In what Sherokee describes as the 'Dark Ages' of perinatal loss, babies were rarely seen by parents, fathers made funeral arrangements and the expectations were to not talk about this unfortunate event.
Then in the very late 70's, early 80's a new generation of parents and advocates emerged; we were determined to bring light and changes to how babies and parents were treated.
In 1979 when Marama was miscarried, I was treated kindly but told to work towards having another. Nothing practical or supportive was given to me and I was on my way.
When Brennan was suddenly born with no breath (stillborn) the day after his due date in November 1981, David and I were devastated. Again we were given kind care but received nothing to read to guide us, staff offered ideas but without back-up or reasons to follow their advice (like taking a picture), and we left with no crib card or memento of any kind, no picture, and no one in our families saw or held him except us for about 5 or 10 minutes.
Leaving the hospital with empty arms was unbearable. Upon returning home to an empty home with the holidays looming, I couldn't get out of bed and didn't know what to do. We felt it shouldn't have been like that; something needed to be done.
We had made terrible decisions and had immediate regrets, seeing him for minutes and not sharing him with anyone in our family...no pictures, no footprints, no lock of hair, no mementos of any kind, and no written materials to help us know our options and guide us.
Needing to so something, I began writing a brochure (that turned into a small, easy to read book) to help parents who came after. They deserved better preparation and more guidance to help them make the most of their short time with their baby.
Empty Arms: Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death was birthed 9 months after our son Brennan had died. Our next baby. I have nurtured and grown this project for the past 3 decades. Hearing from families who have received support, love, and advice from this book and the other 16 I have authored/co-authored, gives me warm feelings and a sense of satisfaction.
Brennan and Marama's short lives are making a difference in the lives of others. Their legacies are carried forward by their parents and others who anticipated their lives. For this I am grateful.
After that, I invited others to help me found a national organization to push for changes (the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Center). Share existed at that time and was a real leader in this arena (Bless Sr. Jane Marie Lamb who was making a difference in St. Louis with her support groups and her beautiful, affirming letters which were sent to parents like me.)
Our team worked really hard; we created-- the first activist 'national' conversation, a newsletter, October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (with the help of groups, families, and health care providers around the country.)
I began working with others to write materials to help all involved--family, friends, caregivers, and of course, the parents. If care was to improve, if better decisions were to be made, the supportive literature and media had to grow; there was so little then. Now 17 books and booklets later, with at least 3 new pieces in the works, help has become available. Look at the internet today. Hundreds of books for children, families, and others on this important subject. How fortunate we are.
Over the years, I have been honored to speak at well over a thousand conferences; inservices; workshops; support groups; including television shows-national (Oprah, Donahue, Home Show) and regional shows; along with radio and newspapers/magazines.
In 2009, I invited others to officially join our Babies Remembered Consulting team so we could work together to grow the work supporting our mission. Our team has been involved in so many roles working to make a difference. We have given our time as consultants, birth planners, perinatal loss coordinators/navigators, support group leaders, authors, researchers (bereavement support and cause/prevention), teachers, speakers, and so much more.