Kara's Column > Scrapbooking After A Baby Has Died
One of the things I fervently worked on when I was pregnant (and never dreaming in a million years that my baby would be stillborn) was a baby book. Doing the family tree and scrapbooking the ultrasound photos was so fun.
So what happens to that baby book and the love of scrapbooking after your baby dies?
All I can say is thank the Goddess above for my mother, fondly called Nanna-Memoo. She encouraged me to finish my son Dakota's baby book. Okay, let's all agree up front that is sucks to have to "finish" a baby book, but I have to say that it was a very healing process for me-- much more healing than leaving it empty or, worse yet, throwing it away (which I contemplated doing when I was still in shock).
Okay, so very rarely will you find baby memory books. I must say that A Place To Remember does sell nice memory books on their website, but I have yet to find a scrapbooking store or baby department that's going to market a section of baby books for babies who have died. [Though I did recently connect with Diana who founded Just A Cloud Away as well as Emily's designs with the HeartSpoken Vellum sheets both of which are just perfect for this kind of scrapbooking!] So what do you do? You follow Nanna-Memoo's advice and you scrapbook your own darn baby book anyway!
I had some traditional "ready-made" pages already that had sayings on them like "Baby's First Day Home" and the like. On these pages, I simply got stickers or cut shapes out of scrapbooking papers and worked right over top of the sayings that didn't apply. Some of the other sayings still worked like "Mommy's First Thoughts After You Arrived." Okay, my answers to that prompt weren't traditional at all because my first thoughts were angry, sad, and awful, but I wrote them anyway. It is a very real record of where I was and how I felt that day. I need that record for reflection, to see where I was, how far I've come, and where I stand today in my process.
Then there were other pages that had been made for "Baby's First Photo" and such. So I cut my son's beautiful little photos out into flower shapes and heart shapes and I put them in there. Unfortunately I had only a few photos to work with because my husband and I hadn't taken photos that day at the hospital-- in fact I had refused to hold my son because I was so whacked out. But (and again thank the Goddess above) we had a fabulous nurse who washed my son and wrapped him in a baby blanket and put a baby hat on him and she took photos for us. I hadn't wanted them when she took them, but I was very grateful to have them for his baby book as I worked on it several weeks later.
And there are still other pages for footprints and locks of hair, and we were lucky that the nurse had thought to get these items for us, too. So I put those things in, too.
Then I really did a lot of pages from scratch to mark the days we went through after his death. Photos and song lyrics my husband had written. I cut up some of the sympathy cards we got and used the images from the cards to make a border to a page where I then wrote one of my poems for my son. I kept the packet of seeds that was given out during my son's service at the funeral home and I used the packet in the scrapbook, too. I took the signatures from the baby shower and paired them with the signatures from the guest book pages of the funeral and made a page.
For each of the pages I used different stickers and colors and just took a lot of time and care for each memory I was marking. It was very mindful and healing in so many ways. I used lots of flower stickers and some baby stickers and tons of angel stickers. I used bright color paper on some pages and dark on others. And I just took my time and lavished all the care I could into the baby book that I would have been lavishing on my son.
Today, I am so glad that I did it. Anytime I want to see my son or feel close to the life of him, I take out the baby book and look at. It is on a book shelf in our livingroom, and I have seen my stepdaughter look through several times. When it was first completed, I took it to my poetry workshop-- the same workshop I had attended all during my pregnancy-- and shared it with the girls. It was a wonderfully healing session that day. I even discovered that a woman there had also had a son who was stillborn twenty years earlier who she had also named Dakota. She might never have told me that if she hadn't been so moved by the baby book.
Oh, and I must say that it isn't exactly finished. I did go back and add pages on his first birth/death day after we did a teddy bear drive in his memory. And when something exciting happens with KotaPress, I add a copy of it to the baby book because really it was Dakota's death that gave birth to the press. And sometimes I just journal pages to him and add them. And for all his birthdays since 1999, I've taken time on his day to write him a letter and add that as well.
So please, if you have suffered a loss and have a baby book there, finish it, work on it, own it. If you don't have a baby book, take a look at A Place To Remember's website and consider getting a memory book from them. Or look at Just A Cloud Away and order one of Deborah's scrapbooking kits. Or get a blank scrapbooking book and make your own. If you know someone who has suffered a loss, encourage them to try making a baby memory book. And if (Goddess Forbid) you are ever with someone who suffers a loss like, take photos for them if they don't do it themselves. Ask the medical staff to get footprints and handprints and a lock of hair. You don't have to shove these items on the family if they don't want them. You can just put them aside in an envelope and let the family know the envelope exists. I can almost 100% guarantee they will ask for it later and be so thankful that you helped them in this way.
Miracles to you!
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Kara L.C. Jones is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she honed her poetic craft under the mentorship of Jim Daniels. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Real Henna, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", MISSing Angels Newsletter, American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. Because she refused to give her grief writing over to the control of outside editors and publishers after the death of her son, she and her husband Hawk founded KotaPress in 1999 as a creative outlet for their expressive artworks. She has been facilitating online and in-person workshops for over 10 year, including sessions offered at the International MISS Conferences, WA State Poets Association Burning Word festivals, and Course Bridge.