Every day when I walk into work, I know that I will meet a family who does not want to see me. I know that I will meet someone for whom my very introduction causes tears, fear, anxiety, and despair…
As a neonatologist for 16 years, my job is to take care of sick babies: fragile infants who are premature or born with significant illnesses. Although modern medicine has evolved and medical advancements have saved millions of babies lives, many of these babies still do not survive their stay in the NICU. When tragedy strikes and a precious infant goes home to the Lord, as a physician, it is the most difficult place to be. When I speak to their loving parents for the first time, the conversation is sacred, their memory of it will become permanent, and to be quite honest, I never completely know what I am going to say.
“The conversation is sacred, their memory of it will become permanent, and to be quite honest, I never completely know what I am going to say.”
As opposed to a scripted ‘go-to’ response, I believe these parents deserve a conversation that is as uniqe as the beautiful child that has just passed. For this reason, when I am tasked with delivering the worst of news, I choose to trust that the good Lord ordained that very moment, and ordered both of our steps for such a time. I then slowly exhale, breathe, establish sincere eye contact, and speak. I don’t always get it right, but I try very hard not to get it wrong.
When an infant goes home to the Lord, I’m often asked for resources that I lean upon during those troubled moments. While there are tons of books written on the subject by authors removed from the intimacy of child loss, I have always believed that parents are in fact our best teachers. Parents that have lived and survived the NICU experience, and the various forms it may take, can speak deeply and intimately about their story, how it impacted their lives, and most importantly, how to rebound and move forward. It’s the parents who have faced the greatest loss, and in turn, can offer the greatest wisdom and perspective for perseverance.
“It’s the parents who have faced the greatest loss, and in turn, can offer the greatest wisdom and perspective for perseverance.”
Here are my “Top Three Bereavement Resources for Parents”. If you find yourself in that place where you’ve just said goodbye to a precious soul you’ve only just met, I pray that you can know and trust that their is an army of people who are called to serve you, and an abundance of resources at your fingertips….just as soon as you are ready to grieve, honor, and triumph, but of course, always remember, your loved one.
Bridget’s Cradles Website
I love the ministry of Bridget’s Cradles, which was founded by Ashley Opliger after she lost her own daughter, Bridget Faith, to prematurity. At the time Bridget passed she was too small for hospital blankets and it was difficult for her parents to hold on to her and to love her. Because babies are so small in weeks 14-26 of pregnancy, traditional blankets do not meet their needs. Noticing the need, her grandmother was inspired to knit a tiny blanket that she converted into a cradle which fit Bridget perfectly. This allowed her parents to really hold her, to cherish her, to love on her, and to have some time for bonding before their good byes.
Bridget’s Cradles provides hand-made knitted and crocheted cradles to hospitals to offer to families whose babies were born into Heaven in the second trimester of pregnancy. Bridget’s Cradles™ are soft and shaped to bundle the baby in love and designed for families to feel comfortable while holding and bonding with their baby. Cradles can also be used for burial as they provide a nurturing womb-like environment for the baby. Their overall mission is wonderful: to see a movement that changes a generation into one that acknowledges babies in Heaven and supports families through the grieving process.
Carly Marie: Project Heal
Carly Marie: Project Heal Website
This is a beautiful and sacred site dedicated to mothers experiencing loss at every step of the journey, and a challenge to find whatever it is that helps you heal. Is it writing? Is it painting? Is it creating? Is it speaking your child’s name? Whatever your healing language or need, Project Heals provides a space that allows parents to be free in their pain, take time to heal, and ultimately, find the freedom to grieve.
The founder of the site, Carly Marie, lost her son to a birth defect related to his brain, and multiple other problems. Her words on the opening page of the website speak directly to so many families. And ultimately, in the end, Carly hopes all grieving parents can develop the same love and perspective that she was able to find. In her own words: “My life became all about love and seeking healing and honoring my precious boy by living a beautiful life for him.”
“My life became all about love and seeking healing and honoring my precious boy by living a beautiful life for him.”
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Website
One visit to photography organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep’s website and you will be deeply touched and overcome with emotion. The mission of NILMDTS is to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture. NILMDTS trains, educates, and mobilizes professional quality photographers to provide beautiful heirloom portraits to families facing the untimely death of an infant. They believe that these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy.
It was started by Cheryl and Mike Haggard who lost their son Maddux to a fatal condition which prevented him from breathing, swallowing, or moving on his own. On the sixth day of his young life, his parents had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support. Before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’ to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son. Puc’ photographed the couple with Maddux at the hospital before he was removed from life support and after — when he was free from the tubes and the wires that had sustained him. Cheryl later went on to start NILMDTS in Max’s honor, which is staffed today by 1700 volunteer photographers and is present in over 40 countries worldwide.
Dr. Terri L. Major-Kincade is a board-certified Pediatrician and Neonatologist currently in private practice with Onsite Neonatal Partners. She is a nationally and internationally prominent speaker for her expertise in the field of Neonatal Palliative Care, Perinatal Hospice, and Health Disparities as they relate to poor birth outcomes. She is a three-time best-selling author (Chicken Soup for the Soul Power Moms, Thinking About Quitting Medicine, and Early Arrival, a Doctor’s Guide for Parents of Preemies). She has been happily married for 23 years and is the proud mother of a 20-year-old daughter, now a college junior and a 17 year old son, now a high school junior. [email protected], www.drterrimd.com