Ayako Gallagher is using the loss of her daughter, Emiko, to make a difference for parents going through a similar situation.
“At 18 and a half weeks gestation — it’s called a late-term miscarriage — we found out that she had died,” said Gallagher, a Richmond resident and small business owner.
Last week, on Oct. 15, marked Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a time to a recognize and support families who have been affected by the loss of a pregnancy or the death of an infant.
One in six early-term pregnancies end in miscarriage, notes an article from Health Link BC.
However, Gallagher explains that a lack of funding and awareness leaves mothers struggling to find proper support.
“The secondary loss of having to navigate my son’s grief and trying to tell a toddler that the baby we have been preparing him for isn’t coming home,” said Gallagher.
Although she acknowledges the immense efforts and support Richmond Hospital nurses provided her, not enough direct resources are given to mothers after pregnancy loss.
Instead, they are left to research and learn on their own.
In October 2020, Gallagher was motivated to launch the Instagram account @mamasmatterhere to provide a community of support to grieving families, as well as normalize the conversation around infant loss.
“To the parents, it’s lonely, but you are not alone,” she says on her Instagram account.
“Lean on me, lean on the people in your life. You are allowed to grieve in whatever way. Your grief is valid, regardless of when your baby died.”
She also wanted to create a way for parents to connect with their “loss children,” leading to the launch of her greeting card business, Emi + Company.
“I created the company in honour of my daughter, Emi. ‘Company’ is in honour of all the other babies that are in the stars with her that keep her company,” said Gallagher.
“Just because your baby died doesn’t mean that your relationship with your child also has to cease to exist.”
A pack of Emi + Company cards could include messages like ‘Happy Heavenly Birthday’ or ‘You Are So Loved’, allowing the parents a space to write to their lost child.
A selection of cards from Emi + Company are being donated to Richmond Hospital this month in support of mothers and parents experiencing the loss of a child.
Beyond her business and social media initiatives, she has worked alongside the Labour and Delivery Ward at Richmond Hospital to improve patient care in navigating the death of a child. She is working on designing an updated pamphlet, full of resources related to post-loss support.
“I feel like my child has given me this gift of empathy and advocacy. I’m doing it in honour of her, so it has turned the loss into something positive and meaningful.”
If you or someone you know needs help navigating the loss of a child, follow @mamasmatterhere on Instagram to join a supportive community of parents.
For more resources to support those who have lost a child, visit www.october15.ca/support/