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Difficult question for parents of stillborns or actually anyone who has lost someone close

(28 Posts)
Notsurehow Wed 14-Sep-11 12:30:58

I have namechanged for this (to protect friends) but have been on Mumsnet since 2005 and am not a troll,journalist,researcher or anything other than me.I have to give some background to how I arrived at this point.

Unfortunately,I have been "involved" in 2 stillbirths of two very close friends,one more than another and they both handled it completely differently.
One,I visited every day in hospital with her baby for four days,dressed her,arranged the funeral,helped choose burial area etc etc.I took photos for the parents,the hospital did footprints,cut some hair for a keepsake and were just lovely.Sadly,the photos are not ones they want on display,despite having them re-touched and wanting her acknowledged as part of their family.She has bracelets and necklaces with her daughter's name on but nothing more.

The other was very pragmatic,didn't want to hold him,didn't want a funeral and wanted to just "get on with life" and get pregnant as soon as possible.They did go to counselling but found it "useless".These couples couldn't have been more different although a year on,the second woman IS grieving and regretting somewhat the speed with which she "dealt" with things.

I lost my baby sister over 30yrs ago and just last year my brother committed suicide so I am no stranger to grief.

So,now I will get to the point.

I am working part time for a lovely,very talented artist who produces beautiful casts (bronze,silver,crystal etc etc) of anything and everything from bumps to boobs,faces to fruit,literally anything.Now I know there are tons of people out there who do plaster casts and there are loads of kits too.What this lady does truly is different.The pieces are tactile,engraved and beautiful.She also has the rare ability to miniaturise any cast to pendant/cufflink/charm size.

I know I would have loved to have had a cast of my Mother's had as she died suddenly before my daughter was born.Not only for me but for my daughter and then,hopefully her children.

I asked my friend if she would have liked to have had a cast of her daughter's hand or foot and she immediately said yes.Her reason being it could sit on a coffee table/mantlepiece,she could hold it and see a true representation of her daughter and so could everyone else.She can't show the photographs (she feels that people will only see a dead baby,not the beautiful daughter she remembers).She could wear a necklace that wasn't just her name and a date but almost a part of her.These were her words,not mine.

Based on her reaction rather than mine,I wanted to test the water to see if this is something I could do for people.The artist cannot afford to do it free of charge but I would take nothing from it and she would just charge at cost.I would hate anyone to view this as ambulance-chasing because it couldn't be further from the truth.It is born out of the desire to help the bereaved having both been through it and also experienced the pain of others.

Is this just a stupid idea or would any of you liked to have been given the opportunity to have a solid replica of your lost one,be it hand,lips,foot etc?

I have no idea how this would actually work,it will never be large scale or advertised because that's not what it is about.I know of someone whose granddaughter has only weeks to live (age 8) and I have taken moulds for her and all the close family members want one for themselves.

Please give me your honest views so I can either crawl away and concentrate on the commercial side of the business or if there is a real need,focus on helping people.

elliebellys Wed 14-Sep-11 12:51:02

hello notsosure,wot a lovely idea.i for one would have loved for this to have been available when i lost my baby girl.i think this would be very popular,nd successful .go for it.x

Moanna Wed 14-Sep-11 17:02:30

My DD wasn't stillborn, she was a two when she passed away but yes I would have liked that idea.

I'm not sure of the practicalities of getting the moulds done though.

JjandtheBeanlovesUnicorns Wed 14-Sep-11 22:12:38

I think its a beautiful idea, my brother was still born last year and a local lady who lost her son makes special quilts that all the bereaved parents at our hospital receive one with a butterfly charm attached. I don't know how you'd go about it but maybe you need to liase with the bereavement team on maternity wards.

going Wed 14-Sep-11 22:20:16

I've had two late miscarriages. At the time of them I wanted my babies left in peace as much as possible and would have hated the idea of someone making a cast of my baby. However it would be lovely to have a physical reminder of them, not to dislpay just to know it's there. I think when people have still borns or lose someone suddenly there is a very small time frame to organise something like this.

Northernlurker Wed 14-Sep-11 22:32:49

Not sure of the practicalities but it sounds like a good idea. The Victorians did a lot of this sort of thing and then it fell out of fashion - but I think it's very sound.

Notsurehow Wed 14-Sep-11 23:17:45

Firstly thank you all for both answering my question and also suggesting it might be a good idea.
Secondly,I am so sorry for your losses,nothing I know can ever compare to losing your child which really is my main motivation for this.
Yes I will still have to do the "day job" or the ones that pay the bills but I have to find a way to at least try this.
I plan to speak to midwives or ??? locally at first.I would then do some of the casts and hopefully train them to take the moulds so there isn't such a time pressure.
I have to at least try - there may be people already doing it but not locally so I will give it my best shot.
Any other views or suggestions would be great.
I only wish I had been able to do it for Elliebellies,Moanna,JATBLU,and going.....

zeno Thu 15-Sep-11 18:26:26

I think it's a great idea, but the practicalities are likely to make it impossible to bring about.

