Why We Put #GivingFirst: “When you lose a baby you feel very alone at first”

Although these holidays with my family bring a lot of joy for me.  I also have that little feeling of grief that sits deep in my heart.  Every time there is a fun day to celebrate with my children I wish I could also be celebrating with my little one who lives in heaven.  She is my daughter and her name is Selena.

My 5-year-old has been so excited to get home from school today to get in her costume and go trick-or-treating with her cousins.  But the first thing I was woken up to was a timehop on my Facebook newsfeed from 4 years ago.

It was a photo of my then almost 2-year-old, Sofia all dressed up in her little red riding hood costume with a tiny bag of candy in front of her.  She had a big smile on her face and she was so excited about her candy she collected.  But all I see when I look at the photo is the memory from that day.

See, Selena died at 36 weeks and was stillborn on October 25th, 2013…4 years and 1 week ago.  So on Halloween 4 years ago we had just arrived back at home from the hospital and I was miserable to say the least.  Being a mom I still wanted to give my little 2-year-old a some-what normal Halloween so we walked her around a couple of the houses on our street.  I saw everyone else posting cute photos of their happy families and their children all dressed up on Halloween so I wanted to try and do the same for my little Sofie.  So I took that cute photo of her and posted it.  But to this day, when I see that photo those awful memories still come flooding forward.

It just so happens that October – which to me is Selena’s birthday month – also happens to be pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  Each year I tell myself that I’d love to get involved in the pregnancy and infant loss community and do an event during the month of October to raise awareness and help in anyway I can.  But I also happen to be a photographer and October is a very busy month for photo shoots.  So, the thought always get put on the back burner.

This year around the beginning of summer I was getting those urges again to do something in October for pregnancy and infant loss awareness.  I kept talking myself out of it and the thought kept coming.  I really think it was God nudging me in the direction to do the event.  Even though I thought I wasn’t capable he knew I was!!!

So I made the decision to go for it!  That’s where the event ‘Selena’s Day At The Beach’ came along.  I wanted to do a fundraiser for a charity that helps in the pregnancy and infant loss community.  I found an organization called First Candle.  They are INCREDIBLE.  They are on a mission to eliminate pregnancy and infant loss through research and education.  To say plainly, they are saving more babies!

So I started my planning.  I’m so very lucky to have people in my life that care so much about me, my sweet little Selena and this awesome cause.  I had a TON of help from friends and family.   Together we organized a beautiful day filled with food, drinks, games, auctions, raffles, dancing, and even a dove release!!!

We held the event at Kurtz Beach in Pasadena, MD.  It is a gorgeous wedding and event venue that is located right on the water with breathtaking views.  I must say, if anyone needs a venue to host their charity event, please do yourself a favor and contact them.  They helped me plan so much of the event and they even donated to my charity!

Selena’s Day At The Beach began with friends hanging out, children playing on the playground and people sharing stories of babies they’ve lost that are in heaven now.  It was a bitter-sweet moment to be amongst so many other people who have experienced loss like I have.  Although I’m so very sorry for their loss, I also cling to that which connects us.  When you lose a baby you feel very alone at first.  So, to think that others have went down this road makes me feel not so lonely.

Somehow we were able to keep this event a super happy one.  It was more about celebrating our heavenly babies rather than crying about losing them.   Everyone was just happy to be supporting this cause and to be helping others from losing their babies.

After a little bit we all sat down to eat the delicious lunch that Kurtz Beach prepared for us.  Then we had time to play the games and participate in some of the raffles and auctions.  We had some really cool items that were available and people were having the best time trying to win them.

Around 2pm we did a dove release.  This was a magical moment during the event.  We gathered everyone together and spoke some words about the significance of doves and how we hoped that the people at the event could take a moment to think about their babies that they’ve lost as they watch the doves fly away.  It was so beautiful and brought tears to everyone’s eyes.

After the dove release, we were able to do some dancing and enjoy the rest of the party.  My only wish is that it lasted longer!  We were having so much fun that the time just flew by.  But we managed to make great of the time we did have.  We were able to raise $4,500 for First Candle.  Amazing right?!

I’m so humbled by everyone who helped plan and organize this event and for all who came.  It was a day that will help save future babies and it absolutely helped heal this angel mommy’s heart.

Please enjoy these photos from our special day.

– Amanda Gargano

We offer a special thank you to the Gargano Family for sharing their story. To make a tax-deductible gift to First Candle’s #GivingFirst campaign, please click here