EPLA Pres­ident Emily Car­rington leads a meeting of the non­profit orga­ni­zation. Maria Servold | Courtesy

Just as Early Preg­nancy Loss Asso­ci­ation Pres­ident Emily Car­rington began to piece her life back together after her second mis­car­riage in 2014, she found in her mailbox a medical bill ordering her to pay for the pro­ce­dures she expe­ri­enced when her unborn child passed away.

“I didn’t think these bills were unjust in any way — I was paying for medical ser­vices,” Car­rington said as she reflected on the mis­car­riage almost three years later. “I was angry. I didn’t want to pay that bill. It was just one more reminder of what we had been through that year, and I was just annoyed.”

Emily Car­rington said she joked at the time with her husband Adam Car­rington, an assistant pro­fessor of pol­itics at Hillsdale College, that if she had all the money in the world, she would pay every medical bill received by a woman who had lost an unborn child. That sen­timent did not fade, even as Car­rington spent 2014 enduring these tran­si­tions and tragedies: She had quit her job fundraising for a museum, moved to Hillsdale, and mourned two babies she never got to cradle.

As the year went on, she con­sidered life’s next step when an idea came to her. Car­rington said she realized she alone would never have enough money to even slightly lighten the financial burden of women’s post-mis­car­riage hos­pital bills, which rack up costs in the thou­sands of dollars. But if she applied her expe­rience in fundraising to her own endeavor to forgive medical expenses, perhaps what once was a pipe dream could become a reality.

“I won­dered if there was a way we could do this,” she said.

Along with several friends in the Hillsdale area and a few members of her own family, Car­rington founded the Early Preg­nancy Loss Asso­ci­ation in July 2016. The members plan to pursue their goal to pay medical bills in the future, once they build up a large network of donors and find a way to give money in an accountable and respon­sible fashion.

“This isn’t just raising a few dollars. Unfor­tu­nately, we can’t just take $100 and spend it on bills,” Car­rington said. “We’ve started up and we’re doing a lot, but bill pay is not some­thing we’re doing yet even though that was the spark and where we want to go.”

As EPLA moves toward its founders’ original aspi­ration, the non­profit is making strides in edu­cating women about mis­car­riage and building a com­munity among those who have suf­fered.

EPLA recently dis­tributed more than 75 infor­ma­tional folders around Hillsdale County to begin its edu­cation efforts. Light gray folders bearing EPLA’s logo, a purple tulip, now wait in the emer­gency room and obstetrics wing at Hillsdale Hos­pital, in the offices of local coun­selors, in the lobbies of crisis preg­nancy centers.

“My goal is to have our folders any­where where a woman might be diag­nosed with a mis­car­riage and not know what to do,” Car­rington said. “I want them in the hands of any care provider sitting in front of a woman grieving.”

Tucked inside the folder is a packet out­lining dif­ferent types of early preg­nancy loss. The write-up includes important terms that women couldn’t grasp during the initial, over­whelming con­ver­sation with their doctors. Clean lines of text define terms like missed mis­car­riage, ectopic preg­nancy, and molar preg­nancy. The next page out­lines how women should care for them­selves phys­i­cally and emo­tionally after their loss. The folder also includes a card of facts about mis­car­riage and lists a few myths about mis­car­riages.

Cer­tified Nurse Midwife Amy Zoll, who works at Hidden Meadows OB-GYN, a clinic owned by Hillsdale Hos­pital, said before EPLA, the resources for women and fam­ilies suf­fering from early loss were limited before EPLA began its work. When a patient loses a child, Zoll com­forts her and hands her an EPLA folder as they prepare to face the outside world.

“We hold their hands, we hug them, we want to be there to do whatever we can to help them through that,” Zoll said. “I know that when we share this infor­mation with our patients, they are absolutely grateful. It has been very well received.”

EPLA Sec­retary Maria Servold, who also serves as the assistant director of the College’s Dow Jour­nalism Program, said she she looks forward to seeing the non­profit expand.

“It’s fun to think about what we can do in the future when we have an endowment and people apply for money. We’ll pay for their bills, we’ll have folders all across the country,” Servold said. “When someone goes through a mis­car­riage, they’ll have a place to go.”

Beyond bill pay and edu­cation ini­tia­tives, EPLA will also foster com­munity among women and fam­ilies who are coping with loss. But the orga­ni­zation is not post­poning its work on this — the women of EPLA have already begun to cul­tivate com­munity, both through their non­profit and through their own lives.

Car­rington, Zoll, and Servold each iden­tified society’s failure to address, let alone properly address, mis­car­riage, and said com­munity born through vul­ner­a­bility will ease that burden.

“Whenever a star comes out and talks about her mis­car­riage, it’s still talked about as an act of bravery. The bravery is not that she’s sur­viving without her child. The bravery is that she told you,” Car­rington said. “That’s not how we talk about any other death. If I were to announce to you that my grandma died, you wouldn’t call me brave. But we’re seeing that shift. We’re excited to be a small part of that.”

Car­rington explained that most women and fam­ilies refrain from announcing their preg­nancies until they reach 12 weeks of ges­tation. Before 12 weeks, the chances of mis­car­riage are higher.

Car­rington said she fol­lowed this advice for her first preg­nancy.

“We didn’t announce until 12 weeks. We went to an appointment at about 11 weeks and found out the baby had passed,” Car­rington said. “We were going to announce our preg­nancy the next day. What we ended up doing was announcing our mis­car­riage the next day. And that wasn’t easy.

“In the end, we regretted that we never had a chance to cel­e­brate the life of that child,” Car­rington said.

It’s this vul­ner­a­bility that Car­rington has tried to live out per­sonally as she tries to foster it in her orga­ni­zation.

“With EPLA, you have an avenue to express and share and maybe help somebody else get through the process, which I think is phe­nomenal,” Zoll said. “People can talk to each other rather than silently sit in pain.”

Members of the board of EPLA plan to attend the Pro-Life Women’s Con­ference in St. Louis this June to hand out their mate­rials and network with other orga­ni­za­tions. Car­rington said the nonprofit’s vision — that all women and fam­ilies are sup­ported — will guide them as they grow.

“Someday, I really hope to see an orga­ni­zation that reaches wide and addresses preg­nancy loss by bearing burdens,” Car­rington said. “I want to see an orga­ni­zation that meets fam­ilies in their weakest moments and pro­vides them support, but brings them out of that and past that so they can move forward and move on.”

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