We Carry Them Forever

In January 2007, I was a young mother of an 18 month old daughter anticipating the birth of my first son in February.   Both pregnancies had been healthy with not even morning sickness to speak of.  I expected my second pregnancy to end similarly to the first...with a healthy baby born close to his due date.  

However, the second pregnancy was not to end this way.  A series of events resulted in me having an emergency c-section at 36 weeks gestation and giving birth to a 7lb baby who was not breathing.  Though doctors were able to revive his heart, baby Daniel never opened his eyes here on the earth.  He passed away in my arms two days after his birth at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  

An autopsy showed that baby Daniel had suffered oxygen loss. Doctors could find no cause for such.  I was told that this was a “freak accident” that happens rarely:  one in three thousand births.  

Before I left Brenner Children’s Hospital the nurses gave me some contact information about a group called Heartstrings and said they would be able to help when I was ready.  

For several weeks, I was surrounded by friends and family who wanted to help me, support me and “make things right.”  Even with this support, I began to feel all alone.  

I read books about loss.  I talked to ladies who had experienced similar losses.  These things were healing, and while I appreciated the comfort and counsel of these friends, I kept remembering that group, Heartstrings.  

One dreary day (they all seemed to be dreary that year), I contacted Heartstrings.  The lady who called me back had helped to found the group and said her loss had been very similar to mine.  As a matter of fact, she would like to be my support parent if I would like such.  I did.  

My support “mom” was wonderful.  She e-mailed me regularly to ask how I was doing and how I was feeling.  Did I want to talk about anything?  It was so comforting to have someone who had been through a loss to talk to without any strings attached and no judgement for my thoughts or feelings. She even sent me a monogrammed gift when my second daughter was born healthily 18 months after we lost Daniel.  

My husband and I now have three daughters whom we love very much.  But the comments we get are ridiculous.  “Oh, three girls...good luck!”  “You are going to have three weddings to pay for!”  and my least favorite, “Are you going to try again for a boy?”  

That last question has always left me dumbfounded.  I have often wondered if I should explain about Daniel and make the questioner feel awkward or would it be better to just smile and ignore.  But one day, my middle daughter answered before I could decide how to respond.  She simply said, “I have a brother.  My brother is in heaven.” This stunned and quieted the inquirer.

A few years later, I began to have an idea for a children’s book that families could read together to remember and discuss their child(ren) in heaven.  I kept thinking that it was a great idea, but someone else should write it...I was not a writer!   Then about two years ago I felt God leading me to share our  story.  In 2016, I self-published a children’s book, I Have a Brother - My Brother is in Heaven.

I Have a Brother-My Brother is in Heaven is the story of a little girl and her family who experience an infant loss.  Told from the perspective of my oldest daughter, Ruthie, I Have a Brother gently recounts the story of her brother, Daniel, and his short life here on earth.  This beautiful story is also a story of hope:  Ruthie learns that not all babies are meant to live here on the earth and explains that though her earthly loss has been difficult, she looks forward to seeing her brother again one day in heaven.  My desire is that this book would be something families read together to discuss a baby/infant loss or miscarriage and find hope.  

I hope this book will help mothers and families not feel so all alone as they experience and grieve an infant or baby loss like I did.   And to look forward to seeing their baby again one day.

Daphne Petrey contacted Heartstrings in 2007 after the loss of her son.  She received the support of a Support Mom and served as one for several years.  To read more from her or to purchase her book, you can visit her blog: www.carrythemforever.com



Giving Hearts

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Our Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Groups and Child Loss Support Groups include meaningful ways for bereaved parents to remember their child.  During participant's first support group meeting, they are invited to select a ceramic heart that brings a reminder of their son or daughter.  It may be the same color as their baby's nursery, it may have a texture or mark on it that resonates with a parent, or it may just fit perfectly in their hand. The ceramic heart provides a literal touchstone for a grieving parent beginning their journey towards healing and hope.

Realizing that our supply of ceramic hearts was running low, we looked for professionals in the community who could help. Enter Friends of Heartstrings, Peter Strafaci. An accomplished potter himself, he is also an instructor of adult pottery classes with Art Alliance of Greensboro.  He and his class of eight amazing women took on the task of making new ceramic hearts for Heartstrings.

Peter's Beginner/Intermediate Pottery class, which met on Tuesdays from 10:00am - 12:30pm made over 100 beautiful ceramic hearts over a period of four of their classes.  Our Director of Support Services, Cheri Timmons, had the opportunity to personally meet with the class to share more about Heartstrings' history and mission, as well as explain the meaningful impact that their creative gifts will have on the lives of so many bereaved parents. 

We deeply thank Peter Strafaci and his pottery students for their in-kind donation of time, love, energy and compassion in creating new ceramic hearts for Heartstrings. 

Art Alliance of Greensboro was formed in 1998 with the mission of providing quality visual art experiences at affordable prices for adults and children. Local and regional artists, well trained in their fields, teach these creative classes and workshops, which range from pottery and sculpture to drawing and painting.  For more information visit:  http://artalliancegso.org/

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

As November leaves and ushers in December, our list of things to do gets longer, and before we know it, we are in the whirlwind of the holidays. Christmas lists, dinner invitations, parties, cookies, and concerts fill our days with what is supposed to be "The most wonderful time of the year". Losing a child changes all that. Decorating the Christmas tree used to be an event to look forward to...now it's a sign of the tornado to come. A rush of emotions ranging from joy to anxiety to sadness are all mixed in with carols and the jingle of the Salvation Army bell.

Mustering up the courage to attend that office party or family dinner with your pregnant cousin is now as difficult as hanging lights from the roof with an unstable ladder...any second you may fall. These feelings are all normal, and as the snow comes and goes you'll not only survive, you'll find a way to dig out of it. New traditions emerge, and if this year you put up the tree and next year you don't, it's ok. We've all had those times, those memories, and those moments.

December is a time to reflect on those moments, to look back on how far we've come. Perhaps this year you stay in bed, protecting your heart.  Perhaps this year you finally feel strong enough to hang up those stockings.  Perhaps this year, you reach out and help a newly bereaved friend weather the holiday storm.  Give yourself permission to do what feels right.  And on December 31st as the ball drops, we will all look forward to the hope of a fresh start and a fresh year to do something new!