Turning tragedy into healing a community

In December of 2019, Amen Dhaliwal was preparing to welcome her second daughter, who was due to arrive just after Christmas. Five days before her due date, she didn’t feel any movement and was alarmed, knowing that her baby was generally very active. Her instinct told her something was wrong and they needed to go to the hospital.

“My husband and I decided to come into Labour and Delivery just to get checked out, we thought we’d be here just in and out but unfortunately they couldn’t find the heartbeat,” Amen recalls.

After receiving the heartbreaking news that their baby was a stillbirth, confirmed with a bedside ultrasound, the doctor told them they didn’t know the reason and wouldn’t know until she delivered the baby.  

Amen knew she wouldn’t be able to go through labour and give birth, so she opted for a C-section. Once the baby was delivered, they saw the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck two times. After doing DNA genetic testing, the result was that there was nothing wrong with their baby and it was a tragic umbilical cord accident.

For Amen and her husband, the pain of losing their daughter, Savayra, was incomprehensible. Instead of leaving the hospital with their baby, they left empty-handed.

It took a lot of time to start moving forward for Amen and her family but what helped them through their grief and kept them in the present was having to parent their daughter Amaaya.

The family decided the best way to keep Savayra’s memory alive was to fundraise for the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Centre as well as organize items to donate to Made By Momma to help other families with essential baby items and monetary donations. In 2022, the family set a goal to raise money to donate a Cuddle Cot, a cooling cot that provides grieving families an opportunity to spend more time with their baby.

“The reason why my family and I decided to put funds towards the Cuddle Cot for Peter Lougheed Centre is because after our loss, the one thing we wanted was more time. We were able to get more time with her to process the loss, to be able to spend time with her to take photos.”

The Cuddle Cot allowed Amen and her husband to spend two days with Savayra. Their hope in donating a Cuddle Cot is to allow other families who will experience similar grief and tragedy to also have a little more time.

“We wanted to pay it forward to other families because we feel that in supporting others that is our way of parenting our child that we lost. We can’t parent our child organically as we parent our 6-year-old, so when we support others and we’re helping others through loss, it’s in memory of Savayra.”

Amen and her family were able to personally donate the Cuddle Cot to Peter Lougheed Centre, which was a very difficult but healing moment for Amen as she hadn’t been back on the Labour and Delivery floor since she lost Savayra.

Amen is an advocate and active voice in her community about pregnancy and infant loss. She was amazed that when she started opening up about her experience, how many other people were affected by this but had never spoken up about it for fear of it being a taboo subject.

“I just hope that the next person who goes through loss, who experiences what we went through or anything similar, knows they’re not alone. There’s a community out there who’s willing to support them and be their backbone during these vulnerable and painful times.”

In the beginning, she felt alone and isolated and thought nobody would relate to her, but realized once she started to look for other resources that the loss community was actually very large.

“I just want the next person to know, they’re not alone, we’re here and we stand together.”

She has dedicated herself to helping others who have experienced loss by sharing her story and opening the dialogue on what can often go unspoken.

“I don’t think loss or pregnancy loss or infant loss should be considered a taboo topic. It’s real life, it’s real and it doesn’t discriminate and it can happen to anybody at any point. I just felt like I wanted to share my story because I can’t be the only one, even though I felt like I was the only one.”

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