Saturday, December 29, 2012

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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

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.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I came across this article in Scribd and it referenced a work by Fr. Peter Gillquist. Here is the footnote:

"Fr. Peter J. Gillquist,  An Orthodox Pastoral Approach to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss p. 28"

Has anyone heard of this article, pamphlet or book? I currently have feelers out at St. Tikhon's to see if someone can find it in their library. It would be fantastic if I could get a hold of it.

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in a comment. Thank you!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

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.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


Melissa has graciously shared her daughter Calypso's photographs and story with us. She was born in 2007 at the age of 29 weeks, 5 days and lived for 23 days before succumbing to NEC. Her story is linked on the photographs page under her photographs. Melissa started Calypso's Ocean in memory of her daughter.  
Calypso's Ocean is actually a two part organization. One part is supplying an online memorial page for parents whose babies passed away while still in the Hospital or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. A place for other people to read your child's name, see their photo, and take a moment of silence in their memory.

The second part is donating bereavement items to NICU and OB wards. Trying to help each newly bereaved parent know they are not alone and someone out there does care about their angel and about what they as the parents are going through.
Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your sweet daughter with us. May her memory be eternal!