After 6 miscarriages, Palmer couple starts support group
A Palmer couple wants to help families open up about the grief of having a miscarriage or losing a pregnancy.
The Gail family describes their life as a crazy, fun adventure. Sarah and Jeff are raising three energetic, Alaskan boys who are excited about their first successful porcupine hunt.
“You fry them up,” said 7-year-old Carter. “They’re actually pretty good.”
At the Matanuska River Park on Friday, Sarah played on the swing with 2-year-old Cooper while Jeff watched their oldest, Kamden, try to tackle the monkey bars.
While their lives are filled with happiness and laughter, the couple has seen more than their fair share of heartbreak.
Every once in a while, Jeff thinks about the family they could have had.
“I would find myself sometimes whether watching a movie, it would just hit me: 'My son would have been 2 now' or 'My son would be 5 now,'” he said.
After they were married, it took eight years and three miscarriages before Kamden was born.
“Every two years we were having a miscarriage. So we lost a baby at 14 weeks, 12 weeks then 10 weeks,” Sarah recalled.
It turned out Sarah had a septate uterus, a birth defect that was impacting her ability to bear children.
“It’s a growth within the uterus. Some women have totally normal pregnancies because it’s small enough it doesn’t affect things. Mine was large enough a baby could only grow so much and then would stop,” Sarah explained.
Doctors removed the growth. Sarah had Kamden, then Carter two years later with no problems.
The couple suffered two more miscarriages before their youngest son Cooper was born, then another miscarriage last year.
“There’s a bit of joy that’s stolen for 20 weeks. For the first 20 weeks for sure,” Sarah said.
“It’s hard to get excited when you have a better chance, at least in our situation, of losing a child than having one,” Jeff added.
The Gails said while they always received excelled medical care, they found there were no resources or emotional support to help them after the trauma of losing an unborn child.
Sarah said she would scour the internet to find other stories similar to hers, but it wasn’t enough.
“There was still this emptiness. I wanted someone to hug me and someone to cry with me, if you will, and to meet other couples face to face,” Sarah said.
That’s why they started an organization called Love Surrounds to reach out to others who are also dealing with loss.
They’ve had an online, private support group on Facebook and next month will be holding their first ever in-person meeting for women.
“Everyone’s grief is intimate and personal and it’s up to you to decide how much you want to share or not share,” Sarah said. “But just to know there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re not broken, and there’s a place for you to be able to be surrounded by others who get it and hope that will bring healing to people.”
The six-week course will begin in October, which is pregnancy loss awareness month. You can contact the Gail through their Facebook page if you're interested in being a part of the class.
Sarah and Jeff hope sharing their own struggle of starting a family will encourage others to seek help if they want it, and to know there are people there to listen.
Editor's note: Web links in this story that initially didn't work have been corrected.
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