Families Remember Lost Babies

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UPDATE: When a mother and family lose their baby at birth it's a tragedy with a lot of emotion. There's a unique organization that's helping mothers through that difficult time and keeping the memories of their infants alive.

Alissa Bartel flips through a baby book of her daughter Avery who passed away too soon, while Alissa was more than seven months pregnant.

"We were given the diagnosis of incompatible with life, so she would not survive outside of me. One day I went in (to the hospital) and there was no heart rate," says Alissa.

After the stillbirth The Haven Network was right by the Bartels' side.

"We provide all the services we can to them through grief support, making memories with the baby," says Tami Kellerman, executive director of The Haven Network.

The Haven gives families a keepsake box with things like footprints and molds, handmade blankets and jewelry, even photos of the baby, which might make some people uneasy.

"We're really pushing to break the silence that is around infant loss and start the conversation, start some healing, acknowledging these babies and these families and providing the comfort we can," says Kellerman.

The Bartels say they're glad to have these memories of Avery nearly five months after her stillbirth.

"As time went on, (the photos) are easier to look at, it kind of goes with the grieving process," says Avery's father Luke Bartel.

Alissa says, "Even though I cry when I look at them, it's joy."

Alissa now knows The Haven Network first hand. In the past, she had only witnessed the organization's support with other families, while working as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

"Never knew we'd need it personally, but we have even more respect for them after seeing both sides," says Alissa.

All of these services are free. They hold a support group every third Monday of the month at 6:30 p-m. They're located at 124 North Water St. in Rockford, suite 201.

The Haven Network is funded through donations and grants. They serve eight counties in Northern Illinois. If you're interested in donating, you can click on the attached link.

The Haven serves about 80 families a year and they service about 86 percent of infant loss in Winnebago County.

The organization is also looking for more volunteer photographers. You can contact them at 815-962-1512 or visit the attached website.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- According to The Haven Network, four out of five women experience the loss of a child. But the organization says families don't have to go through the pain alone.

"Our goal is to really acknowledge the life of that baby, their grief, that it's real, that the baby was real and the love they feel for the child," explains Tami Kellerman, the executive director of The Haven Network.

The Haven Network serves mothers and families in Northern Illinois, whose unborn babies have a terminal disease. And they don't just help with emotional support, they provide physical memories of those babies who have passed.

Tonight on 23 News at 5, we'll introduce you to a family The Haven Network helped forever remember their baby girl.

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