Like all couples who learn they're going to be parents, Rebecca and Dan Sharpsteen, of Mankato, Minnesota, experienced immense joy and anticipation for their first child. That joy turned to heartbreak when Cal was stillborn at 38 weeks at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.
"As a mother-to-be, you have so many hopes and dreams you create during the nine months you carry a baby," says Rebecca. "When we lost Cal, we felt we were losing our future."
As Rebecca and Dan began processing Cal's death, they talked with Amanda Bassett Swanson, a social worker in Psychiatry & Psychology. Amanda told them to look at every part of Cal: to unwrap his blanket and look at his feet and all of his features. It helped the couple realize that, as Rebecca says, "Cal was still born, even though it was a stillborn birth."
So the couple held Cal, sang to him, took pictures and, of course, cried. They say they're thankful for the compassion and suggestions that Amanda and other care team members offered them. And they cherish the pictures and memories of their brief time with Cal.
It's now been more than a year since Cal died. Rebecca admits there have been a lot of ups and downs, saying, "We've been trying to heal and navigate the grief of losing our child."
Part of that healing has been to share their story and reach out to other parents of stillborn babies.
"For parents whose baby is stillborn, the time they have in the hospital is the only time they'll have with their baby," says Rebecca. "And they're in such shock at the loss they often don't know what to do next."
This article first appeared on the Mayo Clinic Health System blog. You can read the rest of the story there.