Helping families remember the littlest lives
By Elishah Oesch
Losing a baby is heartbreaking for any family. But sadly, it happens more often than many realize. In fact, one in four mothers experiences a miscarriage in her lifetime, and every year in the U.S. approximately two million women experience pregnancy loss of some kind. But those are just facts. One local woman knows first-hand the sorrow that comes with losing not one, but two babies.
Melissa Terrill lost her baby girl, Mikayla, in June of 2010. Mikayla was born prematurely at 24 weeks, six days. She weighed a mere 1 pound, 5.5 ounces; just small enough to fit in the palm of her parents’ hands. Mikayla lived for only two days, and then became what her mother now affectionately calls an angel.
Terrill was devastated by the loss. She describes it as “the most shocking thing I think a person can experience.” But some time later, Terrill and her husband were once again confronted with the pain of losing their son, Chase, after a miscarriage. The loss of a small life, both born or unborn, is something Terrill doesn’t distinguish from one another. “The feelings you experience from both of those [tragedies] are actually very similar,” she explains.
After some time for reflection, and help from family, faith, and friends, Terrill decided to turn her grief into action. Terrill looked back at her own experience in her hospital’s NICU—the neonatal intensive care unit for newborns—and realized that despite the level of care they received, there were many things she needed and questions she had that went unattended or unanswered. So she set out to change that for other mothers having the same experience and founded the nonprofit organization, Mikayla’s Grace.
Dedicated to providing NICU packages for families of premature babies and Angel Memory Boxes to families that lose a baby at the hospital, it’s Terrill’s way of easing the pain and fear that accompanies either situation.
The NICU packages offer items for both parents and baby, including blankets, stuffed bears, a camera, and creature comforts for mom such as lotion. She hopes to one day include useful items such as restaurant gift cards and gas cards for parents who have to make daily treks to the hospital.
The Angel Memory Boxes include mementos such as a candle and blanket or a poem and a memory book. It’s a somber package she puts together, knowing how much these things can mean to a family in need. Terrill is also careful to add one special addition that offers a way for parents to always hang on to a special part of their baby.
“[It’s] a little 3-D casting kit to make 3-D images of your baby’s hands and feet,” Terrill describes.
With each kit, Terrill has one goal: “[To] make sure that no parent leaves the hospital without having those things to remember their babies by,” she says.
Each packet also contains information that Terrill knows is necessary after the loss of a child: Pamphlets on what to do, where to find support and how to plan a funeral should a baby die.
“You never think that you’re going to have to plan a funeral. How do you go through that process?” Terrill asks.
Mikayla’s Grace helps answer those questions and, if nothing else, provides the information to help bereaved parents through the unimaginable.
Terrill says nothing can ever ease the pain of losing a baby, including her own, but through Mikayla’s Grace, she’s doing what she can to help others going through what she has.
“Holding onto those memories and having those memories like a blanket and pictures…you start to realize how important those things are,” she says.
Elishah Oesch is co-anchor of WKOW 27’s Wake Up Wisconsin. Find more about Terrill on the Someone You Should Know page at wkow.com.