By Robin Elise Weiss, PhDc, MPH, CPH, LCCE
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and Lamaze International President Robin Elise Weiss challenges all of us to make some time this month to recognize this somber topic. Robin provides some creative ideas about how you can honor and remember those families and babies who were separated too soon in your community. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.
October has been identified as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. There are also several other pregnancy and infant groups who have specific memorials and functions that occur this month, but I’m going to focus on this as a general topic.
The beauty of being a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator is that I have the joy and pleasure of working with happy pregnant families the vast majority of the time. Though what most people don’t think about when they talk to a Lamaze Childbirth Educator is that we can also be a resource when pregnancy is not going perfectly, and that includes the very devastating death of a baby at any point in pregnancy or as a young baby.
This is not something that most parents-to-be want to hear about. It is something that the vast majority will try to avoid thinking about, even though it is a common fear in pregnancy and beyond. Our job as a Lamaze Childbirth Educator is not to scare them but to give matter of fact, honest information without dwelling on the negative. That said, I know that many childbirth educators do not cover this in childbirth class for a variety of reasons.
My challenge to you this month is to consider doing any or all of the following, depending on where you are in your journey as an educator, parent, human:
- Read a Book: There are many good books written about pregnancy loss. The vast majority are written from the view point of the parents involved, but these first hand accounts are extremely poignant and important. It can often be helpful in figuring out how to best help someone who is experiencing the death of their baby. You can also create a reading list of books for parents and one for children. If you can, consider donating a book to your local hospital or library.
- Take a Class: Often you can find classes available, offered often by hospitals, hospice, or perinatal loss groups, during the month of October. They may be focused on birth workers, or be an in general offering. This is a great way to help build your resource list. One geared towards those who work in birth are going to be your best bet.
- Take a Tour: Call your local hospital and ask to talk to the Labor & Delivery Nurse Manager. Tell her that you are a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in the area and that you are trying to learn more about how they handle pregnancy loss and stillbirth. Ask if they will share their protocols, and talk to you about local resources. They often support groups that you may not see listed when looking locally.
- Host a Circle: This can be a very touching but difficult thing to do. I would recommend that you find a local chaplain or counselor to co-host this with you unless you are qualified to handle various issues that may arise. Sometimes this might just be with local birth workers who need to talk about their own losses or the losses within their students or clients.
- Host a Training: If you have a special talent, consider sharing it with others. For example, many years ago, I learned how to make foot molds and then casts from these molds. I’m the only person in town who does this and that means I go whenever someone asks me to go. There may be times I’m not available, but if I pass that information on to others, then it makes it more available to the community. You could also host a training of other sorts, like having someone come talk to a birth network about how to deal with grief and grieving in class or with your clients.
- Host a Craft Night: This is something we are trying this year as a way to connect with the labor and delivery nurses on the front lines. A group of local doulas and childbirth educators are meeting at the hospital for a night of knitting and crocheting tiny baby hats to be given to the families who have experienced the death of their baby. It is a way for use to share and work together to make a really horrible experience a bit more personal. We are offering patterns for baby hats from very small gestation sizes through infant sizes, some basic instruction on crochet and knitting, and the hospital is providing a room and snacks.
- Create Your Own Hats: If you need something to do that is tangible but can’t commit to being with others, you can use the patterns below to create your own stash of hats to donate to your local hospital.
I would invite you to share in the comments what’s on your reading list, other ideas you have for this month or even ideas you have that I may have missed.
Useful Links and Resources
- Patterns for Hats for Babies Who are Stillborn
- Books about Pregnancy Loss
- Books about Pregnancy Loss for Children
- Pregnancy Loss Pinterest Board
- March of Dimes
- Stillbirth Alliance
- Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Inc.
- Compassionate Friends
- October 15th
- MISS Foundation
- Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep – photography services for families who have lost or are losing a baby.
- Science & Sensibility interviews a NILMDTS photographer
- Science & Sensibility shares a family’s experence with NILMDTS program
- Angel Gowns – program that converts donated wedding gowns into tiny dresses for babies who have passed away