Blossom.

Dear Mila,

It’s been a few days since I’ve been able to write. I wanted to post and participate every day of May We All Heal, but life gets a little crazy at times.

In the days I haven’t shared, you’ve grown and changed everyday. It seems impossible that a person can get so much bigger in just a few short days. You truly are blossoming I’m more ways than I imagined and I know this will happen for the rest of your life.

After you were born, I realized all the things I had missed with your brother. Things that I didn’t really know happened with parenting a newborn or being a mom to a living child. There are so many moments and experiences I crave even more with him now that I know I’ll just have to imagine. Sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow, but I’m thankful I get to have them with you.

Do you want to know the one thing I always thought he’d do for me? Pick me flowers. I imagined he’d go pick flowers from the landscaping and the dandelions in the yard. He would bring them in to the house for me and we’d have to put them in water so they would keep. Maybe that’s why I always have fresh flowers in the house. They make me smile and think of him and the imaginary little cup of dandelions we’d have all summer long.

That’s one of the ways Jensen continues to blossom.

His love continues to grow and that’s what keeps his memory alive. He’s in every dandelion I see and every bouquet of flowers I bring home. The only difference is he continues to blossom and we’ll never let him wilt away. He’ll always be your big brother and my son.

You two will blossom in different ways, but each as beautiful as the other.

I love you.

Mama

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Need.

Dear Mila,

My needs have changed a lot since you’ve been born. Instead of needing so much for myself, I make sure you’re constantly and perfectly content. This is what moms do.

I love being your mom. It makes me so happy to see you grow, knowing that I’m able to get you all that you need. When I see you progress developmentally with smiles and coos, I light up. All this play and talking you need is really working. Everything that happens during our days together is to help you become the best human.

This wasn’t the motherhood I once knew before.

After Jensen was born, all this maternal instinct to put his needs in front of mine sort of had no where to go. I learned that I had to get them out quickly though. Instead of feeding him, I decorated the house with his name and face. I wrote about him rather then giving him a bath. Then there came a point where I had to focus on what I needed. This was… hard to do. I changed my self care routine and took out some toxic in my life. The one thing I needed stable in my life after loss, was me.

Now that you’re here, I am both yours and Jensen’s mom. With that comes its own sets of needs. I promise I’ll do whatever I can to provide for your needs. Whatever will make you happy, I promise I’ll try to do for you. With Jensen, I need to hear his name. I need to remember I’m doing my best being his mom. I need the world to know about this little boy I love so very much.

I love you, Mila, and I never knew how much I needed you.

Mama

Triggers.

Dear Mila,

Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyways.

I took you to Jensen’s tree for the first time yesterday. There we dandelions everywhere and all I wanted to do was make a wish that he could be there with us.

We didn’t stay there long. I felt the heaviness of our reality and how his tree would be the only way I could see you two grow together. All I could think of is how unfair it was that you’ll never have your big brother physically here and how I can’t mother him the way I do you. So, I had to walk away and I don’t know when I’ll have the strength to go back.

This, for me, is a trigger.

A trigger is something that provokes a strong emotion. Mostly, it puts my grief in hyperdrive and they can just hit out of no where. I didn’t expect to feel the way I did going to his tree with you. Sometimes I can feel them coming on, like leaving the hospital with you or certain firsts. They don’t necessarily have to be bad or paralyzing. I just see it as an emotion or something that needs to be felt.

Lately, I’ll admit, I’ve been triggered a lot. It’s a mix of hormones, Mother’s Day, and knowing what I missed out on. I’m doing my best to keep my head up.

The one thing I hope for as you grow is that these triggers don’t impact you. You bring so much happiness in my life and I soak up every single second with you. If you see me sad, know it’s not because of something you did. Triggers can bring me down, but never you. Never.

Live your life to your fullest. Take every opportunity that comes your way and run with it.

I’ll always be cheering you on.

I love you.

