Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last Day to Help Project Sweet Peas win a $1,000 grant from DoJiggy!

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DoJiggy is giving away $1,000 grants to 5 deserving non-profits! We would be honored to receive your nomination for this opportunity! This valuable funding would go to help us continue our mission of providing support to families with a child in intensive care and to those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss.

So how do you nominate us? It's easy! Visit our Facebook post on DoJiggy's wall and comment on why you think Project Sweet Peas should be a recipient of the grant. Also, make sure to "like" the post and share with your friends. The post can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152437928758642&set=o.34329284365&type=1&theater

Thank you for your support!

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Help Project Sweet Peas win a $1,000 grant from DoJiggy!

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DoJiggy is giving away $1,000 grants to 5 deserving non-profits! We would be honored to receive your nomination for this opportunity! This valuable funding would go to help us continue our mission of providing support to families with a child in intensive care and to those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss.

So how do you nominate us? It's easy! Visit our Facebook post on DoJiggy's wall and comment on why you think Project Sweet Peas should be a recipient of the grant. Also, make sure to "like" the post and share with your friends. The post can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152437928758642&set=o.34329284365&type=1&theater

Thank you for your support!

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Hope Tip #5: Volunteering for Existing Holiday Hope Efforts

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If you are interested in participating in a current effort underway for the holidays - we have a great list for you! Below you will find organizations and individuals who are currently organizing projects in their community to provide hope to families of critically ill children. Would you like your project added to our list? Email us at info@projectsweetpeas.com. We would be glad to add you!

Project Sweet Peas - Owen's Miracle
Modesto & Oakland, CA
Holiday care package delivery

Contact Information:
Kathleen Hill, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Shelby's Sunshine
Indianapolis - St. Vincent's
Holiday care package delivery to St. Vincent's Women's Hospital NICU

Contact Information:
Stephanie Olivarez, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Avi's Embrace
Lafayette, IN - St. Elizabeth East & IU Health Arnett
Holiday care package delivery to local NICU's

Contact Information:
Sarah King, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - MJ's Memories
Topeka, KS
Holiday care package delivery to local NICU's

Contact information:
Megan Skaggs, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Multiple Miracles 
Boston Area
Will be donating 100 care packages to Boston NICU's

Contact Information:
Diane Hrenko, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Gabriella's Grace
Toledo, OH
Holiday care package delivery to local NICU's

Contact Information:
Gwen Weber, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Ava's Angels
New Brighton

Holiday care package delivery to local NICU's

Contact Information:
Lisa Daher, Project Coordinator

Lisa Vitous
Holiday delivery to Magee Women's Hospital

Contact Information: 
Lisa Vitous, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Milana's Miracles
Holiday care package delivery to local NICU's

Contact information:
Heather Sopp Farnan, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Precious Kisses
Will be delivering water bottles with candy and a foam snowman picture frame. Also delivering 25+ care packages to Lankenau hospital.

Contact information:
Maria Garvey Bentin, Project Coordinator

Rhode Island
Project Sweet Peas - Gabriel's Gift
Providence, RI
Holiday dinner with care package delivery to local NICU

Contact information:
Corin Nava, Project Coordinator
Project Sweet Peas - Nevaeh's Rainbow
Holiday care package delivery to local NICU's

Contact Information:
Nicole Onesti, Project Coordinator

Project Sweet Peas - Lauren & Madeline's Gift
Holiday care package delivery to local NICU's

Contact Information
Lisa Rondeau, Project Coordinator

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Hope Tip #4: Fundraising

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So you've decided how you would like to give back to your local ICU but how do you make it happen? Will you need to raise funds? Host a volunteer day? Spread the word? Our next three Holiday Hopes tips will cover these topics!
Holiday Hope Tip #4: Fundraising 

  • Host an item drive: Host a fundraiser to collect specific items! In general donation drives are better received when you are only requesting a few select items.  Being clear and concise will help orient those who would like to give back. Utilize social media like Facebook events to help spread the word. 
  • Raise money: Goal oriented funding generally will help you raise more funds. Make a budget for what you anticipate spending and make that budget your goal. Be open to sharing your budget with others so that they know where their money is going. Motivate others by creating teams and/or providing incentives. Use a website like www.fundrazr.com and your social media to honor contributions made by others.
  • Reach out to local businesses: Local businesses are generally very receptive to helping out community members. Check in to see if they would be willing to donate items or sponsor an item monetarily. Make sure to follow up with the businesses if they are willing to donate by sending your thanks and by showing them what resulted from their donations.
  • Team up with organizations: Oftentimes, there are organizations in your community that share a common mission. Reach out to them and see if they would be interested in working together. Connecting with a 501(c)3 organization may also help you receive donations from larger corporations.
  • Sell items to raise funds: Host a bake sale, or a craft fair. Buy items wholesale like flower bulbs, jewelry, t-shirts, ornaments, and sell them to supporters. Contact an independent (Thirty-one, Avon, Miche, etc) consultant to see if they might be willing to work together. The possibilities are really limitless!
  • Host a fundraising event:  Fundraising events can yield a large profit but they can be very time consuming so make sure to start early. A lot of businesses are willing to work with local individuals and groups to reach their fundraising goals. Contact local bowling alleys, restaurants, zoos and other attractions to see what kind of event fundraising they have to offer. If they already have a program in place, then it will make organizing the event much easier. If you are feeling ambitious, organize a walk, a polar plunge or other large community event. Stephanie Olivarez, Vice President & co-founder, knows the value of organizing a fundraising event: "Doing Shelby's Sunshine Polar Plunge at the end of November helps with our Christmas Delivery. By participating, supporters truly know they are helping with this delivery." For these type of events we recommend that you start at least 9-12 months in advance. .
If you have any more questions regarding fundraising  please feel free to email us at info@projectsweetpeas.com. We are more then willing to provide any advice that we can

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and on our blog for more Holiday Hope Tips! 
Join the conversation and connect to others in our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/743335505681305/
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday Hope Tip #3: Deciding What to Donate to Your Local ICU: In-Hospital Events

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Many people associate the Holidays with good food and good company. When experiencing a ICU stay, parents rarely are able to have home cooked meals and their interactions with loved ones are limited. Consider donating your time to providing meals, a crafting event or other in-hospital event to your local ICU to bring some cheer in time for the holidays.

For some hospitals, these services may exist so make sure to inquire about them when making initial contact with your hospital, you may be able to volunteer!

