REGINA — Shantel and Lyle Andrusiak were preparing for their first child when they found themselves having to plan a funeral instead.
Mid-August 2010, Shantel woke up feeling ill. As she would later find out at the hospital, her baby’s heart wasn’t beating, “and that’s when our world crumbled.”Jayce Andrusiak was 28 weeks old.
“You always look back and say, ‘What if? What if?” Lyle said, “Should we have done something different?’”
Five years later, the nagging what-ifs have dissipated, but the pain of Aug. 18, 2010 never will, and neither will the memory of their first child. “We’ve made a very strong attempt to never forget him,” said Shantel.
Every Aug. 18, Jayce’s “angel day,” the couple visits their son’s grave with their two other children, three-year-old Landen and two-year-old Lexi. They write messages on balloons and attach drawings before releasing them skyward. They munch on angel food cake.
This Sunday, the family will attend the annual Perinatal Loss Memorial Gathering just like they have every year since Jayce’s passing.
The event, now in its 16th year, was created after a group of social workers and nurses identified the unique grieving process involved with perinatal loss and how it isn’t often discussed, said chairperson Danita Lang.
“Over the years we’ve worked really hard to recognize that these are important babies no matter what gestation,” said Lang, who lost her first child at four days old. She is a close friend of the Andrusiaks, having been a support when Shantel delivered Jayce and Landen.
It’s important to the Andrusiaks to raise awareness about the event. Shantel said, “the worst fear for a parent other than losing a child is thinking that people are going to forget about your child.”
The Andrusiaks’ home is decorated with reminders of Jayce. Photos of their children’s feet hang in their bedroom. The living room is home to a collection of mementos, and baby photos of Landen and Lexi are accompanied by one of Jayce’s name written in the sand on an Australian shoreline. A corner of the backyard is occupied by a tree for Jayce and an angel statue.
Shantel and Lyle also wear matching necklaces, each with a peanut pendant (that’s how they referred to Jayce) and his initial. Recently, Shantel has begun making similar necklaces to be given out at the hospital to mothers who lose a child.
It’s the kind of reminder that was too much for Shantel to bear at first.
The couple had purchased a car seat and stroller, which Shantel’s mother returned to the store before they arrived back home from the hospital. Shantel dealt with the rest of the baby items by keeping the nursery door closed.
Then there were the freebies she had signed up for online, reminders that popped up unwanted and unannounced in her mailbox. One day, she discovered a can of formula, “and I just lost my marbles,” she said.
It seemed like everyone she saw was pregnant or pushing a stroller.Shantel and Lyle found support at the Greystone Bereavement Centre.