Mama

Forgiveness.

Dear Mila,

“In order to heal we must first forgive… and sometimes the person we must forgive is ourselves.”

-Mila Bron

Forgiveness is important all throughout life.

Everyone you meet will make a mistake sometime while you know them. I’ve made mistakes and you’ll make them too. It’s inevitable. People are flawed, but most of us cut each other some slack and know this. We forgive big and little mistakes and it’s crucial we do this.

Sometimes in life bad things happen and we have no one to forgive. Maybe you’ll take that one thing and put it on yourself. This is what I did after Jensen was born. I was so angry that I didn’t know something bad was going to happen or that I didn’t feel something different. All I could do was be mad at myself, on top of grieving. It wasn’t a good mix and I didn’t know how to move through that patch. Sometimes, I still blame myself; even when I know I did all I could do. In this time, I learned the hardest person to forgive is yourself.

Just in the last month, I’ve truly forgave myself. I thought my body failed me with Jensen or maybe that I wasn’t good enough to have him. Everything negative I could think about myself concerning his death, I thought. Now that you’re here, I realized I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t do anything extra different during each pregnancy, besides worry and stews way more with you. With you and him, I carried, loved, and dreamed of so many things we would do. There’s nothing I could have done to change both outcomes. It’s just how it is and I know that now. In some crazy way, you and your brother both have taught me this in different ways.

I’ve forgiven myself and one day when you have to do the same, I hope you know there isn’t anything you could do that would ever prevent me in forgiving you.

Always be you.

I love you.

Mama

Mother.

Dear Mila,

Early on in your life, you’ll learn that not everyone’s journey to motherhood looks the same. You’ll know that there are moms everywhere around you, even when you can’t see their children. There are some babies us moms carry in our hearts.

You wore one of your ‘little sister’ shirts today. It’s something I am so proud you get to wear because your big brother means the world to me; and so do you. Death cannot steak these titles from you both. You are always connected and have an angel watching over you. Even though we talk about Jensen everyday and integrate him in our daily routine, there is an extra special reason you wore this shirt… today Bereaved Mother’s Day.

I think it’s hard to explain why Bereaved Mother’s Day is important. Why not just ‘celebrate’ everything next weekend? Well, in the past I’ve done that too. Today, for me, is when I can allow myself to grieve. I cried when I woke up, when I put that onesie on you, and now as I’m writing this watching you sleep in my lap. Grief is hard, but this is apart of my motherhood. If I never lost your brother, I wouldn’t know about this day. I wouldn’t know about the many different paths to motherhood. Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but this is how life is now. Loss moms everywhere can share their stories, let each other know we’re not alone, and help educate others.

Being your and Jensen’s mom is my favorite title for myself. Motherhood is the most rewarding and sometimes heartbreaking experience I’ve been through. On this day, I get to mother Jensen in a way that can help others and myself. I also get to mother you on these Jensen days to make you a more compassionate person.

I promise to always mother you in the best way I can. Just as I promise to mother your brother in the ways I can too.

Thank you and Jensen for giving me this title and allowing me to be your mother.

I love you.

Mama

Isolation.

Dear Jensen,

Portraits by Dana

Today’s May We All Heal prompt needed to stray away from the letters in writing your sister. It’s actually not the prompt, more as the actual day. I need to share you.

The fifth of every month will forever be yours in my eyes. Today’s monthday marks twenty-five months or two years and a month since you’ve been born. It also shares your sisters three week mark. But today, I needed to write to you.

You’ve seen me throughout this entire journey: the good, the bad, and the ugly. There have been times of complete isolation. It felt like no one in the world knew what was going on in my brain. No one had ever lost you of the relationship we had, so in my mind they’ll never understand. But around this time two year ago, you helped me find the loss community. That isolation turned into healing because I realized there were people grieving their child and I wasn’t this crazy person.

