By Rose Carlson
I always love reading and hearing about what others do in memory of their babies. While I am fortunate to have a job that allows me the opportunity to spread awareness of pregnancy and infant loss issues on a daily basis, I have also had the opportunity on many occasions to see what an impact Share and my own experiences have on people in my personal life as well. I teach workshops and speak to different groups in our community about Share and what we do. I write materials that go into our bereaved parent packets. I teach workshops at the twice-yearly Sharing and Caring training for caregivers and new Share group leaders. However, simply because I have had losses myself, I have been able to be a support to friends and family many times over the years.
My losses were all many years ago, and there wasn’t any support back then, at least none that I knew about. Share was in its early years, and I had never heard of the organization. Throughout the years since my losses, I have often been able to spend time with and reach out to friends and acquaintances who were miscarrying or experiencing some other tragedy with a baby they were carrying. While this was difficult for me at times because of long-ago feelings that were so easily brought back to the surface (whether or not I wanted them to be), I also knew in my heart what a gift I was giving them and that made any discomfort I may have had more than worth it. Whether I took their family a meal, gave them a listening ear, or on a couple of occasions, stayed with them while the miscarriage was happening, I felt lucky to be there in my friends’ time of need…and I was thankful that they would not have to go through such a heartbreaking experience feeling completely alone as I had.
One of my greatest challenges, now and before I came to Share, has been hoping to see a change in attitude that many people have about miscarriages as well as a change in the protocol medical professionals follow when caring for patients who have miscarriages. So many people back then, some even today, think that an early pregnancy loss is no big deal, not like losing a “real” child. (yes, someone told me that.) Since I have worked at Share, I have written the packet we send to those who have early losses as well as a pocket booklet about miscarriage for a Catholic publishing company. I often talk to parents on the phone who have had miscarriages. While I have always found these aspects of my job very rewarding, it wasn’t until I went through a loss with my sister several years ago that I saw first-hand just how far compassionate caregiving has come, and how much of a role each one of us can have in influencing and changing the attitudes people have about pregnancy and infant loss.
My sister’s baby died just two weeks further into her pregnancy than one of my own, yet the differences in the way the death of her baby was handled compared to the way mine had been handled many years before was truly profound. At first, there was a part of me that was envious of the things she was able to do that I hadn’t been given the option of--she delivered her baby in the labor and delivery department whereas I had D&C’s in outpatient surgery centers. She was able to find out she had a little boy; she saw him, held him, named him…she was given handprints and footprints as well as other mementos. She held a beautiful memorial service that was attended by most of her family and good friends. She buried him in a tiny wooden casket provided by Share at her in-law’s farm, right next to her father-in-law.
I was already unprepared for the emotions I felt after his memorial service when later that evening, my mom, who had seen and held him, told a friend of hers how he had 10 tiny fingers and toes, how “this wasn’t ‘just’ a miscarriage, this was a tiny little baby.” While hearing her say that was like a knife to my heart, especially when I remembered the way people had reacted to me all those years ago. When I thought about it and talked to my best friend about it the next day, I realized that THIS is why I am so passionate about my work at Share. Why all of us who work and volunteer there are. We all hope that what we do enables someone to have more than we did. Because of the work present and past employees of Share and many, many other selfless people have done over the past 30 years, and because of my openness about sharing what I do at Share with everyone I know…it was possible for my sister to have some wonderful memories and mementos of her son that she might not otherwise have had…it was possible for others to look at him not as “just” a miscarriage as many would think, but as a tiny baby boy named Daniel who was dearly loved and would be missed forever by his family. And my sister is only one person…I can’t even describe the feelings I have when I think of the thousands of other babies and families whose lives are touched in a positive way because of the many bereaved parents who have made it their mission to ensure that their own babies are not forgotten.
Whenever I think of not only what my coworkers and I do at Share, but also what countless volunteers and caregivers and others around the country do and have done, I often think of this quote by Mother Teresa: We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. I have talked to many bereaved parents who say they want to do something to spread awareness in memory of their baby, but they don’t know what - that it is too overwhelming to even think about. They often wonder if the things they do would make a difference anyway. Let me tell you, they do. I am often amazed at the creative, loving ways people choose to honor their baby. Even if the only thing you do is talk about your baby and/or Share, you have no idea who might someday benefit from hearing your story or hearing about Share.