Finding Support For Grieving Infant Loss

Topeka (WIBW) - Robin Clingan was excited. She laughs that she'd finally convinced her husband they were ready to have a child and, after several months of trying, they were expecting their first.

Last November, they went for their checkup at 36 weeks. Everything was fine. But the next day, Robin went into labor. They went to the hospital and doctors could no longer hear a heartbeat. Less than 24 hours later, Sydney was stillborn.

One day their little girl was fine, Robin said. The next, she was gone. An autopsy showed she's succombed to a rare fungal infection.

Robin says the first couple months were tough. Still in shock, she wondered if she'd ever be happy again. After some individual therapy, she decided to try Stormont-Vail's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group.

The group was started 20 years ago. The idea was born from nurse Libby Rosen's experience when her daughter, Laura, was stillborn.

Rosen says the support group gives people a chance to validate that they did have hopes, plans and dreams for this little one and they need a place where they can process and work through those emotions.

The first emotion if often guilt, a feeling they did something wrong. Dr. John Evans, who deals with high-risk pregnancies at Maternal and Fetal Medicine, says he first reassures parents that there are lots of conditions over which we have no control.

He also advices family and friends to be supportive. He says no matter if it was a few weeks into a pregnancy or the baby was carried to term, it is a loss of a person for whom the parents had hopes and dreams and should be treated as such.

The support group not only connects people who've been through the experience, it also acknowledges the children through activities like planting a tree at 8th and Horne with a special plaque, and making quilts with squares dedicated to these little angels.

Rosen says being able to have a symbol of who the person was and what they meant in your life can help people on their journey of grief.

It helped Robin. Sydney will always be her firstborn, but it's okay to move on. She says through meeting people like Rosen, she now knows things will get better.

The support group meets from 6 to 8 pm, the first and third Thursdays of the month in the Humphrey Room at Pozez Education Center, 1505 SW 8th. Evans will speak at their next meeting, August 5th.


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