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A Candle For The Children

It was October of 1999. My wife and I were expecting our first child sometime around Christmas that year, but-some seven months along-the baby girl we named Faith died.

It was devastating, but we were buoyed by loving friends and the power of prayer. God saw us through some dark days.

Yes, I'll admit, it still hurts, but it does no good to play the “what if” game. While God has chosen to bless us with a second child, we both feel we have two children-one with us, and one in heaven.

Next Monday, October 15, the Pregnancy Support Center of Southside Virginia will recognize Pregnancy And Infant Loss Remembrance Day at the Prince Edward County courthouse steps. The program, which will begin at 6:30 p.m., will honor the memory and the brief life of the children who have died at or near birth.

Though few, it seems, talk about it, families experience such losses way more than most expect.

In Virginia, according to Virginia Department of Health statistics, there were 6,590 “natural fetal deaths” in 2010, with a 3.99 rate per 1,000 for ages 15-44. There were 93 in Planning District 14-which includes Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties. There were 10 in Cumberland, 14 in Buckingham, and 24 in Prince Edward.

Again, these are just the reported figures for a single year.

It touches everyone; out of the 24 reported instances in Prince Edward, for example, 13 were white, 11 black.

Sadly, 2010 was no aberration. There were 6,585 natural fetal deaths in 2009 in Virginia, including 67 in the planning district; 7,437 in 2008, with 64 in the planning district; 7,362 in 2007, with 97 in the planning district; and 6,918 in 2006, with 84 in the planning district.

Including 27 in Prince Edward County alone-14 white, 13 black.

We could go on and on and interpret, but these are numbing numbers. And real numbers, too-where real moms and real dads lost their children.

All across the nation, people are being asked to light a candle in remembrance of the children at 7 p.m. next Monday.

“I am honored that the Pregnancy Support Center can be involved in this national event that recognizes the loss so many parents experience,” Pregnancy Support Center Director Pam Gill said in a released statement. “It is my hope that this event will bring awareness to what so many have faced alone and grieve daily for and give them a chance to remember and honor the gift they will be reunited with in heaven.”

President Ronald Reagan, in 1988, first proclaimed October as the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

“Each year,” the resolution reads, “approximately a million pregnancies in the United states end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a newborn child. National observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, 1988, offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies. It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members and work to prevent causes of these problems.”

“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS and other causes.” -President Ronald Reagan

This coming Monday, all who have been impacted-individuals, families and friends-with such a loss are invited to come to the Prince Edward County courthouse.

No, we can't hold the children.

Or tell them they can't have a pony or a fourth puppy.

Or even kiss them on the cheek when they're sleeping.

But we can honor them by remembering.

I plan to be there for Faith.

(To see the Lifeprints column, visit The Herald's facebook page for the link.)