NVFP Presents: Understanding Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, Support, and Hope
In honor of October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, NVFP is honored to welcome Callie Hawkins and Jason Hobbie to share the story of their stillborn son, Coley. Dr. Cecily Havert guides this panel discussion which also includes Dr. Lauren Messinger and Benta Sims, LPC, two healthcare professionals who supported and bore witness to this couple’s painful loss. Join them for a conversation that will help pave the way towards more understanding, awareness, and compassion around pregnancy loss.
Why do we honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month?
Pregnancy and infant loss can be a deeply painful and uncomfortable thing to talk about, but it affects more people than you might realize. One in four women face a pregnancy loss at some point in their lives, whether through a miscarriage, a therapeutic abortion, or a stillbirth. It’s important to create safe and compassionate spaces to share experiences of grief and loss. Healing doesn’t happen alone; it happens in community. During this town hall, we are honored to hear Callie and Jason share the story of their stillborn son, Coley.
Experiences of love and loss
Callie and Jason were eager for the birth of their first child, Coley. They had developed a strong connection with their OB-GYN, Dr. Messinger, and had no reason to anticipate birthing complications. But shortly after Callie went into labor, the couple received the devastating news that their son had no heartbeat. Dr. Messinger was present through the whole process, holding space for the immense grief beginning to wash over them. “What I learned was you need to be human with your patients,” Dr. Messinger reflects. “Even though I don’t necessarily know the right words to say, I have learned that you just come in with your heart on your sleeve…and just be there for them.” Callie and Jason were grateful for her unwavering support, as well as the respect that the hospital staff showed them.
The aftermath of infant loss
The aftermath of Coley’s death was difficult for many reasons. Callie and Jason recall how it felt to come back home as new parents, holding great love for a child that they could not bring home with them. They describe feelings of aloneness and isolation as they grappled with the finality of loss. But the couple was also supported by a wonderful counselor, Benta, who held space through this difficult time. “It’s really the most human work that we do,” Benta says of grief. “I mean, sitting with someone who’s grieving, human being to human being, not trying to fix it or solve it. Because that grief makes so much sense; it is in direct line with how much someone loves the human being they lost in their lives.”
Although grieving is never done, Callie and Jason have found ways to seek healing and pour back into the community. Callie regularly attends and leads an infant loss support group. The couple has continued to work with Benta through the birth of their beloved second son, Fletcher. Callie also curated a remarkable D.C. exhibit on grief and child loss that weaves the story of the Lincoln family’s child loss with the stories of nine modern families who have lost children. At the center of the exhibit lies a tree with removable leaves. Callie invites visitors to share the story of their own deceased loved ones on these leaves. “My own grief and love are the seeds that planted that exhibit,” Callie attests. “To the extent that it can nurture other people and bring them in community with each other is, to me, part of Coley’s legacy.”
Reflections on Grief and Child Loss is a first of its kind exhibit that bridges the Lincolns’ experience of the death of their children with modern families whose children have died inexplicably or from illness, disease, physical and gun violence and identify themes and ideas to bring light to the experience of child loss across time and experience – https://www.lincolncottage.org/exhibit/exhibit-on-grief/
Support groups virtual and in Northern Virginia:
- MIS Share – www.misshare.org
- Subsequent Pregnancy after A Loss (SPAL) – [email protected]
- DC PLIDS (Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Peer Support Group) – https://dc-plids.org
- PALS, Pregnancy After Loss Support – https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.org
- Postpartum Support International – https://www.postpartum.net
- RESOLVE – Infertility Support and Support Groups – www.resolve.org
- Return to Zero: H.O.P.E. – https://rtzhope.org
- Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep – www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org
- Star Legacy Foundation – www.starlegacyfoundation.org
- Glow in the Woods – www.glowinthewoods.com
- Still Standing Online Magazine – http://stillstandingmag.com
- A Bed for My Heart – www.abedformyheart.com
- Miss Foundation – www.missfoundation.org
- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support – www.nationalshare.org
- Pregnancy Loss & Infant Death Alliance – www.plida.org
- The Compassionate Friends – www.compassionatefriends.org
- The International Stillbirth Alliance – http://www.stillbirthalliance.org
- First Candle – http://www.firstcandle.org
- Babies Remembered – http://www.babiesremembered.org
- American SIDS Institute – https://www.SIDS.org