What to send/do for a friend who lost her preemie?
August 20, 2014 12:13 PM   Subscribe

A friend who lives far from me delivered a beautiful baby boy yesterday at 24 weeks and lost him only hours later. I would like to send her something, what should I send?

A friend who lives far from me delivered a beautiful baby boy yesterday at 24 weeks and lost him only hours later. She has wanted to be a mother for a long time and struggled to conceive this baby. I am so sad for her and would like to send her something. She is supported by her sister who arrived yesterday and her husband and local friends.

I would like to send her something and am likely overthinking this. I have considered a card, flowers or gourmet cookies. I am interested in the cookies because I think she would like them however they seem too celebratory. She is in the Greater Vancouver Area in BC, Canada. I have local friends who could help but would prefer if online or telephone arrangements could be made.

What should I send?

P.S. I will visit her in a few months but since I would have to travel with my own beautiful baby I think I should wait a while before visiting.
posted by saradarlin to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Send a card with as much love in it as you can possibly put onto paper, and perhaps a calla lily.
I'm sorry for your friend. How sad.
posted by phunniemee at 12:21 PM on August 20 [6 favorites]

I know what you mean about cookies seeming too celebratory, but a lot of people have trouble eating in situations like this and something really tempting might get her to at least eat a cookie. I think it's thoughtful of you.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:24 PM on August 20 [4 favorites]

I don't think what you send is important is as important as simply getting in touch. At times like these, people can shy away for fear of saying / doing the wrong thing. A card will let her know you're there for her. Follow up with a call soon after. Then keep calling.
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:26 PM on August 20 [20 favorites]

If there is any way you can arrange for a meal to be delivered, that would be helpful.
posted by Silvertree at 12:28 PM on August 20

A close friend of mine experienced a similar loss. Some things I learned at the time were:

1.) She was horrified by flower deliveries. She did not want to see anything that would die and require disposal.

2.) Food was very helpful. She didn't really want to eat, so her friends banded together to send her a bunch of freezable food and get her gift cards for food delivery services so that when she was ready, she could have something.

3.) She wanted her friends to call and write. She wanted to talk about her baby, to say her baby's name. This was the most important.

4.) She wanted to avoid mention of all other babies.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:29 PM on August 20 [49 favorites]

So sorry for your friend. Right now a handwritten, heartfelt note sounds best and then staying in touch with her local support network via friends or her sister to learn immediate needs (laundry service? meals delivered? yardwork done?).

If you visited her, could someone take care of your baby while you went to her home? I think your instinct about protecting her from pain of seeing you with your baby is kind and right on, but nothing replaces an in-person visit from a friend - you don't have to talk about your baby at all. Something you can ask her support network in a few weeks. And seconding ZipRibbons, get on the phone after she gets the card.

To me, any type of memorable "special delivery" cookies would seem jarring and yes, celebratory (you don't want her to associate this certain brand of cookies forever with the death of her child) although a fruit plate or some sort of veggie tray would be more nondescript. If there is a memorial service flowers could be appropriate. And, remember the anniversary of the birth and send her a card or give her a call on that anniversary - it will be meaningful in coming years.
posted by whenbynowandtreebyleaf at 12:29 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]

Agree that a handwritten note telling her how much you love her and how much you grieve with her would be the best thing.

I would not send flowers (flowers die) or cookies. If you can arrange to have easy to heat (or eat cold) nutritious food delivered to the family that would be better.

There is a lot of memorial jewelry out there, most of it awful, but we do have a friend who was given a memorial necklace very much like this one and she wears it daily.

Also, set yourself a calendar reminder for this day, forever, and commit to reaching out to her in some small way at this time every year. For many who lose an infant, it's almost like the child never existed except to the immediate family, and it can be a great comfort for them to know that someone else remembers that their child was born and lived, if only for a short while.

Also, if there is any way you can discretely ask about helping to pay for the cost of a memorial stone, that can often be an unanticipated burden for families.
posted by anastasiav at 12:31 PM on August 20 [9 favorites]

The meal part is hard because I would have to lock down a day a time when they will be home. I don't want to have to make arrangements through her or her husband (and I don't know the sister or have her contact information).
posted by saradarlin at 12:32 PM on August 20

In addition to a handwritten note, food would be great. When a friend suffered a miscarriage, my wife and I brought over a week's worth of food that we had prepared and then frozen. She really appreciated it. I don't know anything about this frozen meal service, but they deliver to the greater Vancouver area and the prices don't seem too bad.

