Sharing love and life from loss

Published 10:45 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

Two families who share a deep sense of loss over miscarriage and stillbirth are giving back to families with newborns in their communities.

In honor of American Heart Month in February, Shannon and Tracy Armes, of Wilsons, recently donated handmade red hats for babies born at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) and fabric “bonding hearts” for mothers separated from their babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at VCU Medical Center in Richmond. A parent wears a bonding heart to pick up their scent, then place it in their baby’s bed in the NICU. This helps comfort babies and creates a connection even when the parent can’t be with their newborn.

The Armes family also brought samples of their three different comfort bags for pediatric patients, siblings of newborns and parents who experience fetal or infant loss as they have. They plan to donate more of these when the current supply runs low.

Labor of love springs from labor of loss

The Armes’ labor of love stems from the stillbirth of their daughter, Skylar Jean Armes. Their efforts have grown to support three hospitals as well as first responders. They fundraise and accept donations in memory of Skylar. Their Facebook page In Memory of Skylar Jean Armes has more than 700 followers.

Donna Orange, of Blackstone, made the bonding hearts. From the Heart Stitchers, of Richmond, knitted the baby hats. These are just two examples of the many items donated to help families with newborns.

Marah Taylor introduced the Armes family to VCU Health CMH. Her daughter’s child, Cora Mae Matthews, came into this world too soon at VCU Health CMH. Taylor helped the Armes family get in touch with the hospital for this and future donations.

“We are excited to expand our outreach and look forward to future deliveries,” Armes said.

Sarah Carlton, clinical coordinator at the Garland Birthing Center at CMH, accepted the donations.

“The Armes family was so sweet and have such an amazing story,” Carlton said.

FETAL AND INFANT LOSS

A birth is considered full-term at 40 weeks. A miscarriage is when a fetus dies before the 20th week of pregnancy. A stillbirth is when a baby dies at or after the halfway mark of 20 weeks. About 10-15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first trimester (1-12 weeks). In the second trimester, miscarriage goes down to 1 to 5%. About one pregnancy in 160 are stillborn, totaling about 24,000 babies in the United States per year. Most women who experience miscarriages and stillbirths have successful pregnancies and healthy babies afterward.