By Kathy Walsh

PARKER, Colo. (CBS4) – In the U. S., four in 1,000 babies don’t make it through their first month of life. The grief for parents is indescribable and difficult for others to understand. Grieving parents need loving support for this lifetime loss. For the Ackerman family of Parker, the sorrow is multiplied times three.

Shannon Ackerman

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh interviews the Ackermans. (credit: CBS)

“Good job, buddy,” said Shannon Ackerman as she and husband, Jon, played with their children.

Shannon Ackerman

(credit: CBS)

They cherish their kids, 5-year-old Callie, 1-year-old Coen … and three others.

“Our hearts belong to five kids, but we only get to raise two here on earth,” explained Shannon. The others never made it home.

In 2016, Eli died shortly after birth from a rare and lethal genetic disorder called Meckel-Gruber syndrome. In 2017, Joey died of the same disorder.

Shannon Ackerman

(credit: Shannon Ackerman)

Shannon Ackerman

(credit: Shannon Ackerman)

Their parents think about them “all the time,” said Shannon, choking back tears.

The couple sought counseling at the Center for Maternal Fetal Health at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

In 2018, Coen was born through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Another IVF pregnancy, Emma, ended in a miscarriage.

“There is the pressure that you need to move on,” said Shannon.

“This is a lifetime loss,” explained psychologist Jennifer Harned Adams, Ph.D.

She said the sorrow never goes away.

“When parents lose a child they lose their future, the future they’ve envisioned,” said Adams.

“People really aren’t sure how to act,” said Jon.

Shannon Ackerman

Shannon Ackerman (credit: CBS)

The Ackermans said silence hurts the most.

“You don’t have to come with the right words, just show up,” said Shannon.

But she said avoid the words “at least.”

“At least it was early, at least you knew, at least you didn’t know, at least you can try again,” she said.

The Ackermans include the babies they lost in every family photo — by adding stuffed animals Eli the elephant, Joey the kangaroo and Emma the bunny.

“We always want to remember them,” said Jon.

“Because when I think of my family and I see my family, I see them,” said Shannon.

Helpful Links

Denver Share

Angel Eyes

Colorado Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Services

Postpartum Support International

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
Photography for perinatal bereavement

String of Pearls
Perinatal Hospice Support

Kathy Walsh


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