LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A large spotlight shined near the state capitol Tuesday night.
It represented the impact on parents of losing a child during pregnancy, and there are too many Arkansans who know that pain.
It was part of the Wave of Light event held inside the Victory Building. For the sixth consecutive year, Little Rock participated in the event, which coincides with Infant Loss Awareness Day.
Jennifer Thomas was one of the featured speakers. She is like most parents in many ways, but she is also unlike most parents.
“I have four kids,” she said with pride. “Two are here on this Earth. Their names are Jonathan—he’s 12—and Daniel—he’s 8. And then we have two babies that are in Heaven.”
Thomas lost two daughters–one early in her pregnancy, and a second, which she named Gracie Lynn—in 2009. Gracie Lynn was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in the womb and died two weeks later.
“And we just chose to really just enjoy the time that we had with her,” Thomas recalled. “And so, we sang songs and read books, and went shopping and went out to eat, and just did lots of fun things that we would want to do with her for that little bit of time that she was here.”
Thomas said she did not know much about the support available to parents like her until after Gracie Lynn’s death.
“We feel bad for people, but we don’t necessarily want to talk about it,” she said.
Thomas’ discovery came in the form of a box she received not long after her daughter passed.
“And this had a blanket, a wrap, a tunic, a little hat to fit her head, a prayer card, and a precious little teddy bear,” she said. “And the teddy bear was just perfect for her. Just her little teddy bear to keep.”
Thomas saw the name Holy Sews on the label and sent a note and a donation to the Little Rock-based non-profit. She eventually became a volunteer, and in the nine years that followed, her whole family has helped send thousands of gift boxes to parents around the country. Holy Sews now reaches all 50 states and has international partnerships, as well.
“It’s really exciting to see that growth,” she stated. “But, even more than that, it’s very humbling, because you realize just how many people have lost and are continuing to lose a baby.”
Thomas said it is easy for parents to isolate themselves after losing an infant, assuming nobody in their social circle understands their pain.
Approximately one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and Wave of Light allows parents to understand how many people share their pain and how many want to help.
“There’s also different organizations who are out there and want to help and want to be that community for you,” Thomas said.
Several organizations set up tables to explain the services they offer and support groups that parents can join.
Mothers and fathers, alike, wore special shirts to honor their children. Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor at UAMS, shared his story about what it is like to be a father whose child died before birth.
“I think the thing that every person who’s experienced a loss wants others to realize,” Thomas explained, “is they are a mommy and they are a daddy, that this is their child. They were so wanted and so loved, and they still are, even though they may not be here on Earth, they are still so loved.”
After the speeches, the parents moved outside to light memorial candles and look at the spotlight. It shined bright against the foggy Little Rock night, as if to reveal the power of the memory of a deceased child.
Thomas said nights like this and talking about all four of her kids help her feel like she has what she needs in life.
“God has revealed himself so much to us in our loss,” she stated, “and He has just lifted us up so much that it’s hard not to feel that love to overwhelm the deep sense of grief that is there, as well.”
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