Sweet Pea Project
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sweet Pea Project
This video includes all of the children from the Sweet Pea Babies list as of December 21, 2010. If your little one was included and you would like to download a JPG of your child's name,
please email Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org
Monday, December 27, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
I cannot even begin to put into words how that makes me feel. Grateful doesn't even being to cover it. The kindness, generosity and compassion that I have encountered since beginning this project has been absolutely incredible. Watching beauty grow from the ultimate devastation is beyond inspiring. It is what keeps me afloat during difficult days. And speaking of difficult days, it is winter again. Two weeks until Christmas. Less than four weeks until Madeline's birthday. January 5th. She would be four this year. Sometimes when I think about that, it gets kind of hard to breathe.
Two years ago I wanted to donate blankets in honor of Madeline's birthday. Sweet Pea Project is now well stocked with blankets, so this year I want to donate books. So, just as I did in December of 2008, I am sending out an email to family and friends requesting a small birthday present for my daughter. Five dollars is all it takes to donate a book to a newly bereaved mom. I know money is tight this year, and everyone has their own long wish list, but if you find that you have an extra five dollars when you are done with your holiday shopping and you would like to donate it to the Sweet Pea Project for Madeline's 4th Birthday, I would be humbled, honored and so very, very grateful.
please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/donate
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Thankfully, I belong to a community of intelligent and passionate parents who are always willing to stand up for one another. One of those parents is Sweet Pea Project's own Beth Gauthier, who has herself experienced the devastating loss of a child through both a miscarriage and a stillbirth. Beth penned the following letter to the Associated Press.
Sweet Pea Project
PO Box 10351
Lancaster, PA 17605
we extend our deepest sympathy
after the death of your much loved
and hoped for little boy.
Friday, October 22, 2010
To everyone who participated, thank you. It was an honor.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Over two hundred people gathered on the grassy field to fill balloons with love letters and send them floating up into the air. It is difficult to describe the way it felt to see so many people there. From an event planner's perspective, it was wonderful to see the community participating like that. But knowing that each person was there because a baby that they love had died... my heart just broke over and over again.
The day before the event was cold and rainy, and we were so worried that our plans would be ruined by the weather. Thankfully, Friday was sunny with a blue sky full of puffy white clouds. It was windy, and a little chilly, but nobody seemed to mind. As we read each child's name aloud and released their balloons, the sun shone brightly through the trees and we all stood in awe as the wind picked up each balloon and carried it directly into the most amazing patch of golden light I have ever seen.
It was perfect.
It was an incredible honor to be able to share the evening with you in memory of your children. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
I am lucky enough to have a professional photographer for a brother, and he has given me over 900 images from last night. I am in the process of editing them now, but thought I'd share a few with you here. And so I will leave you with a little taste of the beauty that was the Sweet Pea Project's First Annual Balloon Release.
The notes were written on paper
embedded with wildflower seeds.
provided beautiful music.
Listening to music and
waiting to release the balloons.
as their child's name was read.
The wind carried the balloons into
a patch of glowing golden light.
And the sky was filled with balloons.
And it was all for them.
Fine Art Photographer
Christopher J. Kulfan
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Sweet Pea Project will be giving away a copy of Still. on October 15 in honor of Remembrance Day. To enter this random drawing please email the word REMEMBRANCE to Stephanie@sweetpeaproject before midnight on Friday. Please be sure to include your mailing address in case you are selected. The winner will be announced on Still.'s Facebook page on Saturday. (You do not need to belong to facebook to view this page.) The winner will also be notified via email. Thank you to everyone who participates, I hope tomorrow is a gentle day of remembrance for each of you.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Did you know that approximately 1,003,000 pregnancies end with the death of a baby annually and 27,500 babies born alive each year die before their 2nd birthday? With numbers that high you'd think it would get more attention, but the media shies away from dead babies. It is unsettling to think about. And we don't have a sexy catch phrase like Save The TaTas or Feel Your Boobies.
October is Infant and Child Death Awareness Month. (Okay, so technically it was passed as National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month- but that phrasing is completely unacceptable. Instead of me getting into a rant about that, you should check out Dr. Joanne Cacciatore's blog: Becoming. Along with Kara LC Jones, she has written a perfectly put explanation of why this language is inappropriate.)
Anyway, I guess my point is that tons of people don pink ribbons this month, put pink ribbon bumper stickers on their car and participate in Breast Cancer events- regardless of whether or not they themselves have suffered from this terrible disease. They do it because they know that it could happen to them or someone they love. And that is beautiful. But it shouldn't stop with cancer.
