Through the Sweet Pea Project, a mother whose baby was
stillborn works to help other bereaved parents
Lancaster New Era
Published: Dec 23, 2008
JURGELSKI, Staff Writer
Stephanie Cole sleeps
with her baby's receiving blanket.
Even though she never held her
daughter, Madeline, in the blanket, Cole still finds comfort in its
connection to her child.
Madeline, who was stillborn two years
ago, was placed on the blanket when her photo was taken.
now regrets that she and husband Rich never cradled Madeline in the
blanket earmarked for their baby.
Through her Sweet Pea Project
blanket drive, she wants to make sure other parents don't have the same
created the project to honor Madeline (Cole's little sweet pea) and
reach out to other parents who have suffered the loss of a baby, she
says on her online journal, www.sweetpeaproject.blogspot.com.
Mulberry Art Studios gallery publicist and the Lancaster mother
of 11-month-old Benjamin, Cole is collecting blankets to donate to area
hospitals — blankets that will be given to parents to swaddle and hold
their babies, and then keep.
"When a baby dies, you don't have a
lot that's tangible," Cole says. "You don't have memories to share. One
of the only things you have is the blanket that held them."
Cole, 26, started the drive about three weeks ago, she set her goal at
100 blankets by the end of the year.
To date, she has 80, which have been donated from as far away as
plans to deliver blankets to area hospitals on Madeline's birthday,
is far above and beyond what I thought I would get," Cole says. "It's
only three weeks, and I'm more than halfway to my goal."
to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,
there are 25,653 fetal deaths annually in the United States— 956 in
Pennsylvania — or
approximately one fetal death per 140 live births.Through
the Sweet Pea Project, Stephanie Cole is collecting receiving blankets
for bereaved parents. Blankets will be delivered to area hospitals Jan.
Fifty percent of
stillbirths never have a determined cause.
full-term baby died in utero and was delivered at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
the wake of her devastation, Cole sought grief counseling.
She found one of
the best roads to healing is to help others.
2007, she spearheaded an art exhibit, "Beauty in the Breakdown,"
featuring the works of 25 people who had experienced losses, including
18 who lost a child.
In addition, Cole has reached out to
bereaved parents by donating books to area hospitals and volunteering
with the support group
Cole is also meeting with state
legislators to urge passage of a bill that would mandate provision of a
for parents of a stillborn child. The birth
certificate would state that the birth resulted in stillbirth.
now, Pennsylvania issues a death certificate
past two years, Cole has given presentations to staff at area hospitals
from the perspective of a parent who loses a baby.
gave us insight on how to be more sensitive," says Jana Sukeena, a Penn
State Hershey Medical Center labor and delivery nurse who is part of
the hospital's grief and bereavement team. "We didn't realize how
important it is to the mother to keep the blanket and clothing items —
and not only keep them but to hold the baby in them."
gives the parents a memory bag with clothing — such as a hat and
booties — and photos, Sukeena says. The bereavement team also follows
up with parents with phone calls and cards for a year.
Lancaster General Women
& Babies Hospital, the bereavement team
works closely with bereaved parents to meet their needs, says hospital
chaplain Carolanne Hauck, who also counseled Cole after her loss.
happens, (parents) have such a heavy, heavy burden, and to share
it with someone who is truly listening makes the burden lighter," Hauck
The Women & Babies bereavement team invited Cole to
speak. Her presentation, Hauck says, deeply touched staff.
people said it would change the way they practice," Hauck says.
has also interviewed grieving parents in support groups nationwide.
interviews, all parents expressed either a regret for not having
kept their baby's receiving blanket, or cradled their baby in it, or
appreciation that they had.
Cole is working to turn the blanket
project into a nonprofit organization, but she realizes it could be a
In the meantime, she is collecting blankets on
Cole welcomes all types of blankets — especially
receiving blankets — handmade or store-bought.
local donations have included blankets from the downtown Lancaster
store Bellaboo. Donations have also come from as far away as Australia
and Washington, from people who heard about Cole's project by
word-of-mouth or her blog — including a 95-year-old woman who is
Cole is amazed by the response.
just overwhelmed by people's generosity."
WHAT: for stillbirths after 18
weeks gestation but does not offer a birth certificate.
TO PARTICIPATE: E-mail Stephanie Cole, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more, go to www.sweetpeaproject.blogspot.com.
THE NEW ERA: sjurgelski@LNPnews.com or