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Helping ‘bear’ grief

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Ashley and Jonathan Fischer donated “Wesley Bears” to the New Ulm Medical Center, Thursday. The bears are for parents who lost an expected child. The bears serve as a reminder that parents experiencing child loss are not alone in their grieving.

NEW ULM — Losing a child is one of the most difficult things a family can face. There are no easy ways to grieve this loss, but Ashley and Jonathan Fischer are offering comfort to those who experience this unimaginable pain.

Thursday, Ashley and Jonathan donated “Wesley Bears” to the New Ulm Medical Center. The couple has been donating these teddy bears to NUMC for the last five years after their son Wesley was stillborn.

The idea behind the bears is to give something to expecting mothers to take home. Ashley said when you come to the hospital to deliver a baby, you expect to leave with a child. For the Fischers, leaving the hospital without their baby was one of the hardest parts of the experience.

“It is just a bear,” Ashley said. “It doesn’t ease the pain, but it is something to hold on to.”

The Fischers began donating bears to NUMC after connecting with Erin Mammen who also lost her daughter Paige. Mammen gave Ashley a Paige bear when they first met. Mammen had been donating the bears in the Twin Cities. The Fischers decided to do the same at NUMC.

The Wesley bears are for any woman who gives birth to a stillborn child. The Fischers resupply NUMC with bears as needed.

“It is bittersweet when they call,” Ashley said. “It means they need more. It is beautiful and heartbreaking.”

The Wesley bears have helped open a dialogue about child loss. It is something that people have difficulty talking about it. Jonathan said stillbirths and miscarriages are more common than people realize. Around one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage.

“I think we don’t talk about it because it is not natural to lose a child, and people are uncomfortable talking about it,” Ashley said. “I am not ashamed to talk about it, but it has taken me a long time to get here.”

The Fischers dropped off their latest donation on what would have been Wesley’s fifth birthday. The couple plans to deliver more bears to the Mankato Medical Center. Kaycee Hutchinson, a former NUMC nurse who now works in Mankato, suggested Wesley bears could be needed elsewhere. The Fischers are more than willing to donate bears to other hospitals that could use them.

“We can’t take away the pain,” Ashley said. “But this can let them know they will be okay, and that they are not alone.”

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