Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome to the Ornament Swap!

The December holidays can be an especially difficult time when you are grieving your baby. It can feel like everyone in the world is joyful except you. No matter what we celebrate—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s Eve — we could all use some extra support to feel less alone as the days get shorter and the winter darkness creeps in.

Sometimes our “in real life” people don’t understand how much extra TLC we need at this season, or they fail to remember our missing children at those holiday gatherings. The gift-giving, child-centric nature of Christmas and Hanukkah can be particularly painful when you are missing a little one. Marking the end of the year and the passage of time without your baby can also be incredibly difficult. For some, the spiritual or religious elements of this season can be trying, when struggling with faith in the face of tragedy.

Our ornament swap is one way for babyloss families to give and receive support during this tough time of year. By signing up using the form at the bottom of this page, you will receive a holiday ornament with your baby’s name, made with love by another grieving parent. You will also create an ornament with a lost baby’s name for another family. (A special thank you to Angie who passed this idea on to me.)

Got questions? I’ll try to answer them all here.

How does the swap work?

It works “secret Santa” or “secret swapper” style. To join the swap, sign up using the form below. You must sign up by Monday, November 15. (Sorry, but that it is a hard and fast deadline to make sure there is enough time for everyone to complete and send their ornaments by the time the December holidays are in full-swing.)

The next day I will compile all the participant names and conduct a random drawing to assign “secret swappers” (though they don’t really have to be secret!). I will send you an email with the contact information of the family you are making the ornament for, their child’s name, and some other preferences. Then you can get crafting!

At the same time, another participant will be receiving your contact information, your baby’s name, and your preferences. So keep an eye out for your ornament in the mail. Please try to complete and ship your ornament to your assigned recipient by Monday, December 6.

How many people can participate?
Unlike Artist Trading Card (ATC) swaps, each person only needs to make one ornament. Thus our circle of ornament swappers can be quite large! Please pass on a link to this page to any loss families who might want to participate.

I’m not very artsy-crafty—can I still participate?
Yes, please do! I am not very artsy-crafty either. Your ornament does not have to be perfect. It really is the thought that counts. Some of the larger arts and crafts stores have ornament making kits for kids, which are a great option if you are not a serious crafter. Or you can buy pre-cut, unpainted wooden shapes to personalize by painting. A quick browse of a search engine turned up these ideas for homemade ornaments:


I don’t celebrate Christmas—can I still be included?
Absolutely. Even though we are making “ornaments,” this is a non-denominational swap. When you sign up, you'll be required check off the holidays that you celebrate (and to leave blanks the ones that you don't). Although there are plenty of lovely secular winter images that can be used in ornaments, knowing your religious preference could help your crafter design an ornament that works for your family. (For example, your crafter will probably want to know if you celebrate Hanukkah but not Christmas.)

What should my ornament look like?
Almost anything appropriate to the season. There are just a few rules. You must include the baby’s name (part of what makes these ornaments so special). Also please respect the parents’ religious/non-religious preference. And please try to include some kind of hanging mechanism (hook, string, etc.), so that it can be hung.

I have more than one loss. Can I receive multiple ornaments?
Of course. If you have multiple losses and would like more than one baby remembered, please fill out a separate sign-up form for each child. (This means that your babies’ ornaments will each be made by someone different, so they won’t necessarily match.)

I have a question about what my recipient would like. Can I contact them, or do I have to stay secret?
You don’t have to be “secret” swapper. You will have their mailing address and their email address and can contact them if you choose. Most likely, though, they will be happy with and touched by whatever you choose to make for them.

How much does participating cost?
It costs whatever you choose to spend on supplies, plus the cost of shipping the ornament to its recipient. (As the organizer, I don’t receive anything, except an ornament from my secret swapper.)

Where do I send the ornament when it is done?
Mail it directly to the family at the contact information provided in the email that I will send you.

