It was Thanksgiving morning, 1994, that I woke up to the voice of my Mother in our living room. I had thought it was my aunt at first–my mother wasn’t supposed to be home. She and my father had gone to the hospital the night before as she was in labor with my first and only brother, Joshua. There were six of us girls already and though my parents hadn’t “tried” to get pregnant with any of us nor were they ever dissapointed at not having had a boy before, we were all very, very excited to welcome a brother in particular.
When I walked into the living room and saw my parents sitting on our couch, I noticed that my mother had been crying and that she was holding a small blue hat in her hand. Joshua was born at 24 weeks–the same time that the sister right above him had been born. She had made it, though spent the first 5 months of her life in the NICU. Joshua was born sleeping into the arms of Jesus and never made it down the hall to the NICU. I was barely ten-years-old at that time.
Our Thanksgivings have never been the same. Later that day in 1994, we went to my Great Grandmother’s house for dinner. My extended family was there and with the then eight of us in my immediate family, there wasn’t really enough food for everyone since we hadn’t planned on being there. No one knew what to say to us, so we endured well meaning fake smiles and laughter while we ate boxed stuffing off of sytrofoam plates. I don’t remember anyone saying anything to me about my brother.
My parents chose not to let us see Joshua except through photographs. They came to regret this decision later, but had thought at the time that the discoloration of his skin wouldn’t be a good way for us to remember him by. Instead, they wrapped him in a blanket, put a hat on his head, and my dad went to the store to buy a toy firetruck. To this day, my heart cringes at the thought of walking through a toy store to buy a firetruck for your only son who would never play with it…The firetruck was placed into the casket beside my brother.
The funeral was held a few days later and was only attended by a small amount of people. We sat up front with my parents and stared at the 2′ long white box that looked more like a foam cooler than a baby casket. At the cemetary, we sang “Praise Him, Praise Him, all ye little children, God is love, God is love…” before saying goodbye. It was cold and windy, and the chairs were forest green.
There was no offering of foot prints or photos for my parents when Joshua was birthed. The hospital didn’t have tiny blankets to wrap him in, nor any counseling services for “this sort of thing” to suggest. We are left with a shoebox containing a few photos, a blue hat, and a striped receiving blanket by which to remember my brother, and the term “stillborn” to describe the event by. People still don’t know what to say when they ask us “you have EIGHT daughters and NO boys?!” and we kindly respond with “we have a brother, but he was stillborn.”
A decade later, there is support for what we now call “babylost” parents. Beravement jewlery, grief support groups, and even post partum products specifically for the mothers of these sleeping babies are now available. In one week, there will be an international day of recognition for these women, known as “International Babylost Mama Day.” As far as I can tell, this will be the first time this day is observed (to be held the first Sunday of May each year), and has been organized by a beautiful Babylost Mama from Australia who lost her only son in 2007. It is a way to honor these forgotten mothers and babies and will be held on May 2nd, one week before the traditionally observed “Mother’s Day.”
Do you want to get involved? If you have been affected by the loss of a baby and would be willing to share your story to support and encourage other parents, I’d love to publish your story on Life More Simply! Please email your stories to lifemoresimply at yahoo.com with the title “Babylost Mama Day” in the subject line. Your story will be subject to editing without notice for grammar, spelling, etc.. Tasteful photos are also welcome with each submission (if possible, please post them to an online photo hosting service such as PhotoBucket.com so that I don’t have to download anything–just send me the links!). The deadline for me to receive these will be May 1st and I will begin publishing on or after May 2nd, continuing throughout the week depending on how many submissions I receive.
Other ways to get involved:
Contact me about products you know of that are specifically made for or can help babylost parents and siblings.
Join the International Babylost Mama Facebook page.
Check out the International Babylost Mama website at http://internationalbabylostmothersday.blogspot.com/.