When Katie Inslow of Southbridge gave birth to twins last summer, it was a bittersweet moment for her and her husband Rich.
While Luke was a healthy little boy, his fraternal brother Samuel was stillborn.
Samuel had died 28 weeks into Katie Inslow’s pregnancy after his umbilical cord had wrapped around his foot, cutting off his supply of oxygen.
“It’s unbelievable how your world can change in a moment,” she said.
For the sake of the surviving twin, Katie Inslow carried both of the babies for another two and a half months before they were delivered by Caesarean section.
Those two months Katie Inslow described as being “pure hell.”
When Luke and Samuel were delivered, Katie and Rich chose to spend time not only with Luke, but Samuel as well.
“We held [Samuel] until I felt it was time to give him back [to the nurses],” Katie Inslow said.
A memorial service for Samuel was held and he was cremated. The Inslows brought his ashes home and have put them in a curio cabinet along with other mementoes to their son.
The couple were still mourning the loss of Samuel when their grief was further exacerbated after receiving an official document from the state.
Instead of it being Samuel’s birth certificate, it was a Report of Fetal Death issued by the Virginia Department of Health’s Vital Records Office.
“There was no name on it. I wanted to see Sam’s name,” Katie Inslow said. “I wanted a birth certificate.
“He was a viable baby,” she said. “[Although he was born still], he was still a baby,” she said.
“I think about him all the time, every day and every time I look at Luke,” Rich Inslow said. “Losing a child is so hard. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
Just last week, Katie and Rich Inslow finally received the acknowledgement of Sam’s existence by the state that they wanted and maybe needed.
A new Virginia law passed earlier this year, which went into effect on July 1, allows parents of babies 20 weeks or more in gestation who are stillborn to receive a new type of vital record. It’s called a Certificate of Birth Resulting in a Stillbirth.
The law is retroactive so parents who lost a child many years ago can still apply for and receive this certificate.
“It does not look exactly like a birth certificate, but it will do,” Katie Inslow said. “It does have Sam’s name on it and the state seal. I’m thrilled.”
Rich Inslow also is happy to have the certificate.
“I wanted him to be recognized as my son,” he said.
Over this past year while caring for Luke, who is now 14-months-old, and her three-year-old twins Nathan and Nicholas, Katie Inslow said she needed help dealing with the loss of Samuel.
“I needed a support group,” she said.
She found one in the M.I.S.S. Foundation, a volunteer-based organization with 40 chapters around the world and as many as 15,000 members. M.I.S.S. offers support to parents who have lost a child to stillbirth or any other cause.
Katie Inslow has been attending group meetings that she said has helped her.
Aside from the meetings, the foundation also has pursued legislative causes close to the Inslows hearts.
It has been instrumental in getting stillborn birth certificate legislation passed in nine states with the most recent being in Virginia. M.I.S.S.ing Angels Bills, as they are called by their supporters, are pending in 10 other states.
The group was founded and the legislation push started about nine years ago when an Arizona woman experienced a similar shock as that of the Inslows.
Joanne Cacciatore-Garard’s daughter died 15 minutes before she was born. Like the Inslows, she too watched the mail for the state’s acknowledgement of her daughter.
“I expected a birth certificate that I was going to put in her baby box,” Cacciatore-Garard said. “Instead, I got a certificate of fetal death. I was taken a back. I gave birth. I didn’t choose to have my baby die. I was just crushed.”
Cacciatore-Garard decided to do something about it.
She started the M.I.S.S. Foundation and lobbied to have the first M.I.S.S.ing Angels bill passed in Arizona. That happened in 1999 and since similar legislation has been passed in Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Utah and Virginia.
Katie Inslow said she was aware of the foundation’s legislative efforts and had decided to get involved by writing to her state representatives in support when she learned Virginia has already passed its M.I.S.S.ing Angel Bill.
On the day the law took effect, July 1, Rich Inslow went to the vital records Web site and tried to apply for one for Sam.
With the law being new, apparently there were some misunderstandings about the procedure and the Inslows received a copy of Luke’s birth certificate instead.
“I wanted [a certificate for Sam] so badly I went down to Richmond to apply,” Katie Inslow said.
A trip to Richmond, however, is not necessary.
Information on how to file a mail-in request can be found at the Virginia Department of Health’s Vital Record’s Web site at http://www.vdh.state.va.us/vitalrec/mail_it.asp
With Samuel’s certificate in hand and a new composite drawing of what Sam would have looked like as a newborn, the Inslows said they are that much closer to healing from their loss of their little angel.
Information about the M.I.S.S. Foundation can be found at its Web site http://www.missfoundation.org