Montclair group helps parents find light during a dark time
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF
By ERIN ROLL
Three Montclair women have made it their mission to help families work through the grief of losing a baby to stillbirth or miscarriage.
Denise Cante, Erin Truxillo and Jennifer Brown are the founders of Pockets of Light, a Montclair-based support group that helps parents and families deal with the loss of a baby, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or failure to thrive.
As part of one of its current efforts, Pockets of Light plans to donate a Cuddle Cot to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston; the donation is scheduled to take place this week.
A Cuddle Cot is a trademarked bassinet that keeps an newborn infant’s body cool and preserved for a period of time, long enough to allow parents and family members to say goodbye.
All three women have experienced the loss of at least one baby. Truxillo and her husband, Tom, lost their first daughter at 35 weeks gestation in 2008 due to vasa praevia, a condition related to the placement of the fetal blood vessels, while Brown and her husband lost their second daughter due to a genetic condition known as polycystic kidney disease. Cante and her husband experienced multiple miscarriages before the birth of their son, who is now 8 years old. After that, there were two more miscarriages before the Cantes decided to adopt a daughter, who is now 15 months old. “For us, this was an excruciatingly lonely and isolating time,” Cante said. “I always had sort of a desire to do something to help women so that they wouldn’t go through the same thing.”
Two years ago, Cante, Truxillo and Brown began doing research on what services were available in the Montclair area for support groups for parents coping with loss.
“After a loss, you really don’t want to go back to a hospital,” Brown said, adding that the hospital setting can trigger memories of loss all over again.
Cante emphasized that the group leaders are not therapists or social workers. “We’re just moms who’ve been through it, who’ve been trained as perinatal group facilitators,” she said. Truxillo’s husband, Tom, also acts as a facilitator, and more people are in facilitator training.
The group sessions run once a week for eight weeks. So far, the response from the community has been very positive, with participants referring friends and relatives to Pockets of Light. “Word has spread so much–it’s amazing,” Cante said, adding that some families come from as far away as New York for Pockets of Light’s sessions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year, and Cante cited statistics that one in four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage.
The discussion around miscarriages and stillbirth has become much more public over the last few decades, but Cante, Truxillo and Brown said that the subject is still taboo for many people. In recent years, though, a cultural shift has allowed and even encouraged parents to talk about what they are going through and to share stories about their children.
Since Pockets of Light provides all of its services free of charge, it takes a great deal of fundraising to help cover expenses. “We have to fundraise for every dollar that we spend,” Cante said, but she noted that the community has been very generous with support.
There are also plans in the works to hold a remembrance event in the fall, where families will remember children they have lost.
“Every group’s so different, but it’s amazing to see how we connect and bond over this experience,” Truxillo said.
“It’s about providing community so that you’re not isolated and thinking you’re the only one going through this,” Brown said.
For more information, email email@example.com or visit pocketsoflight.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the location of St. Barnabas Medical Center. The hospital is in Livingston, not Belleville.