- Associated Press - Sunday, January 19, 2014

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Members of a club they never wished to become part of say they’re speaking out for the benefit of others who’ve shared their “bad dream” experience.

It was 2006 when Christina Kafkakis and husband, Nicholas, learned they were expecting - twins. The two were excited to start their family together, purchasing Pooh and Tigger toys for babies Angelina and Gabriella, hoping to share the nostalgic characters with their children.

But their outlook changed when a preterm premature rupture of membranes caused Angelina to be stillborn in August of that year at 21 weeks of gestation, while Gabriella lived for almost six hours. It’s a condition that occurs in 3 percent of pregnancies, and causes one-third of preterm deliveries, according to an American Academy of Family Physicians journal article.

Putnam Township resident Christina Funk’s only son, Paul, died in June 2012 at Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor because his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.

The women said they understand sensitivity surrounding the subject, but they’re somewhat irked that more families don’t speak about their losses, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus ( http://bit.ly/1d72BLk ).

“It eats away at your being,” said Funk, who only learned after her loss that her grandmother had lost four children. “You hear about other people who’ve experienced it, but to meet someone - it puts a whole new reality to it.”

Kafkakis described the events as being in a “bad dream.”

Hurley Hospital in Flint suggested that the Kafkakis family have photos taken of themselves with the babies after their death, which they now keep in a fire safe at their Genoa Township home. Christina Kafkakis also carries the point-and-shoot reprints with her wherever she goes. The items are some of her most treasured possessions, but they could have been better.

“They’re not going to last forever,” she said. “They’re not archival quality.”

It was Kafkakis‘ experience that now motivates her to provide voluntary bereavement photos for families who are expected to lose or have lost children. She works with several area hospitals, including the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. At times, she’ll receive three requests per day from U-M and at others, she’ll go two weeks without a phone call.

Photographing families - either for maternity photos or with their lost children after they’re born - isn’t “as difficult as one might think,” according to Kafkakis.

“You put your emotions aside and focus on that family and their needs,” she said. “I’m there to document that the child existed.”

The women met in 2012 and learned they shared the experience of losing a child. After attending a grief counseling group together at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Brighton, Funk said they felt they needed more specific support.

“The what-ifs were very different,” she said. “I didn’t get to see my baby’s eyes open or celebrate a birthday.”

The two founded LAMB, or Livingston Area Missing our Babies, that year to provide support to other grieving families and for themselves. They hope to create a safe haven for parents - mothers and fathers - who have lost their baby or babies due to miscarriage, during pregnancy or in infancy to share their stories about their baby or babies that have passed.

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