A month after her first daughter Reagan was born Stephanie Hoosen found herself on the nursery floor putting away her bows when the tears began to flow. Her husband, Steve, joined her and the two finally felt the full effect of their grief.
“The hardest part – not knowing why,” Stephanie said. “She battled fiercely and defied odds for so long, but there was nothing more doctors could do, and we knew it was time to let her go.”
The couple soon agreed they wanted to celebrate Reagan’s short but impactful life. They and other families can honor their children at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Carle’s Shining Light Memorial for Pregnancy and Infant Loss with a simple service, candle-lighting ceremony and walk in the memorial garden. Those who can’t attend can submit their baby’s name online.
Carle’s perinatal bereavement coordinator Linda Ellison said the memorial gives families an opportunity to be with others who have experienced loss and to offer a touch point to honor the life of their child.
“The event is for any type of pregnancy loss – miscarriage, stillbirth or infant but we welcome anyone who needs comfort and support,” Ellison said.
Families like the Hoosens attend annually and now know the names and faces of others who understand what they’re going through. And they share openly with others who don’t.
“A lot of people find it uncomfortable to talk about it – it’s sad. But it’s also a part of life. So many others came forward to share their stories of loss after we experienced ours,” Stephanie said.
The annual event gives her a special time to remember Reagan and breaks the silence.
“We never want someone else’s child to be a reminder of what we lost,” she said. “We welcome questions and we want our friends to share their milestones and memories and children with us. It reminds us of the happy times we did have.”
For 30 days almost to the minute, precious Reagan proved doctors wrong.
“We’d been closely monitored since I was 20 weeks pregnant. Numerous visits and tests warned us her undeveloped lungs may make it difficult for her to survive,” Stephanie said. “That’s why I was so surprised when she came into this world literally screaming.”
Despite excellent care and close monitoring from Carle’s Maternal Fetal Medicine and Neonatal Intensive Care teams, Reagan could not overcome her obstacles.
The Hoosens had been sleeping on the floor nearby when the doctor came in.
“I knew right away – something was wrong,” Stephanie said.
She called their family and prepared to say goodbye.
Reagans’ grandparents arrived to hold her for the first – and last – time. Doctors, nurses and Reagan’s family stood watch while she passed.
“You never really get over it. You just learn to live a new normal. Every day I think about her,” Stephanie said. “I was prepping for her to come home. She had diapers, toys and a car seat. I didn’t know what to do with any of those things now.”
She said it took a while to be happy again and to laugh. But talking about Reagan helps.
“She’s still a part of our family. We talk about her with our other children, Beckett, 2, and Ruth, 6 months, so they can connect,” she said. “We’ll all attend the service together.”
Families from all over the world can participate as the U.S. recognizes October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month.
“No matter how much time has passed whether yesterday or 20 years ago, the pain and loss is real. We seek to acknowledge and remember,” Ellison said.