Published at http://stillstandingmag.com/2017/12/bulk-baby-shampoo-blanket-connection/ on December 11, 2017
Last week my nearly four-year-old child was taking a bath. She was 2.5 years old when her baby sister Breelyn passed away from SIDS. When Breelyn passed away, we were parents to two children. And we bought items like parents of two children… this included baby shampoo in a mega huge bottle. So I’m bathing my child and I see that there is about ¼ of the shampoo bottle remaining and it hits me… this was the same bottle that we used to wash our dear baby who is no longer with us. When we use up the remaining shampoo, yet another thing that was Breelyn’s will be gone. Gone are the bottles and the pacifiers. Gone is the breast pump and frozen bags of milk. Gone are the matching sibling outfits. Gone is the crib, the car seat, the jumper. It’s all gone because she’s gone.
I know that it’s just shampoo but it mattered, it threw me, and that’s ok. It’s ok that I avoid four-month-old babies (Breelyn was nearly this age when she died). It’s ok that my breath catches when I see siblings in matching clothes. It’s ok that the story of baby Jesus makes me tear up. It’s ok that I unfollow (on social media) my family and friends who have babies.
It’s also ok that, while I delight in our sponsored child from Guatemala who was born on the same day as Breelyn, I also cry every time I open an envelope from her. It’s ok that it’s painful to see her growing footprints- because Breelyn’s footprints never grew beyond that of a four-month-old.
It’s ok that I’m not ok. The death of a child isn’t ok- it’s against nature, it’s wrong. Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents. God or any other higher power didn’t will the death of our children. Sh*t just happens and it’s ok that I’m not ok with my child being gone. It stinks.
But, she is gone and I’m still here. And so, I try to do my best to be better, to make the world better. One of the ways that I try to make the world a bit better is through making and collecting blankets for infants and small children that die in hospitals. We call it Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade. I know first-hand the feeling of knowing that a stranger has cared enough to put hours of work into making a blanket for your dear child who has just died. I’ve felt that love and I wanted other parents to feel that love too.
And so I make and collect blankets. I’ve placed 273 blankets so far this year. While I, of course, knew where these blankets were going, I’m not sure that I ever really thought about the reality that each blanket was received by real people, people just like me. But then I went to Texas for a child loss retreat with A Memory Grows. The retreat was made up of three other couples who’d also had child and pregnancy losses.
My spouse was telling of our story- of our loss of Breelyn and of our pregnancy losses that followed. He went on to share how we put a lot of our Breelyn energy into the blanket brigade, and how we just hoped that the blankets would help loss parents just a bit. And then the woman next to me says, “I think that I received one of your blankets.” And she had! Most of our blankets are disbursed in Maryland but I’d also sent blankets to a hospital in Texas where a high school friend is a pediatric emergency room nurse. I’ve only ever driven through Texas or touched down for an airplane change. But, here I was, for the first time, and sitting next to me was someone who’d received a blanket just two months earlier when her child had died. And she confirmed exactly what I’d felt- she and her spouse felt the love and care of strangers when they received their blanket. I’m still in awe of the randomness that we’d connect in person. It was amazing and sobering.
These blankets aren’t healing babies but they are helping to heal parental hearts just a bit. They’re showing that there is love in the world and that a stranger cared enough about a family, that they worked some yarn to make a blanket. And so, while I’m brought to tears by baby shampoo, I also choose to make the world a better place one blanket at a time. You too can make the world a better place. I’d love to hear how you’re honoring your children.
Summer Porter is a mom to a toddler and welcomed Breelyn Elizabeth who died of SIDS at age four months. Summer has experienced two pregnancy losses since Breelyn died. She is a big believer in counseling and in helping others who experience child loss via www.breelynsblanketbrigade.com.