Remember the babies
With the death of her daughter 11 weeks after her birth on New Year’s Eve 2016, Jewel Carey-Smith became a member of a club that she didn’t know that she would ever be a part of — one that she never had aspired to be a member of. But life dealt her a different hand. And she is one of many parents who, this month, will be remembering their deceased infants on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
In October 1988, United States President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month to recognize the loss parents experience across the U.S. and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and other causes.
“Knowing now that October, specifically the 15th, is a day that we honor those mothers means so much to me. It means that the information can be shared and learned,” said Carey-Smith, 29.
Carey-Smith and her husband Darion Smith gave birth to a daughter they named Darielle-Ava, but whom they nicknamed “Bop” because they noticed whenever Carey-Smith took an ultrasound that she would be doing a lot of head and leg movements in the womb that she said reminded her of the dance known as the “Bop”. The name stuck with Darielle-Ava after her birth.
“We were so excited to have her … she was the most beautiful baby,” she
The day before Darielle -Ava passed, Carey-Smith said she and her husband and their son Jaedon, nine, were sitting around the house talking about how special the newborn was and the gift she brought into their life.
Her last image and memory of Darielle-Ava alive is of the two of them smiling at each other as they lay down on the bed. And she vividly recalls awakening at 3:30 a.m. with Darielle-Ava still at her side on the bed. Carey-Smith hadn’t put her into her crib.
When she lifted the baby up she noticed that she wasn’t responsive. She and her husband rushed the baby to the emergency room.
“I remember screaming and just being so out of it, and praying, trying to call everybody I could to pray with us that she would come out of it. At this point I wasn’t thinking that she was gone. I was thinking that she was unconscious or something.”
The baby’s death certificate noted SIDS as the cause of death. SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than one year of age that doesn’t have a known cause even after a complete investigation that includes performing a complete autopsy, examining the death scene and reviewing the clinical history.
Miscarriage refers to the death of a baby in the womb before 20 weeks of age. A stillbirth refers to the delivery of a dead baby after 20 weeks of gestation.
Prior to that, the only time Carey-Smith had ever heard of SIDS was on television.
“I’d heard about it [SIDS] watching American media, but my first time really noticing it was through YouTube last year watching a video and thinking that this was an American disease and did not happen to Bahamian babies. I’d never heard about it happening in The Bahamas, and only after my own situation did women come out and say this is what happened to my child.
And it struck me as odd that I’d never heard about this happening and I got a bit angry because it made me realize that we as a community have cultural Bahamian pride but we don’t talk about what we need to talk about. I could have been prepared for this if I had known.”
Carey-Smith said she has made it her mission to speak about SIDS, infant loss, miscarriage and still birth, because at the end of the day, losing a child is just that — losing a child. And she says no parent should ever have to bury their baby.
Robyn Bear, founder of www.october15th.com, envisioned a day when all grieving parents could come together and be surrounded by love and support from their friends and families. A day where the community could better understand their pain and learn how to reach out to those grieving. She said it would be a day to reflect on the loss yet embrace the love.
Bear, who had six first-trimester miscarriages in the span of 1997 through 1999, said while their babies’ lives were so brief, that they were also very meaningful.
During the awareness month, Bear on her website calls for parents worldwide to join in a candle lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. on Sunday in their respective time zones to create a wave of light around the world in memory of babies lost to pregnancy and infant loss.
Carey-Smith has also put a YouTube channel that she hadn’t really utilized to use. She recorded a video addressing what had happened and posted it to the channel she renamed “She Rises From SIDS” to clear up any speculation, and to speak to the family and friends that were reaching out to her.
“When I posted that video that was so much healing for me. And there were women from all around the country and the world contacting me and I realized this tragedy that happened to me, just didn’t happen to me, but happened so that I could talk about it with other women so that they can feel comfortable in sharing and know that they’re not alone, and they know that God will eventually get them out of the situation.”
She said like the phoenix rose from the ashes, she would make it through and that any woman, man, sister, brother who is watching her channel is going to be able to follow the journey along with her as she overcomes her grief and the trauma that she went through while being educated at the same time.
“I’m in this club that I didn’t know that I would ever be a part of, neither did I want membership in, and knowing now that October … specifically the 15th is a day that we honor those mothers means so much to me. It means that the information can be shared and learned.”
As Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month and Day is observed, Carey-Smith urges people to show compassion to parents who have lost an infant child.
“You don’t have to say many words, but just be there for them, be supportive to them. If they have something to say just really listen. It may seem like a lot and it may seem heavy, but just by being there it can do so much more than words.”