Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A memory to hold, someone to mourn, bills to pay

Some mothers who have lost a baby before birth (or shortly after) are working on ways to help other mothers get through a similar loss, sometimes (in part) by making sure the mother has something to hold in her aching arms when she leaves the hospital. See A memory to hold, by J.J. Harrier (Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, June 7, 2008). The article highlights a local campaign in Alaska called Hunter's Hugs (inspired in part by The Angel Teddy Bear Foundation) as well as other programs and projects designed to help families that lose infants.

As someone who lost a twin sister the day we were born, I am all for acknowledging that babies who die in the womb or shortly after are family members whose loss hurts. My parents tried to cope by not naming my sister, and by donating her body to science, but for reasons I won't go into here I don't think that's a great idea. I understand that they did what they thought was best at the time, and thought they were making the best of a bad situation. Let's leave it at that for now.

I was impressed by this from the Frontiersman article:
As her mother comforted her in the hospital during her three-day stay, [Hunter's Hug founder Cari] Lester received a blue box from the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center staff with several keepsakes they had collected: a lock of her son’s hair, his footprints stamped on a card, a fabric heart and grief support pamphlets. Lester said the gesture was heartfelt, but there was nothing in the box to help her with the pain she felt leaving the hospital empty-handed.
Kudos to the hospital for providing keepsakes. There are places that would try to claim he wasn't a person yet, and try to leave it at that. Sad to say. So, "Yay!, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center."

From the same article:

[Wasilla Mayor Dianne] Keller said after [her unborn daughter] Erin died, a flood of medical bills came her way from the funeral home and hospital. She said she hopes the federal government will eventually offer a tax deduction for families of lost unborn children, adding that she is working with congressional delegates to change the current system.
P.S. While I was writing this, I was interrupted by a friend. I mentioned what I was writing about, and also mentioned the mother's comment in the Frontiersman article that “Going through this, you want to hit, throw and cuddle something all at once” - and he said that the adoption and foster care agency he used to work with, in a large city I don't see any point in naming, tried putting babies into foster care with mothers who had recently lost their own, but found that without constant supervision by a third person the babies tended to get hurt, so they stopped doing that. What did work pretty well, he said, was a program they put into place after a minister approached them about supplying Bibles to mothers who were leaving the hospital without their baby. Dealing with freshly bereaved parents isn't something that I would have thought a foster care and adoption agency would see as a core mission, but I guess (from what my friend said) that they jumped in with both feet and had a team that usually got called out once or twice a day, just to deal with a family coping with the loss of a preborn or newborn, and to make sure they had a Bible if they wanted one.

Previous semi-related post: Remembering those who die very, very young, which links to information about photographers who donate their time and talents to families facing the loss of a baby.

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