Ashlie Hogan held Samuel one time. His body stretched from the tip of her finger to the base of her palm.
There were 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes, but the child she and husband Derrick had prayed for was only 16 weeks along in Ashlie’s pregnancy.
“The experience of holding a baby at 16 weeks is — there’s nothing to say besides it’s devastating,” Ashlie Hogan said.
She and parents who faced similar loss will take part in The International Day of Remembrance at 5 p.m. Sunday at Longwood Park in Gainesville.
“Hearing women say, ‘You know what, you sharing your story makes me feel better about sharing my story,’ means that Samuel had a purpose.”Ashlie Hogan
International Day of Remembrance
What: Observance for pregnancy and infant loss
Where: Longwood Park, 20 Pearl Nix Parkway, Gainesville
When: 5-8 p.m. Oct. 15
It was the second time in five years the Demorest couple lost a child in early pregnancy, a subject she never broached with friends and family.
“We just decided that we felt like it was not something that people shared about, so we kept it a secret, and it really nearly tore us apart,” Ashlie Hogan said of the loss in 2012.
Their relationship with each other and their faith were strong.
“At the same time we were both grieving something to ourselves that we weren’t feeling like we could talk about with anyone else,” she said. “It was putting a lot of stress on the two of us to be the one person that we could talk with about the situation.”
In April, the Hogans heard Samuel’s heartbeat at a 16-week appointment and were excited at the prospect of their sixth child.
Two days later, Ashlie Hogan’s water broke while home schooling her children and she lost the child.
“You feel like you’ve gotten through the danger points. You feel like you’ve gotten through the moments that you have to worry about it,” Derrick Hogan said. “You begin to settle in and you begin to prepare and think about the future and what’s going to change.”
This time, Ashlie Hogan would not grieve in silence. She shared her story with friends and family, discussing her journey on social media. To her surprise, there were more women she knew that had stayed silent.
One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to Gainesville-based pregnancy and infant loss counseling group Rock Goodbye Angel.
“It bothered me that people were losing an important member of their family to them but not feel like they could talk about it,” Ashlie Hogan said.
She has raised funds to place stuffed lambs at The Longstreet Clinic. Tags on the lambs have Samuel’s name and the day he was born, along with information about Rock Goodbye Angel.
Rock Goodbye Angel’s founder Angela Ewers estimated the nonprofit served more than 100 families last year through its various events and counseling.
“It’s not really somber, but it’s reflective. We’re there as survivors of pregnancy and infant loss, and we’re there just to acknowledge the International Day of Remembrance,” Ewers said.
Ashlie Hogan encouraged other women and families to reach out for support when they feel comfortable enough to discuss it. Grief is “sneaky,” she said, one where a single thought, sight or sound can send you into tears.
Early on, Derrick Hogan said he felt like he was delaying his own personal grieving process.
“I felt like initially I had to kind of compartmentalize stuff and try to be strong for her, be strong for my other kids so that we could keep the family going,” he said.
What people might say and how they might react were some of the reasons why Ashlie Hogan was apprehensive to share her experience.
“I felt that if someone were to say something negative like, ‘Well, it wasn’t really a baby because he didn’t live here on Earth,’ I knew that was going to make me upset,” she said.
Another response she expected was a focus on her five other children.
“I did have a couple people say things like that, and I think they are well-meaning people who were trying to comfort me. But at the same time, each child is different,” Ashlie Hogan said.
The Hogans told their children shortly after the miscarriage of their little brother in heaven.
Samuel was buried under a weeping willow tree in the front yard, where his brothers and sisters have drawn pictures and released balloons.
“They needed to know that yes, he was real. Yes, he was a person, but he wasn’t going to be their brother here on Earth,” Ashlie Hogan said.
If you ask the Hogans’ children about their brothers and sisters, they always count Samuel in the family.
The Hogans decided to call their son Samuel because of a story in the book of the same name in the Bible, where Hannah prays to God to give her a child.
“If God gives the child to her, then she will give the child back to God in service,” Ashlie Hogan said.
Ashlie Hogan said she has learned to be more honest with God and express her true emotions.
“God is not scared of our anger is what I’ve learned through that. God wants us to share our feelings with him, and if we’re angry about something, then he wants us to tell him about that,” she said.
Through Samuel, the Hogans have helped other families not feel so alone in one of their toughest moments.
“Hearing women say, ‘You know what, you sharing your story makes me feel better about sharing my story,’ means that Samuel had a purpose,” Ashlie Hogan said.