“Having a baby is one of life’s greatest joys,” says Jeanine Pyka, the OBGYN, lactation and parent education manager at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “We want every mother to remember this special day, and baby blessings are one way to do that.”
To honor the love and joy babies bring into the world, caregivers offer baby blessings to all newborns, upon a family’s request. In the last two years, more than 2,000 blessings have been requested at Sharp Grossmont.
Reverend Judy Ray, the manager of Spiritual Care services, came up with the idea five years ago. “We offer comfort and solace to patients who are ill or near end of life, and wanted to acknowledge the whole spectrum of life, from birth to death,” she says.
“We also value and support the diversity of our patients and families. Efforts are always made to address the unique spiritual needs of our diverse patient population,” says Ray.
The nondenominational blessings are designed with an interfaith and inclusive approach appropriate for a celebration of new life.
Sasha and Garret Kizinkiewicz recently had a son, Hayes, and requested a blessing.
“Although our family is spiritual, we’re not religious. So for our child to be given a blessing without terms and guidelines of a specific religion is really cool to us,” says Sasha. “The blessing was a simple, yet meaningful, way to recognize the joy and hope our son’s birth brings to us.”
The Kizinkiewiczes have two older boys who also received blessings at Sharp. Sasha says that each blessing was unique in its own way, but Hayes’ was the most memorable.
“Hayes is our third child, and sometimes the shine can wear off when you have multiple children. The blessing was a great positive reminder that every child is a gift and deserves to be recognized,” she says.
“Although I was tired, sore and uncomfortable, hospital staff recognized my child in a special way. And knowing they were genuinely happy for my experience and joyful for our baby meant the world to our family,” she says.
To further welcome the hospital’s littlest patients into the world, families receive a special certificate with the blessing printed on the back.
Dawn Christianson volunteers every Friday and is one of 10 volunteers delivering the blessings. She says, “I feel honored and blessed that so many families allow me the joy of sharing in this special moment.”
And working with newborns gives her balance to her work in hospice. “I bless souls as they come into the world, as well as going out,” she smiles.
On one occasion, Dawn was asked to give a blessing in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and saw a former co-worker waiting in the family room. “It was her first grandchild. It meant a lot to her because she knew me and I was doing the blessing. It reminded me that hospital programs also develop and deepen relationships and strengthen community ties.”
Other baby blessing volunteers include Leslie Bradley, Ann Bray, Carol Durr, Patty Flores, Janet Geffers, Nellie LaRussa, Charlotte Minter, Michele Noorda, Rose Patrico and Yolanda Zeugner.
For the news media: To talk with a Sharp expert about baby blessings for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.