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Event shines light on the challenge of stillbirths

By Sarah Whitman
Courtesy of Kimberly Asante
Tampa photographer Kimberly Asante poses with her daughter. Asante organized the Let’s Not Be Still Tampa run/walk to honor those affected by stillbirths, such as her cousin.

I recently wrote about the importance of putting faith into action.

I challenged myself to do more to help others, to support our local communities and "Be the change." On Oct. 15, I will participate in Let's Not Be Still Tampa, a run/walk fundraiser to benefit the Star Legacy Foundation, an organization supporting families impacted by infant loss.

Tampa photographer Kimberley Asante organized the walk to honor stillborn babies and their parents. While pregnant in 2016, Asante swapped pregnancy tips with another expectant mother, her cousin. The two women shared ultrasound photos and growing bellies. In December 2016, Asante delivered a healthy baby girl. Her cousin delivered a beautiful baby missing a heartbeat. The cause of the stillbirth was unknown.

"Why?" remains the hardest question related to stillbirth, Asante said. Both medically and philosophically, grieving families struggle to find answers.

"I had such a hard time processing it," she said. "My cousin and I had shared everything in our experiences and then all of a sudden, we couldn't anymore. It was devastating. She is still grieving. I wanted to do something to honor her baby and her family."

A stillbirth is considered the death of an infant post- 20 weeks gestational age, occurring prior to or during delivery. In the United States, more than 26,000 babies are reported stillborn each year and in two-thirds of cases, the cause remains undetermined. Annually, more babies are stillborn than die from premature birth complications and sudden infant death syndrome combined.

The Star Legacy Foundation is committed to helping reduce stillbirths. The foundation funds research studies, offers virtual support groups and hosts events to spread awareness. Parents who have experienced a loss can assign a virtual star in their child's name. Fundraiser walk/runs are held nationwide. The organization also helps families who experience second-trimester miscarriage and post-birth infant loss.

When Lindsay Rewald of Tampa learned about the upcoming fundraiser, she registered to participate. A mother to two elementary-age girls, Rewald was 15 weeks pregnant with her third when a scan signaled complications. Her doctors induced labor and delivered the baby breathless. An examination showed nothing wrong with the girl, whose sisters named her Angel.

"It honestly took me a long time to be able to deal with the loss and I can say that I will never fully heal," Rewald said. "My heart will always have a piece missing. I feel better when I talk about her."

Nearly four years since Angel's passing, Rewald finds comfort picturing her daughter in heaven with grandpa. She imagines them watching over their earthly-family together. Rewald joined the upcoming walk to help others.

"I think it is extremely important to bring awareness and hopefully help other women that have lost a baby be able to and feel comfortable enough to talk about it. Hopefully there can be more tests done to see why it happens and more resources for women who have gone through it to help them cope with the loss."

Registration remains open for Let's Not Be Still Tampa. The event is open to all ages. The cost is $25 or $5 for children under 3. Participants will receive T-shirts and rubber arm bracelets. The walk will take place in the Heritage Isles Community, 10630 Plantation Bay Drive. For more information and pre-registration visit letsnotbestill-tampa.org.

Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]