If your hospital does not currently offer your service of interest, you might want to inquire about starting one. As we have mentioned previously, some hospitals may not allow meals, or other services because of their policies. But take it from us, it really doesn't hurt to ask! If anything, they will be grateful that you are thinking of their families, even if it isn't a possibility right now.

So what are some possible events you could host at your local hospital?
  • Meals: As we mentioned previously, homemade meals are few and far between for ICU families. Providing a home cooked meal will be sure to put a smile on their faces. Make something that is easy to cook in large quantities. Casseroles, chili and other similar recipes are great main dishes to serve. Another idea is to do something where the families can assemble what they would like. For example, a sandwich bar or a make your own waffle setup.  You could also bring snacks for the families to take back with them to the room. 
  • Crafting Events: Providing a craft will give families the much needed time to focus on something positive and fun. Many, many times I have heard from families how great it was just to have those moments to unwind. Scrapbooking is a great service to provide ICU families. Other ideas include onesie, picture frame or name plaque decorating. Check out pinterest! You can find a wealth of adorable baby crafts!
  • Support group: Host a support group in your local ICU for families to come together and bond with one another. Include local volunteers in the meeting that have been through a ICU stay. They will be able to provide valuable support to families. Overall, this is a great social activity for parents and siblings to interact with one another. 
  • Photo sessions: Invite a local photographer and Santa to the ICU. Create a photo opportunity for families to treasure forever.

Find more advice, and connect with others on our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/743335505681305/ and keep following our blog and Facebook page for more tips this Holiday season.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at info@projectsweetpeas.com!
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Holiday Hope Tip #2: Deciding What to Donate to Your Local ICU - Holiday Gift Items

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Once you are cleared to deliver at the hospital (See Advice Tip #1), be sure to ask if there are any restrictions on items that are included or check their website. After you know your hospital's policies, you are ready to start. But what to donate?

If you are interested in donating items make sure to keep it simple, but donate something with meaning. Our packages on average cost $30-$50 a piece, but in today's economy being able to provide every little one in the NICU a package in that price range personally is not within most people's means. Single items or small gifts bags with 2-3 items are well received and easy for you and the staff to store until they ready to be delivered to the families. 

Holiday Items

This could be anything from stockings to Holiday themed accessories for baby. Here is a list of common items that we deliver to the NICU during the holidays

  • Holiday Board Books: Board books are a great way for parents to interact with their little ones and even more fun if they have a holiday theme!
  • Baby caps: If your hospital allows caps, consider donating holiday themed caps to the little ones in the NICU. Santa and elf caps are always a favorite. These also make great photo opportunities for the families. 
  • Blankets: Holiday themed or otherwise, blankets are always a wonderful gift if your NICU policies allow. If you are making the blankets, make sure to select fabrics and yarns that keep baby's delicate skin in mind.
  • Disposable cameras: Help families capture treasured memories this holiday season by providing them with a camera. Nurses also love to have them around when parents are away to capture moments and milestones. 
  • Ornaments: Although the family may not have a tree to hang the ornament on today, an ornament will serve as a reminder of their journey for years to come. You can find "My First Christmas" ornaments or ornaments with a photo insert at most any store.
  • Plush animals: Buy holiday themed teddy bears or other plush animals. They will look super cute in baby's area in the NICU.
  • Christmas treats: Donate candy and other Christmas goodies. The parents are sure to be thankful for a sweet treat!
  • Gift cards: Include a gas card or a restaurant card. Traveling and food expenses can accumulate quickly when your baby is in the NICU. Sponsoring a meal or travel to the hospital will mean the world to the families. 
  • Holiday music: Music has shown to be beneficial to children in intensive care. Donate CD's with a holiday theme so that the NICU can be filled with these seasonal tunes.
  • Cards: make or buy special holiday themed cards. Include a heartfelt message letting the families know you are thinking of them this holiday season
Holiday Gift Bags (2-3 items)Wrap up all all of your items in creative packaging. You could use traditional gift bags or add a holiday twist by using a stocking.

Make sure to join our Facebook group where we will be posting links to some great deals on Holiday items! https://www.facebook.com/groups/743335505681305/

Keep following our blog and Facebook page for more tips this Holiday season. We will also be presenting a couple more ways you can give back including hosting Holiday meals and crafting ideas so make sure to stay connected!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holiday Hope Tip # 1: Contacting Your Local Hospital, Medical Care Home or Housing Facility

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Holiday Hope Tip # 1: Contacting Your Local Hospital, Medical Care Home or Housing Facility

One thing we hear a lot is "I want to donate, but I don't know how to go about doing it". That's why we created this event! To help you help others this holiday season!

Contact your hospital's Child Life Department, Volunteer Services, Chaplin, Support Teams, or the Unit Director and let them know you were interested in donating. You can almost always find their telephone numbers on their website. If not, see if they have a Facebook page and ask on there. And if that doesn't work - try just calling the hospital and ask a service rep!

Once you are cleared to deliver at the hospital, be sure to ask if there are any restrictions on items that are included or check their website. Some hospitals may not allow certain items like blankets, stuffed animals or food. Some hospitals even have specific guidelines on how those items must be stored, washed, etc... If you are not sure what your hospital, medical care or housing facilities allows contact the Child Life Department, Volunteer Services, Chaplin, Support Teams, or Unit Director you gained clearance through.

This is often the most difficult part in the process because it may take some time for the hospital to connect you with the right personnel and even more time if they have to approve your donation. Policies vary greatly from facility to facility. Some may have an open donation policy and some have very specific guidelines on what can be donated. You may want to start at least a month in advance to ensure that you have approval in time for the holidays.

For more tips follow us on Facebook or join our Facebook group.

If you need any additional help or advice on how to get in touch with your local ICU, email us at info@projectsweetpeas.com. We would be more then happy to help!
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Monday, November 11, 2013

Holiday Hope - Bringing HOPE to families with critically ill children during the holidays

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Holiday Hope

Thousands of families across the country will spend the holidays in the intensive care unit this year – with all in need of some form of comfort. Consider paying it forward and providing hope to these families this year in time for the holidays!

Holiday Hope is an initiative in which families nationwide are encouraged to give back to their local hospitals, medical care home or housing facility, December 11th through the 25th. It is our hope that if enough families join in, together we can bring a touch of comfort to them all.

Join our Holiday Hope Initiative

It’s easy; join our Facebook group ‘Holiday Hope’ where we will offer advice, ideas, and tips on how to donate and get involved with your local ICU in time for the holidays.

