Taylor Prelac watched her 8-week-old baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. Hopeful, full of dreams of what parenthood would be like for she and Jackson High School sweetheart, Tyler, the midwife assured them that despite measuring two weeks behind in development, the strong heartbeat was a healthy sign.
Eight days later, Taylor was at her parents’ house cleaning up after dinner and she began to bleed.
“We were going to find out the gender within the next week,” says Taylor, relating that they had not settled on names.
Taylor was rushed to the ER, but once inside, she had to bear the loss alone. It was April 2020, during the height of the pandemic. “I was scared and not being able to hold someone’s hand was an awful feeling,” she says. “The ERs were so busy and doctors didn’t really have the time to sit down and talk with you about losing a child. It was just like, ‘Your baby is not viable. Follow up with your OBGYN in 24 to 48 hours.’”
She and Tyler returned home to Perry Township. “That was the most physical and emotional pain I’ve been through in my life,” Taylor says, adding that she spent the night and next morning in the basement, curled up, not picking up a single call or text. “It was so difficult to talk about it.”
After the miscarriage, Taylor underwent a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove any fetal tissue. After surgery, her grandmother sent her flowers and a teddy bear. “I clung on to that bear, held it when I cried,” she says. “It was something nice to have and hold with its weighted paws. It felt like it was giving me a hug and it helped me grieve in the way that I needed to.”
On the April 9 anniversary of losing her first child, Taylor decided to donate 10 of the same 16-inch Giving Bears by Demdaco to Summa Akron City Hospital, where she suffered her loss. She wrapped pink and blue ribbons around each bear’s neck and wrote messages on heart-shaped notes.
“Dear friend, you are not alone. My heart aches for any woman who has lost her baby. A part of my grieving and honoring my heavenly child is giving this teddy bear to you. Please hold onto it when you need some comforting. Your baby will always be with you.”
The tearful phone calls from nurses and mothers who sent emails thanking her for understanding their grief triggered an idea that is now Brooks’ Bereavement Bears, a nonprofit that partners with hospitals in Ohio to comfort women after a devastating pregnancy loss.
During the last few years, Brooks’ Bereavement Bears has distributed more than 400 bears, many with unique messages that Taylor writes herself. The nonprofit consists of a grassroots, dedicated board of eight who get together with the Prelacs during evenings and weekends to prepare every bear.
“I love to see how it affects patients firsthand and that rewarding feeling, like you are helping someone grieve and not just sending them out the door,” she says.
I Wanted Something to Hold
Taylor personally understands that being handed a death certificate or dealing-with-loss brochure is not the type of TLC that moves parents who are experiencing loss.
“There are other types of bereavement gifts out there, but this is a personalized, heartfelt note and bear you can hug,” Taylor says. “I didn’t want a number for counseling services. Yes, that helps, but in the moment, I wanted something to hold.”
After the response from Taylor’s initial batch of 10 bears, her wheels started turning. “I could really do this,” she relates.
Taylor has always worked in the nonprofit sector, previously at Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation and now at United Way of Stark County as manager of corporate engagement. “This is what I do best, and I love it,” she says.
“My fundraising experience helped me have the confidence to reach out to corporate organizations for donations,” she adds, noting that her nonprofit survives on those contributions.
When Taylor reaches out to hospitals, they tell her they’ve never experienced an initiative like Brooks’ Bereavement Bears. “I would love for all of the hospitals in Ohio to have these bears, and to reach many more women,” she says.
Taylor and Tyler's Rainbow Baby
Brooks’ Bereavement Bears is named after the couple's second child. Taylor learned she was pregnant a couple of months after her loss. The night she and Tyler read the “positive” result on the pregnancy test, they went out to dinner. They exited the restaurant to a full rainbow.
“A baby born after a miscarriage is called a ‘rainbow baby,’ and I thought, ‘This is a sign.’ I clung on to that," she says.
Brooks was born on April 5, 2021, a healthy boy.
Brooks’ Bereavement Bears ramped up once he turned 1-year-old and Taylor was gradually exiting the new-mom fog. Since then, the nonprofit has been gaining momentum.
For those who are walking in her shoes, she has this to say: “You are never alone. I certainly felt that way when I was going through my miscarriage, and I want moms to know, 'Your baby is always with you, no matter what.'"
Visit BrooksBereavementBears.com or call 330.933.9692 to learn more about how you can make a difference to women and families who are going through one of the toughest times of their lives.
“[That bear] was something nice to have and hold with its weighted paws. It felt like it was giving me a hug and it helped me grieve in the way that I needed to.”