by Sherokee Ilse, Mpls, Minnesota, USA
As the one with the idea to promote this idea and select October as our Awareness Month, I was recently asked by the ISA Parent Advisory Committee to write about the history for our newsletter and to put it up on the ISA website.
I agreed wholeheartedly, and then began to wonder if my memory could really recapture it accurately.
Thankfully, I recently found the entire set of ‘Loving Arms’ Newsletters from the national organization I co-founded in 1983, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Center (the Center closed its doors in 2002). The newsletters chronicled the story, and now I will share a shortened version of the history. (May I suggest that those of you who have similar missions may want to consider writing down your group’s history. You just never know when you might want to recall it only to find the memories have become fuzzy).
Then I asked other components of Parent Advisory Committee to write about the history of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness activities in their countries.
by Sherokee Ilse
1983 – During the first year of the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Center’s (PILC) existence, plans were made to select a week in October and call it our First Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Week. I specifically chose October because the SIDS Alliance had previously made October SIDS Awareness Month, and I had hopes that one day we could work with them, learn from them, and benefit from their fine work in promoting SIDS and seeking causes and preventative strategies. (Happily, that time has arrived and they have adopted stillbirth as a serious cause helping to elevate it nationally in the legislature, in scientific circles, and elsewhere).
With the teamwork of our Assist. Director, Susan Martinez and our volunteer staff and board of over 50 people, we secured the first Governor’s Proclamation in the nation when Governor Perpich named October 1-7 as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Week. We held our first Memorial Service, a fundraising event, and two training sessions during that week. And we decided that one week was not enough time. We committed to make it the entire month of October the next year.
Our purpose and goals at the time were to – Reach out to more bereaved family and friends and to teach the world about this type of pain and encourage them to be good care providers and supportive family and friends. (See Why Have an Awareness Month above).
1984 – We invited groups and organizations in all other states to join in this idea, but we expanded it to the entire month of October. Many groups throughout the United States did, indeed, use the month for special activities.
1985 – We were not satisfied with each state doing their own Awareness Month. Instead, we began banging the drum for a National recognized month. The National slogan we put forth was – When Pregnancy Fails, we are here, we care. We worked hard with the media and had good success locally, regionally and even national.
1986 – RTS of La Crosse, WI (Rana Limbo and Sara Wheeler) sponsored a National Perinatal Bereavement Conference (the first was held in Mpls, MN in 1983). Prior to that conference, we worked with the RTS team and came up with the idea to hold the first “Walk to Remember” at the conference. In addition, we encouraged groups throughout the country to also hold such walks during the month. The purpose of the walks was to remember those special babies who had died and to promote education, awareness, and support.
We also began to seek a Presidential Proclamation.
1987 – PILC led a massive drive for the Presidential Proclamation and held a National Awareness Event in Washington, DC. Hundreds of people marched down the Mall towards the Capital carrying 500 baby quilts from all over the country and Canada. A beautiful Memorial Service was held, organized by Connie Furrh and her Okalahoma team on the Capital steps where all the quilts were displayed. Sadly, no press attended the press conference, but the seeds were sown for big things as groups worked tirelessly around the country with their legislators seeking the Presidential Proclamation.
1988 – President Ronald Reagan issued the long-awaited proclamation on October 25, 1988. (www.pregnancyandinfantloss.org – Presidential Proclamation wording). The celebration would have to wait until the next year, given when it was issued.
1999 – Robyn Bear and Lisa Brown began a grassroots campaign and found state leaders for every state in the USA.
1999-2003 – Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown and 50 state leaders around the country succeeded in receiving Governor Proclamations in EVERY STATE proclaiming October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
2006 – Robyn Bear began promoting the October 15th Wave of Light after receiving Governor Proclamations from all 50 States around the USA . The creative Wave of Lights concept asks everyone to light a candle at 7 pm for one hour in their time zone on October 15th which will result in a wave of light around the globe honoring all babies who have died.
September 28, 2006 – Robyn Bear, along with the help of Congressman Tom Latham succeeded in having House Resolution # 222 passed in the House of Representatives supporting the goals and ideals of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
2008 – Robyn Bear and her website expand their mission and offer to be the official collector of all pregnancy and infant loss events during October throughout the world. When people want to know what is going on in their community or in some other country they need only go to: www.pregnancyandinfantloss.org to find out.
October 15th is now recognized globally as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
by Claudia Ravaldi e Alfredo Vannacci
The first celebration of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in Italy took place in 2007. It was only during the annual congress of the International Stillbirth Alliance in Birmingham in October 2007 that Claudia Ravaldi and Alfredo Vannacci from CiaoLapo Onlus came aware of the existence of such a celebration. Only few days after coming back to Italy, CiaoLapo tried to inform Italian parents about the celebration, and organized a memorial ceremony in Florence.
On October 15th 2007, a small group of bereaved parents in Florence met together for a balloon release on the top of Piazzale Michelangelo at 6 pm.
At 7 pm a wave of light was started locally and in every house of CiaoLapo bereaved parents in Italy. We received some important feedback from parents, saying that commemorating babies helped families and friends to be closer to them.
Since then, many more celebrations, as well as national meetings, were hold every year during all October.
di Sue Hale
Babyloss is a UK-based resource of information and support for bereaved parents and their families who have lost a baby at any stage of pregnancy, at birth, or due to neonatal death. The organisation was established in 2000, and is run by a small team of volunteer administrators and forum moderators.
Babyloss Awareness Week – how it all began
October 15th 2002 saw the first Awareness Day to be held in the UK by Babyloss.com. It was initiated to raise awareness of the emotional impact of pregnancy loss and infant loss, and, through the sale of blue and pink ribbon pins, to support major UK charities that are instrumental in supporting bereaved parents.
The event raised several thousand pounds from the sale of ribbon pins. Profits were split between the following five national organisations, in recognition of the tireless support that they give to bereaved parents and their families: ARC (Antenatal Results and Choices), the Babyloss fund, Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, Miscarriage Association and SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society).
The 2003 Awareness Week proved even more successful. The campaign was featured on national and regional television, with wide coverage in the press and on the major parenting websites. A central service of remembrance, held at the American Church in London, was an emotional highlight of the week.
We also joined the global Wave of Light on October 15th, linking up with bereaved families across the world to light a candle in memory of lost babies. Many other services of remembrance were held across the UK, giving bereaved parents and their families the opportunity of quiet reflection.
How can I get involved with Babyloss?
The babyloss website is run by volunteers, who give up their time to support other bereaved parents, organise fundraising and remembrance events, and update the website. If you would like to help, we would love to hear from you! Please get in touch by contacting Charlotte Forder, Director, at email@example.com or by writing to the address above.
Sands Queensland has celebrated Awareness Day since 2003.
The first year was commemorated by the release of doves, parents saying their babies’ names and the unveiling of a new wallhanging to be used as a memory creation tool for parents. Succeeding years have seen Awareness Day celebrations include the release of butterflies and balloons and the lighting of candles. A Sands group in Townsville has also conducted “A Walk to Remember – to take the steps that they couldn’t.” The memorial services are spiritual in nature and give parents an opportunity to gather with like-minded people to remember and reflect on their experiences.
More information on the website: www.sands.org.au