Our Facebook group can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/743335505681305/

Frequent our blog and Facebook group often. We will be posting advice throughout the season!

Spread the word

Share the initiative on your pages, and your blogs. Submit the Holiday Hope initiative to your local news station, newspaper or other media outlet. Help us reach out and inspire as many people as possible!

Share Your Story

After you have made your donation to your local ICU, visit our website to submit your story to our Holiday Hope database! Your story will be featured on Project Sweet Peas social media.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Welcome, Lisa Vitous! - Sweet Pea Exchange Project Coordinator

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Project Sweet Peas is pleased to welcome our newest Project Coordinator, Lisa Vitous! Lisa will be coordinating the operations of our Sweet Pea Exchange Program.
Lisa's Story

After the birth of her niece at 25 weeks gestation, Lisa witnessed first hand the challenges a family faces during a NICU stay. After a 112 day NICU stay, her niece was able to come home but the impact that the experience had on Lisa was lasting. Lisa says she is ready to give back to families in any way that she can.

The Sweet Pea Exchange
Many families are unprepared for a NICU stay. Project Sweet Peas started this program after seeing a need in the community where families can receive preemie and newborn clothing at little to no cost. Our Sweet Pea Exchange is designed to help families who have children in intensive care units by providing them with gently used or new clothing.

To donate your new or gently used preemie or newborn clothing, you may contact Lisa at LisaVitous@projectsweetpeas.com

All donations can be mailed to:

Sweet Pea Exchange
718 5th Avenue
Elizabeth, PA 15037
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Avi's Embrace Miche Online Fundraiser

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Avi's Embrace with Project Sweet Peas is hosting an online fundraiser with Miche this September!

Get one bag with endless possibilities and support our cause!
Being a Miche fan means never having to switch purses again— it's a beautiful thing! You put all of your essentials in just one base and never have to bother with moving it all to a different purse each time you change your outfit. Imagine—you will always know where your favorite lipstick is!
You start with a Base Bag—Prima, Demi, Classic or Petite—then add any one of our stylish Shells and you're ready for your busy day. Which "you" are you feeling like today? Fun
Flirty? Sophisticated? All business? No problem. You can give your Miche purse the exact look you want in just seconds. Now that's instant gratification!

And for our newest line...Miche Jewelry that is as interchangeable as our purses! You start with a base-Gold or Silver, Double Pendant or Single Pendant necklaces, wear alone or just "click" your favorite attachment on! Earrings..yes those too! We also offer a Seasonal Line and a Signature Line....let the fun begin!

Check out all the endless possibilities and help support our mission! A portion of all proceeds will go to providing support to families of critically ill children and those experiencing loss. Browse and shop online at 


September special: Buy any two (2) Shells/Bases of the same size, get the third Shell/Base FREE (of equal or lesser value, excluding Luxe shells)! That means, you can buy a base and a cute shell, and you can get a shell for free! (or any combination!)

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Precious Kisses Thirty One Fall Fundraiser

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Precious Kisses - a division of Project Sweet Peas has teamed up with Tracy Davis, an Independent Consultant for Thirty-One, Forever 31, for their first fall fundraiser!

Visit http://www.mythirtyone.com/359612 Click on “My Parties” and "Shop Now" next to Maria Bentin - "Project Sweet Peas Fundraiser" to browse the online catalog and order from NOW THROUGH 9/29.

Make sure you check out the monthly special!

For every $35 you spend, you can purchase the Organizing Utility Tote for $15 or the Super Organizing Tote for $25…that’s 50% off!!

Each order placed automatically earns money for Precious Kisses, a division of Project Sweet Peas. Funds raised go directly towards providing care packages to NICU families! Questions? Contact Maria Bentin, Precious Kisses Project Coordinator at maria@projectsweetpeas.com or contact Tracy Davis, Independent Consultant for Thirty-One at 610-310-8249
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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Trying to Conceive After a Loss

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TTC After a Loss

There is no greater tragedy for a parent than losing a child. It is the loss of a dream and the vision of a perfect family. When the dream ends, the need/hunger to be pregnant again is overwhelming, and sometimes all consuming … not to replace the baby who was lost, but to fill an aching void … with the hope of finding peace and purpose.

According to Dr. John Sussman, co-author of Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss (Taylor Publications), a woman’s wait to get pregnant again really depends on the nature of the loss. Although medical professionals offer varying time frames – which could be anywhere from three months to a year, Sussman and others advise waiting until menstrual periods have returned, blood counts have normalized and that the doctor has given their approval.

Medically speaking – this advice makes perfect sense – waiting until the body heals from this unspeakable tragedy. Emotionally, though, the burning desire to have that full-term healthy baby in our arms leads us angel moms to a near obsession with getting pregnant again – and quickly.

“Our OB came to see us the morning after our daughter was born, and my question after what I was to do about my engorged boobs was when could we try again,” said Lauren Wilson of Hawaii, whose daughter was born at 30 weeks, 6 days because of preterm labor. “The drive was so intense. Every cell in my body knew it was supposed to be caring for a baby. My entire being needed to hold and care for a baby – that I couldn't physically (do this) felt wrong to the core. I thought having another baby would at least make my life feel more back on track.”

Stacy Schulz of Oklahoma lost her twin daughters, Emilyn and Hailey, at 20 weeks, 5 days. Although her doctor recommended a two-month wait post loss, she and her husband wanted to try again as soon as possible – after being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) while trying to conceive her daughters and needing Clomid to conceive after 18 months of trying, she knew it would probably take awhile. Wilson’s doctor also recommended the same length of time before trying again, but he also he told them that emotionally, no one could determine when they’d truly be ready but them.

Time Therapy: Healing the Wounded Heart and Body

When a pregnancy is lost, angel parents find themselves on a roller coaster of emotions that span the depths of anger, depression and deep sadness. Some want to begin trying again immediately, as Wilson and Schulz did, while others want a break to grieve and focus on other things. Although the next steps are truly personal decisions, the heart, mind and body need adequate time to heal.

Wilson thought she was ready right away. She wanted so badly to be pregnant again. But her body and mind said otherwise.

“I had in my mind that I needed to be pregnant by her expected due date (EDD),” she said. “My husband and I joked that we just looked at each other and conceived our daughter. But with her sibling – it was not so easy. My cycles never returned to normal without medication and shots. It felt like insult to injury. At the time, I hated that time … waiting and wondering. It was emotional – a roller coaster. When my EDD passed, and then months and months more – I felt lost. However, in hindsight, I wish we hadn't begun trying so soon, especially with the secondary infertility diagnosis. When we ultimately did get pregnant again a few days after our daughter’s first birthday, I realized how thankful I was that I had that time to be a mom to her. I was able to do so much in her honor that year. It was our special time.”

