5 resources for military families dealing with infant loss

By Lydia E.

“Are you ready to hold your baby?”

My hands began to shake as I reached out to take the bundle resting in the Chaplain’s arms. I bit my bottom lip, trying to fight the tears that hadn’t stopped streaming from my now-puffy eyes for the past 36 hours.

I had come in for a routine pregnancy check-up the day before. To be honest, I had had a strong sense that something was wrong for a couple days but squelched the fear that threatened to overtake me.

My baby is fine. I’m just being paranoid.

But our baby was not fine.

I watched the midwife’s eyebrows furrow as she lightly nudged my belly around, trying to get even the faintest flicker of a heartbeat. The sound of empty static filled our ears.

Silence had never been so deafening than in that very moment. 

The midwife excused herself from the room while she went to find the head obstetrician. I turned to my husband.

“We lost our baby,” I whispered, my voice cracking as I spoke.

After confirmation through an ultrasound, we were whisked to a delivery room in the upper floor of the Naval Hospital. I was too far along to receive a D&C. I had to be induced.

Delivery room. I felt like the very words were mocking me. Delivery rooms were meant to be full of joy and the sound of newborn baby cries. Instead, suffocating silence filled the room as I gave birth to the lifeless body of our baby. No newborn cries greeted us; just the sobs that wracked every part of my being.

“Are you sure you are ready?” The Chaplain solemnly searched my eyes for any glimpse of uncertainty. I could only reply with a nod and a raspy, incoherent mumble.

He handed the bundle to me, and I found myself staring at a beautiful baby boy. “It’s a boy!” I cried. I looked to my husband and we both succumbed to the fresh tears that we had been fighting off.

I held our son’s tiny hand in my fingers. I willed for his little hand to move, for any sign of life. I knew it was silly to wish for it, but I did anyway. Time seemed to stand still in that moment as we held our son. But it didn’t stand still long enough and I soon found myself handing him back to the Chaplain.

My arms felt so empty.

The Chaplain turned to us and asked what we decided to name our son.

Andrew Joseph. That was the name we had picked out when we first knew we were pregnant. That was and still is his name.

We will never forget our little Andrew. But, we will also never forget the amazing support we received during that time.

When it comes to late pregnancy and infant loss, the military does a wonderful job of taking care of their grieving parents!

A Chaplain is immediately assigned.

Shortly after being taken to the delivery room, a Chaplain came in to speak with us and pray with us. Our grief was validated and not brushed to the side. This was real. We were suffering the loss of a baby, and they understood that. The Chaplain stayed in the hospital during the entire time we were there, which ended up being a couple of days. He regularly checked in on us and prayed with us.

He acted as sort of an emotional and physical mediator between us and the rest of the hospital. Realizing that he could provide the emotional support we needed, the doctors allowed him to handle the passing of our son to us.

Though I don’t remember his name, that Chaplain will remain etched in my memory as one of the most compassionate, empathetic people I have ever met.

The grieving parents are given a child-loss memory box.

This box contained a certificate where we could write down our son’s name and statistics. We were also given his little hospital hat, a tiny gold ring, several other beautiful mementos honoring the baby we wouldn’t be taking home with us.

Financial assistance is offered through FSGLI.

A much lesser-known facet is the financial benefits grieving parents can receive through the FSGLI (Service Members’ Group Life Insurance). Depending on the level of coverage he or she had decided on, a service member who has elected to receive benefits through FSGLI receives payment upon the death of a covered, dependent child.

According to the FSGLI, a dependent child includes a “stillborn child whose death occurs before expulsion, extraction, or delivery, and not for the purposes of abortion and” whose fetal weight is 350 grams or more or whose duration was 20 or more weeks. These benefits allow the parents to have a proper burial or memorial for their deceased child.

Additional counseling is readily available.

The loss of a child, no matter how long that baby lived inside or outside of the womb, brings with it mass amounts of grief and emotional turmoil. Multiple counseling services are made available through Military OneSource and the MFLC program. Grief is part of the healing process after loss and oftentimes, the support of counseling can help those who are grieving the loss of a child.

Postpartum support for military families is also provided through PSI.

PSI (Postpartum Support International) also gives support for women suffering from varying postpartum complications, such as postpartum depression, grief from loss, anxiety, and more. With a different coordinator for each military branch, PSI does their best to meet the emotional and mental needs of military families.

Four years.

It has been four years since we first grieved the loss of our baby boy. He is eternally stamped on our hearts, and I am thankful for the support the military provided for us during that dark time. With the help availed to us, we were able to move forward while never forgetting.

Lydia is a Marine wife, mom of three boys and a girl, and has a major in English. She is a freelance writer and influencer for several social networks. She also blogs at The Few, The Proud, and This Marine Wife, where she shares her life as a military wife and offers encouragement to moms in the trenches. Her blog touches on managing the chaos and includes many DIY projects, home design, and recipes. She loves meeting new people, and you can always find her with a cup of coffee in hand. Feel free to connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter and bring some coffee, while you’re at it!

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2 Replies to “5 resources for military families dealing with infant loss”

  1. Thank you for this article, thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve had three miscarriages, 9 weeks, 17 weeks and 13 weeks. I switched to Tricare standard after my first miscarriage because I was so disappointed in the way the Navy hospital and doctors treated my loss, and me. There were no supports offered, no mention of any counseling, no acknowledgement of the life that we lost. I’m so happy to see word being spread about help that is there for later miscarriage and stillbirth. At the same time, I wish there was more for early miscarriage. No matter when in the pregnancy it happens, it is heartbreaking, and women of the military/military spouses often don’t have the familial support physically close to them, which is so crucial when you’re grieving. Glad to know there are resources out there.

    1. Ashley, I am so incredibly sorry that you did not have a good experience! I will say that I have multiple friends who had bad experiences similar to yours before our losses. It took one of the nurses of the hospital (who was also Active Duty) to make changes happen. She had a horrible experience with a 9-week loss and after that experience, she took steps to propel change at that particular hospital. I’m thankful for her efforts, because I truly believe it was her persistence that inevitably allowed me to have a much better experience. The hospital finally realized that they were dealing with true loss and grief. Thankfully, they have become much better about it over the past 5 or 6 years.

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