Garden of the Sleeping Angels
The Garden was in my mind for years before its inception, but to understand how it came to be what it is now, after only physically ‘being’ since 2012, is important for me to share.
I was a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, MN for over 40 years. For most of those years, I worked in obstetrics; at first, we were a small hospital where the OB unit was considered a Level I (i.e., all sick infants were transferred to a Level III unit). Over 30 years ago, following the merger of Abbott and Northwestern Hospital, our unit was deemed a Level III since we had perinatologists and neonatologists working together to provide the best care of our mothers and infants on site.
With Level III came, for me, immeasurable heartache since we admitted and cared for the sickest of moms, providing stabilization and ongoing care for patients with high-risk diagnoses. To be honest, all of those years ago we knew so much less than we do now in terms of caring for tiny premature and/or sick infants. Our close proximity to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital meant that our mothers could have the care they needed to either support their infants in utero or deliver in a setting when their sick infants could be properly attended to. The loving care I witnessed in all staff to the betterment of consistency, comforting, and compassion was truly life-changing for me.
With these high-risk pregnancies came, unfortunately, sad outcomes. Not all babies were able to survive the diagnosis of extreme prematurity. Not all babies had conditions compatible with life outside the uterus. Nursing staff struggled mightily to come to terms with supporting a patient and her family who, in the end, lost their beloved baby. After many years of caring for such families, I found that I carried within me a passion to help families not only “say hello” to their infants, but to also say a sweet “goodbye.” I found it a great privilege to care for patients who allowed me within their tender circle of grief.
From these experiences, I wanted to create a place for families to come days, weeks, months, and years after their loss. Thus, the Garden of the Sleeping Angels was born. What started as one garden in 2012 grew to fifteen in 2022. The families of the sleeping angels are the owners of the gardens while I am the caretaker—of the gardens, the sweet sleeping angels, and the families.