On preview: you could ask whether the service could bring a delivery in a styrofoam container with ice or dry ice, and leave it on the doorstep if they're not home (or with a neighbor).
posted by brianogilvie at 12:35 PM on August 20

I've been trying to suss out if Schwan's delivers in Canada, but it doesn't look like they do. Can a Canadian Mefite suggest a similar service?
posted by anastasiav at 12:39 PM on August 20

My mother lost her first baby similarly. It was in 1965 and she was in a Catholic hospital. She and my father were completely heartbroken. One of the nuns came to her bedside and prayed with her and gave her a medal of St. Gerard - who is the patron saint of motherhood. My mother isn't a very overly religious person, but she kept that medal close to her heart and prayed to him to help her be a mother every day. It was a reminder of the baby she lost, but a reminder filled with hope. Unfortunately, they were unable to conceive their own child at the time and so they went the adoption route and got me and then my brother. Our middle names are a tribute to St. Gerard because my mother was so grateful that she was finally able to be a mom. She still wears that medal daily pinned to the inside of her bra. And when someone she knows loses a child, she buys them a medal - whether they are Catholic or not- and visits and prays with them.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:42 PM on August 20 [19 favorites]

The meal part is hard because I would have to lock down a day a time when they will be home. I don't want to have to make arrangements through her or her husband (and I don't know the sister or have her contact information).

Could you give her a gift card to an online delivery service? We gave our friend gift cards worth a few hundred each for GrubHub and Seamless so she and her husband could order what they wanted and not worry about fridge space, dishes, etc.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:43 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]

Prepared meal delivery: Casalinga Foods
posted by anastasiav at 12:46 PM on August 20

A handwritten note is great.

This may be more elaborate than you want to get into but when I lost my daughter a few days after her birth, some people gave us things-that-were-named-for-her -- a tree in Israel, a star (this is a scam actually but we didn't care), a kilometre of the Trans-Canada Trail. I really enjoy having things out there with her name on them.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:53 PM on August 20 [18 favorites]

Things that I have seen go down well in a similar situation:

A vase.
A necklace with the little one's birthstone, that mum can wear in future family pictures that the child can't be in.
Attending the funeral.
Using the child's name. Not forgetting. Not pretending it never happened.
posted by emilyw at 1:05 PM on August 20 [5 favorites]

Also, set yourself a calendar reminder for this day, forever, and commit to reaching out to her in some small way at this time every year.

This may be a bit obvious, but she would probably appreciate you remembering her actual due date as well, with a phone call or a card.
posted by Flamingo at 1:39 PM on August 20

Not much to add but a book rec: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is a memoir by Elizabeth McCracken about having a stillborn child. It's tremendously powerful (I have no children and am NOT a public crier, but I was weeping on my plane ride while I read this -- my poor seatmates!). It gives some helpful insight into what this experience might be like for your friend.

What stood out most to me, as a friend of someone who lost a child this way, was McCracken's remark that what hurt most was the radio silence from friends, even though she knew it was a product of their fear of saying the wrong thing. She said she would rather them have said the wrong thing than to have said nothing. She also emphasized how important it was to acknowledge that she was still a mom, even though her only child had been stillborn; and how important it was to use her son's name.
posted by artemisia at 2:23 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]

NoraCharles' medal or emilyw's birthstone necklace would be lovely. And yes: talk about the child, use his name, never pretend he never existed.
posted by easily confused at 2:51 PM on August 20

They may end up overwhelmed with food gifts right this second, which is why a gift card for a meal later might be preferable. If there's a Canadian version of GrubHub, for example, that does gift vouchers they wouldn't have to do anything but on online, order a thing, and pay with the voucher.

But from seeing friends go through this, I think sending a note* every week or two for the next few months would be better than any material gift.

*I know someone who got a little trigger-y about obvious greeting-card-shaped mail, so you might go the route of distinctive stationery, hand-addressed. She'll know it's from you and can open or put it aside as needed.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:09 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]

Would something warm and cosy, like a shawl or throw bring her comfort? Or, plant a tree in the baby's name?
posted by thylacinthine at 4:31 PM on August 20

This is what I most wish (years after the fact) someone had sent my way:
posted by stormyteal at 5:23 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]

If possible, tell her you will call daily at a certain time for the next few weeks just to chat briefly and if she doesn't want to talk, she can hang up on you with no hard feelings but if she does want to talk and yell and cry etc, you will be there to listen. Keep that promise.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:34 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]

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