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
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Pennsylvania, which sadly holds the record for most failed attempts to pass the MISSing Angels Bill, is finally moving forward with SB620, and things are looking promising. SB620 passed Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously on May 4th and will be voted on by the Full Senate during the week of May 24th.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the MISSing Angel's Bill, this important piece of legislation allows states to issue a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth to parents of stillborn babies. As it stands right now in Pennsylvania (and 22 other states, as well) parents of stillborn babies are offered only a Death Certificate. The names of the children are not kept in medical files and they are not counted in infant mortality records. This is not only inconsiderate, it is irresponsible.
After her son Max was stillborn on December 28th, 2009, Nicole Spadea Jackson joined the fight to pass this legislation in Pennsylvania. She has been interviewed for newspaper articles and has appeared on several television news programs. (Links to each of these interviews can be found on the Sweet Pea Project's Legislation page.)
In an effort to gain national attention for this issue, Nicole is in the process of putting together a small book of pictures and brief stories for the children who deserve the recognition a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth would provide. I was honored to provide a Foreword for that book, and I thought I would share it with you here.
This book is dedicated to the life of each and every one of the beautiful little babies that are stillborn each year. In this country, there are approximately 26,000. These are not pregnancies that didn't work out. These are deeply loved and desperately missed babies who died before taking their first breath, but who were born just the same. Their mothers labored for hours or underwent surgery to bring their perfect little bodies into the world. Just like every other newborn, these babies were bathed and swaddled, cradled and kissed, sung to and cried over. The only difference is that our tears were not tears of joy.
On top of the already overwhelming pain of having to say hello and goodbye all in one breath, we were told that only 27 states offer a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth, and ours (PA) is not one of them. At least not yet.
The mothers asking for this come from all walks of life, each with their own values, morals and beliefs. What matters is what they have in common, they are all mothers. Mothers who have suffered the unspeakable loss of a beautiful daughter or son. All we ask is for our children to be recognized as having been born, and included in infant mortality records. With 1 in 115 babies dying of stillbirth, it seems irresponsible that they are not counted. It is our hope that more accurate records will lead to better research, and maybe that will save other mothers from suffering through the heartbreak of losing a child.
Our children may have come into this world in silence, but we as mothers simply cannot stay silent any longer and allow the truth of our motherhood to be denied. Max deserves a birth certificate. Madeline deserves a birth certificate. Each baby in this book and every single one of the 26,000 stillborn babies born in this country each year deserve a birth certificate. Please take a moment to page through this book, read our stories, and look at the pictures of our precious children. If, after doing so, you agree that these little ones count, then please join me in raising awareness of the need for an important piece of legislation, the MISSing Angels Bill.
Thank you to Nicole Spadea Jackson, the amazing, dedicated mother of Thomas Maximus Jackson, for putting this book together and breathing new life into this movement.
And thank you to YOU for taking the time to listen to a story that so few people are willing to hear.
Stephanie Paige Cole, Madeline's Mom
If you aren't already involved, than I encourage you to be a part of this movement. You can find links to informative pages from the MISS Foundation, the PA CBRS page and a Petition at the Sweet Pea Project's Legislation page. We need this bill to pass in all 50 states before we will be able to see widespread change in the way stillbirths are handled and recorded in the medical community. Thank you for your support.