Thursday, October 7, 2010

Story of HOPE
Kristin ~ Hailey’s Hope & Project Sweet Pea
Mother to Hailey Marie
December 1, 2009 to January 6, 2010

My daughter Hailey was born on December 9, 2009 at 39.5 weeks. She was born with several health problems and was rushed to a NICU. She was diagnosed 4 days later with Trisomy 18.  She passed away from it on January 6, 2010.

The first thing I did after losing Hailey was start a blog to share about her life and work through my grief.  A few months later, in April, I joined a project called Project Sweet Peas which has local projects across the country and donates care packages to families who have babies in intensive care units.  

The project I started is called Hailey's Hope.  My blog and my involvement in Project Sweet Peas with Hailey's Hope have been healing for me in so many ways. Grief can be very isolating and both gave me a way of sharing and connecting with others. Most importantly, both my blog and Hailey's Hope help me keep Hailey's memory alive. Being a mother without a child is difficult because I can't actually "mother" Hailey anymore, but the healing comes from the fact that my blog and Hailey's Hope have shown me new ways that I can still be Hailey's mom. I may not be able to give her a bath or feed her like a 'normal' mom; instead, my purpose as Hailey's mom is to make sure my daughter's life is shared with others.

My involvement in Project Sweet Peas has been one of the best ways I have channeled my grief into something meaningful. Hailey's Hope not only allows me to share her story, but it allows me to give back to others who are facing a situation I have experience with.  If just one family feels a touch of love, comfort, and hope during their stay in a NICU with their baby, than I feel Hailey's life has been able to bless someone else.

Her life continues to matter and impact people for the better.  For me, there is nothing quite as healing as that.  I should also mention that being involved in PSP has given me a community of other moms, some who have also lost their babies, who I can share my feelings, my grief, and my life with - being through similar experiences enables them to comfort me as no one else can sometimes.  

My inspiration to start my blog came immediately.   A few days after losing Hailey I read an article about someone who lost their baby and saw that they had a blog.  That day I started following her blog and became connected with other blogs dealing with grief and faith and loss.  Since I am an English major and have always enjoyed writing, it became immediately clear to me that this was something I wanted and needed to do.  At first, I did it for myself so that I didn't bottle up my thoughts and feelings, then I did it for readers in hopes that my blog could comfort and inspire others.

My inspiration to join Project Sweet Peas and create Hailey's Hope was a subtle whisper that came over a period of weeks.  After losing Hailey a friend connected me with another friend of hers who had lost her son a few months before we lost Hailey.  She was very involved in Project Sweet Peas and I began to learn more about her project and Project Sweet Peas as a whole.  As soon as I read about PSP I thought it would be wonderful if I did something like that for Hailey, but I didn't know if I was going to be ready for it or if I could commit to something like that.  But over time, it was clear that creating Hailey's Hope is what God wanted me to do.  

I don't know if I would say I ever thought my blog or Hailey's Hope with Project Sweet Peas was not possible.  I think I would say that I never pictured me having a purpose with these activities.  Prior to losing Hailey, I was a certified, full-time English teacher in Illinois.  Right before Hailey was born, my husband and I moved to Alabama.  He's in the Army and I planned on taking a break from teaching and becoming a full time mom.  When Hailey was born, diagnosed with Trisomy 18, and then passed away, I had no clue where God wanted my life to go.  I always envisioned being a stay at home mom or a teacher, but there I was in the spring of 2010 not being able to do either.  Writing my blog and being in charge of Hailey's Hope have given my life a new direction and a new purpose - one I don't think I would have ever had without Hailey.

The greatest obstacle I have faced with Hailey's Hope comes from being new to the area we live in.  As I previously mentioned, my husband and I are originally from IL, and we moved to AL while I was pregnant with Hailey because my husband is in the Army.  We are a thousand miles away from family and friends, and we had only lived in Enterprise, AL for 6 months before having Hailey, which isn't enough time to be really settled into the community.  We had friends through the military, but those friends come and go as people are stationed in new places.  Therefore, it's been difficult for me to spread the word in the community about Hailey's Hope with Project Sweet Peas since I don't have any connections.  Back in May Project Sweet Peas won a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant and I contacted our local media about the story, but no one wanted to cover us.  So I would say spreading the word about our cause and raising money has been the most difficult (especially because we do not have our official non-profit status yet).  But thankfully, God has been providing enough funds for us to donate our bags to the NICUs, and I keep taking advantage of new opportunities as they arise.  

People in my life, family, friends, colleagues, are continually telling me about how my blog and my work with Hailey's Hope have been inspiring to them.   After I delivered our first set of gift bags to the NICUs at The Children's Hospital of Alabama, I received this comment from a NICU nurse:

"I just wanted to say thank you for the time and effort you spent getting the gift bags together. I am a nurse in the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Alabama and I was so excited the night I found the gift bags, I was like a kid in a candy store. Both of my babies that night got a gift bag. I made their hand and foot prints with the kit and dressed them in their new outfits and they had beautiful beds with their new blankets. Thank you for your time and generosity." 

I have yet to be contacted personally by a family who received our bags, but it's my hope when they received a Hailey's Hope bag it relieved some stress for them, that they found some encouragement from the items inside, and that they felt some comfort and love in the midst of such a difficult time.  

I've received many encouraging notes and cards.  I've had a family member make edit a picture of Hailey and send it to me.  I had another family member send me a necklace with a sweet pea on it. I've had little random acts of kindness shown to me and it feels great.  It inspires me to be encouraging and uplifting to others.  The greatest way I hope to do this is through Hailey's Hope.

You can find out more about
Kristin's Story at Life in His Hands
and about Hailey on Faces of Loss.


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