Healing from Infant Loss

A UW fund helps support families mourning miscarriage and stillbirth.

A family portrait of Grace and Ryan Gilles with their daughter Ingrid

Grace and Ryan Gilles, with their daughter Ingrid, started a GoFundMe campaign to do something positive with their pain. Wendy Vincent of Color Me Wendy Photography

In November 2020, Grace and Ryan Gilles were stunned when their baby’s heart stopped beating during labor. Grace gave birth to a stillborn girl, and the couple named her Joan Margaret Gilles.

The loss devastated their entire family, so they started a GoFundMe campaign to do something positive with their pain. “We wanted to create a memorial space for Joan, where her short but deeply significant life would be remembered and where her story could be shared,” Ryan says.

The Gilleses decided to donate any additional money to help families who had experienced a similar loss. Joan’s aunt, Leigh Button, suggested creating an endowed fund, and the result was the Joan M. Gilles Memorial Fund. The permanent endowment assists the UW Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in raising community awareness about infant loss and stillbirth, as well as available resources for families.

One of those resources is UW Health’s Hope after Loss Clinic. The clinic is one of only a handful in the country assisting those who experience miscarriage and stillbirth, even though those types of losses occur in one out of four pregnancies.

The family was impressed with the passion of the clinic’s founder, Kristen Sharp. After the loss of her own baby, Sharp, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, wanted to provide more support for grieving families. “Our goal at the Hope after Loss Clinic is to provide personalized care to each family and focus not only on their medical needs but also on their emotional needs,” she says. The clinic provides follow-up care after a loss, preconception counseling, counseling services with clinical psychologist Julianne Zweifel ’87, and prenatal/obstetric care for patients who are pregnant after a prior loss.

Grace says that giving back has offered her family the opportunity to take the worst thing that has ever happened to them and create something good. They hope that the endowment will help the Hope after Loss Clinic to pave the way for more clinics of its kind across the country.

“We want our fund to aid in the push to destigmatize the discussion of miscarriage and stillbirth so that others can get the proper mental and physical care from their providers the same way our family has,” she says.

Published in the Spring 2024 issue


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