More than 15% of all pregnant moms in this country do not get to bring their babies home. One of those moms could be someone you love. All I ask is that you remember that this is their month, too.
Monday, October 4, 2010
The Imago Project began as Catherine's challenge to herself, to write a poem or piece of prose every day this month. I am excited to be participating in her project, challenging myself to create a piece of artwork or writing each day during the month of October. This month is a particularly busy one for me, and so I am glad for the "assignment" of this project to give me permission to stop, quiet my mind, explore what I find in the silence and create something with what I discover there.
October 1st is an annual bad day for me, the anniversary of my father's death. But I am focusing on reclaiming bad days for hope and positivity this year, so what a perfect day to start this project. While my youngest napped, my 2 1/2 year old and I sat down with some crayons and pencils to draw pictures of sycamore leaves and talk about his grandpa. The next day I went hiking and did some photography. And late last night I wrote a Tanka.
i saw you, held you, kissed you
but i know your soul
and feel your spirit with me
madeline, you were not lost
Maybe a month long challenge like this is too overwhelming for you to accept at this time, but perhaps you might consider trying for one a week or maybe just one piece for the entire month. Even if nothing comes out of it, carving out some time to quiet your mind and sit with your emotions can be a beautiful thing. And if you find the space allows you to create something you'd like to share, I would be honored to add it to the Beauty In The Breakdown's Community Gallery. I hope this month is a peaceful one for you. A creative one, too.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Attention Lancaster, PA residents (or those of you within driving distance!)
Sweet Pea Project's KIDS COOKIE CREATION STATION opens tonight! We've got cookies from local bakeries and more toppings than you will know what to do with! $2.00 gets you a delicious cookie and all the toppings you can cram on it. Chocolate chips, caramal, candy corn, marshmellow, sour gummi octopus... the list goes on and on. So indulge your sweet tooth and support an important cause. 100% of the proceeds benefit Sweet Pea Project.
Friday, October 1st from 5pm until 8pm
Saturday, October 2nd from 10am until 6pm
Sunday, October 3rd from 11am until 5pm
Kids Cookie Creation Station is being held at Mulberry Art Studios as part of Lancaster's Fall Art Walk. Mulberry Art Studios is located in downtown Lancaster at 21 North Mulberry Street and offers free parking in their private lot.
For more information about this event please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/cookie
Hope to see you there!!!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Share of Lancaster asked me to be the speaker at their Annual Walk To Remember today. I was a little nervous about speaking at such an emotional event, but I was honored to have a chance to speak to other grieving parents about my experience and the ways in which I continue to parent my daughter by mothering her memory.
For those of you who were unable to attend, here is the speech:
I am here to speak to you today because I am one of you, a parent to a baby who is deeply loved and desperately missed. I wish I wasn't. I wish none of us were. I wish there was no reason to have an event like this, that the bench over there was just a nice place to sit, and that we were all gathered here today simply because it is a nice day and we wanted to play at the park with our children. In this daydream of mine I would be here playing with a pretty little three and a half year old girl. Pushing her on the swing. Watching her chase her little brothers around. I can almost see her there, with pigtails in her hair and summer freckles on her nose.
Madeline was my first child and is my only daughter. She was stillborn on January 5th, 2007, after 41 weeks of happy, healthy pregnancy. When I went past my due date we met with my doctor, who gave us the option of induction. After an exam, though, we decided against it. My bishop score was low, and the chance of complications arising during labor was high. We wanted to do what was best for our baby and my body, so we went home to wait. She died two days later, still nestled inside of my body, while I was asleep in bed. We never found out why.
The next day or two are sort of a blur. A sad, numb, unbelievable blur. I remember holding Madeline, staring down at her pretty little face. She really was so pretty. I sat there staring at her, just marveling at the tiny perfection of her fingers, her nose. She had high cheekbones like me. She had odd little elf ears like me too. She was undeniably mine, and I was so in love with her.
My husband and I spent a few hours with her before saying our goodbyes. There are no words that can express what that moment is like, the moment when you hand your child to the nurse and watch her walk out of the room with your baby knowing that she will not ever be bringing her back. It felt like most of me left with her. I was certain I was going to die. I was almost hoping I would. I just couldn't imagine what life was going to be like without her.
I had kept a journal throughout my When I sat down to write about that day, one of the last lines I wrote was, "and that was it. then she was gone.", and continued after Madeline's death.
At the time it really felt that final. But since then I have come to realize that my relationship with Madeline did not die when she did, and my job as her mother did not end either. No, I do not nurse her, change her diapers, or wipe her runny nose- but I have spent the past three and a half years mothering her memory. It is, as heARTist Kara LC Jones calls it, a different kind of parenting. Continued parenting.
