Elisabeth Naff of Ocean Springs said she was very excited about becoming a mother for the second time. But on Jan. 6, 2017, her dream of growing her family was halted, at least for the moment.
Her second son, John Ellis, died at 35 weeks gestation.
“It was a pain and a hurt that’s hard to explain,” Naff said. “I just felt so alone.”
Naff would soon find out that there were others who had experienced similar circumstances and they were there for her during one of the darkest times in her life. And these days, Naff is using her pain and experience as a tool to help other mothers and families who have gone through a miscarriage or stillborn infant deaths.
According to hopexchange.com, about 4.4 million women become pregnant annually in the U.S. But of those mothers to be, almost 1 million end in pregnancy losses. About 26,000 of those deaths are stillborn.
Naff was contacted by a founding member of the nonprofit One Wing Foundation, that raises and distributes money to organizations for medical, physical and grief recovery of parents who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss.
“I felt like no one else could possibly know what we were going through, but I was wrong,” she said. “It was all God — bringing these women into my life to offer their support and guidance.”
Naff, along with her husband, Lucas, and son, Baylis, is hosting a benefit, Hope from John Ellis, at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. The funds raised will be used to purchase a cuddle cot, a bassinet for at-risk newborns to allow the family time to say goodbye.
Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy
Naff said she thought her second pregnancy was going well, but, in fact, it was not.
“I developed intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy and by the time the doctors found it, it was too late,” she said.
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is a condition that prevents bile from flowing into the liver. It can be develop when there is an increase in both nucleotidase and ALP enzymes, according to medscape.com. One of the most causes for cholestasis is gallstones or blockage in the gallbladder.
ICP affects approximately 1 percent of all pregnancies according to medscape.com.
“Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is something that I think not a lot of people are familiar with,” Naff said. “One of my goals is to raise awareness of the medical condition because if it is caught and treated early in a pregnancy, it could be the difference between life and death for the baby.”
A shoulder to lean on
Aside from bringing awareness to intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, Naff also has another mission — to “connect with any families that experienced pregnancy or child loss.”
Naff said her advice for grieving families is simple.
“Just know that you will survive this and although it may not feel like it at first, you will experience joy again. Time does not heal all, but somehow you will get better at managing the grief,” she said. “Embrace the things that give you healing and take all the time you need and surround yourself with loved ones that really care and want to help in a genuine way.”
She also said she wants these families to know that they are not alone.
“It is also important to connect with parents who have experienced pregnancy or child loss so that you will have someone to cling to for guidance and support.” Naff said. “Let them know how you truly feel. Grieving is the time to be human and not the time to force yourself in any capacity.
“Acknowledge your emotions and embrace them accordingly. Stay strong in your faith. This is what keeps us in the light.”
If you go
What: Hope for John Ellis Benefit Concert and Silent Auction
Where: Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
When: 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6
Tickets: Tickets are $45 for adults and $10 for children
About the series
Our Kind of People is a feature in the Sun Herald and at SunHerald.com that spotlights South Mississippi people whose life or work is an inspiration to others.