Baby Loss Memory Boxes

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It’s been a long time coming but I’ve finally put together information about the baby loss memory boxes I’ve been making in memory of my children in Heaven. Many have been asking for details so here they are! I’m excited to share this with you.

I don’t have the words to fully explain what it’s like to give birth to three beautiful children and watch them die in your arms. Mommy misses you Alice, Elliot and Alexis. This is a pain nobody should have to endure and yet too many do. Although I received some of the most beautiful clothes and blankets for my children (thank you Threads of Love) not everyone is blessed with these gifts for their children. I’m forever grateful for what I received yet after meeting other loss parents I realized that there were so many resources that could have helped me during the most painful time of my life. I wanted to give back in memory of Alice, Elliot and Alexis and try to fill the empty arms of other parents leaving that silent hospital room.

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It started with five bags donated on my triplets’ first birthday. I knit a blanket for each similar to the one I had received. I added some soft kleenex, a candle and a few beautiful loss books. Months later I found a sale on photo boxes at Michaels. I had purchased a similar box for my babies’ keepsakes before their funeral. I filled my cart with boxes. I stumbled upon some beautiful ceramic birds and had to have them. I added ribbon, stickers, flower seeds, photo albums and candles to my cart and checked out of the store that day with a mission and hope that I could help another grieving heart.

I started building my boxes and was blessed with help from my friends at church. We gathered one evening and put them all together with love and prayer for each life that those boxes represented. I was able to include the loss book Empty Arms thanks to a donation from author Sherokee Ilse (thank you!). I donated fifteen boxes (including several for multiples like my children) to the hospital where my babies were delivered in time for the one year anniversary of their due date.

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Months later I kept knitting and gathering supplies for more boxes. My sister-in-law Amy graciously offered to make flannel blankets and purchased many of the supplies for the next donation. I came across a video that another beautiful loss mom, Carly Marie from Australia made to show how she makes her memory boxes. Feel free to watch if you’re interested in doing this in your area! She had moisturizer on her list of items to include. What a beautiful idea to have a scent connected with the memory of your child (for me it’s the soap my dear friend had given me for the hospital room while I was on bed rest).

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I reached out to Emilie, creator of Baby Loving Mama and JOHNSON’S® BABY CARES Council member. She contacted Johnson & Johnson with a request for small lotion bottles in their lavender scent. I was so honored to learn that they’d be willing to send a donation for my memory boxes!

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Not only did they send small lotion bottles, they sent some of their disposable washcloths. I didn’t feel like they were quite right for my boxes so I had the opportunity to donate them to our local Lutheran Social Services Crisis Nursery here in Duluth, MN.

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The LSS Crisis Nursery is an early intervention service committed to keeping children safe by providing support services to families and emergency care for children during times of family crisis.

Thank you to all of the family and friends who have helped me put these memory boxes together. Thank you Johnson & Johnson for giving the gift of a beautiful scent to the memories of these grieving parents. I hope you’ll consider continuing this beautiful gift in the future.

Make A Difference : How You Can Help

Tax Deductible Donations:

Have you suffered the devastating loss of a child? I’m so sorry if you have. If you’re able to give $20 (or more), I’d be honored to create a memory box to be donated in memory of a child/ren you’ve lost. Consider making a donation below with a simple click and include the name of your child in the notes. Lindsey Henke from Stillborn and Still Breathing sponsored the beautiful box below for her daughter Nora and even sent a hand written card to be included in the box.

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This project is fiscally sponsored by Star Legacy Foundation (a non-profit dedicated to stillbirth research and education) and your donations are tax deductible! I’m hoping to include grief resource books in the future if you’re willing to consider a larger donation for this. Of course if you’re more of a hands-on person you can make some memory boxes of your own and contact your local hospital to drop them off. It’s been a beautifully healing process for me.

Materials Donations:

If you’re in touch with other sponsors (such as the Johnson & Johnson lotion) who might be willing to donate materials or items for these boxes please contact me. I’m also looking for the following items to be included in boxes. Each box is unique but please consider buying in quantities.

