October 12, 2008

Families Gather to Remember Lost Babies

By Clayton Norlen Deseret News

The balloons floated away from the families gathered at the Larkin Sunset Lawn Cemetery Saturday, yet the names and faces of those lost remained with the parents and siblings left behind.

Share Parents of Utah and the Larkin Mortuary hosted a memorial walk and ceremony for parents and family members to commemorate children who never came to term or died shortly after birth. Many in attendance said they were thankful for the opportunity to gather in memory of their children and join with families who had experienced similar losses.

Julia Jeffery, a member of Share, discovered nearly two years ago that her son had died because of a lack of oxygen and blood flow through the umbilical cord. She said that words were not capable of expressing the grief patents who have lost pregnancies share. Jeffery

said she sought the support of Share two weeks after her son's death because of frustration and a desire to be with people who understood her feelings.

"(Share) has been a place where I can find other parents who understand the pain of losing a child," Jeffery said. "There is a level of understanding that neighbors and relatives can't grasp if they haven't been through it themselves."

At the memorial service a blue balloon with the name "Lucas" drifted into the air in honor of Jeffery's son.

Parents and family spoke to one another in soft voices as children romped over seats and benches. October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and it is an issue the U.S. is struggling to address.

In 1980 the U.S. was ranked 18th among industrialized nations in infant mortality, but in 2002 the nation slipped to 25th. However, Utah has typically done well in this category, ranking second lowest in the nation for in infant mortality, bested only by Maine. In Utah the overall average for infant deaths is 5.1 per 1,000 live births, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Committee to Build a Healthier America.

While Utah may be fortunate to experience fewer instances of infant mortality, parents who experience a death can still find support. Share Parents of Utah is a nonprofit organization of parents and professionals working together to help families who have suffered a pregnancy loss.

Myrna and Ortho Fairbanks lost their son Hyrum almost 41 years ago, yet attending events like the one held at Larkin Mortuary Saturday allows the memories to flow again, Ortho said.

"It's special meeting with a group like this," Myrna Fairbanks said. "Here we share a common bond of sorrow, but we all feel different things for different reasons based on our lives and faith."

The couple said they have received strength from other families who have lost a child, too. They described the support and understanding that groups like Share offer as "invaluable" throughout the grieving process.

Every winter on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. the Fairbankses gather with other families at the Salt Lake City Cemetery to honor children like Hyrum who died in infancy. Ortho created the angel statue where families gather and he encouraged families who lost an infant to attend.

Support meetings for Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss are monthly. For information on meeting times and locations, contact their information line at 801-272-5355 for the Salt Lake Area and 801-544- 1159 for Davis.

E-mail: [email protected]

(c) 2008 Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.