Remembering Your Baby: Forever in Your Heart

Candle heart

Light a flame to remember your baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnancy 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.

–       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.

Be Aware: October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness 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.

Many states have declared October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, but remembrance and events are seen throughout this important month.

 

What do this mean to you? Awareness Month is a simple way to open the door to conversations about your feelings and your baby. You may want to talk to your family, friends, your community or maybe your spouse or significant other about your child who died.

Wearing a pink and blue Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbon during October, or anytime, is a great way to increase awareness and honor your baby. You can buy a Pregnancy Loss Awareness Pin by visiting StockPins.com. The pins are well-made, inexpensive and arrive in a few business days.

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbons can be handmade with pink and blue ribbon or purchased. The pins should be worn on the left-hand side just above your heart- where your baby already lives.

We post this information each year to share this very important event.

What I’ve Learned From Cancer

No, I don’t have cancer. But the disease has greatly impacted my life over the past year. My Mom and my best friend were both diagnosed within 2 months of each other. Then my Mom’s best friend a few months later. If that weren’t enough, a family friend lost his long battle and passed away- on Christmas Eve. I’ve been surrounded by cancer for the past year. Completely surrounded.

Looking back over the past months, I wouldn’t relive them- not even for the biggest Lotto jackpot ever. But, I have realized some important things during these grueling days…things I don’t want to forget.

Every Day is a Gift

Life can seem so random and unfair, especially when your loved ones are being attacked by a horrible disease. Watching those I care about fighting through and for every day made me realize that each one of those days is a gift. I started to feel ashamed that my husband and children and I were in perfect health and I had hardly given it a thought. I was reminded, almost daily, how fragile life can be and how ungrateful I had been for taking it all for granted. My struggles seemed to shrink next to the life and death situations I was reluctantly a part of. I have a renewed appreciation for getting up every morning- and I don’t want to waste a single day.

Say “I Love You”

Facing death- your’s or someone close to you- gives you instant clarity. You suddenly realize what and who you could lose. And you don’t want to leave anything unsaid. I felt compelled to share my deep feelings- to say, ” I love you,” as often as possible. We always feel that we’ll have time for that another day and we put off having serious or meaningful conversations with those we care about.  I found myself being more direct with the people I love, because wasting time seemed unwise and risky. Say the hard things, but also say the good things; and say them more than ever.

Your Attitude Matters

Watching how each of my loved ones are handling their horrible circumstances has been eye opening. I’ve seen almost daily bouts of doubt, fear and anger tempered by incredible hope, strength and faith. I’ve witnessed the roller coaster rides of good news and bad news and intense periods of waiting and wondering. Nothing tests your internal fortitude quite like that. And these tests reminded me that your attitude is everything. The difference between making the most of every day- and just surviving. The difference between living and just breathing. Our attitude is all wrapped up in that complicated brain or ours…and it’s the key to everything. We all hold the key to a good life.

Hold on to Your Faith

My biggest lesson in watching the people I love struggle through cancer is the ultimate importance of faith. It’s hard to get up in morning if you’ve decided their is no hope. And hope- the kind that is real, the kind that endures, comes through real faith. Not the kind that makes people dress up on Sunday and “play church.” But the kind that brings peace and defies logic. A faith you can lean on when everything around you is crumbling apart. A belief so strong, you can face death, and not be afraid.

For me, that faith is in God. The pain and grief of watching the people I care about in a fight for their lives took a toll on me. I felt some very dark days, and cried my share of tears. But through it all, I have leaned on my faith. I didn’t have a choice- I just wasn’t strong enough. Having to rely on my faith to get me through the day made it stronger. Watching my loved ones doing the same renewed it even more. I honestly don’t know how you make it through such an incredible battle without it. I don’t think I could. If you are interested in a faith like that, find a pastor, priest, rabbi or trusted “faithful” friend you can talk too. It could can change how you live…and how you die.

When Your Sky is Dark, Keep Looking Up

see-the-stars-1502227Last night was the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower. I am always intrigued by space and the heavens, so I stood out in my front yard at 11pm last night, hoping to see something special.  As soon as I picked a spot away from the porch lights I saw a blazing  “shooting star” directly in front of me. It was big and shimmering- bright and slightly orange falling across my neighborhood sky. It was so exciting that I immediately wanted to see another one. I stood in the yard for almost an hour, spotting some small streaks and momentary bursts of white trailing shimmer, but nothing like the beautiful burst I had seen in the beginning.

After going back inside, the lure of seeing another meteor like the first one took me back outside. As I stood gazing at the sky, now getting a crook in my neck, I had a strange thought. The amazing star I saw streaking across the sky when I first came outside reminded me of my first pregnancy. It was joyful and mesmerizing- a new experience that was exciting and big. Until it ended. Until I found weeks and months after it all began that my baby’s heart never started beating. My incredibly beautiful star had gone out. The shimmer was gone.

I waited to try again, prolonging the possibility of that 2nd shimmering star.  Anxious, afraid, unknowing. And when I finally did become pregnant again, the star wasn’t as bright as the first one. Fear creeped in and my blazing light was a smaller streak now. But I still had hope.

