Why I’m Not Seeking The Cuddle Cot

Enduring pregnancy and infant loss is by far the worst experience I have had in my entire life.

And there were things surrounding this intimate experience that were more than unsupportive – they were downright traumatizing.

A doctor calling my baby “debris”.

An organization marketed for supporting families enduring pregnancy and infant loss not just, even understandably, overlooking, but outright denying my cry for validation.

Friends and family telling me that I need to “get over it” and “move on”.

 

So when I see a new idea presented into the bereaved community, something like the cooling system installed into an infant sized, Moses basket – I see it through the heart of a mother.  Once a baby is not alive, physical changes to his or her physical form happen rapidly.  Support within this transition is important.  But I also see the “cuddle cot” through the eyes of the professional.  As someone who has stepped into the spaces where birth & bereavement meet.  And it is a very difficult thing to do, but I must share what I see.

 

The cuddle cot is a brilliant idea.  It intrinsically gives strides to awareness of at least a couple of the elements that families so suddenly and vulnerably are thrust into during such a devastating time.  But there are some very real drawbacks that demand we take notice.

 

My concerns with this cooling system begin with the message it sends right into our bereaved community.  “If you had had this, you would be better off in your grief.”  Such is the message with any “new” or more clearly presented opportunity and so it means we need to handle such a message with great care.  Thousands of bereaved families are seeing this new promoted item through the lens of hindsight and comparing an image they have in their minds to the shame, abandonment, humiliation and rejection they have endured, from the earliest moments of their journey well into the months and even years after the death of their beloved baby.  And in the promotion of this new item, there is no safety net in place to catch these conversations and remind the rest of us that we are still loved and that even though such a thing wasn’t offered to us, what we have is endurance and what we have is valuable.

New items can generate fresh blame.  Fresh accusations that don’t heal us but actually serve to fester unaddressed wounds into anger.

I say this carefully and I say this first, because what is logically to follow is “but I don’t want another family to be without what we were without.”  And this alone is reason to spread the news of the cuddle cot like wildfire.

And here in lies the caution.

The invalidation, rejection and humiliation greet us long outside of the birthing room.

Seeing something that even remotely speaks positively in the direction of our darkness is flat astonishing.  It is easy to be tempted to want to reach for it, simply because it is so scarce.

In a barren wilderness, we parch.

 

I have stepped into the spaces where birth & bereavement meet, and so I borrow from the darkness to shine a little light to give some dimension you may not have yourself uncovered.

 

A “cooling cot” helps to cool the physical form of a baby not alive, so that the family can have more time to be together.  If the family is exhausted, they can tuck their baby in – “rooming in” – while they otherwise might have been led to feel their only two choices were to: a.) continue to hold their baby or, b.) send their baby to the hospital morgue.

A system like this speaks to the visual impact of the reality of the baby and to instill a sense of dignity that is often otherwise lost.

These things make it a very good thing, and I will tell you that it is a worthwhile investment for hospitals to consider.

But, there are compelling reasons why even an interested hospital may not follow through with the purchase.  These things are important for us to look at, because a hospital not utilizing a cuddle cot should not simply be considered heartless and cruel.

The expense of such a system is enormous.  The system needs a place when not in use.  These seem trivial when seen through our pain but are worth at least our glance.

 

The system does not teach hospital staff how to support the family who wants to hold their baby.  The system does not prevent some of the physical changes to the baby that demand personal attention.  The system does not teach hospital staff how to guide the family in giving a baby a bath.  The system does not address the real issue of more than one infant death in the same timeframe.  The system does not prepare the staff for the family who would not appreciate the cot without feeling compelled to expect to get their money’s worth for an item they are not trained to understand the foundational purposes of – that is, that families need comprehensive validation.  The system serves as a representative item of support but the system itself is not intrinsically support.

If I petition to a hospital on behalf of bereaved families, may it be to open the hearts of the hospital staff.  May it be that every family experiencing pregnancy and infant loss have comprehensive support.  May it be for families enduring pregnancy and infant loss in any trimester – not specifically the second or third.

May it be that I’m holding a cuddle cot myself, willing to train the staff in how to present it to families.  May it be that I bring it with me as I serve the family.

