Marissa Salas-Montero said that in the weeks and months following her son Naul’s death, she struggled with the thought that she was alone in her experience and her pain, not knowing that there were thousands of other mothers and families who had also dealt with pregnancy loss. She will help lead a local vigil in honor of National Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Awareness on Monday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Marissa Salas-Montero said that in the weeks and months following her son Naul’s death, she struggled with the thought that she was alone in her experience and her pain, not knowing that there were thousands of other mothers and families who had also dealt with pregnancy loss. She will help lead a local vigil in honor of National Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Awareness on Monday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Marissa Salas-Montero became one of millions of "angel moms" after the death of her son in July, but she felt as if she were the only one.

Still, she hopes to bring awareness to an issue affecting millions of other mothers too - pregnancy and infant loss. President Ronald Reagan designated October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in 1988, but the month also serves as the month for Breast Cancer Awareness.

"I don't belittle it," Salas-Montero said of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the death of a child is just as devastating as cancer. Cancer just shows more visible signs of the disease, she said, while the death of a child is internal.

Salas-Montero had begun prenatal care after finding out she was pregnant with her son, Naul, just as she had with her two other children. She went to her doctor visits regularly and had begun the normal preparations for her third child.

"I had no reason to believe something was wrong," she said. "I ate all the right things. I followed the plans. I did everything right."

Yet during a doctor's visit in her 18th week of pregnancy, an ultrasound showed something was wrong.

"They wouldn't tell me anything," Salas-Montero said.

Instead of a routine visit, the doctor sent her to the hospital for more tests before confirming her baby no longer had a heartbeat.

"Nobody could give me answers," she said.

No doctor or nurse could give Salas-Montero a reason for her baby's heartbeat to not be there anymore. She had delivered a healthy baby girl a year earlier, and nothing had pointed to an abnormal pregnancy.

"I never knew those kind of things happened," she said. "Most people aren't aware of it."

Still, an estimated 2,000 stillbirths and miscarriages happen each day, Salas-Montero said, but not many people talk about their loss or know of the mothers that have gone through a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.

"Most mothers do everything in silence," she said, because "most people don't know how to deal with child loss or infant loss."

Salas-Montero began searching the area to find an event to honor the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, yet found nothing. Still, her questions about a local event led her to a few people who believed such an event was needed. With the help of Morgan and Nay Funeral Centre and Trinity United Methodist Church, the Jefferson County area will honor National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.

"I was just looking to participate," Salas-Montero said. Instead, she found herself organizing the event in memory of her son and the thousands of other mothers like her.

A candlelight vigil - A Nightlight for Naul - will be held Oct. 15 in Madison, along with other candlelight vigils and events across the nation. A Nightlight for Naul will begin at 7 p.m. at the Trinity United Methodist Church, 412 W. Main St., with a reading of a list of angel names, the lighting of candles and prayers. Other groups will participate in the lighting of candles at 7 p.m. across the United States as part of the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

"I'm not sure I'm the best person (to organize an event) because I'm so early in my grief," she said, "but I'd help anyone."

Salas-Montero hopes the vigil will allow some healing for others throughout the community, as well as for herself. While she tried counseling for a while, Salas-Montero still finds more comfort in talking with other mothers who have gone through the same loss that she has and knowing that she isn't the only one who experienced such a loss.

Even though Jefferson County and the surrounding areas don't have support groups for mothers who experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or as infants, Salas-Montero hopes the candlelight vigil will allow a group to form.

"We definitely need something," she said. "There's a definite need."

Even though no support group has been organized yet for "angel moms," Salas-Montero already has plans to organize a walk during National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness next October.

Salas-Montero has learned to cherish every moment with her children. She has also learned that she isn't alone in her loss of an infant during pregnancy.

"I could not believe the people I knew," she said.

" I actually met a lot of different moms who dealt with the same things (as I do)."