Story by LISA ANDERSON
This is so common. I learned one in four pregnancies end in loss, so why are there not any resources?— Kara Mangum
Kara Mangum’s mission is to provide resources and care packages for women experiencing miscarriage in the United States. Her nonprofit, Our Hearts Align, averages 400 care packages per year since its inception in 2017. This year, they are on track to send out well over that number.
The Year of Highs and Lows
She was a hard-working teenager. Her time at Lake Weir High School was focused on the academic track. Kara participated in many of the available clubs and community service opportunities. When she graduated from high school, she attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
She chose to continue on with her master’s and was accepted for an internship at Shady Hill Elementary School in Ocala. Three weeks into her internship, she was offered a permanent position that she held for three years.
The internship had begun in August 2013. On October 5th, she married Daniel Mangum, and on his birthday, November 5th, she told him he was going to be a father. The couple headed for Ireland over Thanksgiving break to have their honeymoon. When they returned, they began looking at prenatal care.
“I wanted to have a natural birth,” Kara explains. The couple had scheduled two appointments: one with a local birth center and the other at an obstetrics (OB) clinic. The tour of the birth center was first. Daniel and Kara completed the tour, and the midwife offered to have them listen to the baby’s heartbeat. She retrieved her Fetal Doppler and began searching for it. After a while, the midwife replaced the Fetal Doppler with another. She assured Kara and her husband that either there was something wrong with the equipment or the baby was just in a position where they would be unable to hear the heart. When she was still unable find the heartbeat, the midwife sent Kara for an ultrasound, as a precaution.
“It was a stat ultrasound. They get you in immediately, but they can’t tell you anything. I saw the baby on the screen,” Kara recalls.
She was told to return to the birth center to hear her results. Kara continued to hold out hope that everything was fine. She and Daniel were greeted at the door by the midwife, who had tears in her eyes, and they were given the news. There was no heartbeat. “Obviously, I was devastated. How was this happening? This was not on the radar at all.”
The couple contacted their family, and Kara was encouraged to seek a second opinion at an OB clinic. She was able to move her previously scheduled appointment to an earlier time, but her experience was far from pleasant. “I went there looking for a second opinion. Instead of being greeted with the second opinion, I was greeted with, ‘You know your baby is dead in there, and we need to get your baby out now.’”
The doctor wanted her to go directly to the hospital for a dilation and curettage procedure (D&C), a surgical procedure to remove the fetus. “Whoa! That’s not why I came here!” Kara recollects her thoughts at the time. “I’m an emotional wreck. I’m by myself. My husband is at work. I didn’t know what to do!”
She told the doctor she would need a moment to call her husband. She’s grateful she took the time to do so, because she left the clinic without going to the hospital. “My midwife was giving me options. The OB was not giving me any options.”
Kara returned to the birth center a few days later and opted to continue her care with her midwife who gave the choices of having a D&C, taking medication to induce labor, or giving the body time to naturally trigger the miscarriage. “I made the decision. I wanted a natural birth, so I wanted to do this the natural way.”
She scheduled an appointment at the hospital to obtain the medication if it was needed, but about two weeks later, Kara’s body prompted the miscarriage. “It was two days after Christmas. Holidays are kind of hard.”
Our Hearts Align
Kara had not been told what to do with the baby after she miscarried. So, the couple held a small service and buried the baby next to a tree planted in memory of her great-grandmother.
Following the event, Kara realized how common pregnancy loss is for women, and she was frustrated by the lack of resources. “I did lots of praying and, finally, just felt called to make a difference. I didn’t know what that would look like. Eventually, I decided to found a nonprofit.”
Along with directing Our Hearts Align, Kara is working on a book to help explain pregnancy loss to children. She is now the mother of three daughters.
Learn more about Our Hearts Align by visiting their Facebook page.