A Time to Remember: Honoring Your Baby

 

yellow_tulipsPregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is a great time to remember and memorialize your baby. Here are some tips we share each year at this time, adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

There are countless ways to remember and honor your baby. No matter how much time has passed since your miscarriage, it is never too late to memorialize your child.

You can find comfort and healing by incorporating your baby’s memory into your life. Here are some suggestions:

Create a memory box. Include any mementos you may have from your baby. A positive pregnancy test, a toy, stuffed animal or outfit you bought for the baby (if you do not have one, then buy one). Anything you may have that reminds you of your pregnancy or your baby can be included, even if you just have a few things.

Make a donation in your baby’s name. Publicly acknowledge your child by making a charitable donation, or give something to a needy child that is the same age your child would have been now. Also consider submitting an article or poem about your baby to a newspaper or magazine.

Make something for the baby such as a quilt, a painting, a cross stitch, an outfit, a piece of pottery or furniture.

Buy a piece of jewelry that symbolizes your baby. Your baby’s birthstone, or an engraved necklace with your baby’s name can be good choices.

Plant a tree or garden in memory of your baby. You may even choose a houseplant or indoor tree. Decorate the tree at special times of the year to remember your baby.

Add your baby to the family tree. If you named your baby, add him or her permanently to the family by including the baby in your family tree.

Donate baby items that you may have bought or received to a worthy charity. You may also do this in your baby’s name.

Have a celebration each year on your baby’s birthday or due date.

Include your baby in the hospital’s Remembrance Book. Most hospitals have a remembrance book, and even if your baby did not die in a hospital, you can contact the Chaplin at your local hospital.

Add your baby to the HOPE Canvas. Create a “virtual” square in honor of your baby and add it to the HOPE Canvas. Share it with your friends and family to remember your baby. Find out more information on The HOPE Canvas page.

Light a candle for the baby every evening until you feel you do not need to anymore. After that, burn it once a month, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, or on special anniversaries.

Remembering your baby is a very personal thing. There is no right or wrong way to honor your child. Taking the time to memorialize your baby will bring you closure and comfort as your move through your grief, and work toward recovery.

Trial by Fire: 9 Tips for Grieving Couples

coupleFather’s Day can stir a mix of emotions after a miscarriage. Fathers and Mothers can be affected by the event – which can be a painful reminder of loss.

You will often hear that grief and loss bring couples together, but it can actually do just the opposite. It is possible to emerge on the other side of grief with a closer marriage, but it does take work.

 

Here are some tips adapted from the book “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” that can help your marriage survive the stress of loss:

 

1. Give each other the freedom to grieve in an individual way. Resist the temptation to feel that your way is the only way to handle loss. Do not be fooled if it seems that your spouse has not been affected by the loss.
2. Remember the good times. Think about activities you enjoy as a couple and make time to do them- even if you do not feel up to it yet.
3. Expect tough times. Be tolerant with your mate and understand that you are both going to fail each other during this turbulent time.
4. Do not lash out at one another. In a weakened state of grief, this will only push you apart. Find constructive ways to release the stress and anger of grief.
5. Prepare for change. Loss and grief change people and it will change the face of your marriage. Decide together that this trial will bring you closer and commit to your relationship.
6. Reach out. Resist the urge to spend time away from your mate or reach out to others who better understand your grief.
7. Avoid placing blame. Tossing accusations at your spouse will only place a wedge in your relationship. Understand that feelings of guilt, anger, and confusion are normal during this time.
8. Love each other. Be sure to offer the hugs, cuddling, and love that each partner needs to feel secure and supported. Be sure to resume your physical relationship as soon as possible.
9. Seek information and support.
Educate yourselves on grief and try to understand one another. If you are having difficulties resolving your grief as a couple and you feel your marriage is in trouble, get help immediately! Do not wait until it is too late to seek help.

 

There are no easy answers for couples dealing with pregnancy loss. It is crucial that you make the decision to put your marriage first and then do it!

 

Lisa Church is author of “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” and founder of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to helping women and their families facing miscarriage.