 

Items that are created with bereaved families in mind are important, and may we all be mindful to ways in which we might create and share – sewing baby blankets, hats, donating ink pads or press castings are important.  Cooling systems are important.  The mothers, families and organizations who generate these creations and ensure they are accessible to families when they need them are invaluable.  I’m thankful that the media surrounding the cuddle cot system is secondarily generating awareness to our darkest experiences.  But I am not one who will be marching up to hospitals demanding they own one.  Because I’m literally in that hospital, showing a family, right now, ways they can cool the physical form of their baby that cost less than $5 and work efficiently, I’m guiding their shaking hands as they bring their baby into bath water, I’m slowly, reverently, offering to the family the sewn hat and blanket that you have sewn for them, and I’m speaking in the hallway to the shocked nurse who has never actually seen a baby not alive before as she wipes the vomit from her chin – not at all from disgust, but from complete and total overwhelm.

May hospitals strongly consider purchasing a cuddle cot.  But, may they know that, with or without one, they can utilize birth & bereavement doulas for every family, for every trimester, for every birth.  And may we know that having an item - any item – will never replace the comprehensive support of a well trained team whose foundation is rooted deeply in reverent love for the family.

May a nurse not just place any item in front a family in darkness and run out so as not to behold their baby.  May a nurse not run from the profound life in such a moment for fear of the darkness.  May a newly bereaved family not feel obligated to thank the veterans of this, the bereaved community, that their hospital complied with a seemingly satisfactory check list of tasks and items rather than encountering the family.

May we be thankful for the positive advances in support and awareness, yes, but may we also have discernment and may we listen to one another as we address the foundational purposes that such items may or may not address.

May every mother, giving birth in any trimester, have the right to choose to have comprehensive support.

May we offer our willing hands and hearts to serve, rather than thrust our expectations onto others.

May the institutions who receive inquiries about any tools or resources as options to bereaved families be spoken to with respect and appreciation.

May the institutions who receive the gift of donated items or volunteer support realize the magnitude of the gift and respond with honor, warmth and thanksgiving.

 

 

Practical Support in Establishing a Cuddle Cot System in Your Community

These things above are difficult to look at, but, just as we ask – and need – others to look into our darkness with us, we too, need to look at difficult things.  Bereavement doesn’t exclude us from the hard discussions.

With these things placed here now, I want to talk about some very real practical ways in which a person or community of people might implement the cuddle cot system.  Petitioning or working toward one can be a very good thing (there’s even a couple SBD doulas simultaneously working on fundraising for one in their own communities), and I want to share with you some ideas that might help make your mission a successful one.

  • Learn everything you can about it.  This, is a general statement about any thing whatsoever.  Learn about the product warranty, specifications, any limitations, and specific examples of the benefits.  This is the first step.  It is what made this article above so difficult, because we hear of a good idea and in passion we can run with it.  You need to prepare yourself to pitch your idea – to your hospital, yes, but also to your family who will be impacted by your passion, and, maybe even to yourself during any frustrating stretches of the journey, so that you are reminded and inspired to not give up.
  • Speak with your hospital maternity, labor & delivery staff.  Some bereaved families are campaigning fundraisers to sponsor a cuddle cot, and we’ll look at that.  But before you open your campaign, speak with your hospital.  Learn, from the perspective of the staff, what a cuddle cot will offer to them – the staff.  Talk with them about some of the things addressed here in this article.  Where will it be placed?  How will it be maintained?  From their perspective, what are the most challenging aspects of supporting a family enduring pregnancy and infant loss?  Do they believe a different local hospital might have a greater need for it?  Is it possible to be shared among hospitals?  Who will have permission to present it to families and how will they be trained in doing so?
  • Speak with your hospital chaplain or bereavement coordinator.  Learn from them how having a cuddle cot might benefit them, and how it might be utilized within the hospital even if the maternity unit or NICU unit doesn’t have an initially welcoming response to your inquiry.
  • Speak with funeral homes.  Maybe even especially the funeral homes already affiliated or partnered with the hospital.  If you reach blocks in communication among your area hospitals, this may be the first real opening in dialogue.  How much more comprehensive their services are to the hospital if they offer that they have a cuddle cot for families.
  • Speak with your coroner.  It can be important, but difficult, to get creative in frustration.  If you have a heart to offer this or any other support to families, go slow.  Contemplate.  Open your mind to uncharted avenues.
  • Speak with the product designer.  You may have done this in step one, but do it again.  Talk about any new financial savings opportunities that may have been opened.  Any change in insurance, shipment, or customer support service policy.
  • Forgive.  The cuddle cot system is a really big deal.  I have seen the idea of it mirror back to the importance of things like ink pads, press castings, birth certificates, keepsake boxes, books, professional photos, resource lists.  Things that, when we are hurting, we expect people to follow through on.  When they do not, for any reason, it is hard.  See the beginning of this article and you’ll hear my heart in this.  Prepare your heart.  It is the core message of this entire article.
  • Begin to Formulate a Purchase Plan.  Do you foresee starting a fundraising campaign?  Once others begin to contribute financially, they may want their own story to be interwoven into the story of your mission.   Determine how willing you are to share authorship of the work, the cost and the gift of the item.  Can they give in honor of their own babies not alive?  How will you honor them, and their story, in this way?
  • Speak with your local birth & bereavement support resources.  Now that you have an idea of how much of the story you’re willing to share with others in allowing them to claim authorship of this mission, let them know about it.  Support groups, churches, and other resources might pool interest and support.
  • Agreement with Institution.  What all are you giving to the hospital with the item?  What all do you hope or expect to receive in return?  Can a local SBD doula volunteer to partner with you to offer free demonstration training to the hospital staff?  Do you want the hospital to contact you, in addition to the product designer, if there is a technical issue with the product?  Do you want to offer a card with a message for each family utilizing the product – something such as