You may find that this is something that won't work because of the physical changes that happen very soon afer death. For example, we have hand and foot prints of our dd, done in the hospital shortly after she died; neither of the prints looks at all as they should because her fingers and toes had curled inwards.

Having said that, perhaps it would be do-able for children with life limiting illness. Maybe get in touch with your nearest children's hospice and run it by them?

coccyx Thu 15-Sep-11 18:30:22

I would have loved a print/cast of my Dad's hand. He was always busy in his shed creating something. He died unexpectantly and I miss him dearly.
I think it would suit a lot of people as i was desperate to remember in some way other than having his ashes

RueDeWakening Thu 15-Sep-11 18:39:18

Personally I wouldn't have wanted it (I have a little pin angel that I wear to remember my 2 stillborn triplets). However, I have spoken to a lot of bereaved parents over the last couple of years, and I can totally see that it would be a popular idea. I know there are ways to have finger/foot prints taken in hospital etched onto charms/jewellery etc, but I've not heard of anything like this before.

Re organisations to speak to, you could try SANDS, also the chaplain at your local hospital might be a good starting point - they normally arrange any funeral/service for stillborn babies.

Finally, there will be women in my situation who have to stay pregnant for as long as possible after knowing that one or more babies have passed away, for the sake of the survivor(s). I would have had 5 weeks to consider whether we wanted to go ahead with a cast before the eventual birth. So contacting/posting on the TAMBA forum might also be worthwhile.

HTH, and good luck.

deemented Thu 15-Sep-11 18:47:06

I think it is a lovely idea.

Speaking as amother who lost her firstborn son after nearly two hours though, i wouldn't have wanted to do this at all. My baby was for those that loved him, iyswim, and not for 'just anyone' even if you did have good intentions. Please don't be offended by that - as i said, i think it's a nice idea. I also think zeno's point is a valid one too - it would have to be done quite soon after birth/death i would think, and i'm not sure how many families would want to share their immediate grief with you.

A good start perhaps would be to contact Lisa's Stars, not sure if you've heard of them?

Notsurehow Thu 15-Sep-11 19:57:36

Thank you for your honest replies.
Deemented-my intention would be to train a midwife to take the casts,I would NEVER want to intrude on anyone's grief.This would clearly be the best option in terms of timing as well.
It is so hard,I just know from the reactions of people affected by the death of a child and my own feelings of wishing I had something tactile to "comfort" me I want to try.
Hospices I had thought of but I just don't want to be seen as trying to "cash in" on death which hand on heart,I am absolutely not.I don't even know how to start the conversation without being seen as "just another salesperson".
I considered Sands but quite often I think people turn to Sands after the funeral.
I hadn't heard of Lisa's Stars but will look now.

As for the timing issue and not looking "true",it is very individual I think (from my limited experience) and depends on several things such as length of induction etc .God I hate writing this - I am sorry.
I know that my friend's little girl,by the time she was photographed didn't look as she did when born but she is adamant she would have loved a casting of her hand.

Thank you again,I really appreciate your honesty and advice.If anyone can suggest how to start the conversation on the phone then please chip in.

Funeral directors have been mentioned but I just don't feel this is right for various reasons....

Fortunately,my DD is happy and healthy at the moment,however,I will be casting our hands gripped together,not in fear of what may happen but as a snapshot in time.

Thank you all.

solidgoldbrass Thu 15-Sep-11 20:08:43

I think this is a good idea as well and I think you are approaching it with sensitivity. However, some people may well react badly to the suggestion so you need to be prepared for that. Not all midwives, for instance, will want to learn to take castings of stillborns or babies who die shortly after birth, simply because TBH they've got enough to do with dealing with the situation as it happens. I don't know much about sculpture and castings - how long does such a procedure take and how complicated is it? If it involves, for instance, half an hour or so of waiting for something to set it's going to be pretty problematic for a midwife to do and might even be breaching legal/medical guidelines.
However, for people aware that they or a family member are not going to be around much longer I can see it being a lovely, comforting service to offer.

OvO Thu 15-Sep-11 20:12:52

Stillborn babies, not just "stillborns". Sorry, I know it's a tiny point but the title bothered me and someone else used it too.

I'd have loved this when I lost my DS2. We did do one of those plaster hand/foot impression things and that's one of my most treasured items but a cast would have been amazing.

It a wonderful idea.