  • Good quality photo boxes (I buy mine at Michaels and try to chose a beautiful pattern appropriate for loss. I love the butterflies!)
  • Hand knit/crocheted baby blankets, hats and burial gowns of varying sizes from about 20 weeks to full term (Here is more information from Star Legacy as well as premie sizing and some patterns.) Keep them soft and flexible fabric/yarn. Consider a stretchy or rolled/folded edge on hats so they can be adjusted easily. Gender specific/neutral colors are welcome.
  • Flannel blankets. These can be either store bought or hand sewn. I include as small as 17″x17″ up to full term size. Keep them soft and thin so they can be swaddled and folded if necessary. Please keep fabrics appropriate with small patterns and soft colors so they don’t distract from baby in pictures. Remember this is likely the only item they’ll be photographed in apart from a gown.
  • Sturdy ceramic birds, wooden butterflies/dragonflies or memorial items such as angels.
  • Soothing or unscented candles. Please keep them votive size if possible and enclose in a plastic bag if shipping with fabrics.
  • Forget-me-not flower seed packets. *We’re heading into the winter months and I’m having trouble finding these right now.
  • Small photo albums to encourage families to take pictures.
  • Small stuffed animal.
  • Small soothing lotion.

Please contact me here if you’re able to make a materials donation of any kind.

Remember Your Hospitals:

I fully recognize this is about more than my children and the hospitals in my area. If you’re feeling inspired and want to give back, find a group of friends and consider doing this for a hospital near you! It’s often the smallest gifts that mean the most.

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Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. All thoughts remain my own. To read more about Emilie and Johnson’s Baby Cares council visit her blog Baby Loving Mama.

New Life Grows Hope

New life. LIFE. No doctors. No drugs. And yet LIFE. To say that I’m shocked is an understatement. We had come to the tentative decision to end this infertility journey after walking a bumpy road of trials once again. Nate was on one page and I on another. I went to therapy to try to FIND his page. To muster the courage to try again with all that means for us. Drugs and doctors. Ultrasounds and needles. Nothing about this process is romantic or spontaneous. And yet – this time – it was. I had been on the pill for two months after yet another failed cycle and the total devastation of failed hope over and over again. Why did I let myself open that door only to be completely crushed yet again? I push away the pain and popped a birth control pill to make even a thought of pregnancy an impossibility.

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We were putting our house on the market to sell and I had enough stress in my life. We had been to a particularly difficult grief group meeting for baby loss and Nate was suddenly on the page I was on so many months ago. Facing fear of yet another variable of loss and pain, we put hopes aside and just lived. We sold our home to the first people who looked at in a single weekend. Two God loving people ready to start their life together in a home that’s brought us such joy. We started the task of finding a new home – in a market that had few to choose from. I came home in tears many nights after seeing nothing but cat piss and wet basements. Then we came upon a foreclosure that we had driven by when it was still pre-forclosure on the very first day we even pondered the thought of house hunting. After a lengthly process it was ours and we packed our bags and moved in with the help of our family and friends. This ugly duckling is on its way slowly to becoming a swan. Well. Some day.

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In the midst of that insanity I got the awful news that my cousin – just 37 years old – was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was ANGRY. So angry. I was fearful for her and then for me and my mind kept jumping to the two months of birth control pills I had somewhat selfishly taken to shut my brain off in regards to conception. All I saw was this huge blinking sign that said “RISK”. Why did I do that? Couldn’t we just have abstained with the same outcome? This did a number on my head. I opened the drawer filled with ovulation test strips. We had been trying for months without stimulation drugs. I refused to go back on them. We tracked with a home ovulation monitor and ultrasounds but only saw that elusive peak symbol once. Even with the ovulation injection it didn’t work in the past. Month after month, nothing.

What in the world do I do with all these stupid test sticks? I begged Nate to try one more time. Help my brain reverse the reasoning of those two months of birth control pills. If I were seeing the endocrinologist again he would have had me on them to calm my ovaries and encourage rebound ovulation. Sometimes it can happen the month after the pill. And there it was again. Hope. Do I dare even consider it again? I refused to go back to yet another doctor who didn’t listen to my story or understand my grief. Let’s do this on our own. Use the remaining test sticks and the home monitor. It would tell us if I ovulated or not. And hey – it’s the last week in our first home. Why not try to enjoy it? We can officially end our fertility attempts on OUR terms and I’ll have one less box of test strips to pack. Sure enough – the monitor peaked. I stared at that symbol on the monitor for a long time before believing it was true. We had three days in the house without family there helping us fill boxes and we made the most of them – no doctors, no needles. I marked the appropriate test day on the calendar and promptly forgot about it all completely (FYI: this never happens).