“They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I think it takes a village too, to wrap around a family when that child has died.
I too am a mother to a baby not alive, and I share this baby basket with you simply as an option that I did not have.
This time can seem so scary, but as a mother who has been in this day myself, I want to offer to you a way, that if you want to keep your baby near you, you can.
You can take this time.  It can be good, to take this time.  Your support team will show you how.  In loving memory…….”

 

Finally, if there is to be any question if I intend to see more hospital staff utilize our birth & bereavement training, I do. 

In fact, if you are a hospital staff member currently employed as a midwife, nurse or doctor, I want you to hear my heart when I tell you that the cuddle cot and any other thing that represents validation is a very good thing.  It is worth your attention to consider it.  But, the pressure put on you to perform or to provide such a service may simply be beyond what you are able.  In fact, I want to make sure that this message is being received in the way it is intended.   I don’t want you to have to choose between valuable equipment and the valuable training to offer support well.  If you’re interested in growing the support and awareness for the families in your care, I want to honor that.  I will offer a 5-for-1 enrollment for any hospital group all currently employed who want to utilize our comprehensive training.  Just mention this article in your registration and the names & emails of those registering in your group, and I absolutely will honor your heart to give love to families.  That equates to $50 per person, a $200 savings each: a whopping $1,000 credit toward your investment in your cuddle cot, or any other important item needed for the families in your care.  Because I want to send a strong and clear message that it does in fact take a village to hold a hurting family.  My heart is simply and solely to ensure every family is supported well – and together, we can.

 

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The M0M Center

The M0M Center is stillbirthday headquarters, and you are invited to visit.

Serving families all across the Kansas City metro area and beyond, The M0M Center provides SBD Doula services and networking support for families prior to, during and after birth in any trimester.

Visit The M0M Center
11117 N. Oak Trafficway
Kansas City, MO 64155

www.stillbirthday.info/the-m0m-center

www.facebook.com/m0mcenter

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Unconditional Love

Contributed by: Deana Ruston, SBD

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This song makes me wonder—and maybe even just a little helps me realize—what it’s like for a family finding out their baby has a life limiting diagnosis. Not everyone experiences the same emotions, but this song speaks volumes to me about the unconditional love a family has for their precious child.

Vividly taking us inside to hear what emotions and thoughts a Mother may have, this song is such an voice to families facing imaginable pain and heartbreak. Their world, which may have been of cheer and happiness, may be clouded with hurt and sorrow. Some may worry about getting too close to their child, only for them to not survive outside the womb. What heartbreak these families face. These children are worthy and we love them no matter what. We want you too, to be free and love your child no matter what. Please, open up and let the love grow—we’re here for you. There others here who have walked this path, you are not alone and we’re ready when you are. Take a seat, grab a cozy blanket and breathe. It is all okay. We are here now.

This song to me is an anthem. Katy Perry has brought to the forefront emotions experienced by families all around the world. Our unconditional love for our families, no matter what, is so, so important.

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What is Death Midwifery?

