July and August Newsletter

cone.jpg

 

EVENT TODAY! Join us for an Ice Cream Social at Friendlys in Florence, Tuesday July 10th from 4pm-9pm!

Meeting Times for July and August (please note all meetings are held at 140 Pine st. Florence, MA from 7-9pm). 

Miscarriage Support Group will meet on July 11th and August 8th.

Bereavement Support will meet July 25th, and August 22nd.

Termination for Medical Reasons Support Group will meet Thursday, July 12, but will not meet in August.

Subsequent Choices will meet July 18th, and will also take a brief hiatus for the month of August.

Saturday, July 28th, 10am-Noon our Parenting After Loss Playdate will meet at a local pool-- bring your suit and towel! Please rsvp to Autumn at 413- 896-5981 for more details ❤️

What We're up to this Summer 

We have two wonderful interns this summer: Caia from Mount Holyoke and Lisa from Smith College. We are very excited to have their help! Here are just some of the projects we are tackling this summer:

  • Writing our next 3 year strategic plan!
  • Compiling information for hospitals and parents about parents' rights to take their baby home for burial. Here is one mom's story of home burial in North Carolina
  • Writing booklet for providers on best practices for supporting bereaved parents
  • Creating an online training for medical practitioners based off the 4 hour in-person hospital trainings we currently provide
  • Applying to five new grants for Baystate expansion, sibling support, photography equipment, bereavement comfort kits, etc!
  • Updating our therapist and doula referral lists
  • Printing and distributing Spanish language support literature translated by an Empty Arms parent!

February and March Newsletter

Support Group Meetings for End of February and March
All meetings are at our office in the Florence Arts and Business Building, 140 Pine Street, Room 2B, Florence, MA.

Wednesday, February 28th, from 7-9pm our Bereavement Support Group will meet.

Thursday, March 8th, from 7-9pm our Termination for Medical Reasons Support Group will meet. 

Tuesday, March 13th, from 7-9pm our Subsequent Choices Support Group will meet. 

Wednesday, March 14th, from 7-9pm our Miscarriage & Early Pregnancy Loss Support Group will meet. 

Wednesday, March 28th, from 7-9pm our Bereavement Support Group will meet. 

Join us for the first ever Empty Arms 5K! The Syrup Stampede will be held on Sunday, April 8 at 10 AM. Check out our amazing website www.syrupstampede.com for details and REGISTER TODAY!

Also, let us know If you're interested in joining our brilliant team of parent organizers to volunteer with publicity, prizes, pancake breakfast planning/organization, pancake breakfast cooking and serving, kids activities, waiver research, and syrup research!

Join us for a lovely afternoon at Painting With A Twist, to celebrate what would be Josie's fourth birthday. Sunday, April 15th from 4-6pm. Invite your friends to the event on Facebook, and RESERVE YOUR SEATS TODAY! Half of all proceeds will be donated to Empty Arms. 


As always, let us know if you have any questions, or if we can be of help.

Yours,
Carol, Sarah and the EABS Team

Thoughts from San Antonio...

by Carol McMurrich

May I offer my care and presence unconditionally, knowing it may be met with gratitude, indifference, anger or anguish.
May I see my own limits with compassion, just as I view the suffering of others.
May I be present and let go of expectations
May I forgive myself for mistakes made and things left undone. “

I was challenged, in the opening keynote address of the 2014 Biannual Perinatal Bereavement Conference, to try to connect to a time in my work when I acted with “personal ethical integrity”. The speaker, Cynda Rushton, is an extremely accomplished Bioethicist who works within the schools of Medicine and Nursing at Johns Hopkins University, and she was leading a fast-paced talk on personal integrity when working with the bereaved. 

Ms Rushton encouraged us to think about a time when we worked in a way in which we were very much aligned with both our personal and professional values, in a way in which our actions were very much congruent with what we believed was morally correct. Sifting through memories, I thought of a time when I had the extreme privilege of working with a baby boy who had been taken from this world far too soon. I had been called in by the hospital after his parents had left the hospital to take more photographs of this little boy. I arrived early one bright, winter morning, apprehensive but determined. 

