Here's how parents who have lost babies due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or illness are honoring the sweet souls they will never forget.
Mom Stephanie Staehle says, "I honor my angel baby Nico every day by watching his twin Theo grow and flourish into such a bright and happy boy."
Baby elephants have come to symbolize Nico. "Every time we come across [one], we see it as Nico saying 'hi' to us from heaven."
This is a picture of two elephants above Theo's crib. Staehle says, "I always imagine it's Nico watching over him from above."
Melissa Willets and her family honor baby Cara each day. This photo shows the bracelet Willets wears with Cara's name on it, "So I always know she's with me." The bracelet was a gift from a friend, and "Was given to me on a day I needed reassurance my angel baby was by my side. I receive signs all the time that she watches over our family, and feel a deep, lasting connection to her, for which I feel so grateful."
Jami Bradley's sweet daughter Tatum Bree had Trisomy 18, also called Edward's Syndrome. After her birth, the mama says, "They took her down to the NICU where I sat with her. As the machines started beeping the nurse gave her to me and said, 'you don't have much time.'"
Since her passing, Bradley honors Tatum by asking family and friends to walk in her local March for Dimes walk. "We all wear our t-shirts with her name on them. That brings some much joy to my heart."
Hand to Hold pairs experienced preemie parents with NICU families in need of support. The nonprofit organization also aids parents facing pregnancy and infant loss. Claire Brown, MSW, and Program Manager of Hand to Hold, explained the Bereavement Bead offered to families who have suffered a loss. "It is always a very emotional exchange and, more often than not, they express to me how much it means that I am acknowledging their child's life and their loss. So often society is quick to move forward and forget that a life (and a love) was lost to this family."
Samantha Idle's daughter Trinity Leigh passed when she was born 15 weeks to soon. "She weighted [just] 11.4 ounces and was 10-inches long."
To honor Trinity, Idle and her family walk and raise money for the March for Babies. "Our family team name is Team Trinity and this May will be our 13th walk," she says. "We love that our family and friends join us to remember our daughter."
Idle adds, "We walk and raise money so one day all babies will be born full-term and healthy. On our team shirts, we list all babies gone to soon; all the kiddos who fought so hard against prematurity and birth defects as well as the names of full-term siblings. We also light a candle for Trinity and all babies gone to soon, on October 15."
A tattoo on Diana's arm honors twins Preston and Julian, who were born at 20 weeks. The tiny footprints are the actual size of one of the twin's feet. The broken heartbeat represents Kaden, who was born a year after Preston and Julian.
"When [Kaden] was 4 days old, his checkout exam revealed cardiomyopathy," Diana says. "The cause was found to be a rare, mostly-unknown virus called ciHHV-6. He died in [my] arms at 3 weeks old."
Diana further explains the tattoo: "My dad wrote his name, and the colors represent how [Kaden] was supposed to be our rainbow baby." She and her husband also have two daughters.
Ashley Opliger's daughter Bridget Faith was stillborn in 2014. "My mother had knit a special cradle for Bridget after my husband and I learned that preterm labor and stillbirth were likely outcomes," she says.
"When Bridget was born, weighing only 13 ounces, she was so tiny and fragile that it was difficult to see her and feel her swaddled in a traditional hospital blanket," Opliger explained. With the special cradle, "We were able to see Bridget, feel her weight, and bond with her during the short time we had with her."
The experience prompted Opliger to found the nonprofit organization Bridget's Cradles, which provides cradles and prayer squares to over 470 hospitals in all 50 states.
"Running solely on donations and the time and talents of unpaid knitting/crocheting, sewing, and administrative volunteers, our organization provides knitted and crocheted cradles free-of-charge to labor and delivery units nationwide, to offer to bereaved families who have lost babies in the second trimester of pregnancy," Opliger explains. She adds, "Bridget's Cradles has been a special and important way for me to not only honor Bridget's life and memory, but to comfort other grieving families at the time of their loss."