Welcome to the Sweet Pea Project's Blog, part of the Sweet Pea Project's effort to create a supportive and compassionate community for those of us affected by the death of a child. Here you will find updates on the Sweet Pea Project, as well as anything going on in the world that relates to childloss. If you have a suggestion for a topic you would like to see discussed here, I'd love to hear it. Please make sure you stop by the official website, www.sweetpeaproject.org and feel free to email me for any reason at anytime at Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org.
peace, Stephanie Cole (Madeline's Mom)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope

Today Madeline and my story was posted on Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope as their Story of Hope for this week. I think the timing is just beautiful. I had interviewed with them in early November not knowing if or when the story would be used, and here it is one week before Madeline's birthday (my most difficult week of the year) and our story is selected and published. So perfect. Thanks to everyone over at Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope for all that they do. Here is the article:

Stephanie Paige
Sweet Pea Project
Mother to Madeline Jonna, born January 5, 2007
My firstborn child, my beautiful daughter Madeline, was stillborn at 41 weeks on January 5, 2007. A cause of death was never determined.
I have founded a nonprofit organization, Sweet Pea Project, which offers comfort, support and gentle guidance to families who have experienced the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth. I have also written a book, Still: a collection of honest artwork & poetry from the heart of a grieving mother, and I am the artist behind the Beauty In The Breakdown community art project. Working on these projects has helped me immeasurably. Writing the book and creating artwork gave me a way to express all the unspeakable emotions that were coursing through my veins after Madeline's death. And the Sweet Pea Project allows me to continue parenting Madeline by mothering her memory.
Above all, reaching out to others parents brings me peace because I know just how lost and lonely one feels after suffering through such a profound loss. After Madeline was born she was wrapped in a standard issue hospital blanket and handed to me. I cradled her in my arms for hours in that blanket before kissing her cheek one last time and saying goodbye. It was one of the few things in this world that touched her, and I wish so badly that someone would have thought to send that blanket home with me. The Sweet Pea Project began as a blanket collection program in the hope that we could keep other mothers from experiencing that same regret.

Everything I'm doing is something I never thought would be possible! I've created a nonprofit organization out of nothing, had a book published, collected well over a thousand blankets. I never would have dreamed I could do any of this, and I know the only reason any of it has been possible is because of the strength that Madeline left me. Everything that I accomplish is because of her.
Last month the Sweet Pea Project held our 1st Annual Balloon Release on October 15th. A few weeks before the event I received an email from a woman who read about it in the newspaper. She said she was looking forward to coming to the balloon release, that her son had been stillborn and she had never participated in anything in his honor before. He would have turned 46 this year. We emailed back and forth and she thanked me for the opportunity to get some of the grief off her chest. I cannot imagine how heavy and suffocating it must have been to have lost a baby years ago, when society forced you to bare the weight of it all in silence. I was honored to celebrate her son's short but precious life alongside her at the balloon release. I am grateful that I have been able to speak honestly about my experience and I am humbled by the opportunity I have been given to encourage other mothers to speak out as well.
There are so many beautiful mothers out there working to make this world a more gentle place for bereaved families, and they are all constant sources of strength and inspiration. When I was drowning in the ocean of my loss, it was other mothers like Kara LC Jone, Joanne Cacciatore and Sherokee Isle who reached out and pulled me aboard their little lifeboat. I am honored to now be in the position to bring others on board.

Sweet Pea Babies Christmas Tribute

Christmas can be a very difficult time of year for those of us who do not have all of our children in our arms. The joyful bustle of the outside world can be overwhelming and isolating, and it can sometimes seem as though you are the only one who remembers that a deeply loved little person is missing from the family gatherings. We want you to know that your child is being remembered, this holiday season and always, by all of us at the 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

Grief & Arts Workshop

I am so excited to announce that I will be participating in a Grief & Arts Workshop for bereaved parents next month, along with several other highly respected artists and authors. I hope you will be able to join us as we explore our experiences through writing and art-making. No prior art or writing experience is necessary at all. Please feel free to contact me for details. More info below.

Grief and Arts Workshop
Description: Join authors and artists Janel Atlas, Nina Bennett, Angie Yingst, and Stephanie Paige Cole for an afternoon of making and sharing art, both visual and literary. All who have been impacted by the death of a baby at anytime during a pregnancy or infancy are welcome. Participants will choose among several guided workshop sessions and get to take their creations home. The workshop will be held at the Newark Arts Alliance, 276 East Main Street, Newark, Saturday, January 22, 2011 from 3-6 p.m.
Pre-register by January 12 and pay just $12, or pay $15 at the door; tickets cover materials and light refreshments. To register, e-mail Janelatlas@gmail.com or call 302.737.6088.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Birthday Request

It was December 3rd, 2008. Christmas was fast approaching and although I was excited to experience the wonder of the holiday through the eyes of my 11 month old son, my heart was still so heavy. I missed Madeline terribly and felt a little overwhelmed with Christmas and her birthday just around the corner. I decided to do something in her honor to help me get through the difficult winter. So I sent out an email to family and friends asking them to buy a special baby blanket for me to donate to the hospital where Madeline was born. Her 2nd birthday was one month away, and I hoped I could collect forty blankets (one year's supply) by then. Within two weeks I had 100 blankets piled up on my dining room table- and that was before the newspaper article was published. By Madeline's birthday I had collected enough blankets to supply five local hospitals with a year's supply. That was two years ago, and since then Sweet Pea Project has grown more than I could have ever imagined. Blankets arrive constantly, as of today we've donated 1,319 to hospitals all across the country.

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.

Thank you.

Stephanie Cole

For information on how to make a donation
please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/donate