Join Us at the March of Dimes Walk & See the HOPE Canvas!

Williamsburg, VA March for Babies is Coming on March 14!

Williamsburg, VA March for Babies is Coming on Saturday, March 14, 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join us at the upcoming March of Dimes March for Babies and be a part of the HOPE Canvas! The March of Dimes works tirelessly to improve the health of babies and fund research to prevent the premature birth of babies. They also provide support to families who are grieving the loss of their premature babies.

We are partnering with the March of Dimes Williamsburg event to display the HOPE Canvas and give you the opportunity to honor your baby by adding a square of your own. We will also have copies of the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death available for purchase and the author will be personally signing them.

Want to know more about the HOPE Canvas?

The HOPE Canvas

The HOPE Canvas

 

The HOPE Canvas is a way to remember and honor a baby who has died from miscarriage or stillbirth. The original canvas includes 9 squares made by families in memory of their babies.

The HOPE Canvas is now virtual, to make room for the thousands of babies that die each year before their time.

 

Want to Add a Square?

Make your baby a part of the canvas!

  • Meet us at March of Dimes March for Babies at the Bereavement Tent between 9:00am-12:00pm.
  • Create a square (the original squares are 12 inches by 12 inches) and decorate any way you wish. Supplies will be provided.
  • We will take a photo of your square and post it on instagram so you can add your “virtual” square to the Canvas in honor of your baby!
  • Be sure to follow #Hope_Canvas on instagram so you can share your square with friends and family.

Can’t make the event on March 14th? Create your own square to add to the canvas! Find the instructions here.

Hope to see you at the event!

Mother’s Day: Am I a Mother?

rhododendron-1442863-mAre you spending this Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? 900,000-1 million women in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

“For women who experience a miscarriage during their first pregnancy, the question of motherhood is an even greater one,” says Lisa Church of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to the support of women and their families facing pregnancy loss.

Mother’s Day is the most difficult holiday a woman must face after pregnancy loss. A time that was supposed to be a celebration of a new life and a new motherhood becomes a time of sadness and grief. Church’s book, Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death, encourages women to use the holiday to remember their babies, rather than making it a dreaded event to endure each year. “Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you,” says Church. Here are some tips from the book that can help:

– You Are a Mother.

The best gift you can give yourself on Mother’s Day is the acknowledgment that you are a mother. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you do have one in your heart.

– Let Your Family Know What You Need.

If you feel uncomfortable being recognized as a mother at a banquet or other function, substitute an activity you would feel good about. If you would rather not receive or wear a flower, then wear an item that helps you to connect with your baby, such as a piece of jewelry that includes the baby’s birthstone.

– Remember Your Baby.

Mother’s Day can be a great time for a husband and wife to talk about their baby and what the baby meant to them. Take a walk, have a quiet dinner, or just set aside some time to remember your baby together.

– Decide Ahead of Time.

The way you chose to spend Mother’s Day should be your decision- and one you make ahead of time. Setting time aside to remember and talk about your baby will make you “feel” more like a mom on the very day designed to do that. Church also reminds women that their spouses may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, “so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.”

We run this article each year to help grieving Moms handle Mother’s Day.

 

A Birthday Wish of Hope

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A Birthday Wish of Hope

On Sunday we celebrated my daughter’s 15th birthday. As I hugged her tight and told her Happy Birthday, I was surprised when I started to cry. Not because she’s growing up, or turning out to be such a fine young woman, but because I wasn’t sure if she would ever get here. You see, my daughter is my oldest, but not my “first born.” I had a miscarriage a year before she was born that made me worry if I would ever have a family. It rocked my world, and my expectation of what my future might be.

When my daughter arrived it was such an amazing joy. One that I wasn’t sure I would ever have. And now, 15 years later, it made me “misty” as I wished her a Happy Birthday and remembered the day she was born, and how much we wanted and waited for her.