Notsurehow Thu 15-Sep-11 22:49:06

OvO I am so sorry if i offended you in any way.Having been so VERY closely involved with stillbirth,I would never suggest such a thing.It is exactly the reverse which is why I am so passionate about doing this.
SGB-I think the point you raise is what I am most afraid of tbh.There is no way I can prove to you,a midwifery team/whoever that I genuinely want to offer people something I know,many will appreciate long term based on experience and in no way to exploit.If I could offer it free then I absolutely would but to ensure the replica is IDENTICAL take an artist time (which she has agreed to give) but then there is the cost of the moulding kit,then whichever metal is chosen,postage etc.
Trained with multiple moulds over even just an hour,a midwife could then undertake the procedure in about 15mins in total.

Maybe it is too much.....but I am determined to try and help ANY bereaved family...

Notsurehow Thu 15-Sep-11 23:00:43

Determined that is until I feel I am not helping/intruding or actually just can't do it...

solidgoldbrass Thu 15-Sep-11 23:37:59

NSH: I don't know for sure but I have a feeling there would be some sort of official prohibition on NHS midwives actually performing a procedure that was non-medically-related and for a non-NHS organisation even if it was being done for free.
While there are photographers who will come into maternity wards and basically tout for business (nothing inherently wrong with that) they are not NHS employees.
Also, I don't think you or your friend should offer such a service free of charge, it isn't sustainable to do so (and I believe that everyone should be paid for their work whatever) if it becomes very popular - you and your friend have only so much time and your own livings to earn anyway.

Notsurehow Fri 16-Sep-11 00:02:11

SGB-you so see what is ahead of me!

Currently,midwives will take footprints,handprints,cut a lock of hair,take photos,possibly bathe the baby....the most callous could argue than none of this was for "medical reasons"...hence my theory (hopefully not in vain) that if it could be simplified,discreet,personal etc surely these parents deserve that extra 10 minutes or so?
Depending on resource,it wouldn't have to be a midwife,it just needs to be someone the parents feel comfortable with...that may vary from hospital to hospital I guess depending on the staff allocation.
I cannot afford as a single parent to work for nothing but I am more than willing to work for nothng as PART of my working week if it offers the comfort I believe it can.
Sounds ridiculously wet and PC (and trust me,I AM a normal human being who laughs at things I maybe shouldn't and cries at stupid stuff) but events in my life have increased my empathy and thus to help.....

solidgoldbrass Fri 16-Sep-11 00:06:00

I would suggest you have a chat with a few midwives TBH. They will at least be able to advise you on what they are and are not allowed to do in such situations.

Also, again, think this through a little. How many casts can your friend realistically expect to do in a week ie from agreement that it should be done to presenting the finished product? The last thing you want is to find yourself in a position where you are too popular to be able to provide the service you are offering.

InstructionsToTheDouble Fri 16-Sep-11 00:13:57

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InstructionsToTheDouble Fri 16-Sep-11 00:16:27

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Notsurehow Fri 16-Sep-11 00:32:52

Sorry,have allowed my subscription to lapse due to time limitations.Thank you for the link-will have a look.
I know we will be limited and I know that someone may be cleverer/more dispassionate than me and make money out of it.
I have arranged to talk to a couple of midwives next week so will get some "frontline" info.
As to the number of casts.....There clearly is a limit and also a limit I could expect the artist to do at cost,given she will have to make up the lost revenue with other sources.
However (and I have not thought this through fully)MAYBE I could,in time,encourage/develop a network of like-minded people or even get sponsorship somehow?
I don't know,I am sure other people do it,I just want to help where I think I can...small acorns and all that..smile

InstructionsToTheDouble Fri 16-Sep-11 00:48:17

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solidgoldbrass Fri 16-Sep-11 09:37:06

I had a look at the NILMDTS site as well: it's a nice idea and well-handled but obviously it depends on a network of volunteer photographers who presumably give a set percentage of their time for free. I think for the OP's scheme to work it would have to start small and local and always with an eye to bringing in more volunteers. Unfortunately (and I may be wrong about this) I get the impression that the artist's particular skill in creating the finished products is a bit of a rare one (whereas it is not difficult to find a competent photographer and give him/her a bit of basic training in handling the bereaved and any specific issues re the photographing of stillborn babies) which again would limit the amount of finished castings that would be offered.

Notsurehow Sat 17-Sep-11 22:57:33

Thank you again for the points raised.
It will of course be local to start with,the artist already has done "far too many" (as in it shouldn't happen) via word of mouth,usually a relative etc. I just want people to know that they have the opportunity to do this...that's all.Even if it isn't this artist,there will be others but today,I was polishing some pieces I have here for reference and it was so lovely just holding some of the little feet,with all their wrinkles etc...very theraputic and they weren't even my child's feet.
I WILL take it as far as I can.....hope I don't fall at the last hurdle.

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