According to the National Institutes of Health, 1 out of every 160 pregnancies in the U.S. ends with a stillbirth, and yet when it happened to new parents Meghan and Andrew Savant, all they felt was alone.
Following a multiyear struggle with infertility and a challenging first trimester, the Savants breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the 13th week of their pregnancy.
“It was a very exciting time for us,” Meghan said. “You get into that safety zone and you just think that everything is going to be great and wonderful. It was the moment we had been waiting for through several years of our marriage.”
The Savants celebrated the milestone as any parents would – they chose the name Reagan for their growing daughter, painted her room, registered for shower gifts and looked forward to getting a glimpse of her at every new ultrasound.
At 21 weeks, Meghan went in for a regular appointment and received devastating news – her doctor was unable to detect Reagan’s heartbeat.
“There was no reason given, there was no explanation, nothing that they could find to explain it,” Meghan said. “She was just gone.”
The next day, Meghan was induced and gave birth to baby Reagan in a quiet delivery room at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. After spending a few short hours with their first child, they went home alone.
“When you deliver a healthy child, you’re bombarded with balloons and flowers and cards and congratulations, but when you deliver a child that’s not going to survive, you don’t get any of that,” Meghan said. “You leave the hospital with a community of people who don’t want to talk about what you’ve just been through. We knew there were other families out there who were going through the same things. We just didn’t know how to reach them.”
On Oct. 31, 2014, Reagan’s second birthday, Meghan and Andrew launched Reagan’s Garden, a program at Presbyterian Medical Center that helps provide grieving families with the comfort and sense of community that the Savants had been looking for.
When a mother has a baby that is stillborn at Presbyterian Medical Center, her nursing staff can request a special floral bouquet from the gift shop, complete with a card, handmade and with a personal message from Meghan. Families whose children pass away while staying in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) receive a box filled with items that the Savants found comforting as they battled with their own grief: a journal, books of devotionals, coffee, tea and pampering items.
The care packages also include contact information for the Savants, who communicate regularly with local parents who have experienced infant loss. The couple recently launched quarterly support groups for affected families.
“We want people to know that there are other people out there who have gone through this and to spread what little joy we can in what is such a difficult time,” Andrew said.
Additionally, with help from the Novant Health Foundation Presbyterian Medical Center, the Savants were able to donate a CuddleCot to the hospital’s birthing center. The CuddleCot is a cooling system for a Moses basket bassinet that allows families to extend the amount of time they have to spend with their child, if they choose.
Caroline Ellerbrock, nurse manager for labor and delivery, has grieved with many families who have lost children in her five years at Presbyterian Medical Center.
“It’s very tough experience for the care team as well, but we want to make sure that every family has the chance to honor, celebrate and grieve for their child in the way that they need to,” she said. “We’re lucky to have the CuddleCot, which gives families the gift of additional time to create memories with their children.”
In the future, the Savants hope to expand Reagan’s Garden to other local hospitals, but for now their main focus is their growing family.
In July 2013, twin boys Warren and Dean Savant were born at 26 weeks, weighing 2 pounds, 5 ounces each. The boys spent three months in the NICU at Presbyterian Medical Center, but according to their dad, you would never know it now by their boundless energy.
Today, Meghan is about to enter the third trimester of her third pregnancy.
“We knew after holding Reagan and getting just a few hours of feeling what it was like to be a parent that we would want to do that again,” she said. “We are so blessed to have two healthy boys at home now, and I’m excited to reach a whole new level of my pregnancy this time around.”