The global community of birth professionals continue to wrap love around the Gaskin family, and it is a time many of us who are birth doulas or birth midwives are drawing the parallels, some for the first time, between supporting during birth, and supporting during death.

But, there is a need for a clarification of terms, so I’d like to explain those.  Let’s step out of birth and death altogether for a moment and I’ll compare these terms to a life event that also has parallels – a wedding.

Maid/Matron of Honor - someone who provides emotional and moral support.  Someone who listens to you, assess what needs you might have, and presents you with options to choose from.  This person is most commonly a “she”, but, yours may not be; for our example she will be.  You can call her at midnight to tell her that you’re scared, or excited, or both, and she’ll remind you that no matter what, she is with you.  That you can do this.  She’ll remind you of your strengths, remind of your support, and she’ll rally the team together to strengthen and support you.  And if she’s really good, she’ll also have many of the same skills as your wedding planner.  If you’re not already super close before your big day, you’ll probably be close because of it.  That’s a doula.

Justice of Peace/Preacher/Chaplain – on the beautiful day, this is the person you stand in front of to deliver your commitment as a unit.  You pick this person out beforehand, making sure they see your vision and that they’re a good match for it.  You agree on the date, and you meet together.  You stand before this person on your big day.  You are the one making the vow, not this person.  But this person is essential in making sure your vow actually happens.  That’s a midwife.

Courthouse – let’s just toss this in there because even though it’s not the fun part, it is a formality.  Does your beloved have a criminal record?  Are you agreeing to a prenuptual agreement?  Do you file taxes?  The fine print.  The stuff that takes all the pretty out of your day and puts it into documentation.  The legal stuff.  For extreme simplicity’s sake, we’ll call that the hospital, the doctors, and/or the laws in your area surrounding your birthing choices.

I just don’t want the value of what Ina May Gaskin has brought to the birthing choices of mothers to become diluted as I’m seeing the mistakes in droves as people are comparing her experience right now to death midwifery, but doing so by erroneously speaking of the role of a “death midwife” as “bereavement doula“.

Here at stillbirthday, we train and certify both, birth & bereavement doulas, and, what others are calling death midwives – but we call ourselves midwives of thanatology.  So let me address these two terms.

A birth & bereavement doula provides support prior to birth, during birth, during the welcoming, during the farewell, and during the healing journey.  This support is provided in much of the same capacity as our maid of honor, looked at earlier.  You can learn more about our birth & bereavement doula certification program, here.

A midwife of thanatology, also provides support prior to birth, during birth, during the welcoming, during the farewell, and during the healing journey.  In fact, the SBD doula program is a prerequisite into the midwife of thanatology program.  But the midwife of thanatology is comparable to chaplain in the example above, and in fact we call this program our SBD Chaplaincy program.  A midwife of thanatology helps you exert your rights as you prepare for the event of your farewell.  Your local birth midwife knows your local laws regarding where you can birth, with whom, and under what laws.  Your local midwife of thanatology, knows your rights of sepulcher, knows the difference between hospital policy and local law regarding your time with your deceased beloved, knows where you might bury or cremate, and can officiate the farewell, exactly as a chaplain might speak at a funeral.

Let us all understand that birth doula and midwife are not the same, and neither is birth & bereavement doula and midwife of thanatology.  And let us understand that all of these roles are of tremendous value.

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This is what was shared via our facebook page yesterday:

“Ina May Gaskin is in many ways a trailblazer of non-medical childbirth options and is known as a mother of midwifery.
While the world celebrates her contributions to the options in childbirth, facilitating bonding and joy between mothers and newborns, her first birth resulted in her beloved newborn son, Christian, dying in her arms.
I honor Ina May not even for her work, but for her motherhood journey.
Today, everyone who celebrates Ina May for her contributions to birthing choices is gathering to pray and send healing thoughts as it is being reported that her beloved Stephen is nearing his death.
Ina May, I am so sorry for the death of your son, Christian.  Thank you for bringing joy to mothers through your own motherhood experiences, that you see the value of birth intrinsically, the value of mothers loving and connecting with our babies, no matter what, and for finding ways to facilitate that.
May these moments with your beloved Stephen now be filled with significance to you, even joy, and may you be given a space to just authentically honor your journey, free from the scrutiny and publicity that has chased you since your first birth, and may you just find spiritual and emotional rest in these moments as your beloved may be entering his.”