Since your sisters been born… there’s a different type of grief isolation. I try to be my happiest for her and live in each moment. Although it’s only been three weeks with her, I haven’t been able to write your nightly letter. That’s so hard on me. Once I get this routine down, I’ll be able to start up again. I’ve noticed myself keeping my emotions down too. When I put your sister down to sleep and I try to, they all come up.

Maybe it’ll be this way forever. I just want to find a good medium with it all and for you to know you’re always being thought about.

I hope heaven is a celebration everyday and that you stay close to your sister and I as we honor you and motherhood this weekend. You’re always walking with me. I know you make yourself known to Mila too.

I love you, Jens. You’re the light of my life.

Mama

Anxiety.

Dear Mila,

If a person could feel their mother’s emotions in the womb, you’d know all about anxiety.

I never used to be an anxious person before. Of course I worried about trivial things all children and teenagers face, but nothing like I’ve experienced now.

The first time I had an anxiety attack is when we found out Jensen had Down syndrome. I didn’t expect any ‘abnormalities’ in any of the tests with him. In my naive mind, nothing bad ever happened to babies or pregnant women. You probably think that’s crazy since you know how paranoid I am about pregnancy in general. Anyways, after those results, I couldn’t catch my breath and it felt like the world was sitting on my chest. After a few days, that anxiety went away. He was mine. I would do anything in my power to give him the bed of everything. So, I did what I do best and prepared.

It wasn’t until a few months later that I had my second ever anxiety attack. When we found out Jensen was gone, I fell apart. I guess it was like a major life attack. My blood pressure spiked, my vision went black, and I couldn’t catch my breath. Life felt like that for months after abs sometimes still does…

Nothing traumatic had ever happened in my life before that. I didn’t have any reason to worry about things before. My mind didn’t overwork. Then, as with everything, my world flipped upside down.

I worried every time my phone rang or if someone didn’t text back quick. Then I went through a stage where I didn’t care about anything. My anxiety flipped-flopped like that until I got pregnant with you. Then a new type of anxiety slapped me in the face: pregnancy after loss.

Everyday I woke up wondering if this would be the day you would be gone. When you hit big enough, I’d poke my belly until I felt you moving, then could breathe for a little while. I didn’t sleep much. My mind went through every horrible scenario. At every appointment, I asked my doctor if this anxiety was good for you and that I just needed you to be born alive. They knew all about Jensen so they didn’t think I was extra crazy for bringing it up each time.

With your birth, the anxiety of my body failing ended. You were here and in my arms. The longer you looked at me, the less I felt that anxiety.

Now that your here, I worry about other things, but it’s different. I’m not sure how to explain it.

As a mom and especially a loss mom, I’ll always have anxiety. I worry about you when you sleep, when I’m in the shower, or anytime I’m not holding you. It’s just because I love you so much and want you to be safe.

I hope you never experience the trauma and anxiety I went through with stillbirth. Even though I would never trade your brother or my time with him, I wouldn’t wish the aftermath of the mental madness of child loss on anyone. With that being said, when you are feeling anxious about whatever you’re going through during your life, I’ll help you make it through. I’m always here to listen and if you want my advice I’ll give it to you. One of my jobs for the rest of my life is to comfort you, even when you’re a grown woman facing this big world.

One of the things Jensen taught me that I’m able to teach you is that we can make it through anything. All it takes is a lot of love and a little patience.

I love you.

Mama

Beginnings.

Dear Mila,

This is how we began this morning. A walk around the big block before it got too hot. You love being outside and I love hearing the birds, that reminds me so much of Jensen, all around us.

Beginnings used to be one of my favorite things. They mark the start of a new adventure. A way to learn more about the world and yourself. Beginnings were awesome.

The beginning of my motherhood is my favorite. When I found out I was pregnant with your brother, I was full of joy and hope for the future. Of course I was scared about certain things, like how crazy different my life would be after he was born and if I was going to be good at the whole mom thing. My heart told me I’d be just fine though and your brother always made me feel so calm. He made this beginning so sweet, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

What I didn’t realize about beginnings was they sometimes were born out of really horrible situations.

