Baby Steps

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In my last post, I was about to either get my period or find out I was pregnant again. Well, CD 28 came and went. A negative pregnancy test and a period have passed. I wasn’t pregnant. I’m still not sure how I feel about that; there are so many mixed emotions. We’re skipping this cycle and waiting to still find out if I’m going to have surgery on my hand. After that, it’s game on.

I do have to admit, today, I feel the best I’ve felt in a very long time. I’m still stressed about our insurance and we are really getting *screwed* on our taxes, but those things are minor in the grand scheme of things. I had an incredible day yesterday and I’m hoping that I’m finally moving in a healthy direction.

There’s an agency in my area who specializes in helping women and families who are going through miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic, early infant death and also supporting families who are facing a terminal illness on their pre-born or newborn babies. When I contacted them, I had no idea how I could help or what they really did. Would I be able to talk to a mom/family about her/their loss? Would I be able to be empathetic and supportive? Would my role be a counselor to these people? Yesterday they had a meeting for volunteers, which I attended. I was hoping I would be able to help in some small way, even though I think I still needed to be on the other side of the table. Before I arrived at the meeting, I was just hoping that I wouldn’t start crying–The goal was to just get through it.

And let me tell you… Not crying was so difficult. But I made it. And I really think that I’m going to be able to contribute to this organization. One of the main things they do for families is to go to the hospital following a loss. The nurses who are involved with the patients ask them if they would like to have a team from the agency come talk to them and take photographs of their baby. The team consists of a counselor and a photographer. There is a counselor and a photographer on call from 7 AM to 5 PM and 5PM to 10 PM. If the demise happens in the middle of the night, the people who are on call the next morning would go to the hospital the next morning. After arriving at the hospital, the counselor briefly talks to the family, asks to see the baby and hold the baby and tells the family how sorry they are for their loss. The counselor then asks to take the baby, wash it, dress it and take photographs of the baby. I know. The counselor also weighs and measures the baby, takes hand prints for the family as well as take an imprint of the the hands and feet in clay. After the photographs are taken, with or without the family in the photographs (depending on what the family wants), the baby is given back to them, all wrapped up in an outfit, a blanket (donated, knitted, crocheted) and they are also given a memory box with keepsakes (their hand prints and imprint). They are also given a packet of information regarding the organization and regarding their personal loss (information on miscarriage vs. stillbirth, etc.). In a week, a counselor from the agency contacts the family and asks them to come to the office to pick up their photographs, which they put in a beautiful photo album. They have monthly meetings for the families and they also send the families mother’s day, father’s day and anniversary/birthday cards to the families who had a loss. I know.

I really didn’t know what I expected when I went to this meeting, but whatever I was expecting, this wasn’t it. I had no idea they would be so hands on. How is this not morbid? The counselor member would be manipulating the baby after it was dead. Taking photographs and ink prints of their fingers and toes. I couldn’t get past that… and then you see the pictures… And they are SO tastefully done. And then you know… It sort of clicks. This isn’t morbid, this is precious. These brief moments with this little baby are the only moments the family will have with their baby. Why is it morbid? This baby–between 10 weeks and 42 weeks–is no different than any other baby. It deserves respect and the right to be loved properly. It deserves what a baby born alive deserves. To be held, appreciated and loved. Not just to be thrown away or incinerated. That is what is morbid, not what they are doing at this organization.

I’m jumping in with both feet. I’m a family counselor volunteer and the next step is for me to shadow another volunteer counselor. I’m on the on-call schedule and I’m ready for my phone call to go to the hospital and help a family in need. I will shadow someone for at least four times and each time I will do a little more than the last time. The first visit I will just watch and observe. The second time I will probably assist with the hand and foot prints. The third time maybe I will do that and also wash the baby. And by the fourth time I should be able to do everything. I can knit and I have yarn I can use to make blankets for the babies. I can attend the monthly meetings and observe and/or participate. They are having two fund raisers in March that I want to be a part of. I want help in any way that I can. I want to be an advocate for these mothers, babies and families.

I’m excited and scared. Terrified, actually. I have no idea what I’m getting myself into and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to handle any of this. But I owe it to myself, to my babies and to their babies to at least give it a shot. I wish someone had been an advocate for me. I wish someone at the hospital had told me about this organization. I wish someone had come to the hospital to help me… and now I have that chance. One step at a time… baby steps.

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