According to the CDC, there are about 3,500 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in the United States, which, frustratingly, have no immediately obvious cause, and I cannot imagine how devastating this is for people to experience. Obviously, it’s a pretty traumatic event for families, and some seek help from counselors or support groups. But registered ultrasound sonographer Glenda Barachko, who owns an elective 3D and 4D ultrasound business called WonderTime LLC in New Jersey, has another idea to help parents honor their lost children.
Barachko, who is also an advisory board member of Three Little Birds Perinatal, a local resource for families enduring pregnancy and infant loss, said, “I decided I wanted to make a sculpture either based on the 3D ultrasound picture or from a newborn photograph.”
We’ve seen many different companies create 3D printed ultrasound statues for parents who are visually impaired or just want a different kind of keepsake than a 2D sonogram photo to hang on the fridge, but this is the first time I’ve heard of the technology being used to create sculptures of children lost during pregnancy or in infancy. Here’s how it all came about:
Barachko was the ultrasound sonographer for Tina Rouh, who went through two long in-vitro fertilization attempts to finally become pregnant with Madelynn, her second child. But sadly, the newborn baby died in her sleep the day she came home from the hospital, and the only explanation the grieving family received was SUID.
“She was so perfect. She was a unique person that we wanted desperately and she was taken from us,” said Rouh.
“When you lose your child, there’s no moving on. There’s no forgetting your baby. You grieve forever.”
Barachko had just posted her idea of creating 3D printed newborn sculptures to Facebook, and reached out to Rouh to see if she’d be interested in something other than a photograph to honor her daughter. The answer was yes.
“It just looks just like her. The chunky cheeks and the very defined brow line and she had, like, a divot over her nose,” Rouh said.
Artist Kristi Centinaro uses ultrasound photos to create detailed faces, in miniature, of the babies, before they’re 3D printed out of porcelain for families to take home.
“It’s not just photo accuracy,” Centinaro explained. “No machine could do this. It takes an artist’s touch to really make it go that extra mile.”
Thus, the Little Faces Limited startup was born. Led by women, the small business makes its products in the US, with 90% of its materials sourced here as well.
“We aren’t just some company that manufactures and sells a product. We are founded on a love of moms, dads, and babies,” the website states.
“In order to give back, a portion of every purchase goes to the TEARS foundation which is a non-profit that provides financial support to families that are dealing with the loss of a child.”
These 3D printed sculptures aren’t just for grieving families, however. Little Faces Limited is now taking orders for all families that want a 3D printed keepsake in honor of their newborn, as a baby shower or “push” gift or even a present for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Grandparent’s Day. The online ordering process is simple: first, upload an ultrasound or newborn photo that has a clear shot of at least half the baby’s face (check out specific upload guidelines here) and list the quantity. You can also add angel wings to your sculpture for $10 if you’d like. Select the product you want—your options are a $55 digital file download or a 5″ x 6″ 3D printed sculpture in porcelain resin for $139. Finally pick a natural wood or a white shadowbox frame (each one costs $18), and you’ll receive your custom 3D printed sculpture in less than two months.
In the future, once the startup gets off the ground a little, Barachko will work to bring the product to a larger audience in order to benefit other parents who have lost a child.
Barachko said, “Once we start to generate a profit, I want to fund research to build awareness so that people that have to live through this can get proper support.”
Like most other businesses around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some issues for Little Faces Limited, but the startup does have one advantage. Most obstetrics facilities are limiting capacity, but at Barachko’s business, up to five guests—wearing masks, of course—are allowed to accompany the mother during ultrasounds.
“When they’re going in for their anatomy scan, what they really want is to bring their husband in, have him be able to see the baby too. But with that gone away because of COVID, it’s been actually a good thing for my business because more people are coming to see us,” Barachko explained.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and on the 15th, many around the globe will participate in an event called the International Wave of Light by lighting a candle for an hour starting at 7 pm, local time, to honor all babies that were gone too soon. Everyone grieves in different ways, but if you know someone who is suffering the loss of a pregnancy or child and think they might appreciate a 3D printed memorial sculpture, tell them about Little Faces Limited.
(Source: WPVI-TV Action News / Images: Little Faces Limited)
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