For Lindsay Vazquez of Arizona, a mom to two preemie sons and an angel son, healing from her loss three and one-half years ago was – and still is – a sometimes all-encompassing mind/body exercise. Her angel Naethyn was born at 30 weeks because of placental abruption coupled with a blood clot, undiagnosed preeclampsia, as well as an incompetent OB, who, Vazquez said, ignored her concerns of severe swelling just weeks prior to Naethyn’s passing.

“When I got pregnant with Naethyn, the deal was – three and done. But I never imagined my life without my baby. In the delivery room, alone, I chose to have a tubal ligation – one that was never meant to be a temporary birth control fix. I didn't even have time to discuss it with my husband. I lost 60 percent of my blood that night and there was no time to consider anything else. I think my OB wanted to do everything she could so she respected my decision to have the procedure. I was not in the right frame of mind to be making those life-altering choices then – and I even had second thoughts as I was wheeled into the OR and the mask was being placed over my face. A part of me hoped to not wake up.”

Once Vazquez and her husband emerged from the initial stages of grief, they began investigating another pregnancy – either through IVF or surrogacy – desperate, she says, to right the wrong that she was feeling. But with her physical pregnancy history and the cost to reverse a tubal ligation, the chance to fill her arms with another child may be a distant dream. Until then, she continues the healing process of taking care of herself physically and never giving up the hope of welcoming another miracle.

“We've been living without our angel for three and a half years. It’s been very difficult, but we are doing it,” she said. “I have not accepted the choice I made that horrible night, and I know it will take a miracle to achieve the miracle we so desperately want. It's strange, but after going through something like that, I think it either makes you or breaks you. I'm a fighter and so are my kiddos. We would just like the opportunity to have a chance again. I'm not sure whose hands we'll be in, but one has to believe.”

Managing Post-Loss Pregnancy Fears

Achieving pregnancy after a loss is nerve-wracking. There are no naive, happy thoughts – an angel mom is wise to the world. Seeing double pink lines or a plus sign on a pregnancy test does not mean a full-term, healthy baby.

One of the best first steps is connecting with a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctor who can review your history and then set a plan for this pregnancy – one that clearly spells out such things as testing, shots to prevent pre-term labor, ultrasounds – when and how often, as well as accounts for the pregnant mom’s worries along the way.

“My MFM allowed me to be seen weekly from my loss date until I reached viability to assure me that everything was OK,” said Schulz. “As soon as I found out I was having a boy, I went and bought a blanket for him. Not to wrap him in when he was a newborn, but to wrap him in so I would have something special just in case he came early and died too. I didn't want to have nothing special like with the girls. I was scared up until the end. I just took it one day at a time, and kept track of his chances for each gestation, breathing a little sigh of relief with each week that passed.”

Wilson handpicked her doctors for the best chance at success. “I went into my subsequent pregnancy 110 percent sure that everything that caused my daughter to come early was a fluke. It had to be; what risk factors did we have for anything? That being said, I still rounded up the best team of doctors that I could find and that I trusted completely. Knowing that I had people I could call and who knew our story made a huge difference. I didn't have to worry about feeling like a burden calling or emailing with my questions or concerns. I also knew that I needed to find peace, and have a peaceful delivery, so I saw a psychologist who specialized in medical trauma. This made a world of difference to me.

“I was caught completely off guard when we ran into complications with our subsequent pregnancy, but having set up such a great support system with our team of doctors, family and friends who had already navigated a subsequent pregnancy – I felt safe.”

A Post-Script: the Rainbow Babies

"And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow." – G.K. Chesterton, English writer/philosopher

Wilson and Schulz both achieved their dreams of a rainbow baby. Wilson and her husband welcomed a son in February 2010 and a little sister in July 2012. Schulz’ son, Elim Henry-Otto, was born full-term in February 2011. She and her husband hope to begin working on another little sibling later this year.

For more sweet updates and stories, subscribe to our newsletter

[i] http://www.pregnancyandbaby.com/pregnancy/articles/939871/conception-after-loss-when-should-you-try-to-get-pregnant-again
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Annual Sweet Pea Auction

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Our annual online Sweet Pea Auction has now begun! We have a lot of great items including jewelry, baby accessories, artwork, and more! All of this is made possible by our wonderful donors.  All starting bids are well under list price so you are sure to find some great deals. But the very best part is that 100% of those proceeds will go to help us continue our mission. Please take a moment to show your support by visiting our auction here. Happy bidding!

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hailey's Hope NICU Care Package Sponsorship Fundraiser

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Hailey's Hope with Project Sweet Peas is holding a NICU care package sponsorship fundraiser from now until October 15th. They need sponsors for 20 long term NICU care packages. For more details on how to sponsor a care package please see flyer. If you have questions or would like to become a sponsor please email Kristin@projectsweetpeas.com. These care packages will be delivered during the division's annual delivery in memory of Hailey (division coordinator Kristin's daughter) on her birthday, December 1st.
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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Input Needed for the Pea Pod Newsletter

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We will be doing a special "Labor Day" issue of the The Pea Pod and need your input! For me, Labor Day meant going to the hospital and finally getting to bring home our sweet miracle. We would like to know what the word "Labor" means to you?

Comment below or send responses to info@projectsweetpeas.com . Thank you!
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Sweet Pea's NICU Journal

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My Sweet Pea's NICU Journal

We are excited to introduce our newest resource - My Sweet Pea's NICU Journal! Journaling can be an important part of the NICU journey. Keeping a journal will not only help you keep track your baby's care but it also is a great outlet to vent frustrations, celebrate those milestones and to record precious memories. Visit our website today to download your FREE copy of our NICU journal or purchase a hard copy for just $7 shipped!

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Honor and Memorial Donations to Support NICU and Bereaved Families

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Project Sweet Peas would like to give you the opportunity to honor a special person in your life or make a donation in memory of someone. Your support will help provide care packages and other services to families who have an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit and to those who have experienced a loss.

Donating to a charity in honor or memory of someone is such a special tribute. Not only are you providing a positive and valuable way to honor a loved one but you are also reaching out to help others in need. Every $25 donation will provide a care package to a family who has been thrown into the turmoil of the NICU experience or a memory package to a family grieving the loss of an infant.

