Precious memory boxes provide comfort for grieving Mater parents

Precious memory boxes provide comfort for grieving Mater parents

Queensland couple Jasmine and Bevan will never forget the heartbreaking day they left hospital without their precious baby boy Archie.
 
Jasmine said the grief she felt after the stillbirth of Archie 35 weeks into her pregnancy was  “unimaginable”.
 
“It was no doubt the hardest time of my life,” Jasmine, 33, said.
 
Jasmine, who is now seven months’ pregnant with her second baby, said the specialist bereavement team at Mater Mothers’ Hospital helped her cope with the sudden and unexpected loss of Archie in March 2022.
 
“Being pregnant again comes with a new type of guilt,” Jasmine said.
 
“I remember the day I noticed Archie hadn’t kicked inside my belly, it was the morning of my baby shower,” she said.
 
“It was unusual. I was used to him moving around. I was so excited about my baby shower, I wanted to see my girlfriends and enjoy my first day of maternity leave, and we were to go on our babymoon the week after.”
 
After her baby shower Jasmine attended Mater’s Pregnancy Assessment Centre (PAC) for a medical check – and was given the devastating news that Archie’s heart had stopped beating.
 
“I actually had had a textbook pregnancy. I was nervous and excited. I was used to him moving … and then everything came to a halt,” Jasmine, of Chandler, said.
 
“When I heard the words ‘there’s no heartbeat’ I was in a state of shock – Archie was both our parents’ first grandchild.”
 
After giving birth to Archie, Jasmine was told by doctors her son had died because of his umbilical cord wrapping around his neck.
 
She said the Mater bereavement team encouraged family members to hold Archie and encouraged her to spend several nights with him in hospital to help with the grieving process.
 
“Every day is different. There are definitely days that are darker than others. And there are days that make you smile and laugh,” she said.
 
“Time can go very slowly when you are caught up in the depth of grief – several months have gone by since we lost Archie and I sometimes I still feel angry that he isn’t with us.
 
“You would be hard-pressed to find a bereaved parent who doesn’t feel guilt or shame after losing their child in the early months. There’s definitely times when that guilt comes back with a vengeance, especially on anniversaries or milestones.”
 
Mater Mothers’ Hospital Perinatal Loss Coordinator Emma Porter provided support to the couple after Archie died and said leaving hospital without a baby was a heartbreaking experience.
 
Emma said last year more than 200 parents suffered the loss of a baby at Mater, all of whom were gifted a memory box by Queensland charity Precious Wings as a keepsake of their child.
 
Mater Mothers’ Hospital was the first of more than 45 hospitals to receive memory boxes from Precious Wings. 
 
The memory boxes provide a place to keep precious items such as hand and footprints or locks of hair, said Emma.
 
Emma said it was thanks to charities like Precious Wings, who gifted the couple a memory box which contained two teddy bears – one which they left with Archie and another they took home.
 
Another charity, Heart Felt Photography captured the raw moments following the loss of Archie.
 
The boxes are often prepared by other bereaved families in memory of their own lost baby or child and contain gifts such as Forget Me Not seeds to be planted in memory of the little one and a scented candle for times of reflection in the future.
 
“These charities have been a lifeline to Mater. It’s an incredible community of people, including parents who want to give back and get involved and help families build memories of children that have gone too soon,” Emma said.
 
“For some parents, they leave hospital carrying only a little box of those memories. It is such a privilege to give parents these boxes during what can be the hardest moment of their life.”
 
Emma said the bereavement team at Mater provided specialised support and counselling to families who have experienced the unexpected or sudden loss of their child.
 
She said Mater Foundation also provided funds for customised memory books to be gifted to bereaved parents.
 
Brisbane paediatric nurse and Precious Wings Founder and CEO Kerry Gordon experienced first-hand the loss of a child, after giving birth to her stillborn son Toby at just 22 weeks gestation in 2011.
 
“Instead of carrying home my beautiful newborn baby boy to his excited big brother, I carried home the shattered remains of my life with no idea how to piece it back together,” Kerry said.
 
“There is no guide as to how to navigate this unspeakable loss. I found myself feeling isolated and alone. 
 
“I desperately trawled the internet trying to find others that I could connect to who had experienced a similar loss. I was terrified of reintegrating back into society and felt judged and pressured to ‘get back to normal’.”
 
“Losing Toby made me reflect on how hospitals care for bereaved families when they lose a child and what a difference that care can make to the grieving process,” she said. 
 
“I am dedicated to improving the bereavement care and support provided to bereaved families and ensuring all families have access to resources to create precious memories of their child.”

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For urgent assessment at any stage of your pregnancy, please present to your nearest emergency centre or Mater Mothers’ 24/7 Pregnancy Assessment Centre in South Brisbane.

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