A tranquil garden
Newton Medical Center creates space for remembering, reflection

COVINGTON - The new garden at Newton Medical Center is a quiet patch of green that organizers hope will provide families and patients a chance to step away from the sterile hospital setting.

Located adjacent to the BirthCare Center off of Tate Street, the garden was taking shape this week with arbor entrances and park benches installed. On Saturday, a memorial service is planned to remember children lost in pregnancy and at birth as part of observances recognizing October as Perinatal Loss Month.

The service will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. and is set up for people to attend at any time depending on their schedule. A butterfly release will be held at 2 p.m. during the service, and hospital chaplains will speak at different times.

The service will mark the opening of a memory garden in one corner where families and friends can go to mourn the death of a child at birth or loss during pregnancy, said Susann Whittle a charge nurse at The BirthCare Center.

Whittle explained that the loss of a child is a traumatic experience, and for many people, there is little opportunity to mourn. Because the death happens suddenly, Whittle explained it is rare for families to hold a funeral or memorial service for the child.

A corner of the garden will have a statue, and preliminary plans call for an angel and a rock garden where families can place a rock in memory of the child.

"What we want is for them to have a place where they have a rock that has their baby's name or birthday or last name and have a place where they can remember their baby," Whittle said.

While Whittle said there were no statistics available for the number of perinatal loss incidents at the hospital, she said there are "numerous" incidents each year at The BirthCare Center, not including incidents that may occur in the emergency department or other areas of the hospital.

The idea for the memory garden came from a conference on perinatal bereavement Whittle attended in April, along with a fellow BirthCare Center nurse, Eve Durant. Their trip was funded by a scholarship from the Anna Jo Evans' Perinatal Bereavement Fund. The fund was named for Anna Jo Evans, granddaughter of Dr. and Mrs. Dale Evans of Covington.

Doctors could not find Anna Jo Evans' heartbeat 361/2 weeks into gestation. Her parents, Allison and David Evans, were so impressed with how the hospital staff helped them through that difficult time that they started the fund to provide training and establish bereavement programs at other hospitals.

The garden is a project of the Satsuki Garden Club of Covington. Rosemary Rogers of the club said they had been working with hospital administrators on establishing the garden for more than a year when Whittle and Durant approached them about a spot for the perinatal memorial.

Rogers said the garden will be there to give people space to think and reflect. She noted the idea came from a personal experience when her granddaughter was taken to Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, which has a similar garden.

The garden there had a calming effect on family members dealing with a stressful situation, Rogers said. The perinatal memorial was an incentive to get the garden completed at Newton Medical Center.

"It was almost like it was meant to be," Rogers said of the garden. "It's something that we needed here, and it just came together."

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.