I have had the privilege of helping to build group in our community called Empty Arms that comes alongside families walking the devastating path of pregnancy and infant loss. This year I have had it on my heart to provide Care Baskets for the Family Center at our local hospital. My hope is to keep the hospital stocked with a couple of Care Baskets at all times so that they are available for families going in to deliver precious babes they have lost (or lose during/shortly after delivery)--ANYONE THAT MUST WALK INTO THE FAMILY CENTER CARRYING A LIFE WITHIN, AND LEAVE WITH ACHING, EMPTY ARMS. I spent some time thinking about the things that were most helpful during my stay in the hospital as we waited for our Maggie and tried include those items in our baskets. Here is how they came together:
>> No More Milk Tea by Earth Mama, Angel Baby
My sister picked up some of this tea for me shortly after we were released from the hospital. Having your body go through all the motions of postpartum with no precious babe to nurse seemed like one of the cruelest parts of the process in the days that followed Maggie's birth. It's hard to tell how much the tea actually helped, but at least it felt like I was doing something during a time when I felt so helpless.
>> Hand and Foot Impression Kit
The day we found out we had lost Maggie, I went in search of a handful of things I wanted to have with us as we went in to be induced the following morning. I remember feeling so frantic, not knowing exactly what I would need or want to have there with us. It was a different kind of planning and preparation. Shock, disbelief, utter brokenness and a sense of urgency washed over me again and again--I knew this would be a time we could never do over or get back. One of the things I made a point of purchasing was a hand and foot impression kit. Unfortunately, when the time came to use it, the plaster-based mix was such a disaster. Our AMAZING, God-sent nurse, Carol, happened to pick up a different type of mold kit from another hospital she worked for and set it aside for us. In circumstances where there are no second tries and time is so very limited, it was such a blessing to have her backup kit, which worked just perfectly. Our sweet girl's tiny foot and hand impressions are one of our most cherished keepsakes from that day. It is a tangible, physical reminder of her precious, perfect form. I couldn't find the same type of kit that our nurse had given us, so I set out creating some for our Care Baskets.
>> Thank You Notes
Thank You's are probably the last thing people expect to receive from a grieving family at the time of special gestures. As people filtered in and out bringing flowers and sweet items to us in the days and weeks after we returned home from the hospital, I did my best to keep a list of Thank You's I needed to write (even if it took me a while to get them out). I wanted to be sure that people knew how much it meant to have love lavished upon our family so extravagantly.
>> Hope Candle
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future."
>> Information, Literature and Resources
I included some Care Pages from our local Hospice organization, along with a book on dealing with infant loss and a brochure for a local GriefShare support group, which Adam and I attended and really benefited from (search for a GriefShare group in your area on their website here). I also included contact information for the local Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer that met us at the hospital (in the middle of the night from a neighboring town 60+ miles away) to take pictures of us with our Maggie girl. Next to the hand and foot impressions, our photos of Maggie are absolutely cherished in our home. They hang proudly on our walls, among the rest of our family photos. We are so incredibly grateful for NILMDTS and the services they provide to families facing the loss of a child, all free of charge. (Click on over to their website to learn how they are making difference; there is a place to search for local photographers, volunteer your talents and donate if you feel led to do so).
>> Toiletry and Comfort Items
Warm, fuzzy socks, lotion, chapstick and tissues. I also included a wide Ace bandage wrap and nursing pads for post delivery (some mama's have found it helpful to wrap their chest after delivery to alleviate some of the discomfort and pain as their milk comes in).
>> Journal and Pen
To jot down thoughts, preparations, instructions, etc.
After we lost Maggie, I felt charged the carry out this verse with our story:
"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4
It has been an emotionally heavy few weeks as I prepared these Care Baskets, revisiting some of the most devastating details, knowing that we are neither the first nor last family to walk this road of loss. It is only through the comfort I have received from the Lord that I am able to gather these items together and pass them on, from one mama who has lost a child to another, in hopes that it will bring her some degree of comfort. Our Maggie's life was not lost in vain. This is part of the story He has written for us. Time to deliver our baskets and return some of the love that was poured out so heavily on us.