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The Pain of Baby Loss

I’ve never lost a baby, so I can’t even pretend to know what it feels like.
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However, I have friends who have lost a baby, and I often find that I don’t have any words to comfort their grieving. I want to introduce you to my friend, Stephanie, at Beyond Words Designs. If you’ve ever experienced baby loss or know someone who has, this post is for you.

Two years ago, Stephanie delivered a beautiful baby girl named Amelia Rose. Amelia was stillborn. I just can’t imagine the silence that echoed when it should have been cries from a sweet newborn. As Stephanie dealt with the pain of baby loss, she used her art to heal her broken heart. Understanding all too well the feeling of leaving the hospital empty handed, Stephanie has started a Donate Art project, providing hospitals with her art for the memory boxes handed out to these families. It’s art that is personal and comes from a place that’s “been there” with her grief.

What inspired you to start providing hospitals with your art cards for memory boxes?

Like most mothers who walk into a hospital to have a baby, I had no idea memory boxes existed. I never needed one before. All three of my previous pregnancies were normal.  So, I was blissfully ignorant that a little box was all that some parents leave the hospital with.

That all changed with my forth pregnancy.  Amelia was diagnosed during my 24th week with Turner’s Syndrome.  She had several problems including Hypoplastic Left Heart, a cystic hygroma, and a condition called hydrops.  In a nutshell, it was a death sentence. Our doctors (world renowned in their fields) could not understand why she had survived past the first trimester.  She beat all the odds and made it to 40 weeks and 1 day.  She was stillborn on March 11, 2010.

When a baby dies, some hospitals provide memory boxes filled with mementos of your baby. Often ID bracelets, knit caps, a lock of hair, photos, foot prints, a pamphlet about grief and perhaps a few resources fill it. The memory box we were given was lovely and what stood out to me was the candle that was donated by a mother whose baby had died. It had a small note tied around it with a pretty ribbon. That touched my heart in the deepest way. This mother wanted me to know that I wasn’t alone. That she understood my pain and she cared enough to let me know. I have created these Art Cards because I want parents to know that they are not alone.

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How do these art cards add to the memory boxes? What special element do they bring?

My hope is to add something special and personal to memory boxes. I want parents to have something visual, beautiful, tangible and ‘sharable.’ I want to create a piece of commemorative art that a family can hand down through generations. A visible reminder to all who see it ~ that our babies were here and motherhood is forever.

Something I personally struggle with is being able to talk about Amelia in real life.  I never am at a loss for words regarding my daughter . . . but I find other people are. People often don’t know what to say or are afraid that they will hurt me if they mention Amelia. But the truth is that I think about her EVERY DAY. I am her mother and can’t forget her.  She is the missing person in our family and we all ache for her. That pain is not going to change. But, the purposeful deletion of a her name causes so much heartache for our family. When people pretend that she didn’t exist, it hurts more.

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How many art cards have you donated so far?

I have just begun theDonate Art projectin January 2012 and the response has been amazing! Art Cards are currently in four hospitals in four different states, with two more hospitals pending. Each hospital receives as many Art Cards as they need. My hope is that I can provide any hospital (world wide) with Art Cards.

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How can women who have lost a child connect with you? Do you have an online community to support and encourage others who have experienced such heartache?

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One out of every four pregnancies end in loss.  Over 27,000 babies are stillborn in the US alone each year! Part of being Amelia’s mommy is that I continue to nurture her memory by connecting and supporting other women who will forever join this community. I feel like it is part of my responsibility to offer hope and understanding to others. And I am not alone. There is an amazing online community for families who have experienced all types of losses, from miscarriage, infertility, stillbirth and neonatal death.

Many resources have been developed by parents who recognized there was a gross deficit in personal, relevant and current resources. So, they began creating them. One of the best ones {in my opinion} isFaces of Loss, Faces of Hope.  Another is Still Standing, an online magazine that will offer hope after the death of a child.  I am excited to announce that I am collaborating with 12 other amazing women who believe, as I do, that there should be a one stop place where families can find support. Still Standing will officially launch May 5, 2012.

I have chronicled my grief journey through writing and art. Pouring my heart out, being real about life, parenting, pregnancy after loss, sharing my art ~ are all ways I pay tribute to my daughter. Sharing her with the world is one way I keep her alive. Painting images that celebrate life {no matter how short} has helped me as well. I began to share these images and quickly found they had a place in the world.

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What’s your biggest need right now?

When I began this little adventure, I decided that I would just start the project instead of finding the funding. I use part of the proceeds from mySHOPto create Art Cards.  However, funding is limited and I can only offer this resource in limited quantities when I am blessed with sales or donations. One ART card costs $1 to make.

There are a few ways that you can help:

1. A monetary donation (of any amount) that will enable Beyond Words Designs to continue creating and donating these cards. You can find the donate option atBeyond Words Designs(left margin).

2. Grab and display the “Make a Difference” button in the left margin atBeyond Words Designs.

3. Help by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

4. Make a purchase from mySHOPand a large portion of the proceeds will help fund this outreach.  Here is a peek at some of the things you will find there.

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My heart goes out to those who have experienced baby loss. I hope this helps parents who have grieved the loss of a child. For those who know people who have experienced baby loss, I hope you will pass this along to them. Connecting with others who have “been there” is invaluable.

Beyond Words Designs on theweb

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