Local family expresses grief of the loss of three babies during pregnancy and infant loss awareness month
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The biggest fear of any expecting parent is pregnancy loss.
That fear became a reality three times over for one family.
Jessica and Josh were over the moon announcing their pregnancy with Riley Marie Heffinger.
Then, the unexpected.
Riley’s heartbeat stopped at 21 weeks.
“I was in complete shock and almost numb to the situation. I didn’t really know what was happening. The doctor said, ‘You have to go to the hospital to deliver,’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean I have to deliver?’ In my head, I didn’t think this baby was going to be coming out of me. I thought, you know, all you hear about his people miscarrying at home and stuff like that, so it was just a shock about what was happening. To this day it’s still a lot of it I don’t remember,” said Jessica Heffinger, Riley’s mom.
One in four pregnancies end in death.
Mothers and fathers often silenced about their loss, feeling completely alone.
“You try to be strong. You try to be that support system for your wife but it is hard. I remember, I don’t cry very often, but I remember when I got home from the hospital going to the shower and just crying and didn’t really tell anybody about it. I didn’t want to seem weak. But eventually [I] had to talk about it and I had to be there for my wife,” said Josh Heffinger, Riley’s dad.
Riley would not be the families only unborn child to die, Jessica would go on to suffer two more miscarriages at home.
Jessica and Josh went on to have four beautiful girls who grieve the loss of their siblings in their own ways.
“I know one day I will see them so I’m excited for that, but I wish I had, like, an older sister to teach me more things and stuff,” said Avery Heffinger, Riley’s sister.
Jessica says people say strange things to grieving parents and wants people to be aware of how they respond to loss.
“Things we heard was, ‘Well, at least you know you can get pregnant. You can have more kids. And the thing is, like, I’ve spoke at many events, one which was a group of 80 plus women and one of the questions was, ‘Do you have more kids at home?’ And actually, at the time I had two at home, clearly we have four at home now, and the person said, ‘Well you could’ve told us that because I was feeling bad for you,” said Jessica.
The Heffinger family wants to use their story to help other grieving families.
They say talking to people who understand is helpful.
The family actually runs a local non-profit called Glory Babies that gives care packages to grieving families and are both open and willing to talk with anyone in the community who needs support during the loss of a baby.
“A lot of times we try to brush those emotions under the rug but when you lose a baby it’s some thing that you have to talk to you can’t just hold it all in,” said Josh.
“We have to break that Sigma break the silence that you know pregnancy and infant loss doesn’t exist it does exist you know one and four pregnancies and in a loss like that statistic is very high and so when you’re looking at a room full of people you can look around and think one and four of these people have had a loss,” said Jessica.
Jeasica’s children are her whole world and she keeps the memory of Riley and the two other babies alive by telling the girls about them.
The girls are aware of the loss and are supportive of other grieving parents.
“You are not alone,” said Addie Heffinger, Riley’s sister.
“I’m sorry that you lost your baby,” said Harper Heffinger, Riley’s sister.
Glory Baby Ministry is located in Bowling Green and takes financial donations as well as people donating their time to sow and crochet items for gift bundles.
Riley and her two siblings are one in four and their short lives have amounted to so much with the creation of the Bowling Green Glory Baby Ministry in their honor.
Riley would be 10 now.
If you would like to donate to Glory Baby Ministry, visit click here for an Amazon wishlist and their donation cite.