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We made the move and lived in the midst of chaos for two weeks. We went camping with family and relaxed by the fire. I didn’t think once about what I should or shouldn’t be doing or eating which is something I never imagined I’d be capable of after ten years of trials. I kept having signs that something was going on however. I pushed the thoughts away until Monday morning when I pulled up my calendar and there was the test day reminder.

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My head was suddenly spinning. I grabbed the stick and waited. There it was. The words I never imagined I’d see on a test. Pregnant.

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I’ve never in my life seen a positive home pregnancy test having always done blood work before home tests. I sat there shaking. The things my body were telling me confirmed the thought and my head was going a million miles a minute. I called for an HCG confirmation and sure enough my doctor was the one on call. She immediately ordered three every other day labs to watch the HCG levels rise – and they did – perfectly. I drove to Nate’s office and told him in the parking lot with a shaky hand and heart. Baby Bear peaked out of the gift bag as he did back in 2007 with our second pregnancy – ultimately ending in an ectopic surgery. The bear had lived with us through every pregnancy since so why not this time too?

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Every appointment God has surrounded me by friends and family who are prayer warriors and could provide a hug during a time that was incredibly scary for me. I continue to be amazed by His hand in this. The days following have been filled with a roller coaster of emotions as we both try to grasp the reality of what this all means for our future. We know there are no promises in this life especially after learning the stories of so many losses. We’re no longer naive and unaware of how terribly wrong things can go. Yet our prayers remain the same for a healthy pregnancy for both myself and baby. After what we’ve lived through there are moments when I feel like that’s impossible. It’s hard to utter that word knowing that God has done just that however – the impossible. We conceived a child on our own after doctors have told us we cannot. Now we try to walk in faith and hope that the impossible continues and He blesses us with a healthy and safe pregnancy.

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We ask that you pray with us as this journey continues knowing that you’ve walked this with us before faithfully. We realize that this is not an easy thing to ask of many of you and respect your grief, worry and fears in the midst of our own. That said we also know the joy this life can bring and pray you see that for us as well.

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** I wrote this post within the first two weeks of getting our good news. I’d had four HCG labs that continued to double as hoped and one ultrasound showing that the pregnancy is placed appropriately in the uterus (not ectopic) and confirming a single sac. Since that time we’ve had many ultrasounds after a few scares (all which are fine now) and heard baby’s heart on doppler. We are truly blessed by this miracle baby and are trying to savor every moment of joy we’re given while pushing away as many of the fears as we’re able. We appreciate your prayers!

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You Came Back To Me

One of the sessions at the 2014 Stillbirth Summit was a free writing workshop. After such an intense few days of medical research and information I was ready for a creative release. Although I’ve enjoyed writing for quite some time I haven’t really sat down in a creative sense since my days in college. I was shocked at how incredibly freeing it was. I was more shocked at how special it was to write TO my children.

We were asked to read the poem Beloved by Toni Morrison and write in response to a single line that spoke to us. The intention here was to write without ceasing or thought. Simply let the words pour out of you and then step back and see what you have. No editing. No picking apart. Just living with the words that came.

The line that I chose to respond to was, “You came back to me.” This is what came of that session.

You Came Back To Me
by Janelle Wourms

You came back to me.
You were lost and I was lost with you for what felt like forever.
The fog came in and darkened my door.
Closed inside.
Dark.
Alone.
Where are you?
I need you.

The clouds broke one day from the corner window with the shade pulled tight.
Do I open it?
Are you there?
Can I find you once again?

My eternal hope sees you in my arms wrapped tightly.
Safe.
Warm.
Encircled in sunshine.
My break from the storm.

I step out into the darkened door and look for you.
Moments slip by and I see you in ways I never imagined.
The dragonfly darting by.
Three birds on a wire.
Fresh strawberries.
The warm sun on my face.

