CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was the “saddest, darkest, loneliest part of my life.”
In May 2008, Emily Harry delivered a son who was stillborn at 36 weeks.
Now, she and two other women who delivered children who were stillborn or died within a few hours of birth are launching Baby Bundles, a nonprofit that provides new mothers in financial need with a bag or “bundle” of infant essentials.
With seed money donated by the three founders’ families and operating with a projected annual budget of $53,000, Baby Bundles is partnering with Presbyterian Healthcare and the Nurse-Family Partnership, a program of Care Ring.
The group in November made its first delivery, a handful of bags for the Nurse-Family Partnership, which provides support for first-time, low-income mothers.
And its initial goal at Presbyterian is to serve 20 to 35 uninsured mothers a month at its main hospital, and later serve mothers there receiving Medicaid support, an expansion that would mean delivering about 200 bags a month.
Each bag, with contents valued at about $150, includes gently used and some new clothing, as well as an age-appropriate book and toy.
“This is important to the three of us because we cannot prevent children from being stillborn or dying, but we can focus our energy on helping mothers and their children who need a better start in life,” says Harry, a 13-year veteran at Wells Fargo now on a three-year leave of absence.
After Harry lost her son in 2008, childhood friend Heather Leavitt reconnected with her.
Leavitt, a retired MCI employee, had delivered two stillborn children and a third who died a few hours after birth
“When you lose a child,” Harry says, “you are in a special club that no one ever wants to be a part of, so you just sort of cling to each other.”
Harry and Leavitt then connected with Cat Long, a former media buyer, Junior Achievement program director and pharmaceutical sales representative who had delivered a stillborn daughter at 36 weeks in April 2006.
Baby Bundles is an all-volunteer organization, with Harry serving as board chair, and Leavitt and Long serving as vice-chairs.
The group on Dec. 13 mailed its first fundraising appeal to a small group of family friends, and in January will distribute an appeal to a larger audience.
It also has applied for two grants to Christ Episcopal Church, where Harry is a member.
Baby Bundles is purchasing clothing that may be slightly imperfect, known as “seconds,” from local wholesalers.
It also wants to get other mothers involved, and is asking people in the community to donate used clothing that may be “just collecting dust in the attic.”
The group has launched a website at www.babybundlesnc.org, which will include a feature that lets visitors make online contributions.
And it hopes eventually to expand to other Presbyterian Healthcare hospitals, and possibly to Carolinas HealthCare System.
Its founders are dedicating Baby Bundles to the five children they have lost.
“While they are not with us,” says Harry, who gave birth to twins in 2009, one year to the day after the expected birth of the son she lost, “this organization is a way to honor them and keep them in other people’s minds.”