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When a pregnancy ends tragically, the grief can be enormous
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By JANET MARSHALL
Charity Pickett was 6 months into her second pregnancy and ready to be a mother. After an earlier miscarriage, she and her husband had longed for another child.
This time, pregnant with a baby girl, Pickett was well past the period when most miscarriages occur. "Smooth sailing," she said of her pregnancy.
But in early May, a few months before her due date, Pickett felt something strange. Her baby's movements were different. "It was weird," Pickett said.
Not wanting to wait a weekend for reassurance, Pickett called her doctor's office on a Friday afternoon. The 28-year-old went in for an examination and got shockingly awful news: Her baby had died.
Pickett, a Realtor who lives near Lake Anna, was admitted to Mary Washington Hospital to deliver her deceased baby girl.
Several months later, what still stands out to her is the unexpected level of compassion she experienced during and after her hospital stay.
A bedside nurse stayed with her during her 10-hour labor, at times crying with her. She got to hold her daughter, with gentle encouragement to do so.
She received photos of her little one and impressions of her daughter's tiny feet.
And yesterday, Pickett and her husband planned to attend a memorial service organized by the hospital to recognize their loss--and the losses of other area families whose cherished ones died in the womb.
The hospital began holding such group services in April after buying 20 adult-sized burial plots at Oak Hill Cemetery on State Route 3.
"We have learned that people are able to heal better when they know the final resting place of their child," said Tammi Ruiz, the hospital's perinatal bereavement coordinator.
For people who suffer a loss during pregnancy, the service can provide powerful recognition of the depth of their suffering. Their pain isn't always fully grasped, even by loved ones.
"Some people, because there's no child running around, they don't see it," Pickett said. "But it's no different than a death in the family."'It's not OK. It's tragic.'
Though miscarriages are far from rare, many couples who experience them feel alone with their grief.
"Nobody talks about it," Pickett said. "[Yet] if something's ever said about, it, all these people suddenly start raising their hands. 'This happened to me,' or 'This happened to my mom.'"