SPECIAL REPORT: Network of Hearts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SPECIAL REPORT: Network of Hearts

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The idea of loss; thinking about it, talking about it, or even the coping of grief that follows, doesn't often come with ease.

In situations of infant loss, whether it's a stillbirth or a baby dying shortly after birth, that might seem unimaginable for families. Yet, it happens every year in Iowa. More than 150 Iowa women experience this kind of loss each year.

KWWL's Ally Crutcher talked with a mom and a nurse in eastern Iowa, as they open up about the experience and the recovery.

Miranda Kracke and her husband, Adam, live in Cedar Falls. They have two sons, Archer and Everett, who are 23 months apart. But, it was September 10, 2014, when Miranda initially became a mom. 

After two miscarriages, Miranda and Adam celebrated their pregnancy with their son, Landon.

"Once we got to that 12 week mark, we got pretty excited, we felt like OK, this time it's gonna work," Miranda said. 

The two began blissfully planning for the day they would take him home.

"We started decorating the baby room, we did a Dr. Seuss theme... had clothes in the closet."

Only Landon, wouldn't be coming home; born more than three months early, he lived only an hour.

"It's 3 a.m. and I'm holding him, and I'm just trying to make it last. Because I knew in the morning, I'd have to face the reality."

Miranda explains the reality of saying goodbye to Landon, and not being able to take him home, cuts into her soul, almost; a pain that never really goes away.

In the coming hours and days, Miranda found a deep comfort in those around her, and what would become a lasting connection. 

Betsy Smith works at Allen Hospital in Waterloo as a nurse. She vividly remembers the day Miranda came into the hospital.

"I remember which room she was in..... In her stay, I took care of her," Betsy said. 

Betsy has roughly 22 years of nursing experience. Yet, caring for a woman and her family during an infant loss, is a deep instinct. Betsy refers to that care, as a human connection.

"There are many days I lay right there with the patient and hold her and cry... or sit with the dad on the couch... or bring the two together. You just live that moment with them."

It's a moment Betsy wants to make sure is also, a celebration of a life.

"We are going to celebrate every moment we have with this baby, and make this baby as glorious as ever... They're silent, but at the same time, we have to bring that joy into the room." 

Part of the joy nurses bring to families during this time, involves keepsakes. Moments are created, that their child won't ever experience.

"I can't wait until my daughter is a bride, or my son has a bow tie... we can still bring those little moments."

The dresses, or outfits, nurses describe are known as Angel Gowns. These are burial dresses; hand-sewn by volunteers, and made from donated wedding gowns. There's also a heart, made of the same fabric, to stay with mom and dad.

Other memories of the baby may lie in a hat, blanket, ornament, or a poem. 

In Miranda's home, you'll find Landon's footprints, handprints, and intimate photos from the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Program in Landon's baby book. Miranda even keeps a lock of his hair. 

"When I think of Landon now, he's about 4 or 5, and he looks exactly like his dad did at that time...Very active, very happy, very fun. He's the big brother to our other children who are here."

With the unimaginable, comes a message of hope.

"At this point I think we can survive anything, since we've survived this," Miranda said.

"I just want them to know they're going to be OK. We are going to make sure of it," Betsy said.

In honor of Landon, the Littlest Angel Fund was set up in 2014 though the Allen Foundation. The money raised is used to provide care packages, with some of the keepsakes Miranda and Adam received. To date, $3,115 has been donated to the Littlest Angel Fund. 
Nurses at Allen Hospital stress that even after mothers and fathers leave the hospital, they're still there to offer continued support. Betsy gave several examples, in which moms have called her several months after losing their babies, simply wishing to talk through their recovery.

Support groups are also available that meet monthly. The Allen Women's Health Clinic can help connect families to hospital and community resources, and can be reached at 319-235-5090.

Allen Hospital also will have a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, set for Oct. 15 later this year. Click here for more information. 

A KWWL viewer also reached out to us after the story aired, and wanted to share her daughter's blog.  Her daughter lost her daughter, Scarlet, just 30 minutes after birth.  You can find the blog here.

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