You are doing it right now. By coming here today you are actively parenting your child. You set this day aside for your child, made him or her your priority today. Maybe this is the only time that you do something like this, if so that is completely okay. I have very good friends who love and miss their children desperately, but who are simply not comfortable speaking openly about their loss or doing things publicly for their child. That doesn’t mean that they have forgotten their children, that their pain is not as great or that they are getting over it. Not at all. Every mother has her own style of parenting, and continued parenting is no different. With my living children I practice attachment parenting. I safely co-slept with them as infants, I nursed exclusively, I wore them in a wrap or carrier constantly. So it seems to make sense that I have been so very involved in mothering Madeline's memory. It was the kind of mom that I was wired to be to her, whether she was here in body or in spirit.
After I found out I was pregnant with Madeline, I immediately began rearranging my life for her. I cut back on my hours at work, I adjusted my diet, I started doing yoga more frequently. Our spare bedroom, which had been part storage part art studio, became the baby’s room. It filled up fast. She was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and everyone was so excited for her to arrive. I quit my job the week before my due date to be a stay at home mom. When I came home from the hospital without her, I literally had absolutely no purpose. Not only did I lose my daughter, I lost myself. I had already transformed into a mother, and what good is a mother without a child? I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat on my couch in the dark for days feeling lost and alone. Even once the deep depression had lifted, I still felt so lost and unsure. I didn’t know where I fit in. I couldn’t face my friends with children, especially the ones I had met while pregnant, it hurt too much to see them living the life I had dreamed up for Madeline and me. And I couldn’t just go back to hanging around my childless friends like nothing had ever happened. I was different. I had grown life inside of my body, given birth. I was changed. I was a mother.
So I did the only thing I knew how to do. I allowed myself to just be where I was. I cried freely. I screamed freely too. I spent days eating nothing but cheerios and string cheese. I turned off the ringer on my phone. I smashed clay pots in my driveway. I played African drums. I painted and wrote like a woman possessed. And I was honest with myself. Sometimes I was too honest for others to handle, too raw. At first I didn’t care if I made them uncomfortable, at times I even prided myself on it, but that was just part of my grieving process. Eventually, I found a way to integrate the new me into the world in a way where I didn’t have to hide Madeline, but I also didn’t have to brandish her like a weapon. Instead, I took the ugly, tangled mess of my grief and sculpted it into something beautiful and hopeful and kind. It grew very organically. My artwork, which I had never intended to share and had created only because I didn’t know what else to do with myself, found its way onto the walls of a gallery. The exhibit became a community outreach project when I opened it up to anyone who had created art in response to a primary loss. That opened doors for me to speak at hospitals, first about my experience and my artwork, and then about the needs of bereaved parents. Then came the founding of the Sweet Pea Project, which I created as my gift to Madeline on her 2nd birthday, and the publication of my book, Still: a collection of honest artwork and writings from the heart of a grieving mother. Before long, the photo album with the little green sweet peas on it- the one that I couldn’t stand to look at because it would never hold pictures of first smiles, first teeth, first steps- before long that album was full. There were newspaper clippings, photographs from the art exhibit, photographs from the garden her Daddy works so hard on. Photographs of the candle we lit for the Wave of Light, and from Share’s Walk to Remember. Photographs of her name written on beaches around the world. Photographs of her little brothers having picnics at her tree and construction paper birthday cards that they have made for her. That is how I know that I don’t have to worry about living without her, because she is still very much a part of my family and my life.
Moms tend to become friends with other moms of children around the same age as their own. The majority of my mom friends have two and a half year old boys right now, or little ones who just turned a year. Or children who would have been three, but have been gone for that many years instead. I am at a place now where I am comfortable with who I am, a mother to children both living and dead. If someone sees me with my two little boys and asks if I would like to try for a daughter, I usually reply that maybe I’ll have another child someday, but that I already have a daughter. Sometimes I just leave it as that, other times I explain that she died. But these conversations don’t flood me with anxiety the way they used to. Madeline is my daughter and I am proud of her. Proud and grateful. After all, she is the one who first made me a mother, and that is all I ever wanted to be. I am madly in love with each of my children, but ask anyone, there is always a special place for the first born in a mother’s heart.
Friday, September 17, 2010
So here it is...