In my work I often arrive to work with families at the time of their loss: if the family is not still with their infant, they have often just left the hospital. In this case, however, the family had been released the night before. I worried that the baby might have spent the night in the morgue. While I know this is, sadly, the ultimate destination for all people in the hospital who pass away, it causes me such distress to think of precious babies needing to go there. 

I shouldn’t have worried. We are so lucky in this valley to work with professionals who are so compassionate, and who care so deeply for the families who suffer losses and their babies. I arrived to find this baby in a warmer, in a delivery room, just as you would expect to find any newborn of any family who had delivered there. 

He was a beautiful, beautiful little boy. What baby is not? But there is something about the deep privilege of meeting a small person who will not be met by very many others that is humbling at the very least. I knew I was gazing at a beautiful face that was meant to be admired by so many others, but that privilege would be denied to most of them. I knew I had a few hours to try to capture him as best I could for his family, and I was determined to do my best. Before I photographed him, I talked to him. I picked him up and held him, allowed myself to stroke the soft down of his cheek, and I told him I was going to take some photographs of him for his Mommy and Daddy. He still had that beautiful newborn baby smell. There was so much beauty in that room. 

I spent an hour, and then another hour. And then another hour, and just one more. How does one stop? Not only did I want to try to take as many photographs as I possibly could of this baby, but I also didn’t want to leave him. Here, with me, in a warm room, surrounded by myself and the nurses who were helping me, this baby remained in the land of the living. How I wished, for his parents and family, that he could stay. 

I hesitate to share that when my time was up, it felt difficult for me to leave him. I wrestled with this emotion: he was not my baby. It felt unfair of me to feel that I wanted to stay with him, to give him one more hug, to feel his soft weight one more time. He was not my baby to love, and I felt guilt-ridden to be there when his parents were not. But there had been a sanctity to the time I had spent with him, and my heart felt connected to this baby. Perhaps some of this came from a selfish place, from wanting more time with my own baby, but perhaps what it really was was just my being human, and being a mother, and a person with a compassionate soul. He was not mine to love, but I loved him in my own small way in that moment. How could I not? 

As I recalled these moments, I felt a deep, heavy feeling, way down in the pit of my stomach. It was not one of despair, or even grief, although sadness was certainly part of what I felt. Primarily, though, I associate that feeling with the deep gratitude that I felt for having the privilege of not just taking those photographs, but having been one of the witnesses to the life and existence of a little boy who had changed his family forever. No doubt somehow he will change our world a little bit, and I was able to meet him. 

It was my hope that this baby’s family would cherish and love the photographs. However, as I prepared to present them with the over 400 photographs I did take, I had to remember to myself that the important part of this work was not the family’s instant reaction to the products of my actions. It was those actions themselves. To have been able to be there, in that room, to capture something that might otherwise never had been captured was a tremendous privilege. To have taken the time, and offered this baby boy my loving hands to try to capture his beauty one last time, was my own effort to give this family a lasting gift. 

I went home and I wrote a long letter to his parents. I still felt uncomfortable that I had spent this time with their baby, when they could not. I worried that they would not have wanted me to spend this time with their son, and I worried about whether they would want the photographs. I worried about whether there were too many photographs. I thought about the time I had spent with their baby, and I cried for their family, for the void I knew now existed in their lives, for the beautiful boy who had never drawn a breath. I felt guilty and awkward for the strange attachment I felt to their baby, and I felt worried that I had let myself fall too deep into the work that I was doing. 

Then, I sat on the edge of my bed, and I breathed it out. I knew I had done my best. I had acted with the intention of giving this family the only gift I knew to give them. I had acted with the intention of honoring their son, of caring for him as any baby deserved to be cared for. I had acted with the intention of doing unto them exactly what I would have wanted done unto myself. I tried hard to breathe out the worry, the guilt, the sorrow, and to breathe in the knowing that I had tried my best to do what I felt was right. 