With your donation of $25 or more, Project Sweet Peas will provide a certificate to the person or family in whose name the donation was made. All benefactors can be assured that their online donation and personal information is safe and secure.

To donate in honor or in memory of someone special, please visit our website.
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Now Accepting Applications for Sweet Pea Exchange Project Coordinator

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We are expanding our Projects to better reach out on a national level to families of infants in the NICU. Our latest project in the works is a clothing exchange program for preemie and newborn clothing. We are currently seeking an enthusiastic, dedicated volunteer to become a part of our team as a Project Coordinator for the Sweet Pea Exchange program.

About the Sweet Pea Exchange: Donations are accepted of new or gently used preemie and newborn clothing. We inspect, wash, and sort the clothing by gender and size. New parents in need of clothing for their infant can request a package online, and we will mail out a box of appropriately sized clothing to meet their needs. To learn more about this program you can visit our website.


1. Fundraise to fund the Project's expenses, actively seeking donations of clothing and funds through local events and encouraging national donations through online social media.

2. Run the Sweet Pea Exchange Facebook page to encourage donations, and offer support to those in need.

3. Wash, inspect, and sort all donations.

4. Take online requests for clothing, shipping out the appropriate packages as needed, and keeping accurate records of requests filled.

5. Keep accurate inventory, along with managing funds through a bank account and keep accurate financial and donation reports, which are submitted quarterly.

If you are interested in joining our team, please visit our online application form
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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Upper Merion Farmers' Market Health and Wellness Fair - Precious Kisses with Project Sweet Peas

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Come out and support Precious Kisses with Project Sweet Peas at their first event at the Upper Merion Farmers' Market Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday 8/11 from 9am - 1pm. Main Line Health will be doing BP screenings, there will be a zumba class at 12 pm, as well as other information tables and giveaways! Hope to see you there!

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Gabriella's Grace with Project Sweet Peas: Tupperware Fundraising Party

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Project Sweet Peas' Gabriella's Grace is hosting a Tupperware Fundraising Party! 40% of all proceeds will go to help support our mission! Take a moment to check out the fundraising catalog. Many of the items are not regularly available! Thank you for your support!
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Multiple Miracles with Project Sweet Peas: Family Fun Day at Southwick's Zoo (Mendon, MA)

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Join Project Division Multiple Miracles this September 14th for a fun-filled family day at the Southwick's Zoo in Mendon, MA. Support bringing hope and comfort to families of critically ill children while enjoying lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Check out the event page for more information and to buy your tickets!
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

4th Annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Candle Vigil

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Every year we honor hundreds of babies gone too soon during our Candle Vigil. Let us remember your angel this October for our fourth annual event. Each baby submitted will be honored with their own special luminary. After the ceremony, all images will be posted to our Forever My Sweet Pea Facebook for you to share and save. For more information and to submit your little one's name, visit the following link:

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Make a Donation in Memory or in Honor of Someone Special

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We are excited to announce that you can now make a donation to Project Sweet Peas in honor or in memory of someone special. What better way to show you care then to make a donation to a great cause in honor of a loved one? All money donated goes to help us continue our mission of providing comfort to families of critically ill children and those experiencing loss. So donate today on our website to help us make a difference in honor of that special someone!

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Music Soothes the Loving Heart

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Music Soothes the Loving Heart
For most of us, memories of when we were young always include a certain song sung by a certain special someone. That song resonates with us, and will forever. That particular song reminds us of calm, peace, serenity, comfort and security. It’s no secret that music can create its very own atmosphere. Therefore, it’s no surprise to find live music easing its way into NICUs across the country.

The American Music Therapy Association lists many reasons for having music in the NICU. There are the obvious reasons, such as: Music can mask all the ambient noise in the NICU environment that all NICU parents know so well. Music can enhance the NICU environment for personnel and keep the NICU nurses more stress-free.

Then there are the not-so-obvious reasons:
  • Music pacifies the infant and positively effects oxygen saturation levels, heart rate, and respiration rate.
  • Music therapy can reduce length of NICU stay with preemies.
  • Music facilitates neurological growth and development.
  • Music re-enforces feeding/sucking rhythms.
  • Music can promote a sense of safety during painful procedures.
  • Music can promote a longer period of sleeping for the infant.

Many hospitals have volunteers playing guitar and singing to the baby while the caregiver holds the baby (when possible). However, preemies.about.com suggests waiting until the baby is ready for music therapy to be sure the baby is not over stimulated.

Music therapy is not just for the baby, it’s also for the caregivers.

One mother turned her NICU stay into something wonderful for other NICU families. She decided while in the NICU with her son (born 6 weeks premature) to use her gift of voice to start Healing Music Circles. She says “A Healing Music Circle creates a space where you can find a bit of peace wherever you are and be part of a community that is going through the same experience…When going through traumatic times, we often close our hearts because of our sadness, anger or overwhelm.” Amy wants to aid families through the NICU experience. Currently she has Healing Music Circles for those in the NICU, and Healing Music Circles for the loss of a child: amyrobbinsonwilson.com/blog/
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The Power of Three

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The Power of Three

The journey that leads to the NICU can be just as complicated, stressful and uncertain as the NICU experience itself but having top-notch medical care and staying optimistic can be crucial to a successful outcome. This was the case for Elizabeth Powell and her now 14-year old triplets.

Elizabeth’s pregnancy was full of surprises from the beginning. At age 40, after one miscarriage and a single round of self-administered fertility drugs, she became pregnant with triplets. Her obstetrician had given her less than a 5% chance of having twins, so it came as quite a surprise when an early visit revealed three heartbeats! The pregnancy was immediately elevated to high risk due to Elizabeth’s age and the fact that she was carrying multiples.

Doctors and professionals Elizabeth spoke with discussed the health benefits of reducing a triplet pregnancy to twins. A triplet pregnancy combined with advanced maternal age, complicated matters and lowered the chances of delivering three healthy babies. Another early hurdle was genetic testing.

When she was 11 weeks pregnant, Elizabeth had CVS testing with a genetic specialist whose expertise, much to Elizabeth’s surprise, turned out to be selective reduction. At 13 weeks gestation, she received good news – the CVS results showed all three babies were fine. Elizabeth and her husband made the decision to go forward with the triplet pregnancy.

