Category Archives: practical helping

Some Updates

 As I mentioned previously, the Assembly of Bishops was to consider our proposal of a miscarriage/stillbirth booklet for clergy when they met in mid-September. As it turns out, time was too short for it to make it to the agenda. This is disappointing, of course, but our subcommittee is considering publishing it independently. When I have any news on this, I will post it.

 Surprisingly, the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops approved a service for miscarried or stillborn babies when they met this past week for their fall meeting. I hadn’t been aware that this was on the agenda and I’m not entirely sure of the source of the service (although it is possible that the overlapping members of the Assembly’s Pastoral Practice Committee and the Holy Synod presented the service that we had worked on). In any event, the good news is there IS an approved service! It was just posted today and you can find it here. I am most grateful to the Holy Synod for approving this and making it available.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance month (along with a host of other things). In addition, today is the feast of St. Demetrius the Myrrh-Gusher and the first birthday of our youngest baby, Demetrius. He died at 5 weeks, 5 days and was born a few weeks later on October 26th. Father buried him at the foot of his older brother Gabriel’s grave. May his memory be eternal! In his honor I mailed today a package of small hats to Common Care, an organization which distributes care packages and tiny hats to bereaved parents.

100 Hats for Common Care

I have a challenge for my readers: can we make and donate at least 100 hats to Common Care during the next two months? I sent off nine little hats in the mail today (shown in the photo) so that’s a start! Michelle (the director of Common Care) is flat out of hats and needs more to send to grieving families.

You can find more information about making hats on my post here, and information for Common Care here or on Facebook here.

If you make some hats and send them, feel free to post a photo of your hats on the Lost Innocents Facebook page!

Seeking Tiny Hats

For a few years I made and donated tiny hats to the Calvin’s Hats ministry. They collected hats people made and sent them in batches to hospitals and other ministries, and mailed out individual hats to people who requested them. The hats ranged in size from absolutely tiny to that which would fit a small orange.

Sadly, Calvin’s Hats was a victim of its own success and the ministry had to shut down. My good friend Michelle started a ministry, Common Care, for those who suffered a pregnancy or infant loss and she had been distributing hats from a batch donation from Calvin’s Hats. They’re all but gone now and she needs more hats in stock to be able to give to grieving families. I volunteered to make and send her some but realized that I am only one person! Can any of you who knit or crochet consider making a few hats and setting them aside for Common Care?

There are some linked patterns on Lost Innocents as well as available by internet search. If anyone has specific questions about size, material, etc., I am happy to answer them. The majority of the hats will not be actually worn by the babies in question, but should still be made of soft, not scratchy or very bulky yarn. Hats in all lighter colors would be good, avoiding super-saturated brights. Having a good number of gender neutral colors is also good. Feel free to add any tiny bows or embellishments that make the hat personal. I will attach some photos below this post to serve as some examples.

Michelle is in the middle of moving between states so the address I have will not be active until August 26th. In addition, because it is a private address, please email to ask for it (lostinnocentsorthodox@gmail.com). A dedicated PO box will be set up at a later date.

God bless you for your efforts! From what I have heard from bereaved families, these hats are treasured more than you can imagine.

In defense of natural miscarriage

One thing I was sure of even the first time I miscarried: I did not want a D&C. Even before the doctor had definitively told us, “I’m sorry, there was no movement,” I turned to Father and told him that no matter what, I did not want a D&C. I wanted to carry my baby until God decided it was time for him or her to be born, and go through the labor and delivery. I wanted to complete the cycle that had started months ago. I wanted to give my baby no less than I had given any of my living children: the dignity of birth.

Unfortunately, the doctors did not see it the same way. They were very surprised at my decision and urgently counseled me against it. It would be “too hard, emotionally,” I would “never be able to go into labor on my own.” The best thing for me would be for me to have a surgical procedure to dismember the “tissue” and suck out the pieces. So neat and tidy. At least, that’s what it appeared to be to them. But my biggest concern was not my doctor’s convenience.

The first time I miscarried I had an uphill battle. I was patted on the knee and told that this is what the doctor would recommend to his own wife. I was refused any other options (medical induction, etc.). I went home and prayed. Two days after that appointment I went into labor and delivered my beautiful little boy at home without any complications. When I went back to the doctor I was accused of having procured some medications to induce labor on my own. I never walked back into that office again.

We held Innocent and loved him, wrapped him in a soft blanket, took photos. We let the other children see and touch him. We buried him with respect and a hand-carved cross marks his grave. In the end, I felt that I had done everything I could. I had no regrets. The time during the wait to miscarry was difficult, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the sterile convenience of a D&C. I had to trust that God would carry me through the valley, and He did.

We’ve done that three more times.

