Lauren Irvin now helps lead a group she never expected to join: SHARE Atlanta. It’s made up of women who've lost a pregnancy or a newborn baby. It happened to her at 24.
"Scary thing is I had a perfect pregnancy,” Irvin says. “I was 39 weeks and 2 days, I went in for my last appointment and he had no heartbeat."
"He" was her son firstborn, Jonathan Daniel. He was born stillborn in April of 2010 because of a problem with his umbilical cord.
A professional photographer and volunteer with the non-profit "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" took achingly-poignant photos of Lauren and her husband Rin cradling Jonathan between them. They had 24 hours at the hospital to say their goodbyes. The nurses and doctors were so nice, she says. But their loss was gut-wrenching.
"Most people have no clue what to say,” Irvin says.
But, the women of Share Atlanta understand, because they’ve survived a loss many of us can't fathom. They meet monthly, talking about their babies, asking each other about theirs. They’re trying, Irvin says, to help each other get through the loss and grief left when a baby – and a dream – dies.
Each woman shares her baby’s name and story.
"It's okay to say our babies' names,” Irvin says. “We think of our babies every day. They're our babies. They're very real to us."
Irvin says Share Atlanta gave a path through her grief. It's a program Dr. Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist, a professor of epidemiology at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, says we need more of. It helps families find acknowledgement that their baby and their loss were real, she says.
"When this kind of thing happens, we often hear stories of women saying, "I didn't know this kind of thing could happen to me, I didn't know it was a possibility in the United States,” Christiansen-Lindquist says.
March of Dimes says half of all U.S. pregnancies may end in miscarriage. We may never know the full number because many miscarriages happen in the first trimester before women realize they’re pregnant. About 10 to 15% of “known” pregnancies are lost to miscarriage.
“As we talk about this more and more, and it becomes something that we can discuss in the United States, I think that will help others, when this happens, to realize they're not alone." Christian-Lindquist says.
It's been almost 6 years since the Irvins lost Jonathan. Since then, Lauren has given birth to two healthy children. And she has become an advocate with Share Atlanta, and a co-leader of the pregnancy and infancy loss support group. Helping other women has helped her heal, she says.
“Sharing my love, and sharing with others I feel like I'm making him proud,” Irvin says, smiling.
"I'm a proud mother. I wish had him to share with you here today. But healing definitely happens. I'm in a good place."
For more information on Share Atlanta, visit their Facebook page, Facebook.com/ShareAtlanta.