The pregnancy didn’t get any easier, but Elizabeth had a few factors on her side. She was fit from being a runner and she was receiving care from an experienced maternal fetal medicine doctor at Georgetown University Medical Center which had a top notch neonatal intensive care unit (NICU.) She was able to tour the NICU and see what small babies look like and the type of care they receive. Her doctor also prepared her to be on bed rest at 20 weeks and to expect to be hospitalized by 28 weeks.

At 20 weeks, Elizabeth was measuring at full term size and the pregnancy seemed to be progressing well. The next week, however, she learned she had an incompetent cervix. She was hospitalized and had an emergency cerclage which held for only a short time. At 23 weeks, she had another emergency cerclage. The doctor had invented a special stitch that was used and, this time, the cerclage held. After receiving magnesium and being hospitalized a few weeks, Elizabeth was released and went home.

At 27 weeks, the babies were checked for distress and each appeared to be a healthy 3 ½ pounds. A month later, Elizabeth’s blood pressure soared and she began retaining water. She learned that she had preeclampsia. Her condition became so severe that she began retaining between three and four pounds of water a day. Her entire body, including her eyes, was filling with water. At 32 weeks, Elizabeth’s condition became so severe that the doctor scheduled the delivery.

On January 5, 1999, eight weeks before their March 1st due date, Victoria (2 lbs. 11 oz.), William (3 lbs. 9 oz.) and Edward (3 lbs. 11 oz.) were delivered via a planned and unremarkable Caesarian birth.
A complication of preeclampsia is that it typically worsens after giving birth. After the triplets were born, Elizabeth’s vision became blurry and impaired. She was unable to read and went color blind for a little while. Fortunately, her doctors assured her the condition would subside when the water drained from her eyes and the rest of her body.

Elizabeth’s condition prevented her from seeing the triplets for three days after they were born. The babies were small but did not have any major medical issues. There were respiratory problems to overcome and the babies came home on monitors. The boys were released from the NICU after 3 ½ weeks. Victoria was tiny, but she was a fighter. She encountered jaundice and respiratory issues, but dodged brain bleeds and heart issues. She had a hernia, which was surgically repaired before she was discharged from the NICU. At one point, she also tested positive for RSV and had to be quarantined. Thankfully, she never contracted the virus and she was released from the NICU after six weeks.

While the triplets were in the NICU, Elizabeth was able to visit every day. It was eye-opening to see other babies and their families struggling and, in some cases, dying. When her own ordeal was over, she was asked to help other parents and families with premature babies at Georgetown Medical Center by moderating group discussions. The sessions allowed her to give back to the hospital she credits with bringing her triplets into the world safely.

Thankfully, due to a combination of good fortune, good medical care and diligence, everything worked out for Elizabeth and her family as well as it possibly could have. The boys grew very quickly and, although Victoria took longer to catch up, they all eventually climbed onto the scale for normal height and weight. At 14, the triplets have talents and interests in the athletic, academic and musical realms. They are happy and full of life.

Despite the odds against it and the circumstances that developed, Elizabeth always believed she would have three healthy children and she remains convinced that her optimism was crucial to her success.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sweet Pea Pendant Fundraiser Update

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We are more then half way to our goal for our Sweet Pea Pendant Fundraiser! Many thanks to all that have ordered so far! If you haven't had a chance to check them out, please take a moment to visit our website. Mama B’s Sweet Peas Bedazzling Pendants are hand-wrapped sterling silver pea pod jewelry with your choice of 1-5 "peas" (Swarovski Crystal Pearls) in the colors of your choice. Order one today to represent the sweet pea(s) in your life!

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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Sweet Pea Auction 2013: Seeking Donations for Annual Charity Auction

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The Sweet Pea Auction

We have our annual auction coming up this August and need your help! We are currently searching for individuals and businesses to donate items and baskets. This is a great way for your business to receive some advertising while supporting a wonderful cause!

For more information, please send us an email at info@projectsweetpeas.com.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Sweet Pea Pendant Fundraiser

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We are kicking off our summer fundraiser with Mama B's Sweet Peas! These beautiful Bedazzling Pendants are hand-wrapped sterling silver pea pods with 1-5 "peas" (Swarovski Crystal Pearls) in the colors of your choice. All profits go to help us continue our mission of providing comfort to NICU and bereaved families. Buy one now to represent the special sweet peas in your life!

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Guest Posts

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Thank you for your interest in sharing on our blog. We invite you to submit a post surrounding life in the ICU, after discharge, or pertaining to pregnancy and infant loss. Due to the volume of written work that we receive, please understand that we may not be able to publish your post. If your post is selected, we will notify you through email. By submitting your work, you agree to allow us to make necessary edits for grammatical errors.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Baby Products and Cosmetics – how do they compare?

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Baby Products and Cosmetics – how do they compare?

When you hear the term Green NICU you automatically think the best possible products are being used to care for your child. After attending a webinar with greenNICU.com we have learned about chemicals found in various cosmetics. How do cosmetics and baby products compare? The chemical components are the same. Some chemicals are unavoidable, BUT, you can take steps to minimize your exposure.

Why should you minimize your exposure? Did you know that each person has a body burden? This is the total amount of chemicals present in the human body at any given time. Each human has a unique chemical load depending on where you live, where you have traveled, what you eat, etc… We are exposed by our water supply, our air, and even things found in our home. One billion tons of chemicals are produced every year and approximately 700 of them are new each year.

It is also possible to pass chemicals onto a fetus since the placenta is unable to filter these chemicals. This means a fetus is contaminated BEFORE birth. A CDC report from 2009 found that Americans have on average 212 chemicals in them. A fetus was showing to have an average of 287 chemicals (found in cord blood) with 180 of these being linked to cancer, 217 were neurotoxins and 208 could cause birth defects.

Body care products, which we all use on ourselves and our family, are considered cosmetics. Cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA as thoroughly as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. In fact, cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority. “Due to holes in federal laws, it is perfectly legal for perfumes, colognes, body lotions, shampoos and other cosmetics and personal care products to contain sensitizers, hormone disrupters, reproductive toxicants, carcinogens and other toxic chemicals linked to harmful health defects.” Kathi Salley Randall, creator of greenNICU.com. There are several organizations that rally to strengthen FDA regulations on cosmetics and you can definitely be part of the voice if that is what moves you. For now though, I’d like to move on to the top silent dangers in baby care products.

The three silent dangers in baby care products are: Fragrances, Preservatives and Contaminants.

