UAMS Ceremony Honors Infant and Pregnancy Loss

By Kate Franks

Sara Peeples, M.D., speaks at the remembrance service.

Sara Peeples, M.D., speaks at the remembrance service.Evan Lewis

Sara Peeples, M.D., medical director of the UAMS Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), spoke of four symbolic elements of the remembrance service that serve as reminders of loss and hope – light, water, circles and nature. She said the lights circling the fountain and placed along the walls around the garden serve as a sign of hope; water is a reminder of the simple act of bathing a child and the tears shed by the parents and families of the infants lost; and the circular fountain signifies continuity, completion, connectedness and eternity, reminding us of the arms of a hug and the circle of family and friends supporting the families and care teams of these babies. The natural setting is a reminder of the seasons of change and springtime’s renewal of life.

UAMS employees observe a moment of silence.

UAMS employees observe a moment of silence.Evan Lewis

“It’s important that these families know that they are not alone in their grief,” she said. “We hold this Day of Remembrance ceremony every year to observe Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month so our families know that their children are loved and remembered. We hope next year that families will be able to once again join us.”

For the third year, the ceremony was limited to UAMS staff due to COVID-19 precautions. UAMS physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains attended.

Chaplain Lucy Sausen also spoke, and, after a moment of silence for the babies and their families, Sausen, Maternal Fetal Medicine fellow Taylor Ghahremani, M.D., obstetrics resident Tucker Doiron, M.D., Rebecca Sartini, DPN, RN, Jana McConnell, RN, Madelyn Ogle, RN, and Emily Bennington, LMSW, read the names of each infant lost.

Several poems were read during the ceremony, and those gathered listened to the song “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.”

“In addition to showing support for our families, we want our staff to have an opportunity to support one another in this difficult work,” said Peeples. “The limitations on visitors due to COVID have taken an emotional toll on our staff, so it’s more important than ever that we acknowledge the grief we all feel.”

This event was organized by the UAMS Love Lives Bereavement Program. UAMS also participated in the International Wave of Light event at the State Capitol on Oct. 15. Despite medical advancements, about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States every year. This represents about 1% of all pregnancies 20 weeks or later.