September 20, 2007
Madeline's room is blue. The green is gone. The bears are gone. She is gone. I know it is a healthy step in the right direction, but then why does it feel so wrong? I felt good while I was working on it. Taking her stuff down was hard, but I did it gradually. Putting Ben's stuff up felt good. I felt like I was proving to myself that I believed in him. That I believe he will come home and live in this room, sleep in this crib, watch this mobile spin. I felt like I was accomplishing something, and it was encouraging. But then when I was done, I looked around the room and all of a sudden the realization of what I had just done came crashing down on me. I had just removed my daughter from her room, and given it to someone else. I felt like I had kicked her out. I laid down on the floor and cried and cried and cried. I felt guilty, I felt angry, I felt robbed. I want to have a room for Ben, I really do... but I want to have a room for Madeline, too. I want to NEED a room for Madeline. I WANT MADELINE. I really don't feel like I am being too greedy with my requests, all I want is to have BOTH of my children here with me. Why is that too much to ask?
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
This fundraiser was organized by Sweet Pea Project board member Simone L. Lee.
Please do not hesitate to contact her with any questions you may have at
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
When the Sweet Pea Project first began it was just me. I collected blankets from friends and family members and drove to my local hospitals to donate them. I am amazed (and touched and grateful!) by how much the project has grown in less than two years time. I now gratefully accept donations from all over the world, and over 650 Sweet Pea Project blankets have been donated across the country. I have written a book which has been added to the donation program and the website has become a comforting and resourceful place for grieving parents to visit. To make sure the Sweet Pea Project continues to expand to meet the needs of bereaved parents, I have decided to ask Beth Gauthier, Nicole Spadea Jackson and Simone L. Lee to join me as members of the founding board of directors for the Sweet Pea Project. Each one is a dear friend and an incredible mother, and I know that together we will be able to do amazing things for our community. I feel as though I am watching a beautiful dream unfold before my eyes and I am so excited to see what we will be able to accomplish next. Please join me in welcoming Beth, Nicole and Simone and take a moment to visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/board to read a brief bio about each new member of the Sweet Pea Project team. Thank you for your continued support of my project, it means so very much to me.
Stephanie Paige Cole
Sweet Pea Project
Monday, June 21, 2010
Still: a collection of honest artwork and writings from the heart of a grieving mother
by Stephanie Paige Cole, Founder of the Sweet Pea Project
with Foreword by nationally celebrated heARTist Kara LC Jones
Order your copy online at Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com
For more information visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/book
or contact the author at Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org
Stephanie has always had a love of writing, but never really considered becoming an author. Even as Still was being created, she didn’t feel as though she was writing a book. Stephanie explains, “I write as a way to release all of the overwhelming emotions of grief from my body. Before Still. was a book it was my journal, my canvas. It was a way for me to express the unspeakable.” Stephanie felt compelled to publish this very personal account in the hope that it will help break the silence of stillbirth. She wants to give other bereaved parents something they can relate to, to help them feel less alone in their despair. She also wants to offer a deeper understanding to those who haven’t experienced such a loss so that they will be better able to support those who have. “There is such a stigma attached to stillbirth, nobody wants to talk about it, but this is a story that needs to be told. Nobody should have to suffer in silence. I want to begin a conversation that will ultimately allow other bereaved mothers to feel confident in speaking about the full truth of their motherhood.”
Stephanie finds strength and motivation in the courageous women that came before her, who refused to accept the status quo of “put this out of your mind, go home and try again.” She credits Sherokee Ilse, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, Kara L.C. Jones, Laura Seftel and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as inspirations, saying that through their work they “reached into the ocean of my loss and pulled me aboard their little lifeboat.”
Stephanie is honored to now be in a position to pull others on board as well, but first she had to overcome the fear of putting such a personal, emotional experience out into the world for everyone to read. “It is a little scary” says Stephanie, “but I have to believe that someone will be helped because of it, and that makes it all worthwhile.”
Stephanie was born in Queens, New York and later moved to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with her family. Stephanie studied fine art in Massachusetts and remained there for a few years after graduation. She has since returned to Lancaster where she now lives with her husband and two young sons. Stephanie works a few hours a week at an art gallery, Mulberry Art Studios, but her main job title is stay at home mom.
Stephanie also spends a lot of time working with the Sweet Pea Project, which she founded in January 2009. The project collects and donates blankets to hospitals for stillborn babies and provides resources and support for bereaved families. Stephanie will be donating all of her profits from the sale of Still. to the Sweet Pea Project, where the money will be used to donate copies of the book to hospitals and bereavement organizations throughout the country. More information on the Sweet Pea Project can be found online at www.sweetpeaproject.org.
Reviews of Still.
" Still. shows us how look at grief and our different kind of parenting even when we feel overwhelmed by the chaos. Stephanie models for us how to journal, paint, sculpt, shatter, glue together, take a poetic view. All of these are tools we can use to look askew and try to get a handle on our experience when looking straight on is just too much. Stephanie does not prescribe one single way. She does not claim to have the fix or the exact path we must all adhere to. But rather she shares all the tools she used. She gives you the choice to try what feels right to you. She models one way and leaves all the other branches off the path open for you to try as you need and want."