Held by Natalie Grant

Contributed by: Deana

As a part of the SBD News Team

 

The song Held by Natalie Grant is such a powerful song. I don’t know the intended meaning behind this song but this is what it means to me. Natalie is singing about the loss of a baby at 2 months old. She speaks about being held by a higher power, perhaps God, helping her through the pain and grief. She sings of the pain of losing something or someone so sacred and important to her. The grief process is not instant. It takes a lot of time. For her, it’s a nightmare that a baby would die. She doesn’t know why it would happen to someone, it’s unfair. There is a promise that you’ll be loved by those around you. Family, friends, God or another higher power are there to guide you and support you through the tough times. Slowly with time, you see tomorrow. Hope is here. You are held, and loved. Hope comes through the suffering of losing a baby, at any trimester. This song has been the song I listen to during tough times. It always calms me down and brings me back to God, and remember I am strong and can get through anything. We at Stillbirthday are here for you. We’ll hold you and support you in any way that we can.

 

 What does the song Held mean to you?

Deana is a thanatology student at King’s University College, in London, Canada. She would like to work with families who have experienced prenatal, infant loss and pregnancy in any trimester. Starting in January 2014, she will begin her Stillbirthday Doula training.

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Love Moves

Love Moves.

It draws you in.  It brings you to places you never thought you’d go.

So we need to pack for our journey.

In 2014, stillbirthday is having a brand new project as part of Mothering Our Mourning.

We’re calling it Love Moves.

And we’re bringing you the suitcase.   Yes, that’s right.

The suitcase will be shipped directly to your door.  It is a gorgeous, wooden suitcase that was hand made with lots and lots of love (and purple, pink and blue).

And when you open this suitcase, inside you’re going to find a gorgeous journaling scrap book, postcards, trinkets….

….it’s going to be filled with love.

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And you’ll be able to spend some time, looking, unpacking, touching, all the things placed inside.

And then, you’ll add something of your own.

A poem, a Love Letter, a piece of ribbon, a photo, you can place inside this treasure chest filled with MOM’s Love.

MOM: Mothering Our Mourning

Then, you’ll package up this special box, and it’ll be sent to the next mother.

Through the course of the year, we will be able to watch as Love Moves into places we ourselves never thought we’d go.  And know that we are making it happen.  Bringing real love to real doorsteps, bringing love to mothers as they open this special box and touch the items inside for the very first time.  Tangible hope.  Real healing.

 

To Be a Part

The first 12 mothers to register can secure their place for 2014.  You can register below, and the state/country will be added here.  One box, 12 different locations – and it’s open internationally.

What You’ll Do

  • You’ll reserve your place for 2014 by registering below.
  • You agree to keep the box for a total of 2 weeks within your registered month (each mother is designated for a 1 month timeframe, so we need to give some room for shipping times).  Within those 2 weeks, you agree to preserve the condition of the box and its contents to the best of your ability, keeping everything inside of the box.
  • You agree to contribute into the journal 1 full page’s worth, which can be a pasted photo, a poem, a Love Letter or other words.  This one page worth can be divided by using two different, one half pages, three different one third pages, or so forth.  In short, you agree not to fill it all up by yourself, but to save some room for the other mothers.

The wonder of this opportunity is that you won’t need to explain the items you’ve added. 

We’ll all honor everything held inside as the sacred that it is.

  • You agree to uphold confidentiality and to treasure the box and all contents with the highest amount of discernment, discretion, honor and love.
  • You see that all of the other mothers are agreeing to abide by the same expectations, giving you a very tangible way to express your love, your vulnerability, your feelings, through a safe, structured and healing opportunity.
  • You’ll pay the shipping and handling (approximately $20-$40 USD) to return the box back to Heidi Faith.   Once the box is safely returned to me, you’ll be refunded 50% of your registration ($15 USD).
  • At the end of 2014, we’ll draw a giveaway for one of the participating moms to receive the Love Moves 2014 journal for herself.

This is going to be incredible!

Join the MOM Movement.  It’s going to be transformative, healing, and beautiful.




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Love Moves in 2014

 

January: Ontario, Canada

February: Alabama, USA

March: Kansas, USA

April: Missouri, USA

May: Texas, USA

June: Montana, USA

July: Queensland, Australia

August: Indiana, USA

September: New Mexico, USA

October: Minnesota, USA

November & December – we’re leaving this space open in case there are any delays in shipping, to make sure each mom has plenty of time.

