Through June’s Bouquets, a Cone Health labor and delivery nurse gives fellow grieving mothers something to carry as they leave the hospital.
Carrying the gift of comfort
Since March 2019, 76 heartbroken mothers have left the Women’s and Children’s Centers at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro and Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington with something to cradle.
Flowers. A big beautiful bunch, reminding each woman that though her child may have been stillborn, she’s still a mom.
The gift comes courtesy of June’s Bouquets, a nonprofit founded by Cone Health labor and delivery nurse Katie Jones. Jones wants to make it a bit easier for women who have experienced stillbirths to take that long wheelchair ride from their hospital rooms to their cars by giving them something tangible to represent the loss — something they can touch and feel.
“She needs to hold something as she leaves the hospital to symbolize that she’s leaving without her child — but her child is real. Her child existed,” she says. “I feel like it gives her permission to think, ‘Oh, I’m still a mom.’” Jones works with Bouquet Boutique, owned by Leah Gillis, and says the flowers they provide are absolutely beautiful.
June’s Bouquets is part of Jones’s own grieving process. In 2018, her daughter, June Alice, was born still after an uneventful full-term pregnancy. Jones’s years in the delivery room, and the knowledge that 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year, hadn’t prepared her for her own loss.
Her family, friends and coworkers didn’t want her to leave the hospital empty handed. So her husband’s uncle ordered her a bouquet of flowers, which she carried on her way out of the hospital — along with two dozen roses that people silently handed her one-by-one after June’s memorial service in the hospital’s chapel.
“It was very therapeutic at the time,” says Jones. “I remember just having such heavy arms and feeling such comfort.”
When she returned to work 12 weeks later, she told her fellow labor and delivery nurses that she wanted to create a project in June’s memory.
“The nurses said, ‘Katie, we know you want to do something. We think it’s providing women with flowers. That was such a powerful thing for us to watch you leave the hospital with them,’” Jones says.
She immediately began raising money through a GoFundMe page and by reaching out to friends and family in other states. Soon, she had $18,000, which became the nonprofit’s start-up money. Today, June’s Bouquets is officially a nonprofit, which makes donations tax deductible.
She’d also like to figure out a way to send bouquets to women who experience miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies. But that’s a much more difficult process, since many of those women don’t require overnight hospital stays, leaving less time for volunteers to order and present the bouquets. In the meantime, Jones recently expanded the program to Alamance Regional Medical Center and hopes to include other hospitals in North Carolina and, eventually, across the country.
“It has provided mothers like me with tangible comfort as well as a note telling them, ‘Hey, you're not alone. Other people have gone before you. It's going to be OK, but it's horrible. It's so sad. Take comfort knowing that you’re not the only person who this has happened to.’”
She signs the note: “Love, June’s Mom.”