My husband and I knew for three-and-a-half months before our baby was born that he would die shortly after birth. One of the things we were able to do with that gift of time was prepare to create memories of our son, Gabriel.
Through reading about other families' experiences with the death of a newborn, we learned that many families find solace in tangible keepsakes such as photographs, even photographs taken after the baby has died. So my hospital bag was packed with all the usual items, plus a plaster-of-Paris kit for his footprints, a baptismal gown, and rolls and rolls of film.
After Gabriel died, my husband and I compiled a set of gift boxes for the hospital where he was born to be given to parents suffering similar losses. Into each box we put a plaster-of-Paris footprint kit, a disposable camera, a baby book specifically for babies who die, a copy of the booklet When Hello Means Goodbye, and a small stuffed toy lamb. Our daughters, then 5 and 3, had the special job of placing the lambs in the boxes. Both the parents who received the boxes and the staff at the hospital told us that these gifts helped these bereaved parents find a sense of hope and healing, even in the midst of their grief.
If you'd like to create similar memory boxes or would like more information on the keepsakes and literature mentioned here, these websites are a great place to start.
- A Place to Remember:
- SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Inc:
- RTS bereavement services at Gunderson Lutheran Medical Foundation:
Amy Kuebelbeck is the author of Waiting with Gabriel (Loyola)
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