DEAR ABBY: "Caring Friend in California" was at a loss about whether to hold a baby shower for her friend, whose baby was not expected to make it through the gestation period. You advised her that rather than hold a shower, her friends should stay close and provide willing ears and shoulders to cry on.
A dear friend of my daughter's faced the same circumstances. We knew that if her baby survived delivery, it would be only a short time until the child was gone. What we did was to create a "memory box." We included a camera to take pictures of the baby, and a smaller version of a baby book to hold the footprints, hand prints, a lock of hair and, of course, the photos. We also bought the infant a cross as she was immediately baptized.
It gave the parents something to remember -– a special memory of their baby. It wouldn't hurt for "Caring Friend" to contact the hospital as well, as it may have something already set up for people facing these circumstances. -- HOPE IN MINNESOTA
DEAR HOPE: Those are wonderful suggestions. A woman named Michelle wrote me from Las Vegas to say that the March of Dimes has a bereavement packet that could be helpful. In addition to information regarding the loss, it contains a memory book for the lock of hair and/or footprint. The packet can be obtained from local March of Dimes offices. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My heart breaks for the friend who will soon lose the child she has grown to love. I have known many mothers and fathers who have lost children very young (even through miscarriage), and each one has treasured any reminder of the child they lost. Many hospitals have programs run by volunteers that provide a blanket and a tiny hat to be made available to the grieving parents. "Caring Friend" should give her friend the option of choosing gentle reminders of her love and strength in this time of need, or a small, quiet ceremony of her love to make things easier for her. My guess is she'll choose both. I know I would. -- MOTHER OF FOUR IN VIRGINIA
DEAR MOTHER OF FOUR: Thank you for the input. I have a stack of letters from readers echoing your sentiments and offering suggestions. Read on:
FROM 'BEEN THERE IN CANADA': Instead of the traditional baby shower, a scaled-back celebration of its life (regardless of how brief) is needed. Instead of major "fun" gifts, perhaps a fund could be set up and friends could donate to help pay for the medical expenses and the funeral. To ignore the situation is like pretending she isn't pregnant at all.
FROM 'NANCY IN GEORGIA': When my baby was stillborn, our friends donated books in his name to our local school or library. A memory note was placed in the front of each donation. It was a joyful way to remember a sad event.
FROM 'A GRANDMOTHER OF 27 IN MISSOURI': There are special clothing patterns for babies who are premature or stillborn. Parents need to see their baby as more than a naked little body. A baby dressed in a pretty outfit gives the parents a picture of their child to carry with them as they grieve. And a baby shower that would provide the hospital nursery a collection of these clothes for parents to choose from would be a blessing.
My thanks to all of you who took the time to write. I regret that space does not allow me to print more suggestions.