Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Supporting Carry to Birth Families

By RaeAnne Fredrickson

It takes a brave and loving family to make the choice to carry a baby for as long as possible after learning that baby will not live. There is nothing harder than simultaneously doing everything you can to fill up a little life with love, while also trying to figure out how to say goodbye (something no parent ever wants to do). 

No family deserves your respect and support more than a family who Carries to Birth. 

Carry to Birth (also called Carry to Term) families are unique. They are a family who says "my child's life is precious, no matter what". They are a family who puts their needs aside for the sake of filling their child with love, and the chance to say goodbye in a peaceful way, face-to-face, with the child they would do anything to protect. They are a family who would go to the ends of the earth to save their beautiful child. But they are also a family whose hearts are broken because they know that's probably not going to the case. 

If you know a family who made this courageous and loving choice, please take time to let them know you're thinking of them. Whether carrying now, or many years post-loss, there is never a bad time to support a Carry to Birth family, and never a bad time to remember their precious baby. 

Here are some ways to help:

Supporting a Carry to Birth family doesn't need to be complicated. It can be as simple as a text or email to say "You are amazing for loving your baby with all your heart, no matter what". Or a card in the mail to say "I'm with you and thinking of your sweet baby".

A gift card for meals, or gas, or to Target, etc is another way to lend a helping hand. Very hard days can and do happen all the time for Carry to Birth families. It doesn't matter how longs it's been since loss. Some days, just having a meal that you didn't have to prepare can be a tremendous help to a heavy heart. Make a few meals, purchase a gift card, order a pizza, show up with a bag of healthy groceries, whatever works for you, and give them a night off from cooking. 

Writing the baby's name in chalk on the sidewalk, or in the sand on a beach, or in the snow, or on a napkin, or anywhere you can dream up is a wonderful way to show the family you care about their extra special baby. Grab a pen, write baby's name and send a photo to the family. Without fail, they will love it and the fact that you took the time to show you care. 

Listening to the family share about their story, their special baby, and/or their grief is another way to show support. It works best if you lovingly keep all opinions to yourself, and simply allow them to share from the heart. The best way to try to understand is to listen without expectation. No advice needed! Just a listening ear and an open heart. There is nothing you can say to ease the pain of loss, so don't feel you need to try. When in doubt, a simple "I'm so very sorry" is the best thing you can say.

If the family is still carrying their sweet one, you can make a care box for baby's arrival. It can include things like hand/foot molds, an extra special blanket, lovely scented baby wash and lotion (for bath time with baby, then for the family to smell in the months to come after loss), a special stuffed toy (for cuddles with baby, and to hold when the family's arms are aching), a journal and pen, and things for mama like scented lotion, chap-stick, healthy snacks for the hospital, etc. (Remember, this brave mama is still going to labor and deliver like any other mother. She needs all the things typical mamas need as they prepare for that day.) A beautiful keepsake box to present it all in is wonderful because they can keep baby's special things in it later.

There are some wonderful books for families who are currently carrying their special babies, and for the loss of a baby.

A Gift of Time
I Will Carry You
You Are the Mother of All Mothers

You can find many more ideas - including what NOT to say - on our For Family and Friends page. Thank you for support the amazing families who do All That Love Can Do <3. 

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If you're a Carry to Birth family, what are things people have done for you? What ideas do you have for family and friends who want to support you?

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RaeAnne Fredrickson is mama to Samuel Evan Fredrickson, her beautiful son who was diagnosed at 15 weeks gestation with a fluke and fatal condition called PUV. She and her husband knew they wanted to make the most of every moment possible with their son. They carried him until he was born on April 14th, 2012. He lived for 4 hours and died in his daddy's hands. She misses her precious son every single day, and created All That Love Can Do to help other families make the most of their time with the special babies. She runs All That Love Can Do, co-created Still Mothers, writes for Still Standing Magazine, and blogs at The Love We Carry


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