Wait.
There it is.
Light.
Hope.
The replacing warmth of your memory.
The pieces, fragmented still, but becoming clear.

Walking from the fog and grasping for your hand.
You are there.
You are there.
You are here.
You came back to me.

Butterfly Boxes by Aiden’s Wings

I’m honored to share another beautiful project in memory of a child gone too soon. My friend Jackie Sondrol (brought together through our mutual loss) recently started making these amazing Butterfly Boxes for women who suffer a miscarriage. I’ve felt so called to do something for all forms of baby loss but with the numbers in a larger city it’s a daunting task. Jackie, however, works in a little hospital in Deer River, MN. The smaller facility makes it possible for her to reach more people on every level and I just love that she’s reached out in this way to honor her son Aiden.

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Jackie has also started a Facebook page, Aiden’s Wings of Awareness, to draw attention to information surrounding the loss of babies. I’d love for you to check it out.

Great work Jackie! I’m so proud to call you a friend and honored that we’ve been able to work together to help families in Northern Minnesota.

Read more about Jackie and her inspiration below.

If you’d like to donate to this project please use the Baby Loss Memory Box donation link on my home page and be sure to specific “Butterfly Boxes” in the notes field.

Butterfly Boxes by Aiden’s Wings

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My inspiration behind these boxes came from a wonderful woman, whom I work with, that expressed to me the desire to provide mothers who have had to endure the pain of losing their baby to miscarriage with a remembrance memento.
My passion in bringing this idea to life came from my own son, Aiden, who was stillborn on August 20, 2013. Not a day goes by that we don’t miss our sweet baby boy. I am proud to be Aiden’s Mommy and grateful by how his life has touched so many already.
It is my hope that these mementos will offer families hope, healing and most importantly, to know that their baby is loved, honored and always remembered.
“Every life, no matter how fragile or brief, forever changes the world.” -Author Unknown
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Bittersweet Valentine’s Day

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Two years ago today – Valentine’s Day 2012 was a bittersweet day. Ten days prior we said goodbye to our sweet babies. Three days prior we had their memorial service. To say I wasn’t in a celebratory mood was an understatement. Our friends from church were getting together for a couples’ night out at one of our favorite restaurants and we were invited. These friends that felt like family. These friends who helped ensure our memorial service was perfectly prepared. These friends who had planned baby showers and then cancelled them upon my request. Who delivered care packages and surrounded us with comfort during a time when that seemed like a foreign word.

I remember digging through my drawers trying to find something to wear. Something that made me feel like me again. The old me. The me who enjoyed dinner parties and drinks with friends. The me who didn’t have five dead babies. I didn’t realize then that no matter how hard I tried to find her – she had forever changed.

Two weeks prior I was so proud of the weight I had gained. I gained it for my babies. I dedicated my days to filling my body with nutrition and calories to make strong bodies for the precious lives I carried. Now it was just fat. A reminder of what I didn’t have. I pulled on the one nice pair of maternity jeans I owned. Maternity jeans. Those are for women who are pregnant. A cruel reminder that I wasn’t. I found a soft sweater that my friend Natalie gave me. I remember always being so cold. I was used to sharing my tummy with three, warm little ones.

I sat at the table and felt like I was most positively ruining any joy that my friends would have had. I felt like a burden … not because of anything anyone there did or didn’t do/say … simply because I felt it was unfair to expect these wonderful friends to give even more of themselves for my sake that night. I felt like the elephant in the room. But I was there. I was proud of that somehow too.

I practiced living. I tried smiling. I talked about the weather. I asked how others were doing. I tried to respond genuinely when asked how I was doing. I tried. I practiced living among people who made that a safe place for me.

Two years later it’s hard for me to realize how much true joy I have in my life. There were days I was sure it would never come. Despite the love I knew had multiplied in my heart with the birth of my children, grief was delivered that day as well. Grief that overshadowed that love too many days to count. The comparative today is bittersweet. Lunch with my husband. A butterfly balloon and treat bag for my beautiful Nora. Smiles. Love – for all I have and for all I’ve had – for hope – for the new me regardless of how I got here.

I’m thankful for the love my friends showed me on a day when I had a hard time finding it on my own.