Did you ever notice that you never see the chemical make-up of any specific fragrance? On bottles it is simply labeled as “fragrance”. These are considered trade secrets and are protected hiding whether they were produced chemically, naturally or even derived from petroleum. In fragrances you will find phthalates. Phthalates are an additive and they are not bound to the things they are added to. This means they can seep out into the body. They are also considered an endocrine disruptor. Another endocrine disruptor is BPA which can be found in cans and bottles (although this is changing), which means it can leach out into our food. Endocrine disrupters are said to interfere with normal development of reproductive organs (especially in males).

Parabens are preservatives added to products to minimize microorganism growth (to preserve things). Parabens mimics estrogen in the body and is found in breast tumors. Parabens to look for: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben. You may even find several of these in one product. Another to look for is Q15 (Quaternium 15). This is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative (FRP) which slowly releases small amounts of formaldehyde to preserve the shelf life of a product.

The No More Toxic Tub Report (from March of 2009) found that many common products are contaminated with harmful chemicals that are not listed on the label. In particular, you should watch for 1,4 dioxane. This is found in products that create suds. I’m sure you thought those suds meant that the product was working and really cleaning, but in reality, it’s a chemical reaction. 1,4 dioxane is used quite often but not required to be listed on the label. There are over 48 common products which include 1,4 dioxine such as: Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, Seasame Street Bubble Bath, Clariol Herbal Essences shampoo, and Olay Complete Body Wash.

What can you do? Basically do whatever you can to minimize your exposure to these chemicals. The best suggestion is to do your research and inventory your products. In fact, here are your two new best friends. www.SafeCosmetics.org is a site where you can find a wealth of information on things we discussed and more. This would be a great site to learn how to take more action. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ has a database of more than 79,000 products. Each item is given a score which will arm you with the information you need to make the right choices for yourself and for your family. You can also choose to donate $5 and receive a free cosmetics guide.

Remember, chemicals absorb into the body faster when your skin is wet, so be extra careful with anything you’d apply on wet skin.

As mothers we have a million and a half decisions to make every day and this is only adding to your list. Ultimately it’s your decision how involved you want to get into minimizing chemicals in your body burden (and that of your family’s). We have given you enough information to get started and to understand how baby products and cosmetics compare. It’s up to you on how Green you want to be.

For more sweet updates and stories, subscribe to our newsletter: http://projectsweetpeas.com/index.php/resources-191/the-pea-pod
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Remembrance Plantings Serve as Connection Between Angel Parents and Their Children

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Remembrance Plantings Serve as Connection
 Between Angel Parents and Their Children

When parents lose a child – no matter what age, friends and family want to know how they can best help the grief-stricken. Some offer homemade meals, an ear to listen or shoulder to cry on, or make a donation to an organization in the child’s memory. Although none of these gestures can ever bring the beloved child back to its family, the gestures show love and a commitment to keeping the child’s life/memory alive.

One of the most touching gestures for Theresa Gill Wellman, a Project Sweet Peas project leader who lost her son Donny after six days as the result of a rare birth defect (congenital diaphragmatic hernia), was a garden that a friend offered to plant in Donny’s memory. Wellman spent that spring with her friend on this labor of love – watering the flowers, meditating beside it and contemplating how she would best navigate life without her son.

“I’ve been comforted by this simple gesture – and by the knowledge that my son had touched others’ hearts,” Wellman said.

Wellman then decided to plant a memory garden at her own house – something that she could cultivate and nurture as often as she wanted. Although she and her family no longer live there, she hopes to establish one again soon at her next permanent residence.

“A memorial garden is very therapeutic because it helps establish a connection to your child,” she said. “It is so hard to learn how to parent your angel. The garden provides a gateway; it provides a pathway for grief and healing. It gives a newly grieving parent something to do that is directly related to their child.”

PSP writing volunteer Erin Hart is also a proponent of remembrance plantings. After her twin sons Ethan Patrick and Casey Lawrence passed after being born prematurely at 22w5d gestation, she received two blue hydrangeas that she promptly planted. A family member also purchased plants of her choosing (two hibiscus) that she potted the same day she received them. The gestures were touching – giving life when lives were lost.

But the most healing activity was planting her own memory garden – one that, coincidentally, surrounds a tree with twin trunks, something she didn’t notice until a co-worker pointed it out in a picture Hart had taken.

“I needed something outside of the cemetery – a beautiful place where I could sit, think and talk to my sons. Each spring when I’m planting the garden, I feel their presence. When I’m digging the holes for their gerbera daisies and the windchime above me tinkles in the breeze, I know they are with me. It is one of the very few things I can still do for them, and I imagine they are giddy with excitement to know how much love I pour into this.”
Not everyone has a green thumb for memory plantings they do themselves, so they or their loved ones may opt to purchase a plant or a tree in the child’s name. When Shannon Mason, PSP’s bereavement and writing director, lost her babies, her aunt and uncle dedicated a magnolia tree along a highway in Mississippi under the Keep Mississippi Beautiful “Avenue of the Magnolias” program. According to the program website, a $25 contribution will dedicate a specific newly planted tree in honor or memory of your designee.1

There are many other similar organizations that allow families to purchase or dedicate plantings:
  • Rowan Tree Foundation (RTF), Parker, Colo. – An organization that provides support after the death of a child, RTF initiated plans for an Angel Memorial Healing Ground in the town of Parker. Families can sponsor a tree, other plants or landscaping materials from RTF’s landscaping wishlist.2 The completed garden will be a reflective, healing location for grieving families to visit and feel connected to their children.
  • TreeGivers, Littleton, N.H. – TreeGivers offers customized packages that contain a sympathy letter and card, as well as an official certificate of planting. Trees are planted on public lands all across the country.3
  • The Comfort Company, Geneva, Ill. – The Comfort Company offers boxed memorial gift trees that honor loved ones. Families can select a memory tree online, which are then placed into decorative boxes for shipping.4    

Plants will never replace our precious angels, but they offer a way for family and friends to stay connected to the grieving family – and honor the life of a child who was taken much too soon.

“Even though my son died, his spirit lives on,” Wellman said. “When I plant these flowers, water them and take care of them – I think of how Donny continues to live. When I watch the flowers grow and bloom, I can feel his love growing and blooming within my heart. Nature is one of my connections with Donny – and it is through nature and spending time within it that he communicates with me, and I can be a mommy to my angel.”

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1 http://www.mdac.state.ms.us/programs/keep_ms_beautiful/keep-mississippi-beautiful-magnolias.htm

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Welcome, Maria!

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Project Sweet Peas would like to officially welcome our new Project Coordinator, Maria Bentin. As of this month, Maria has assumed responsibility for the Precious Kisses division.