I never had such a difficult battle with miscarriages two, three and four as I did with the first. My doctors were kind and compassionate. They did everything they could to ensure that I would deliver the baby naturally. They believed, along with me, in the sanctity of the body made in God’s image.

It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to walk around with a swollen belly, knowing your child is already with God, but not able to “move on”. It’s hard to wake up every morning and wonder if today is the day, and go to bed that night feeling sad and increasingly a little more desperate. This is a death watch. Once upon a time, people died at home. When death was near, relatives and friends would gather in the home and keep watch, praying and offering comfort. It was understood that only God knew the hour of death.

This still happens in hospitals and nursing homes and, thank heavens, at home with hospice. But increasingly there is a movement toward the elimination of suffering. Euthanasia (poorly named) is being touted as the best and easiest way to die. Why sit by your loved one’s bed and wait for them to die? Get it over with and move on. That’s basically what a D&C is. And the unfortunate and ugly reality is that D&Cs are surgical procedures and pay more. They can be scheduled at the doctor’s convenience. They’re quick. It’s much tidier that way. (For the doctor.)

I have never met someone who regretted delivering their baby naturally. But I have met a lot of people who regretted having a D&C. People who wished they had been able to see their babies, give birth, bring a natural end to the pregnancy. The natural consequence of the spread of abortion is that unborn babies are being considered increasingly disposable. Human beings are not disposable, whether they are six weeks gestation or 98 years old. God is the Author of life and only He knows the day and time we will depart this life.

As I have said, it’s hard to wait. I’ve waited up to three weeks to go into labor. If you know someone who is waiting to miscarry, support them. Watch with them. Be with them in this dark time and you may be surprised by the grace you’re given.

.      .      .      .      .      .

Yes, it happens that no matter how long you wait you do not go into labor. I know at least one person who waited six weeks and finally had to have a D&C. If you’re showing signs of infection or begin bleeding and do not stop, you may have no other option. But this is pretty rare. In general, people find out the baby has died and have a D&C within 48 hours. The majority of doctors do not offer any other option and women don’t know that they can refuse and wait.

Clothing babies 12 weeks and up

When my son Innocent was born (sized 12 weeks 5 days), I didn’t try to dress him. I wrapped him in a bit of baby blue fleece. I didn’t even handle him much because I was terrified I’d hurt him.

When I was waiting for my son Andrew to be born (aged 13 weeks) I decided to try to make something he could wear. I made it to open in the back with no fasteners. I made the arm holes wide. I also wound up making it too big. I had the hardest time getting his tiny arms through the sleeves, as generous as I had made them.

(It’s coming up over his face so you can’t see him properly.)

Afterward I more or less admitted it had been a hopeless effort and the practice of gently sliding these babies into pouches was more practical. It still bothered me though.

The other day I started thinking about this subject again. I thought about what I had done previously. I thought about how NICU clothing is made. I thought about how fragile the babies are. Then I think I figured something out.

I decided to try to make a garment that would open flat. The baby would be laid upon it and then flaps would start being folded in. The end result would be something that looked like clothing but would be easy to put on and take off. It would also be adjustable for different size babies.

Today I made a prototype. I started by cutting out a baby-shaped piece of fabric, approximately the size of a 13 week baby. (I know green is an odd color, but frankly it’s better if I don’t start thinking about this little figure as a stand-in for one of my sons. Looking the way it does, there’s no chance of that.)
 

Prototype baby, not quite 4 inches long

Then I just started cutting and measuring. The white part seen below is in knit, but ultimately it would be flannel. Flannel is both absorbent and is not slippery, ensuring the flaps stay in place without fasteners.

baby side of garment

For this particular garment I added a skirt. It is tacked firmly to the white garment in the center so it’s all of a piece. A ribbon is sewn to the middle of the back of the skirt and to the left corner.

back side of garment

baby laid on garment

The arm flaps fold in first.

Then the waist flaps fold across.

Then the “diaper” folds up over the waist.

The right side of the skirt folds in next.

Then the left side folds over and the ribbons tie.

(the back)

I haven’t seen anything like this but if you have, please let me know. If anyone is interested in making these, I’d be happy to help. I think that it would soothe some of the hurt to see your baby dressed instead of lying in a blanket.

Great resource, especially for medical professionals

This post written by Nurse Tammy is such an excellent one: “Miscarriage” and “Stillbirth” – why I hate those words. Here is a short excerpt:

We need language to communicate ideas and concepts and sometimes I have to use those words just long enough to establish a rapport with a person – a newly bereaved parent, family member or to teach a student or staff member. No sooner do the words exit my mouth do I explain why they wont hear them from me again.

Both words speak only of processes (and badly at that)  nothing of loss or pain or grief.

