It recently came to my attention that a friend of mine who is a remarkable photographer is part of an organisation overseas where they give the gift of photographic memories to families that have experienced stillbirths, premature births or have children with serious and terminal illnesses. The fact that she is able to give this gift to parents, something physical which they will have to hold on to, and remember their loved one by is remarkable. And it takes a truly special individual to be able to do this. Which she is.
And this got me thinking about the things I wish I had had the foresight to think about doing when Bella and Thomas died. Something which would have helped to keep their memory alive for me. And so I thought I would share this in case maybe one day you are faced with the same thing and wish someone had told you.
- Photographs – now this is obviously a very very personal thing for everyone. We had a lot of photos of Bella and in fact a video and photograph from less than 24 hours before she died, but for Thomas we only have 2 cellphone taken photos and this is something I really regret. I wish we had had the foresight to take more photos, without tubes etc, to document more of our little boy. I know that some people would wonder why on earth I would want a photo of my dead child, but these would be photos I know that I would treasure so much
- Lock of hair – the day that Bella died, my dear darling friend had the foresight to ask me if I wanted to take a lock of Bella’s hair. I couldn’t bring myself to cut it myself and she lovingly did it for me. I know that I certainly would not have thought to do this, and I am so grateful for this physical part of her that we have, placed safely in her memory box
- Hand and foot prints – I would have loved these of both of my children. A reminder of just how small they were, of their actual size. I know that some NICUs keep stuff so that you can do this, and I wish that we had
- Taking time – I am not sure I will ever feel like I took enough time with my dead children before handing them over but I remember feeling pressurised not to “hold on too long”. I wish that I hadn’t given in to that and had just take the time I really needed
- Examining – this is specific to Thomas because we knew him for so little and never got a chance to take him home. I wish that I had really taken the time to look at him and examine him, to take in every little part of him with my own eyes. When he was handed to us he was wrapped in a blanket and had a nappy on and I remember being too scared to really examine him properly. I cant say what exactly I was scared of – that he was so small and vulnerable, that he was already so bruised that I didn’t want to cause any more harm, that I was scared about what I might see. I remember wanting to unwrap him and touch every part of him, but in the same breath also being too scared to do so. I was also so drugged on morphine, not really with it, and couldn’t even sit up properly. But this is one of the things I really wish I had done.
- Clothes – keep their special clothes (but not the outfit they died in) and make them into something that can comfort you. A memory blanket perhaps.
- Blanket – I remember feeling grateful that Bella was taken away in a blanket that we had specifically chosen for her and that we had wrapped her in ourselves. We didn’t get to do this with Thomas, because we didn’t have a blanket with us, and I have always felt sad about that.
- Keep their special bunny or blanket – we did this for Bella and I am so grateful for this
These are just a few of the things I wish I had thought about at the time, or that I am glad it did. It certainly isn’t an extensive list but worth remembering.