What It Means To Put A White Pumpkin On Your Porch

The following article includes information pertaining to pregnancy and infant loss.

October is a time that most associate with the joys of carving pumpkins, decorating yards for Halloween, and families trick-or-treating, but for others, it can be a time of mourning. Decorating your porch with white pumpkins is a way to honor a child lost from miscarriage, stillbirth, or sudden infant death syndrome. While October is a month to celebrate Halloween and embrace family traditions, it's also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

The Pregnancy and Infant Loss community uses the white pumpkin as a symbol. For parents whose child will never put on a Halloween costume, visit a pumpkin patch, or marvel over their trick-or-treat candy, adding a white pumpkin to the fall décor on their porch is a way to include, remember, and honor their child who has passed away. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21,000 stillbirths were recorded in 2020. Though this experience is often isolating, the symbol of the white pumpkin brings awareness and joins together a community of parents to support each other.

Where the white pumpkin movement started

Jennifer Giles, a mother whose daughter, Madelyn Grace, passed away when she was 38 weeks pregnant, wrote a poem titled "The White Pumpkin" and shared it on Facebook in 2018. The symbolism of the color white and its associations with innocence and rebirth inspired others who had suffered the loss of a child to create a movement of displaying white pumpkins. According to Good Housekeeping, Giles' post was shared 11,000 times and received almost 900 comments. Though the original post can no longer be found, the poem continues to be shared by others on social media.

Displaying a white pumpkin on your porch was given new meaning with Giles' poem; now a symbol of support and remembrance for those who have lost pregnancies or infants. Two years after sharing her poem and story, Giles started the White Pumpkin Project, which aimed to sell hand-painted and carved white, wooden pumpkins, personalized with the child's name.

The White Pumpkin Project

When Jennifer Giles searched Instagram for white pumpkins to buy, she found Jessica Watt, a blogger with an online boutique called The Happy Home. Giles and Watt developed a relationship and discovered that Watt's daughter has the same name as the child Giles lost. Watt had also struggled with infertility in the past, and through their friendship Giles and Watt started the White Pumpkin Project in 2020. As of 2021, the two women had sold more than 80 of their memorial pumpkins. Some of the profits from the sales went to support Strongheart, Giles' group for women who've experienced infertility or the loss of a child.

Though the White Pumpkin Project no longer seems to be operating, Giles' poem and the symbol of the white pumpkin continue to support families. In an interview with Good Housekeeping, Giles spoke of how her daughter's story inspires hope. "What can be perceived as a tragedy — and trust me, it is — can also be something that brings good. I've seen the good that she's brought to my family. I've seen the good that she's brought to so many others," Giles said. By decorating your porch with a white pumpkin, you can show your support to those mourning a child this fall.

If you or someone you know needs help with pregnancy, birth, or postpartum grief, please contact Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773.