by Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

Jennifer Curtis, Olathe, has a wish. She wants to say her baby’s name without tears on her face.

“I want to get to where I can talk about her and not cry,” she said. “I’m just trying to make myself talk about it. It will help me process it.”

Curtis and her husband joined other grieving couples last month at the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. The program meets for an hour and a half on the second Monday every month. Curtis attended the support group in order to talk openly about her loss. In her sixth month of pregnancy, the baby they named Sydney Faith died on Jan. 25, 2011. “Just to kind of talk and be able to be honest and not have anybody judge,” she said.

Curtis, 39, and her husband have a 1-year-old boy, Landon, and would like another child. She wants to summon the courage to try again.

“It was so hard,” she said. “To imagine it can happen twice, it’s real tough. As soon as I get over that fear, I’d like to have another.”

Curtis said each couple in the group has a different story and circumstance, but they all share in the loss of their baby either during pregnancy or after delivery. She said the program’s facilitator encourages dialogue only if someone feels ready to talk. Curtis likes the unstructured format and open-ended time line. She plans to attend as long as she needs it.

“It was just pretty open,” she said. “You just spoke when you were ready to.”

Curtis was ready to talk at her first class. Maybe she could help someone else in an earlier stage of grief. After all, she said, each time she talks about her situation she moves closer to healing herself.

“For someone new, maybe sharing my story will help them,” Curtis said. “By talking about it, it will help me come full circle.”

Coco McAtee, perinatal social worker at Overland Park Regional Center, said the program is the hospital’s first support group for parents grieving a pregnancy or baby. McAtee co-facilitates the monthly program, saying she saw a need.

“It’s new,” she said. “There are other groups in other parts of our city but not very many.

It’s our first attempt at offering this and partly because we have expanded our NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and we have a high-risk pregnancy unit. With both of those populations you see more, unfortunately, losses.”

McAtee said couples are opting for more fertility procedures such as in vitro fertilization, which have a higher risk of loss with multiple fertilizations.

The program is open to anyone in the community, no matter where a couple sought medical treatment. McAtee said the death of a baby can be devastating.

“Because for one thing, it’s just not supposed to happen,” McAtee said. “Babies are not supposed to die and yet they do.”

Meghan Stremel, RN, women’s surgery, co-facilitates the Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Support Group with McAtee. Stremel said with her background in labor, mother- baby and perinatal services she helps parents with medical questions and ad- dresses other lingering questions. Stremel said mothers who experience loss receive immediate support in the hospital, but they leave needing more.

“When they leave, we found there’s just not a lot of support,” she said. “It’s when they go home that they really need the support. That’s really what I want to help them with.”

Stremel said the class will evolve as parents share their stories with one another.

“I think it’s really a great program,” she said. “I do see it growing, unfortunately. It’s a sad topic, but it needs to be there.”

Fast Facts
Pregnancy and Infant
Loss Support Group
Meets 6:30 to 8 p.m. second Mondays
Medical Plaza West (behind hospital).