Kara L.C. Jones, Grief & Creativity Coach at MotherHenna.com
“Still is the poignant exposition of the reality that besets more than 25,000 pregnant families each year in the US. Stephanie Cole’s portrayal of the year following Madeline’s death is vivid and stark, and speaks to the disbelief and emptiness of the 50% of parents who never discover why their unborn baby died. Stephanie’s year deprived of an infant is illustrative of the challenge families and those who care for them face when experiencing the loss of an unborn child. Each child is a special chapter in every family’s life, even if that chapter is but a few, heartbreaking pages of limited memories. Still is important reading for those who experience pregnancy loss. Perhaps it is more important reading for those who have not shared the experience but wish to understand.”
Dr. John J. Botti, Maternal-Fetal Medicine
“Stephanie’s honesty and candor are refreshing in a society that wants everything, even mourning, wrapped up in some sort of neat package. She allows us to walk her path with her, acknowledging that everyone’s journey will be unique and that we will eventually accept what will become our new normal."
Beth Gauthier, Mother to Mark (stillborn, Feb 2007)
“Stephanie writes from a place of honesty and raw emotion. Throughout her writing she weaves the dreams she and her husband had for their precious daughter Madeline. Her words help the reader understand the depth of pain felt by parents who experience the death of a much loved and hoped for baby. A great read for any professional who wants to gain a better understanding of the emotions and feelings of a grieving parent.”
Chaplain Carolanne Hauck, Bereavement Coordinator
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The Sweet Pea Project grew out of that regret. For Madeline's 2nd birthday I asked friends and family to donate blankets for me to bring to the hospital where Madeline was born. My hope was that I could collect one year's supply. I received far more than I could have dreamed of, and the Sweet Pea Project was born. Thanks to the generous support of individuals and businesses, I have collected over 625 blankets since then. 18 hospitals in 8 different states now hand out Sweet Pea Project blankets to their bereaved parents, and we are adding more all the time.
My dream is that every parent who loses a child before, during or shortly after birth will be given a special blanket to snuggle their baby in and remember their baby by. And I'm hoping you will help me. Talk to the hospitals and birthing centers in your area and see what their needs are. If they would like Sweet Pea Project blankets, let me know and I will ship a box to them. And if you would like to take it one step further and host a blanket drive in your area, I would be happy to help. Together we can bring a little comfort to the parents of those precious children who are so desperately loved and missed.
For more information please visit the Request Our Help page at www.sweetpeaproject.org/request
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Well, there is no escaping it. Tomorrow is Mother's Day.
For those of you who lost your only child or who are facing their first Mother's Day since their child's death, tomorrow will no doubt be a difficult day. The memory of my first Mother's Day without Madeline is still heavy in my heart. I wanted to just ignore it, but I was constantly ambushed by junkmail advertisements, displays in stores, and commercials on the radio and TV. I found myself questioning if I really was a mother, if I even deserved this day at all. Of course I knew in my heart that I was a mother, but I felt like society considered me disqualified since I had no little ones to scribble "I love you" on construction paper or make me a messy breakfast in bed.
If I only had known then what I know now. You see, since then I have met Kara Jones of KotaPress and MotherHenna, and she gave me a little history lesson. Mother's Day is not just a meaningless Hallmark Holiday. It began as a peace protest in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, who was sick of seeing mothers lose their sons to war. When I read the line in Howe's proclamation that says, "Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead," I couldn't help but feel empowered. I remembered how I felt that first Mother's Day, when everyone else was off celebrating while I stayed in bed to cry alone and then later when my husband and I hiked through the woods to a little meadow where we planted five saplings for Madeline, thanking her for making me a mother. I had felt like such an outcast at the time, but now I look back and am struck by the fact that I was the one celebrating the true nature of Mother's Day. It is not about going out to brunch, it is about honoring the entire experience of motherhood. Kara puts it perfectly when she says, "I'll celebrate with you as long as you will first mourn with me. It is the combination of the two that lends itself to the true meaning of Mothers Day!"
To read Kara's entire article on this topic, including the speech Julia Ward Howe gave in Boston in 1870, please visit the following page: http://www.kotapress.com/section_articles/holidays/motherFatherDays/jones_realMeaning.htm.
Wishing you all a gentle Mother's Day of Peace tomorrow in honor of every mother of every child, living or dead.
Madeline's Mommy, Stephanie Cole