Trying to have another baby after losing one, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was terrified. Not just at the beginning…the whole time. I was embarrassed to share just how afraid I was that something would go horribly wrong…again. I pretended to be undecided when I reached the 8th month and I still hadn’t named her. I was too scared to get that “attached,” still panicked that it could all come crashing down.

All of that changed on the day she was born. My perfectly healthy, 7lb 3oz pound baby girl arrived. No complications, no problems, no horrible ending. I held my daughter tight, and I cried tears of unspeakable joy and relief. She was here- my family and my dream.

My husband was the one who kept encouraging me to try again. Thank God for him. I was so afraid of what could go wrong, that I almost gave up what is so right about my life- my family. Eight years later, I had another beautiful baby girl. She almost didn’t survive the first 6 weeks of the pregnancy. Just like her sister, she overcame the terrible odds I struggled with. And once again, I held my new baby in my arms.

If you are struggling with fear – don’t lose hope. Grief and pain can alter your perspective- it can paralyze you. It can steal your dreams and leave you feeling all alone. You can’t be too afraid to hope- to try again, and to keep trying. You never know what could be just around the corner.

Remember Your Baby: Join the HOPE Canvas!

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

Did you know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? In 1988 President Ronald Reagan made a declaration to set aside this important month. Unfortunately, the President had a very personal experience with infant loss during his first marriage, when his newborn baby died just 7 hours after birth.

For families that have suffered miscarriage or early infant death, this is a time to reflect, remember and honor your babies.

Many years ago I saw the AIDS quilt and I was absolutely inspired by it. If you’ve seen it online or in person, you know how truly incredible it is. A handmade square is added to the quilt by friends or family members who want to honor and remember a loved one. The squares create a massive quilt that now has multiple panels and represents countless lives- individuals remembered.

When I saw the quilt I knew I wanted to do something for babies who died due to miscarriage or early infant death. Fortunately, I met artist Veronica Gray and together we launched the HOPE Canvas. The original canvas had 9 hand-made squares that were made by loved ones in honor of their babies. When the canvas was full I realized that there are hundreds of thousands of babies in the United States alone that die before or just after they are born. So we decided to make the canvas “virtual.”

The HOPE Canvas

The HOPE Canvas

We have moved the canvas to Instagram and invite you to add a square to honor your babies. This month of October, Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, is the perfect time to remember your baby by creating a square for the canvas.

Please visit the HOPE Canvas page on this site to get more information on creating and adding your square to the canvas.

I hope you will take the time to remember your baby in this very special way. It can be a healing experience you can share with others, or keep for yourself. We know you keep your baby in your heart and we hope you will make your child a part of the HOPE Canvas.

 

Remember Your Baby: Light a Candle on October 15th!

On October 15, at 7:00 pm in all time zones, families around the United States and across the world will light candles in memory all of the precious babies that have been lost during pregnancy or in infancy. Too many families grieve in silence, sometimes never coming to terms with their loss. We hope you will join us in this national tribute to create awareness of these tragic infant deaths and provide support to those that are suffering.

candle_heartHelp create a ‘wave’ of light across our nation!

Congressman Tom Latham of Iowa introduced a House Resolution supporting the Goals and Ideals of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, October 15th, and calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation encouraging the American people to honor this special day of remembrance.
October 15 Press Release

For more information, please visit October 15th.

Mark Zuckerberg Shares Pain of Miscarriages on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg  Shares Pain of Miscarriage

Mark Zuckerberg Shares Pain of Miscarriage

Using Facebook to share the joys of life is common in our “virtual” world. What is not so common is an honest post that shares your pain. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook creator and founder, did just that recently when he announced the joy of his wife’s pregnancy and then shared the pain of the couple’s multiple miscarriages.

See the story: Mark Zuckerberg Shares Pain of Miscarriage

 

 

 

Men Have Feelings Too: Father’s Day After Loss

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. They will often hear friends and family asking their wives how they are doing, but rarely do men recieve the same type of attention. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation for them.
It may sometimes appear that a man is not experiencing the pain of pregnancy loss. It is critical to understand how men and women grieve differently. Life experiences, along with cultural and personality differences mean that men and women are going to have separate, but equal dealings with grief.
If the lines of communication and support break down during loss, you will find a man feeling alone and unsupported. Here are some ways you can help a man during grief:
  • Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. You may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but do not be fooled. Understand that a man in grief will find himself in a difficult position- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.
  • Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
  • Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to help a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
  • Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunderstanding.

Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone. Understanding a man and giving him the space and support he needs will be critical.

The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Saying it Loudly: I Had a Miscarriage

miscarriage-Article

Lettering in photo by Anne Robin Calligraphy.

I saw this article today, published to commemorate October 15th, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I hope you find it as moving as I did. Raise your voices, light a candle and share your stories today #IHadAMiscarriage.

 

 

Two years ago I had a miscarriage. This life-threatening, heart cracking experience eclipsed everything that had come before. It was a foggy mid-October afternoon muddled by spots of bewildering blood and foreboding cramping. I was in labor, at home, alone. But how was I to know this when just hours earlier we had seen a strong heartbeat, and all had looked peaceful in utero?

I attempted to take things slowly but still “go about my day” as my obstetrician recommended, but I abruptly felt overcome by terrorizing anxiety. My palms became sweaty, my heart raced expeditiously and I was petrified that I might be milliseconds away from losing consciousness. Somehow, I made my way to the bathroom. I thought if I could simply empty my bladder, calm my breath and apply a cold compress to my face, I would resume normalcy.

I heard a pop. Or did I? I don’t know anymore.

As I started to urinate something else happened. Something even now I have trouble writing about without feeling an urge, almost a compulsion, to scream aloud with sheer horror. My baby slid out. She dangled from me mere centimeters from the toilet-bowl water. My window-clad house should have shattered from the pitch of my prolonged primordial howl. It didn’t. I did.

I was 16 weeks pregnant.

I fervently called my doctor and texted my closest friends and family “I HAD A MISCARRIAGE” in an effort to galvanize physical and emotional wherewithal. Somehow I had the presence of mind to know that if I didn’t, not only would my daughter die today, so could I.

I cut the umbilical cord, and immediately began to bleed. No longer part of a symbiotic union, dizzy with despair and confusion over this separation, I found a way to stay the course on the practical matters of caring for myself. My doctor talked me through what to do, stressing the need to get to her office, and quickly, with my baby in a plastic bag to send to the lab for testing.

My husband came for me immediately. I straddled a pile of towels, still hemorrhaging, as we numbly sped to her office, mute. There was no time for anesthesia and the only way to make the bleeding stop was to extract the placenta. So, there I lay, feeling the D and C machine tug out the remainder of my pregnancy. After a few inhales of smelling salts, and with nothing but some snapshots of the fetus, we returned home.

Rarely do I ruminate, but sometimes — especially around the anniversary of my loss, as my grief swirls — I wonder if she felt anything. I wonder what happened to her. Did her heart stop beating before or after she fell from my body? I like to think, though I know this is pure conjecture, that this miscarriage, though tragic, ultimately allowed me to bypass the decision I would have faced if we had learned about her chromosomal abnormality after the scheduled amniocentesis a couple of weeks later. The choice was not mine.

How do we honor our losses, and the fact that life doesn’t always make much sense?

We shouldn’t feel ashamed of our traumas, nor should we hide the consequent grief. It’s not that I necessarily feel proud of having a miscarriage, but I do feel compelled to question why it seems as if we rarely talk about pregnancy loss, though the statistics are staggering. Is it resounding cultural shame? Speckles of self-blame? Steadfast stigma? The notion that talking about “unpleasant” things is a no-no? It’s a hard topic. But if every woman who has lost a pregnancy to miscarriage or stillbirth told her story, we might at least feel less alone.

Today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Along with many others, I’ll be honoring the life-altering bereavement millions of us have faced by sharing my story on Twitter with the hashtag #IHadAMiscarriage. I hope others will join me. And tonight, in what has become a tradition on this date for many families, I will light a candle for the child I never knew and take a moment to appreciate even more deeply the children I have.