I have to admit, reading the nomination emails for our new monthly feature was heartwarming. So many great Bostonians were nominated this month! What tipped the scales was a beautifully written email about the amazing work that the Quietly United in Loss Together campaign is doing in the Boston area, with founder Nneka Hall at the helm.
“When you lose a child, when you’re planning a funeral, it’s hard. Your mind is in a whirlwind, your heart is shattered, your whole world changes,” the nomination email begins, “Amidst that storm, Nneka Hall personally knitted and delivered a beautiful blanket directly to the funeral home for my son to be buried with. She also left a handwritten letter for the funeral home to give me. It made the world of difference.
With my faith in humanity successfully restored, I had to reach out to her! Within a week, Igot the absolute privilege of speaking with Nneka Hall, a hidden Boston gem.
When I read her the first paragraph of her nomination email, she smiled. “I know exactly who that was. I remember that day! I saw a post on Facebook while I was on the train, a woman wrote to an organization I work with that her friend’s baby had passed and the funeral was approaching…that the baby needed a blanket. I immediately went home and started knitting. I took an Uber to the funeral home when I was done to deliver it.” She describes her good deeds so casually, as if unfazed by her own incredible kindness or the impact she has.
Nneka is a full spectrum doula, Womb Health Specialist, and International Bereavement Specialist. Her passion to help other mothers dealing with loss was sparked after she tragically lost her daughter, Annaya Marie, 39 weeks in to her pregnancy, on August 27, 2010. A day that is also Nneka’s birthday. “No one expects to bury their baby. No one expects to hear there is no heartbeat,” she said, “you get a positive pregnancy test and in an instant you picture and plan your baby’s entire life.”
Through her loss, Ms. Hall set out to help other angel moms. “She gave me a path in life. I’ll always wonder who she would have been, but as an angel she has helped so many people. Everything I do is in her memory. Every life I touch is for her.”
What started off as a one time event in 2014, to make memory quilts for children gone too soon, quickly blossomed in to an invaluable charity providing a tremendous support network for grieving families.
Q.U.I.L.T. now provides in person and virtual support for mothers (and families) who have lost children, from conception to age two. Though Nneka holds steadfast in supporting all angel moms, “It doesn’t matter to me if someone loses a child that’s older than two. I will support them however I can. I won’t turn anyone away. We’re all remembering our children together, we’re all grieving.”
By running Q.U.I.L.T. she hopes to lift the stigma associated with pregnancy and infant loss, educate people about the various causes of pregnancy and infant loss, push doctors and nurses to include kick counting in prenatal care, encourage expectant mothers to be more proactive in their prenatal care, and support grieving families.
Through her work, Nneka Hall has been honored with countless awards. She was a Nominated Change Maker at the first United State of Women Summit, hosted by then First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. She won the Exceptional Advocate Award from Boston’s Community Action Network earlier this year, along with the Star Legacy Foundation’s 2019 award for Stillbirth Advocate of the Year. She has spoken at Harvard Medical School, The Massachusetts Medical Society, Postpartum Day at the Statehouse, and many other events nationwide to bring awareness to fetal and infant loss, especially in the African American community.
Ms. Hall has more than exceeded the meaning behind her moniker. Nneka, in Igbo, means “mother is supreme.” While helping so many, she has been raising her three amazing children. Her son, a Boston Latin Academy graduate and full time college student, also works as an EMT. He has dreams of becoming a nephrologist, having been diagnosed with a kidney disease at age nine, he shares his mothers drive to help others in similar situations. Her oldest daughter is entering ninth grade, and hopes to also be a doctor someday. Her youngest daughter, a rainbow baby after Annaya’s passing, is constantly keeping her on her toes.
In her massive amount of free time (am I allowed to type out an eye roll?) Nneka is hosting loss events, speaking at events, training others to become PAIL (Pregnancy and Infant Loss) advocates, and working as a doula. She also hosts a monthly group in Boston for anyone seeking support after losing a child. Currently, she is working on an event to memorialize babies gone too soon.
So how can Bostonian’s give back to Q.U.I.L.T.? “We need volunteers. Crocheters. People to help assemble pre-made squares or make whole blankets, but,” she says, “anything helps. Even just spreading the word of what we do.”