My first pregnancy was smooth sailing, and I was blessed with a happy, healthy, baby girl, who we named Lauren. When Lauren was approximately eighteen months old, my husband and I started trying to conceive our second baby, and had quick success. Although I knew the rate of miscarriage before twelve weeks gestation was high, I was too excited to keep the news to myself, so we told a number of family and friends. At around eight weeks, I started spotting. Terrified, I rushed to the walk-in clinic and was told that I was likely miscarrying, but there was no way to tell for sure, and there was nothing that they could do to stop it. All the doctor could say was, “Nature has to take its course!” Words I still hear echoing to this very day. What happened over the next two days were graphic, physically painful, and completely heart-wrenching. Sadly, those two days were only the beginning of my grieving process. It continues today.
Because we had told so many people about our exciting news, we now had to tell everyone that I had suffered a miscarriage. Family and friends just don’t know how to react to the word “miscarriage,” unless they have experienced it themselves. It still carries a stigma with it, as if it’s something people shouldn’t talk about openly—as if I had done something wrong that caused me to miscarry. Yet, the more women I spoke to about my experience, the more I realized just how many others had gone through something similar. It was eye opening. I was NOT alone—far from it.
Fifteen to twenty percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. In Victoria, it is conservatively estimated that there are at least 450 miscarriages each year. Deaths in the second half of a pregnancy are considered stillbirths. In 2010, Vital Statistics reported 457 stillbirths in B.C.—at least fifty of those stillbirths occurred in Greater Victoria.
The Little Spirits Garden, at Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria, will be a dedicated place where parents and families can grieve the loss of a baby, and the community at large can remember, share, and openly acknowledge pregnancy and infant loss. This public memorial space will be available to every family, regardless of financial circumstance, and no matter where or when they may have experienced the loss of a baby.
The Board of Cemetery Trustees of Greater Victoria (a not-for-profit organization) has contributed $50,000 to developing the plan for the Little Spirits Garden, and dedicated land within the Burial Park for the project. The board has partnered with the Saanich Legacy Foundation to raise the remaining $295,000 needed to complete the project. We are asking members of the community for their financial support to make the garden a reality. We also welcome corporate and foundation support—sponsorship benefits are available for those interested. For those wishing to make a donation in memoriam of a baby lost, they may do so via the website: www.saanichlegacy.ca
As thanks for your donation and in memory of the loss, a cedar remembrance flag—with a personalized message—will be hung in the garden, when it is completed.
Go to page 2 to learn how Lindsay is involved in fundraising for the Little Spirits Garden.
I have become involved in fundraising for Little Spirits Garden, because I believe it has the potential to heal the hearts of so many families on Vancouver Island. It has the ability to create a discussion in the community that will give families comfort in their time of grief. October 15th of each year is observed, worldwide, as Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. To commemorate pregnancy and infant loss suffered in our community, a candlelight vigil will be held on Monday, October 15th, at 7pm, in the Garden Chapel at Royal Oak Burial Park. Families who have experienced the loss of a baby or pregnancy will be invited to light a candle in honour of their Little Spirit. We also invite you to join our page on facebook to find support from others who have experienced a similar loss.
As we’ve begun to raise awareness about the project, I have heard stories of loss from across the country—stories of one miscarriage (like myself), stories of miscarriage after miscarriage, and stories of stillbirths and infant loss shortly after birth. Each story is different in circumstance and grief. Each story is equally heartbreaking. Moms who never saw the face of their baby, but still had hopes and dreams for that child. Moms who held their baby as it took both its first and last breath in the space of just a few minutes. Parents who created a birth and death certificate for their child on the same day.
Not only is this loss traumatic at the time it occurs, but the pain lingers for years to come. As Jill Davoren, Maternity Services Social Worker at Victoria General Hospital, said, “It does not matter if parents lost their baby fifty years or five hours ago, the grief of the loss of a baby before birth is often lifelong, raw, and ever present, laying just below the surface of the parents’ heartbeat.”
All this loss, yet there is currently no support group, no place to mourn, no place to seek comfort. Yes, Little Spirits Garden is a physical place, a thing—a garden. But to someone who has felt so alone, so lost, it is so much more than just a garden. It is a peaceful place created for the sole purpose of remembering your own Little Spirit. I will be able to stand in the middle of the garden and look up at all the cedar flags hung in memory of other infants lost, and know that there are others who share my sadness. There are others who have stood where I stand.
Little Spirits Garden can be the place where families connect; a place where there is no stigma to the words miscarriage, still birth, and infant mortality; a place where families mourn in peace and can give their little spirit a home to rest for all eternity. To me, Little Spirits Garden will be the place I can take comfort in the fact that I am NOT alone.