If I could purge one single phrase from our culture it would be “just a miscarriage”. How many times have you heard that phrase? Yet there are so may instances where it is anything but “just” as if that word is somehow going to temper the pain. What if the mom has been infertile for 15 years and this is her first conception ? What if the dad has died or lost his fertility? What if she is older and knows her chances to conceive again are slim? What if she really really didn’t internalize that loss was a possibility and had invested herself in this pregnancy 100%.

She is a perinatal hospice nurse and sees death on a regular basis. In addition she has suffered a pregnancy loss of her own. Her entire site (Life and Loss) is a fantastic one and I will be adding it to the resources section.

Facing Loss During the Holidays

Those of us who have lost children can dread the holidays (by which I really mean Christmas/Nativity). The focus seems to be so much on family togetherness and yet here we are with empty places. The temptation is to mourn (inappropriately) and feel self-pity. Granted, Christmas can be a difficult time. I myself buried a baby 10 days before Christmas last year so I know whereof I speak. But we really must beseech God that we not fall into temptation during this time. Orthodox know that there are always greater temptations during the fasts. We are also vulnerable to temptations during times of great grief. The demons do not have the holidays off.

Accept that some people will suggest that you need to “move on” by which they mean “forget you ever had that child”. In all honesty no one really wants to be around someone who is grieving at Christmas. It’s uncomfortable and makes you feel sad instead of happy. This sounds overly simplistic, but that’s really at the heart of the matter. I have said many times that it is easy to watch someone grieve compared to actually grieving with them. Grieving with someone is hard work but an act of mercy.

Be vigilant in prayer. You will be braced for the obvious triggers of grief but there will always be little surprises. When I got out the stockings last year to hang for my living children I saw the “baby stocking” that had been mine as a child. In our family it is always the property of the youngest. I had expected it to belong to someone else that year, not our five-year-old. Stockings also triggered grief for my sister. She suffered an adoption loss and that year when she got the stockings out there was the one for the child she was not able to bring home. God is there with open arms to comfort you when you feel those intense stabs of grief. Always turn to him.

It is folly to think you will be able to forget your child(ren) at Christmas. You’re not going to forget and you can do some very silly things trying to. It is better to face it head-on. Say to yourself, “What am I going to do this Christmas to remember my child(ren) in a good way?” I had to face this last Christmas for the first time when I was remembering not only the child I had just buried, but the child I buried before Pascha the same year. Here are some suggestions:

  • Purchase or make an ornament for your child. Hang it on the tree every year. 
  • If you choose to hang a stocking for your departed child, make sure you do not leave it empty on Christmas morning. This will cause you a lot of pain. Fill it with something to give to someone else as an act of charity. You can make this a tradition too.
  • On Christmas Eve sing the troparia for everyone’s patron saints. Include your departed child(ren) as well.
  • Perform acts of charity in memory of your child(ren). Donate things to a women’s shelter, a pro-life organization, a shelter for pregnant women, a hospital’s NICU, etc.
  • Donate an icon to your parish in memory of your child(ren) (with the blessing of your priest). 
  • In general, doing something for someone else less fortunate is a classic way of feeling better yourself. The possibilities here are limitless.

[Please leave any additional suggestions in the comments.]

If you are the friend or family member of someone who has suffered a loss and you are trying to help, look at the above list for suggestions. I was incredibly touched that people made ornaments for my boys last year. To receive a card saying, “a donation has been made to X in memory of (your child)” would be a lovely thing too. Be sensitive when thinking of things to do. I do not suggest making a stocking or other item usually intended for a living child unless the person has asked you to. 

Remember that your child is spending Christmas in Heaven! He or she is singing with the heavenly host. Christ will always help those who turn to him. Acknowledge your pain and ask Christ to comfort your grieving heart.

 

1st trimester/early 2nd trimester prenatal loss set

I wanted to share the set I made for You are my Child. I’ve sent photos to the owner to see if it’s ok before mailing it, but just felt like sharing it here. It was so therapeutic to work on because I thought of how much it would help another family to see their little girl in something pretty.

Two matching blankets (11 inches square)

Pouch (7 inches square)

(The baby is slipped feet-first into the pocket.)

(The ribbons are tied to wrap the baby.)

Two matching dolls (2 3/4 inches long – they have cloth diapers on underneath)

One doll could be placed next to the baby and the other kept with the parents.

The set

Miscarriage Blanket Crochet Patterns

After a significant amount of work, I have written out (hopefully correctly) the patterns for five different miscarriage blankets with schematic drawings and photos. They can be found on the “Blanket Patterns” page. I hope this will be helpful to those who have emailed me over the last year and a half to ask for the patterns.You are free to use any or all of them as long as you do not sell the patterns or blankets made from the patterns, or post the pattern somewhere else. Please link back instead. Thank you!!