NOTE: Daniel and Kelly speak to this question on Episode #12 of The Abel Speaks Podcast. You can listen on Apple, Spotify, or your app of choice.
We are picking back up from where we left off in our previous post which talked about preparing for the hospital experience before your baby’s birthday. Today’s question is: Once Baby’s birthday arrives, and it is go-time, how did you create meaningful memories on Abel’s actual birthday? It’s helpful in our minds to have categories so we’re going to group these suggestions into four categories.
1) Photos and Videos: We had a photographer come and take photos for the birth as well as a few hours post-birth. Then she actually came back a couple days later to the hospital and took more photos for us. Those are sweet memories that we have forever and get to hold on to and look at. We can pull them out whenever we want to and we get to show our other kids photos of Abel which is really comforting.
One thing I would say is that we took some videos on our iPhone, but we didn’t take enough videos. I don’t think you can ever have enough videos to get to see your baby moving around, making noises and sounds, and interacting with them. And so I wish we would have done more videos.
Even if your story is such where a live birth is not part of your baby’s story, there is still something powerful and beautiful about reliving, in living color, those real-time moments of getting to hold your baby, meeting him/her, and cherishing your child. We can’t say it enough — it’s the number one thing that, as we polled the audience, is repeated — take as many pictures and capture as many videos as you possibly can to really document that day.
One last thing on that too… sometimes if the baby is not born alive, I think that people can feel really awkward or unsure about taking photos. All I would say to them is that you never have to look at the photos, but you can never get that time back, so go ahead and take the photos and videos. Then, if and when you ever do want to, you can look at them rather than regretting not having them. That would be our recommendation.
Some of the most beautiful photos we’ve seen from families are babies that just appear to be, because they are, peacefully sleeping. So don’t let that necessarily be a hang up or a fear, or something that you dread, because it really can be just as powerful and as meaningful.
2) Keepsakes: The second category is thinking in terms of keepsakes and things specifically associated and attached to our child that we can try to hang on to.
We tried to keep this simple — I would say that you don’t have to overthink it. We took prints of Abel’s hands and feet which are sweet things to get to have around our home. We also mentioned in our previous post about outfits and beanies. We have these cute little socks that he wore that we loved and we still have our younger kiddos wear. Those are pretty tangible keepsakes.
Some things that we did not do, that I wish we would have, was collect a lock of his hair. I’ve seen a lot of families do this in a shadow box or save it in some form or fashion. One other thing I wish that we would have done was save some breast milk. There are some really cool companies that create really beautiful jewelry from hair, breast milk, ashes, and different things like that. Those are things that we didn’t save that I wish we would have.
As we talked about in previous blog posts about thinking through outfits, beanies, and things like that, those are things that were sweet to kind of pre-select and think through. They were also comforting to hang on to and even reuse down the line with other kiddos.
3) Meaningful Activities: The third category is meaningful activities you can do with your child on his/her birthday. We didn’t prepare a ton for this category and a lot of these things happened naturally. Some things that we did get to do, that were really meaningful, was to give Abel a bath which was a really sweet opportunity while we were in the hospital and we were also able to feed him. Those are normal parental activities but having a child with a life-limiting diagnosis you just never know if those are going to be opportunities that you get and those were some of the things we got to do with Abel.
We also listened to meaningful music. Anytime we hear those songs that were on that playlist, even to this day, they always take us right back to the day that we were in the hospital with him. Other things that we have seen people do is read to their kiddos. Prayer was a big part of our story as well. In the hospital we had friends praying for us, we had family praying for us, and we had our nurses praying at different times which was really sweet. Some people like to visit the chapel at the hospital or take their baby outside — just to know that your child got to experience sunshine is such a sweet gift and could be considered a small thing, but something that you never know what’s going to be a part of his/her story.
4) People: Lastly is thinking through people — how do you want to incorporate and direct the loved ones in your life in the hospital?
This was something that we did a little bit of prep for on the front end and we communicated to friends and family that we didn’t know if we were going to want people to come into the hospital room or not. We tried to be flexible and open-handed with that. On the day of his birthday, there was such joy and it really felt like a celebration. It was a gift to have people come into the hospital room, encourage us, and get to meet Abel. And now, getting to hear our friends and family remember things from that day is incredibly special. They can still say, “Oh, remember when he did this?” or “Remember what his toes looked like?” or “Remember when he pooped for the first time?” or whatever it was. To have other people get to talk about your child that way is a real gift. Hold that decision loosely and if that doesn’t feel like a best fit for you, that’s okay. But also know that it can be a real sense of support during that day and also in the days to come. To add to that, two other people that were in the room for us were a doula (which was a blessing) and we also had a photographer in the room taking photos.
You don’t have to figure it all out now and you also have total freedom to adapt and adjust and change, but it is something to figure out. Even the idea of maybe establishing a point-person to be the chief correspondent that can keep other people updated and when it’s a good time. Then they could be the ones ushering, “Hey, why don’t you guys come for a little bit?” or “Hey, I think it’s time to head out and we’re going to let the next crew come in.” It can help direct traffic in that regard.
So you can begin thinking about things like photography, having a birth doula, or hand and feet molds. Recently we’ve started working with Cowtown Clay in Fort Worth who are wonderful and we’re starting to send that to families. All of these are services that we provide to families for free. We’d love to help you make your child’s birthday as memorable and meaningful as possible.