Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord, my soul, to take.
When I was growing up, that was the nightly prayer I said before going to sleep. My Daddy made sure I knelt beside my bed and recited these simple words.
There are few things in life harder than losing a child. It doesn’t matter how old, how young, miscarriage, or stillbirth, the death of a child is unspeakable. Those who have not walked this path, rarely understand the deep emotions. Their sympathy is sincere but the empathy only comes from experience.
In 1977 my daughter, Autumn was stillborn. I had never known anyone who had lost a child or had a stillbirth. I had a lot of shame surrounding it and since my own mother was deceased, I felt I had no one to share this shame and confusion with. My shame stemmed from not being able to give birth to a healthy child and I felt totally inept as a woman. I had no one to help me understand or guide me in being compassionate towards myself.
A few of my friends had experienced miscarriages in their early pregnancies, but I had gone through hours of labor and delivery only to find out she had never taken a breath. Now, 41 years later, I have known a few women who have had the same sadness. I have had the privilege of sharing my experience, strength and hope with them and they with me.
Recently, I have found two organizations that give hope, love, and support to the grieving parents. One was in our local newspaper recently, called, “Angel Wings of Lake Travis.” These volunteers make burial gowns for these infants who are victims of an untimely death. Often the parents are unprepared or unable to provide a garment for the child to be buried in. These precious burial gowns are made from donated wedding dresses. The volunteers sew little gowns with a vest and bow tie for the boys and an exquisite gown for the girls. The gown is given to the family free of charge. What a meaningful way to help these parents say goodbye to their precious little one.
Another organization dear to me is, “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.” When I was taking a photography class recently, a volunteer spoke to us about giving our time as a photographer. NILMDTS trains, educates, and mobilizes professional photographers to provide beautiful portraits to families facing the death of their infant. The free gift of a professional portrait serves to honor the child and the family, thus providing an important step in the healing process.
What makes these so special to me is the fact that I had neither for Autumn. She had no burial clothes and I have no photograph or tangible reminder of her little soul. I know I cannot change these facts, but I would give anything to help another family have the healing closure they and their babies deserve.
I hope you will visit these two websites and take time to read about their missions, and to donate if you are so moved.
Thank you for reading and allowing me to share something so close to my heart.