Charlotte Manges was an OB maternity nurse for 20 years, in charge of the pregnancy loss program where mothers were cared for in instances where babies did not survive. Today, she works with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and A Walk to Remember. Many of these mothers experienced stillborns and/or premature births. “I felt these mothers and dads were being shortchanged,” she explains. Too often, stillborns and babies who die shortly after birth are seen as specimens to be sent to a lab or are whisked away to the morgue.

There were times a mother-to-be would come in and either the baby had already died in utero or was dying. One of the biggest changes Manges made during her tenure was to ask, “What do you want when the baby is born?” Regardless of the livelihood of a baby, it needs to be “born” in order to move forward. Plans were then hatched. Manges was always nearby. She would clean the baby, dress him or her, and allow the parents to hold the baby as long as they wanted.

Creating Memories

Whenever possible, Manges created footprints, handprints and took photos for the parents to take home. She also supplied goodie bags for any children at home, if applicable. Older brothers and sisters could also hold the baby if the family thought that was helpful. Speaking with Dr. Heidi Horsley, who identifies as a grief sibling, Manges explains that she’s still deeply involved in parental loss groups.

You’re still entitled to a mother’s day or a father’s day, she says. There are events year-round that Manges manages, even in retirement. Paying tribute to babies based on the seasons, from daffodil bulbs for spring babies to mums for fall babies. Although Manges works for local organizations, there are online support groups for parents around the world.

Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is a licensed psychologist, social worker, and bereaved sibling. She co-hosts the award-winning weekly cable television show and podcast, Open to Hope. Dr. Heidi is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, and an award-winning author, who has co-authored eight books, and serves on the United Nations Global Mental Health Task Force. She also serves on the Advisory Boards for the Tragedy Assistance Program, the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and Peace of Mind Afghanistan. She served on the National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, and for 10 yrs. worked on a Columbia University research study looking at traumatic loss over time in families who lost a firefighter in the World Trade Center.

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