What if the family lives overseas?
By participating you are taking the risk that you could be assigned to make an ornament for someone in another country. This means you would need to complete your ornament a reasonable amount of time in advance, and bear the cost of shipping internationally, in order to get it to them for the holidays.

If you truly cannot afford the international shipping costs, please make note of that in the sign-up form below, and I will mess with the “random drawing” a bit to assign you a recipient living in your country. (Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee it, but I will try my best.)

Am I guaranteed to receive an ornament?
I wish I could say yes. I am 99% sure you will each receive an ornament. Unfortunately there is no accounting for weather delays, family emergencies, things getting lost in the mail, or best intentions gone awry.

What if I sign up, and then can’t complete my ornament on time or at all?
Please let me know as soon as possible. I will try to find someone to cover for you, so that your assigned family receives their ornament. (However I cannot guarantee this.)

What should I do when I receive my ornament?
Leave a comment here to thank your crafter! Also, if you'd like to, you can take a picture of your ornament and email it to me. I'll collect all the photos and post them here sometime in December, so we can admire each other's work.

It sounds like I have to send you my private contact information. Is that safe?
I promise I absolutely will not distribute your contact information to anyone other than the person assigned to make your ornament. I promise I will not sell your contact information to any business or individual. Your contact information will be deleted from my personal files by December 31, 2010.

If you prefer not to give out your information over the interwebs, just email me at roseyjenni at gmail dot com. At that point, I’ll give you my phone number, and you can give me your info over the phone.

The holidays are so busy—I feel like my brain will melt if I take on one more project.
I totally get that. Making these ornaments is intended to be a meaningful activity to bring comfort and provide a framework for processing difficult feelings. But it may not be what you need right now. My wish for you is that you find the comfort and support you need, whatever form that takes.

What were those deadlines again?
Sign up by Monday, November 15. Ship your ornament by Monday, December 6.

Swap sign-up is now closed. Thank you so much for joining me!


  1. It won't submit my info. Says the form won't respond.

  2. hi michelle. i'm sorry the form didn't work! it is my first time using forms, i'm still figuring it out. if you want to try again, please make sure that the link in the bar at the top of your browser reads: and not http:
    // that might solve the problem. but if it doesn't please let me know. thanks! - jenni

  3. oh Jenni this is so cool! Have you got many participants?

    I'd love to join and will sgin up in the next 24 hrs.

  4. Just checking in -- I submitted with the old form and it seemed to work... Do I need to do it again?

  5. form worked fine for me, Jenni

    can I grab the button for my sidebar?

    Also, it would be great to have some kind of counter/update even manual to know roughly how many people are participating. Wonderful idea. I hope there will be lots, even though I wish there would be none...

  6. I just signed up and blogged about this project today. Thank you again for coming up with this swap.

  7. Just signed up! Can't wait to get my ornament for Aiden!

  8. Just signed up also and cant wait to get my ornament for my baby girl Nevaeh and make one for another mommy with her special lil ones name what an awsome idea.. Thank you so much

  9. Jenni - I am not a baby loss mama, but would love to make ornaments for everyone... : ) Could you email me once the sign up is complete, so I can see if sending ornaments to everyone would be reasonable.



  10. hi amanda,

    thank you so much for your kind offer! it's wonderful that you want to contribute in this way. i was unable to access your email address, but just so you know, i've decided - in order to keep things simple and so that all participants can feel comfortable with privacy issues - not to disseminate the mailing addresses that are sent to me (except, of course, to each person's one secret swapper). if you would like to discuss further how you could contribute to this project, please email me at roseyjenni at gmail dot com. thanks!

  11. This is an amazing fantastic wonderful brilliant idea and I wish I thought of it ;) But I'm glad you did :)

  12. hi suzy! i wish i'd thought of it too! it is actually the brainchild of angie from stilllifewithcircles. i just decided to run with it, with her blessing. xo

  13. This is such a lovely idea. Thank you for organising it/us!