Feb. 26, 2020 — The loss of a child under any circumstances is terrible. The loss of a newborn or a preborn infant brings with it a unique set of circumstances to the grieving parents and often to the extended family touched by an early loss pregnancy.
Those assisting parents of early infant mortality refer to the work they do as “Infant Bereavement” counseling, a trend that has strong roots in the Florence community.
The needs of those distraught by a loss of this type have been at the center of the work done by a prominent member of the Oregon Dunes Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Carol Slaugh.
The program, called “Minutes of Gold,” refers to the short period of time parents get to spend with their deceased child at the hospital.
In 1992, Slaugh began to provide direct support to grieving family members. Since that time, families across the nation have been positively affected by the items she and a dedicated group of local women have created. These garments are donated to hospitals to use for the brief time available to parents while viewing their deceased infant.
The genesis for the idea was simple, according to Slaugh.
She had spent a great deal of time creating smaller size clothing for one of her hobbies and thought perhaps her work might serve a better purpose.
“I had a doll hospital. I was dressing a doll for an antique dealer and it was called a ‘dream baby.’ So, I had this antique doll and had recently retired from the banking industry. I was watching Oprah Winfrey one day, and she said, ‘Find your passion and make it work for you’ — and that is what I did,” Slaugh said.
She approached a hospital in Woodland, Calif., and met with a nurse.
“When she heard what I wanted to do, she started crying,” Slaugh remembered. “She said to me, ‘I lost a baby five months ago, and I would have given anything to have something appropriate to put on my baby.’ So I told her I would do what I can.”
That initial conversation with a single hospital employee has grown and expanded dramatically over the years.
Minutes of Gold now works with 275 hospitals and has distributed more than 28,000 layettes — a collection of clothing and accessories for a newborn — to grieving families. The funding for the materials needed to make layettes are donated and there is no cost to the hospital or to parents.
Over time, Minutes of Gold volunteers have diversified the items they make to consider the different ages and physical conditions of the deceased infants that receive bereavement garments. The response from recipient families is often emotional and appreciative.
In a heartfelt letter Slaugh received last November, the recognition that the infant was a person was central from a grateful father.
“My wife and I recently lost our baby Jack at 22 weeks. The nurses attending to us dressed our baby in clothes made by your organization,” the man wrote. “By dressing Jack in your beautiful garments, the nurse and your organization immediately affirmed his personhood. Someone else out there, a complete stranger, was also viewing Jack as a full person. … I can’t express how much of a gift and a blessing that is to my wife and me.”
Many other organizations have also formed over the years inspired by the work started by Slaugh. An indirect result of her work regards the acceptance of bereavement therapy as a meaningful way to deal with this type of loss.
This Friday at the group’s monthly meeting, local DAR members will be making a presentation reviewing the work they do to support Minutes of Gold and sharing with attendees the meaningful nature of that work.
As for the future of Minutes of Gold, Slaugh believes that while she started the now nationwide program, there are others who realize the importance of the work and will follow in her footsteps.
“I’m always hoping, and I think there is going to be somebody that comes along and will continue this work. I’ve thought about this a lot and I’m just not ready to give it up entirely. But we have a really good staff, and if I can’t do it, then the ladies will take over and they will be fine,” Slaugh said.
For information regarding DAR or the Minutes of Gold program, contact Chapter Registrar Karen Childs at 541-997-7154 or visit oregonduneschapter.org.