was feeling every physical and emotional element of this new pregnancy to the nth degree. I tried to stay positive because I didn’t know what else to do.
Once I held my second son – a living, breathing, healthy baby – I could finally reflect on our loss and both pregnancies. Every milestone was bittersweet because we appreciated how fortunate we were and enjoyed parenting this baby. But, it also helped us realize on a deeper level how much we lost when Garrett died. As much as you try to prepare for parenthood, some elements must be lived to be understood. Parenting a stillborn baby is no different.
Our friends and family were so happy and relieved with us that our second pregnancy had a happier ending. There is a natural desire to think that starting a new chapter means we can close the previous ones. I’ve met many families that this is true. But it wasn’t for me.
It was easier for me to believe all the clichés and platitudes about pregnancy loss immediately after Garrett died than after my subsequent babies were born. I was beyond grateful for the additional testing and monitoring I received during those pregnancies. At the very least, I wanted to know that we were doing everything possible to keep these babies safe. Those pregnancies had their issues – but they were things that we were able to identify and manage because of the additional care.
This additional care wasn’t invasive, expensive, or high-tech. But it made a difference. The hardest part of accepting that care was knowing that I only qualified for it because Garrett had died.
It makes sense to me that this level of care should be offered in every pregnancy. The arguments against it include more platitudes about cost-effective care and statistics. Those are harsh words to hear when someone is talking about your baby’s health. I couldn’t – and still can’t – get past the idea that we shouldn’t have to bury a baby to get the best care available.
So that became my extended “why.”
It’s been almost 18 years since Garrett was born and I wrote that letter to our loved ones. I could write several books about what more we have learned about being parents and grieving parents. Like every parenting journey – it has included the highest highs and the lowest lows. And so much love through it all. And we treasure every moment. But a parent’s job is never done. That is why I continue to work toward stillbirth prevention – so that future families will always get the best care available. My hope is that they will get that experience without the heartache first.