Again, I reflect on Dr Rushton’s words, which could become a mantra for me: 

“May I offer my care and presence unconditionally, knowing it may be met with gratitude, indifference, anger or anguish.
May I see my own limits with compassion, just as I view the suffering of others.
May I be present and let go of expectations.
May I forgive myself for mistakes made and things left undone. “

Each day, each week, and each month, as I do this work, I seek to maintain the integrity that will allow me to walk with my heads held high, knowing that am a human being simply seeking to serve and support others in their most difficult moments. Regardless of my shortcomings, the areas I am still working on, the mistakes I may make, the things I may leave undone, my intentions are good, and my efforts are honest and sincere.

May I hold onto these positive breaths, and these feelings of gratitude. 

October 15th

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day. On this day, we are invited to take part in the international wave of light.  Beginning at 7 PM, light a candle in memory of your baby (babies) and leave it burning for at least one hour. In this way we will send a wave of light around the world as the seven o’clock hour passes from one time zone to the next. 

Within our Empty Arms community, we invite you to take part in acts of remembering during this hour. As we sit with our candles, thinking about the others in the world who share this loss, we know that we all hold stories-- stories that have defined us as parents and as people. Within our community of loss we sometimes share stories of the events surrounding our loss and even more often we share the experiences that have followed, and the ways in which our babies and our grief have shaped our present. Tomorrow evening, I invite you to sink back into memory and share some moments with one another. I invite you to share times you recall that bring warmth, times that make you want to curl into a little ball, and times that make you want to hurl a plate against the wall. I invite you to share whatever comes to mind as you remember your missing little one (s) and to share it within our community. 

If you are a member of our Facebook page, I invite you to post your memories on our page during the 7 o’clock hour. One, eight, or fifty would be welcome. It’s a way to get us into each others lives again and put our babies out into the world. If you are not a member of the page, you can post them here as comments, or you can email memories to me just to have somebody read what’s on your mind. You can jot down memories for you and you alone. 

Tomorrow night, as I light my candle for Charlotte, I will also be lighting it in memory of all the babies I have known over the years. While I have never seen your babies, never heard their laughter or felt their hand in mine, they are very real to me. I miss them with you and while I’m glad you found Empty Arms, I’m sorry that your baby isn’t with you. Even as I watch all of you grow and heal, that fact will never change. 

Best,

Carol

May Mother's Day Event

May is just around the corner and I would like to formally invite you to our annual May gathering for the Empty Arms community. Our event is going to be different this year. Our walk, which began as a fundraiser to purchase a lending library seven years ago, has truly transformed into a community event in which we all come together to share in our loss, our courage, and our progress. We felt that the part of the walk that was the most important last year was our community picnic that followed, and so this year we are organizing a memorial with a picnic to follow, without the organized walk. We hope you’ll still wear your t-shirts! (and if you don’t have a t-shirt and want one, contact Jean at atamomma@gmail.com)

As always, we will gather on the Saturday before Mother’s Day at 11 AM. (May 10). This year we will start at John  Bator Park at the Children's memorial-- the Angel of Hope statue. We will have a short program there where we will read the names of all the babies we will be missing that weekend (and always). Families will be given a white rose to place at the feet of the statue when their baby's name is read. We are looking for community members to contribute to this brief ceremony, so if you have a poem or song to share, please let us know.

From there, we will journey up the hill (.8 miles, you can walk or drive) and have a community picnic at a pavilion in Nonotuck Park. Ours is the first pavilion on the right when you enter the park. We are hoping for donations of dessert or salad and Empty Arms will provide the main course. 

Please send the invitation around to anybody special to you who you would like to be part of this special day. Typically, people invite and bring family members and friends who were very supportive of them at the time of their loss. Please note that the memorial is at 11 and the picnic at 12, so it’s possible to invite people to one or the other if that is more appealing to you. Also, if you feel moved to suggest it, we welcome families to make donations in memory of a baby/babies to honor a mother on Mother’s Day. Donors and honorees will be listed in a program for the event. 

I always like to remind the newly bereaved in particular that this is an event to which all current and past members are invited, which means that there will be babies and possibly pregnant mothers there. While in the past I have heard folks say that seeing group members in that state can be encouraging, knowing what they’ve been through, I also know that being around pregnancy and babies can be extremely difficult. Please let me know if you need support around this. 

As always, “We’re so sorry you’re here, but we’re so glad you found us”. I look forward to reconnecting with many of you on May 10th at 11 AM.