Precious Kisses is a division of Project Sweet Peas that is based in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Christine Tyson started the Precious Kisses division in 2011 after her boy/girl twins were born at 26 weeks gestation. Christine's twins are now 2 1/2 years old and doing wonderful. Christine and her family have since moved out of state. However, she still remains a Project Sweet Peas volunteer.

Maria and her husband have three children, including twin girls, named Maci and Mia, who were born in June 2012 at 25 weeks gestation and spent nearly 4 months in the Bryn Mawr Hospital NICU. Here is their story:

Maria's Story

My husband and I were married in September 2006. We wanted children, but decided to wait a couple of years for what we thought would be the perfect time. In 2008, after months of trying, we were overjoyed when we found out we were pregnant. However, at just six weeks, I was diagnosed with a uterine abnormality; a congenital condition often associated with recurrent pregnancy loss and preterm labor (among other complications). At our 10-week ultrasound we were devastated to learn that we had lost our first baby.

Over the next year+, I underwent two uterine surgeries to correct the abnormality, experienced another miscarriage, and per our doctor's advice opted for fertility treatments to increase our chances of a healthy pregnancy.

We got pregnant in early 2009 and at 15 weeks I was diagnosed with yet another rare and dangerous condition (succenturiate placenta and vasa previa). The baby's placenta was in two pieces connected by fragile fetal vessels, which if ruptured, could be fatal. In November 2009, after receiving surfactant to mature his lungs, we were blessed with a healthy baby boy, Nico Alexander, delivered via scheduled c-section at 37 1/2 weeks.

When it came time to try for another child, our doctor recommended doing "what worked the last time." This time we were blessed with twins! Again at just 15 weeks, our Perinatologist told me that my cervix was funneling and shortening, indicating a very high probability of miscarriage or preterm labor. I was put on very strict bed rest until 23 weeks and 6 days when I thought my water broke, but it was blood, and a lot of it! I was rushed to Bryn Mawr Hospital via ambulance. Doctors suspected a placental abruption. I spent 1 week 1 day in the hospital with continuous bleeding and contractions. Doctors again gave me surfactant to mature the babies' lungs. The Neonatologist came to visit a few times to talk to my husband and I about the risks, survival rates and ultimately needed us to tell him what resuscitation measures should be taken in certain situations since we were on the threshold of viability. Each day, the babies' odds improved but there was no question that the probability of serious complications was very high. Despite all the risks, we wanted doctors to do whatever they could to save our girls.

At 25 weeks and 1 day, after another huge bleed and more contractions, I started dilating. Thirty minutes later, Maci Nicole and Mia Victoria were delivered via emergency c-section. They each weighed 1 lb. 11 oz. and were about 13 inches long.

Maci, Day 1

I remember hearing Maci cry, but there were no sounds from Mia. I couldn't see anything, but I could hear the teams working hard to stabilize both girls as I lay there on the table being (physically) put back together. I didn't know it at the time, but my little baby Mia was not breathing, was bradycardic, and being resuscitated. All I knew was that they were having difficulty stabilizing her and eventually got her intubated. We had no idea if our precious girls would make it past delivery and I couldn't even see them.

The moments that followed are pretty blurry, but I do clearly remember the nurses wheeling my bed into the NICU and letting me put my hand in each isolette so I could see and touch my girls for the first time. Mia's paper-thin skin was black and swollen on one side of her body due to severe bruising and her eyes were still fused shut (and remained that way for her first 11 days). Both girls were on mechanical ventilators and being kept alive by machines with tons of wires and tubes connected to their fragile little bodies.

 Mia, Day One

This was the scariest day of our lives. Our twins were given a 10% chance of survival, as well as a long list of other scary potential complications. The next day I asked the Neonatologist about survival percentages and if they had improved. What he told me that day really changed our whole perspective. Our daughters had either a 0% or 100% chance of survival and none of the numbers in between meant anything. From that moment we prayed like never before and forgot about the odds. Our girls were going to survive.

Leaving the hospital without our baby girls was so incredibly difficult, but we knew that they were where they needed to be. The NICU became a second home, and the NICU team, like an extended family. They helped us to understand that we really had to take things a day at a time. We couldn't plan or worry about tomorrow, or next week because no one knew what was going to happen. We had to live in the moment, pray for the best and do everything we could to help our little babies fight for their lives. The doctors and nurses helped us to celebrate the tiniest milestones and spent hours talking us through the scary times too.

 Maria holding her girls for the first time

The early weeks were the most difficult. Little Maci and Mia kept their nurses jumping and developed a bit of a reputation for it too! There were scares with infections, problems digesting their tube feedings, distended bellies from being pumped with so much oxygen, stage 1 ROP, Mia's PDA (not knowing if she would need surgery) and countless apnea and bradycardia events that almost stopped my heart a few times. I still remember the first really bad event I experienced where Mia stopped breathing and went limp while I was holding her little hand. This happened to both girls because their lungs were not developed and their brains were not mature enough to remind them to keep breathing. Mia had the toughest time and was intubated 8 times over a 5-week period, some of which were due to her pulling the tube out herself!

Maci Nicole spent 88 days in the NICU and came home around 37 1/2 weeks. Mia Victoria stayed past her due date, for a total of 113 days, and came home on lots of medication, due to the open vavle in her heart (PDA). Both girls were on apnea and bradycardia monitors until they were 8 months old. At the time that I am writing this, they are 9 months old (5.5 months adjusted) and doing great. They receive early intervention - Occupational Therapy each week and are also followed by the Developmental Specialist at the NICU.

Spending almost 4 months in the NICU had such a big impact on my life and that of my family. Although our journey has not been easy, we realize that our girls have been extremely lucky. However, we could not have gotten through it without the support and prayers of our family, friends and especially the amazing Bryn Mawr Hospital NICU Team. They saved our daughter's lives and the gratitude we feel cannot be put into words. This experience has made me a different person and inspired me to do whatever I can to make a difference in the lives of others, especially those precious babies who are born before their time. When you have a baby or babies in the NICU, your whole world is turned upside-down. Our care packages are prepared with love from one NICU family to another, to provide comfort, let them know that they are not alone and to help the bond between parents and their preemies.

Very happy and healthy little girls! Mia (right) Maci (left) - 8 months old

I am honored to join such a wonderful organization and take over responsibility for the Precious Kisses division of Project Sweet Peas.

For more information on Precious Kisses, please email Maria at : Maria@projectsweetpeas.com
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