When I stood in the yard for the 2nd time last night, not one streak appeared. I didn’t want to give up to easily- I really wanted to see one more. Finally, I decided I had to go in- my eyelids were giving out- it was well after midnight now. As I slowly worked my way back to the front door one more star trailed above my head with a white shimmer. I smiled. It was just like the hope I had to try one more time…wait a little longer…have some faith. And just like the final star that streaked above as I was giving up, my healthy baby girl arrived- shiny and perfect. And it was even more unbelievable another star appeared and my 2nd baby girl brightened our world.

Last night was such a great reminder that we all need hope. Whether you are waiting to see a shooting star or to find love, or to stop hurting or to have a baby. We have to keep our hope alive, so remember to look up.

 

When Stress is Soaring: Be Like the Eagle

eagle-1119428-m I had “one of those mornings” today. The kind that make you stress, angst and basically question if you are making the right decisions. I was deep in thought driving to work on a busy highway, when something caught my eye. Sitting high in one of the trees that lined the car-filled street, was a large, stunning bald eagle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that wasn’t sitting in a zoo or displayed in HD on a flat screen- and here was one right above my car. I drove ever so slowly so I could have a look at this very beautiful creature.

What struck me about the eagle was his majestic presence and the sense of calm he seemed to exude. He was looking carefully at his surroundings, but he wasn’t phased by the noise, cars or mayhem that was just below him. He sat very still and took in the world around him. It was an amazing site.

The strange part was, that just seeing this regal animal immediately made me feel calm. It was as if the eagle’s presence had swept over me and reminded me that a higher power was watching over me that very instant- when I really needed it.

The eagle was a powerful reminder that we can experience our hectic surroundings without letting them rattle us. If you are feeling overwhelmed today by tough circumstances, sadness or grief- sit still, take a deep breath and invite calm to sweep over you. Be like the eagle.

Should I Go? Help for the Holidays

holiday chestnutsHolidays and special events are normally a time of joy and celebration, however they can become a painful reminder of your loss. Seeing family members, making decisions, and attending the holiday activities you usually enjoy can take on a different outlook after the loss of a child.

If you begin feeling sadness during the holidays or a special occasion, think about why you are feeling that way; process those feelings and accept them.  It is a perfectly normal reaction to your grief. Taking this step ahead of time may help you to avoid some uncomfortable moments in public.
Should I Go?
Ask yourself if you are ready to attend family gatherings or parties. This will give you the opportunity to let someone know your decision in advance. Knowing that you would have planned to share your new baby at these celebrations could make them difficult and even tearful for you. Give yourself the option to gracefully bow out of the activity. Asking yourself these questions before a special event may help:
  • Can I handle this? Is this something I would enjoy? If so, it could be a good way to lift your spirits.
  • What does my spouse think? Will it cause problems if I do not attend?
  • Would the holiday or special event be the same if I don’t attend? Deciding not to attend a Christmas play will not take away from the holiday season; however deciding not to attend Thanksgiving dinner will certainly change the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thinking through these questions ahead of time can help you arrive at a decision that is right for you, and one that will not negatively impact your spouse or your family.
The above is an excerpt from the book Hope is Like the Sun.

HELP Get Stillbirth & SIDS Bill Passed in Congress!

SIDS & Stillbirth BillThere is a bill being considered in Congress called the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act. The bill promotes awareness and data collection that can help to provide more information, protocols, and prevention of Stillbirth and SIDS. Read more about the bill.

Contact your Senator to ask him or her to support this critical, no-cost bill! Information and simple steps to contact your Senator can be found here. There are visits to the Hill being scheduled for November 13th. If you are interested in participating, please email laura@firstcandle.org for more information.

Get involved to help this vital effort to save babies and help families!

 

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.

Be Brave: Grief is Not for Wimps

courage-945002-mEvery October I remember the child I lost. I didn’t lose my child at the mall, or get separated at a park. I actually didn’t “lose” my child at all…my baby died. Even all these years later, it is still difficult to say it like that. My husband and I had waited ten years to have children because I traveled frequently and I was finally settled and ready. But our “best laid plans” were about to take a horrible turn.

It was just before Halloween and I was 3 months pregnant with our first child. My two sisters had five children between them and I was finally going to join them in growing the family. I had not considered, even for a moment, that something could go wrong. But something went terribly wrong. Over the next few weeks my pregnancy unraveled and my baby, and my hope for a family, was gone. In the empty space where my baby had been was confusion, disbelief, anger, numbness and incredible pain.

Read 9 Things Never to Say to a Woman Who’s Had a Miscarriage

Fourteen years have passed. We now have two perfectly healthy, and perfectly wonderful daughters and I smile and get misty as I write these words about them. But I do still think back to the child I will never know. I wonder what my baby would have looked like and sounded like and what kind of person he or she might have been. I still wonder…but it doesn’t hurt as much now. There was a time that just typing these words would have left me sobbing. Time does heal, but it doesn’t make us forget. I do still think about my baby. Especially this time of year. But now, I can wonder and move on, as anyone who is grieving must do at some point.

If you are hurting from the pain of grief, remember that time will go by. The intense pain will pass and one day you will notice that the daggers of grief are now a dull ache. Your life will return to a new version of “normal” and you will go on. Be brave enough to remember the loss of your past and move steadily toward your future.