MOM Love Moves Suitcase

Because so many people want to know where I f0und such beautiful things, the beautiful wooden suitcase is handmade from Hans Creations and the awesome journal is from Simply Smashing.  Both shop owners made our items especially for us.  Gorgeousness!

I Love You Photos

If you are looking for a creative way to express your love for your baby(ies), we have a beautiful project opportunity for you to be a part of.

To begin, you can choose from either 2 yards of I Love You ribbon, or 1 I Love You feather.

{Update: only 2 feathers left and the ribbon has all been sold.}

This alone is a precious keepsake – just look at the gorgeousness!

 

Choose to either have one feather, or two yards of ribbon. 




Then, after you have your I Love You ribbon or feather, you can take a photo of it, showing how it is depicting your message of love.

Consider just a few of the many ways to say I Love You with either item:

  • You, saying I Love You to your baby.
  • Your baby, saying I Love You to you.
  • Your baby, saying I Love You to their siblings.

Share your I Love You photo that includes your ribbon or feather, and when you do, one person’s photo will be randomly selected for this gorgeous, customizable, cast iron Love Lock that also comes with a key.

About the Love Lock:

Did you long to have a personal and meaningful farewell celebration in your baby’s honor?  This heavy, durable, and real working Love Lock is customized and can have your baby’s name, or anything else special to you, painted onto it.  Here are a couple of things you can do with this special lock and key duo:

  • You can keep them together.
  • You can bury the lock in a beautifully special place to you.  And you can hold on to the key.
  • You can affix the real, working, cast iron {heavy and durable} lock to a symbolic structure such as a fence or post, and you can bury, toss or treasure the key.  This is an old custom called Love Locks.

This lock and key duo is valued at over $50.

We will take the first 5 feather photos and the first 5 ribbon photos for this opportunity, with one photo selected.


Shame

Grief is the hardest challenge I have ever been faced with.

You would think, that bereaved mothers share something universal, something collective, and that we each, would treasure our cup that we carry into our global community pool of tears.  That we would treasure one another’s cup, as well.

The reality is, we don’t.

We speak of the things our loved ones can do better, but we are hurting one another within our own circle.

We try to push others out of the circle.  We try to push ourselves out of the circle.

Divisiveness becomes a way to protect our very fragile wounds.  We bereaved mothers often discriminate, often divide, based on:

  • age of the baby.
  • family structure.
  • choices made prior to the birth.
  • choices made during birth.
  • choices made after the birth.
  • definition of loss.
  • religion.

And while I tend to think that these divisions most often come from a place of fear, what we need to know, is that these divisions fester something terrible, in ourselves, and in each other.

Shame.

I don’t deserve to be part of community, because _________

  • I’m too young.
  • I wasn’t as far along as you.
  • I’m lesbian.
  • I’m older than you.
  • I’m not married.
  • I didn’t do what you did, or what you would have done.
  • I’m not religious.
  • I’m confused about what I believe.
  • I am religious.
  • I should have known better, and I should have done things differently.
  • I haven’t had enough losses.
  • I’ve had too many losses.
  • I have more to be thankful for or happy about than others.
  • I have made mistakes, and I am unforgiveable.

Stop!

These are all lies!

Shame is a facet of our grief.  It just is.  And as we peer into our cup of tears, we are terrified to think that ours is the only one that holds shame.  We fear that if we dare pour our cup into the community pool, that what we have to bring will taint the well.  It will stain the waters and will ruin the gathered source of healing.

So we try to scoop it out.  We try to pat our damp hands on our sides, hoping we got it all out, hoping nobody will see.

And our community source of healing is terribly dry because of it.

The more options we learn that there are, prior to birth…

The more options we learn that there are, during birth…

The more options we learn that there are, after birth…

…the more that shame can loom in, casting out a shadow that we are tempted to flee and hide behind.

Shame, just like grief, is something we have silently learned to run from, but shame, just like grief, is something that stillbirthday invites you, with tenderness and with sensitivity, to learn to lean into.

I am the founder of stillbirthday, and I strive continually to find the next option, the latest choice a family may have, the newest wonderfully healing opportunity for families enduring their darkest of days.  And in the process, I can say with all certainty that yes, there are things I would do differently in my own darkest of days, if I could do them all over.

But the process also reminds me, that it’s never too late.

I am worthy of healing.

I have beautiful choices now.

I can learn to mother my mourning.

I can learn to release myself from the bondage of shame.

