One of the best things I read from this group of women was a post called, "What I Wish I would Have Done." I was lucky enough to find this post and read it several times before Ethan came. I wrote down anything I thought we might want to do in our "Birth Plan." One afternoon I went and visited with our hospital coordinator, Megan, and talked her through all of our wishes on our Birth Plan. Then she made sure that all of our doctors and nurses had a copy of our Birth Plan. And everyone at the hospital was so amazing because they followed through with everything. We didn't even have to ask or talk to them about it again. (Speaking of Megan, I thought I had posted a picture of her on here before, but I hadn't. Here she is with us at Ethan's funeral.)
1. Maternity Photos - Every single woman who posted said they wish they would have taken more pictures of themselves pregnant. I've never liked maternity photos, but I thought I'd better get some taken, just in case. I knew I could always hide them away and never look at them if I really hated them. But I'm so glad we decided to do them! Thanks to a fabulous photographer that my sister set us up with, I love these pictures. Looking at them reminds me of how much I enjoyed carrying Ethan and feeling him move around inside me. I really miss being pregnant...
2. Do whatever feels right to you at the moment - This is such general/generic advice, but I am so grateful for it. Everyone who loses a baby goes through different experiences. Even people I've found whose experience was similar to ours, went through it differently. No one should judge. We were so blessed to be at a hospital where the staff had been well trained for this. They allowed us to grieve however we needed to. They were not pushy in any way. Before Ethan was born I thought that spending time with him after he had passed would be weird. I didn't like the thought of it. But when the time came, I didn't want to let go of him. I did what I felt was right for me at the moment and I'm so glad that I did. Ethan spent the night with us in our hospital room on the 30th. The nurses kept telling us that we could keep him as much as we wanted, but that they could take him whenever we were ready. And if we changed our minds, we could have him brought back to us. It was so nice to know that they were willing to do whatever we wanted. We spent time with him again when we dressed him for his funeral on Friday. And we held him as we rode to the cemetery for his graveside service the following Monday. I am so grateful for these precious, sacred moments with our baby boy.
3. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Photography - I cannot say enough great things about this organization. They are so amazing. And since we had written it in our birth plan, the hospital staff set everything up for us. The night of September 30, after our families had left the hospital, our nurse came in and told us the photographer would be coming at 9:00. I was hoping she meant in the morning, because I was so exhausted, but she said, "No, 9:00 pm. In about an hour." I am so glad it worked out that way, though. Ethan looked so great in the pictures and I am forever grateful for the photographer that volunteered his time (late at night) and resources for us. He made sure to have a few of the pictures printed and ready for us before Ethan's funeral just 4 days later. Amazing.
4. Take as many pictures as you can - At first I thought, "The photographer will take better pictures than we can. We don't need to take anymore." But I'm so glad I decided to take more the next day. Having pictures on my phone that I could look at the next day was so important to me. We took a ton of pictures. Of Ethan. Of family. Of the funeral service. Of the cemetery. Of everything. When I'm having a difficult day, it is nice to look back at these pictures and remember how blessed and supported we were during that time.
5. Hand and foot prints and molds - This was something we had put on our Birth Plan. The hospital staff took care of this part for us. Jeff helped one of the nurses do this while I rested that night that Ethan was born. (Right before the NILMDTS photographer came) We brought a couple things to do hand and foot prints on: a scrapbook page, some Christmas ornaments, and we also did several on just plain paper. They also provided the stuff to do a mold of his hand and his foot. (The funeral home was so great. They took prints of both his hands and feet too. They said that sometimes the hospital staff isn't great at remembering to do it, so they always do it too, just in case.) These are so sweet to look at.
6. Hair clipping - Along with the hand and foot molds, the nurse clipped a bit of his hair for us to keep. (The funeral home did this also. And tied it in a sweet little bow. I love it!) All these things remind me that Ethan was a real person. That he was really here on Earth. Sometimes it's hard to remember that because it was such a short time. I'm so glad we have these things to remind us.
7. Dressing Ethan - It was hard to say yes when my mom asked if I wanted to be there to dress Ethan for his funeral. But I did because I knew I would regret it if I didn't. I also didn't like the thought of someone else doing my "motherly duties." I was a little unsure what it would be like, but it ended up being a wonderful experience. It was really the only chance I had to "take care" of him. I am so grateful for those moments!
|Ethan's Heart - It weighs 7 lbs. 3 oz., just like him!|
9. Ethan's Ring - My mom had gotten this idea from a friend who had lost a baby. She tried to find a ring to fit Ethan's finger, but the smallest she could find was a size 3. She took it to a local jeweler who sized it down to 1/2 (for free, in just a couple days). When we went to dress Ethan, the ring fit perfectly on his ring finger. He wore it all weekend and Monday before the graveside service we took it off and put it on a necklace that I wear. It is my very favorite thing. I wear the necklace almost everyday. It is such a great reminder of him and how small and how real he was.
10. Quilts - I'm sure many of you know how much I (and my mom and sisters) love quilting. Right after we found out that Ethan was a boy I picked out some super-cute dinosaur fabric to make him a quilt. The pattern that I found that I loved was for a twin-size quilt and there was not really an easy way to make it smaller. So I just made him a big quilt thinking, "He'll grow into it one day." Plus babies don't really sleep with quilts in their crib. They are more often used to lay on the ground and play on. But a few weeks after finishing the quilt we learned that Ethan would probably never "grow into" this big quilt. I decided I wanted to make a little quilt for Ethan out of the fabric scraps that I had left over. I made this little quilt and even appliqued his name on it so he could use it in the NICU and it wouldn't get lost. The quilt ended up being the perfect size to lay on top of the casket during Ethan's funeral. And before the graveside service we wrapped him in it to keep him nice a warm. The bigger quilt is now my couch cuddle blanket. I love that Ethan and I have matching quilts to keep us warm!
11. Shutterfly - About a month or so after Ethan passed, I made a book on Shutterfly. I knew it would take me a while to get a scrapbook put together of everything we have and I wanted (and needed) something I could easily share with others. Shutterfly is awesome. I was able to spend a couple days designing a book all about Ethan. I included pictures and the story that Jeff wrote about Ethan. I love having something (smaller than a huge, bulky scrapbook) that I can share with people. We plan to read it to our future children and share it with people who may or may not know Ethan's story. So I actually ordered two books - one to share, and one to keep in a fire-proof safe (yep, I'm not even kidding about that).