Gigi’s Story – The PeaPod Project

Gigi’s Story – The PeaPod Project

I want to share my story of my baby girl, Moreland Grace "Gigi" Stenstrom.  Her life was brief as she lived for only 16 days. Gigi's complications came as a surprise to us, as I had a very uneventful pregnancy.

Gigi was born by C-section prematurely at 34 weeks on May 15th.  My husband, Ted and I were so excited that she was finally coming to us after 8 long years of infertility treatments. We remember that evening so vividly. Gigi was born and we did not hear her crying.  The silence was deafening, it was eerily quiet.  Ted and I looked over the draped sheet and saw our baby surrounded by at least 6 hospital staff members.  After what seemed like eternity, the doctor told us she was not breathing and that Gigi needed to be transported to Children's Memorial Hospital. We were terrified, as we knew something was horribly wrong.

Gig's entire life was spent in the hospital in neonatal intensive care on life support, as we never got to take her home. We were lucky to have those days!!  Ted and I got to bath her, change her diapers, and read her nursery rhymes.  We also took photographs; made ink footprints, molds of her hand and feet, but most importantly hold and love her. We tried to fit a lifetime into those 16 days. After many tests, we were told the devastating news by a team of doctors that she was not compatible with life that she was never was going to breathe on her own and that she had other major complications.  The doctors also told us Gigi was most likely deaf and blind. This news made our hearts sink because we knew at that moment she never saw us or heard our voices, never heard those nursery rhymes.  Ted and I are, however, confident that Gigi knew she was deeply loved.

Unfortunately, we had to make the most difficult and excruciating, life changing decision of our lives.  As parents we made the decision to take Gigi off life support.  May 31st was and always will be the most tragic day of my husband and I lives.  To watch your baby die in your arms is not in the natural order of life, so it is very difficult to wrap your head around.  It did not make sense then and certainly not now. We know it never will!!

Many months later my husband and I came to realize how profound and essential the memories we shared and collected have been to our healing process. It is through this process that we also realized the importance of providing this gift to other families in similar circumstances; at a time when such activities are often overlooked due to the all-consuming nature of the medical care.

Our program focuses on supporting and guiding families dealing with the loss of a child.  We specifically assist families in sharing and collecting memories of their children. This process is critical to a family who is saying goodbye to their child, as often, these are the only items they have to keep alive the memory of their child.

Our memory keepsake boxes incorporate professional photography, ink prints, knitted hats, booties, and blankets for infants and toddlers and fleece blankets for our teenagers.  They also include a small box for a locket of hair, and engraved Hope stone.  Most importantly, we include extensive resources to assist families through the process itself, which is incredibly emotional, confusing and completely unfamiliar to these families.  For example, included is a specific guide for parents whose baby dies in a newborn intensive care unit. Additional resources include age-appropriate books for children, grandparents, parents and extended family.  Finally, with the proceeds we have also been able to include resources for hospital staff, including guidelines and training on how to approach and interact with families during this very difficult time.

The Peapod Project is seeking a new corporate sponsor and/or donations so we may continue our very important work.  We have found through our speaking engagements with Northwestern Hospital in Chicago to medical personal that many hospitals have no existing Bereavement Programs.  We found this to be unconscionable, as this leaves families in a situation of not being able to collect and document the existence of their child.  This is important to a family who is losing a child, a fear that family and friends will forget their child.  These families need to have proof that their child was here, that they mattered and were truly loved by all.  These memories are so instrumental to their healing process.  Parents, however, never recover from the loss of a child, as it is not only the loss of the present, but it is the loss of the future, the loss of all hopes and dreams they had for them.  We, The Peapod Project help and support the families during and after their loss.  We play a small role, but the role we play is critical and important as we help these families by giving them the tools and resources to document the beautiful and brief lives of their children.

Thank you,

The Stenstrom Family

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