I can remember and I can believe, that we are all, in this together.

With a little bit of courage, with our circle of community and with a little bit of creativity, we can show love – to one another, to our babies, and to ourselves.

 We do not have to forget or forfeit our own experiences, morals, interpretations or beliefs, nor do we need to have others forget or forfeit their own.  We can give – and get – love, just the way we are.  And by so doing, we will deepen, we will grow, we will heal.

 

The Missions Field of Mourning

Pregnancy and infant loss knows no boundaries.

It touches every continent, every culture, every community.

Stillbirthday aims to do the same.

 

The perspectives, traditions, customs and philosophies surrounding birth & bereavement are many, and include the aspects of:

  • pre-conception
  • conception
  • gestation
  • birth
  • personhood
  • motherhood
  • parenthood
  • family structure
  • death
  • mourning

When we think of the missions field, stereotypical images and words may be the first to enter our minds:

Savages.

If we’re honest, we think of exotic lands filled with savages, and if only they could know that Jesus Christ is a very real person, who really died for them, who is the only way into Heaven

- if they would just listen to us -

then we could bring them their only hope and their only beauty:

Salvation.

And if we’re honest, those who are not Christian, think of those of us who are as sharply arrogant, justifying our own divisiveness in the name of the Lord but who, in the same breath, claim to be the victims of outrageous discrimination; we Christians can be ruthlessly narrow-minded.

Persecution.

So, what is it like, to be a Christian, Caucasian American woman who is the founder of a global resource for birth and bereavement?

It is so much more than a hobby, an idea, a ministry or a work.

Birth & Bereavement is a missions field.

But to articulate this correctly, I do need to make sure that you know what I mean by a missions field.

  • 1. Birth & Bereavement is a place filled with real people, who hold to traditions, customs and beliefs that are as ancient as history and feelings as fresh and raw as rain.

It is never the one sided giving relationship most people might think it is.  It is always an exchange, that grows everyone involved.  It faces stereotypes, emotionally charging terminology and starkly different morals, values and beliefs in ways that promote a shared humanity and reveal an uncharted potential for love.

 

  • 2. It is filled with the most gorgeous hues of hope, the most stunning shades of life and the most vibrant colors of love.

It is to sojourn to a land that is familiar and foreign all at the same time.

Just as in the very word “missions”, Birth & Bereavement is so much more than many people would think it is.

{photo source}

  • 3. It is riddled with darkness, despair, wars on many fronts and attacks from all directions.  Intruders in the night creep in to rob us of the very sustenance we need, to rape our vulnerable spirits and to plunder our hope.  The persecution is real. 

And, no, I do not use these descriptives lightly at all.

  • 4. It is an all-consuming work.

It is a misunderstood work.  It is a lonely work.  It rips into every belief we have ever held.  It requires sacrifice to the deepest degree.  The result of these conditions can eat into our own health, in every way and on every level.  It requires explanation of the umpteenth time to our loved ones – and to ourselves - why we persevere.  It offers little rest.  Each need is not the next to serve but is the first all over again.  Preparation, education and training are essential, but so is humility and so is endurance.  It requires a delicate dance of daring to allow ourselves to be seen while simultaneously mirroring back to those we are serving.  It demands vulnerability.

  • 5. The fruit of the labor is global, and eternal.

It is neither a denominational effort nor a doctrinal agenda.  The rewards are not shiny and the accolades are not shouted.  The feedback is but a whisper.  It is in the breath of the bereaved and weary mother who sighs in forlorn, as she wearily pulls her feet forward anyway even when the will to live has escaped her.   It is in the unseen moments, long after our work is done, when the weary traveler discovers the bend in the journey where grief unfolds into healing.

 

It is a work that requires workers of all skills and abilities and demands the participation of many degrees.  Here are but a few:

Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are invited.

What’s more, you are needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Bereaved Mother Builds Playground

From the SBD News Team

Jessica, the mom to three daughters who were murdered by their father, plans to sell her daughters’ artwork to help pay for a playground.

Bids on the girls’ artwork will be taken at the gallery in person and over the phone through Aug. 21.

The gallery address is:

Gallery 120

120 North Main St.

River Falls, Wis. 54022

(715) 426-5366

Unlimited Play is helping to bring this vision to fruition.

 

Related: Birth & Bereavement Activism, and other Farewell Celebrations
You can click here to watch the Yahoo News video: