AMARILLO - One in four pregnant women lose babies due to pregnancy complications or infant illness and October is dedicated to raising awareness on this rarely talked about issue.
Mothers gathered in Amarillo and all over the country Tuesday night to remember their lost little ones and let other grieving parents know they're not alone. Releasing a balloon doesn't remove the pain, but it helps.
"It just helps because some of our babies we don't have a headstone or anything to go to for. And it helps to know that everyone here cares and just knowing that our babies are not forgotten," said Bethany McAlpine, who has miscarried seven times.
Some 50 Amarillo families gathered at Medi Park to remember their little ones who didn't live long enough to laugh or run and play. President Ronald Reagan declared October "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month" back in the 80's, but many moms say it remains a taboo topic.
"Nobody wanted to hear about it. They think 'oh they're not babies.' Well they were babies. I saw them on the screen, I saw their heart beats. And people just don't want to talk about it. They just want to brush it under the rug," Lisa Lahr said.
Lahr started the annual balloon release in Amarillo three years ago after losing two babies during pregnancy and one as an infant. "Every year it's just grown and grown," she said.
This year Lahr wrote down over 600 names of babies on cards that were tied to balloons and released into the sky. Most of the names come from grieving parents all over the world she met on Facebook support groups.
Lahr and many of many of the moms and dads who attended the event are members of a local support group for grieving parents called MEND, or Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death.
Though tears, hugs, and the release of balloons can't bring a child back, parents say it's healing to remember. "You might have a friend out there that it would mean the world to them to just tell them you remember their baby," McAlpine said.
MEND meets on the second Tuesday of every month from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the First United Bank on 45th Street and Soncy. Any parent is welcome to come, and it's free.