The end of my pregnancy and Jensen’s birth was the start of my grief journey. I didn’t expect my motherhood to lead me to this point, but I was thrown in to this world where babies died and moms had to live without their children for the rest of their lives. It’s so hard.

In that beginning, you wouldn’t have recognized your mom. I know you’ve felt me sad or when I’ve had an anxiety attack, but this was different. Nothing could make me smile. A cloud of grief and shock clung to me everywhere I went. My days and nights meshed together by sleep and tears. I wouldn’t wish the beginning on any person in the world. I hated that my wonderful beginning with your brother brought me here, but I fought not to let grief and depression and everything else I was feeling stop me from remembering him with the light he brought to my life.

A little over a year after Jensen was born, a new beginning happened: pregnancy after loss. When I found out I was pregnant last spring, I felt like I could hope for the future again. Unfortunately, this hope lasted for a short amount of time. This beginning and end sort of go together. But it brought me to the next one, which gave me you.

I wish Jensen could physically be experiencing the beginning of your life here with us. A big part of me thinks he was there picking you out before I even knew you’d be with me.

If he’s taught me anything I could pass down to you, it’d be that no matter how hard things get, you have to keep moving forward. You don’t ever have to move on from something, ignore any of your feelings, or forget, but you have to keep going for whatever reason. You have this beautiful gift of life that so many don’t even get a chance to have. I know that probably sounds like a lot of pressure, but I want you to know how special and lucky you truly are, so would your brother. Take it from your mom, who has encountered some of the worst beginnings, that you are going to do great things in this world. When things go wrong in life (and they sure will) you can start a new adventure or begin again.

You always have me and your brother cheering you on. And I promise you’ll never be alone through any of your beginnings.

I love you.

Mama

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The 2018 May We All Heal prompt list:

Sunrise – MWAH 2018

Dear Mila,

You and I are usually up at this time, but on this morning, we have a mission to complete. That mission is to actually take time and watch the sunrise.

This morning isn’t just another one, its the start of May and a project I’ve done for two years now. It’s the first event that honors your brother that you’ll experience outside the womb. May We All Heal 2018 is about sharing a person’s grief and for bereaved mothers all around the world to talk about their babies gone too soon. It lets us all know we’re not alone in this journey and there’s so many people rooting us on. For me though, I’m going to show you a little more of your brother and the love that is so strong, death couldn’t even break it.

Yes, I know you hear about Jensen every day and see his picture all around the house… but this month’s project will let you know him a little more. It’ll let us all interact with each other and create memories in our own special way. Everyday I’ll write you a letter and we’ll document each prompt with a picture. It’s my hopes that you’ll be able to look back on this when you’re a little older to see how much you both mean to me.

Here’s to May, Mila, and our first sunrise we watched together. Always know your big brother shines his light down on your and tells the birds to sing you sweet songs.

May we remember, honor, and continuously love our boy in heaven.

I love you,

Mama

Post Mila Triggers.

Photo by Katie Finnicum at Simplicity of Grace.

When Jensen died, all my dreams I had with him were stripped away in one moment. I was looking forward to sleepless night, poopy diapers, and the unending adventure that is motherhood. I didn’t get the first two things and was continuously reminded about others that I wanted too. Even now, as I’ve just passed his second birthday, I can imagine him as a two year old.

In the early days of my grief, my brain was so cloudy. I couldn’t process his death or even think about how he would have changed or his actions. Yes, I knew I was missing out on so much, but in the midst of intense grief my brain made me focus on just surviving. Now, with Mila’s arrival, I’m experiencing different emotions in my grief I didn’t know was possible. Every little and big thing she does that I never even considered with Jensen will strike me.

With these new feelings, I wanted to share how certain things have triggered me since little sister’s arrival. I hope in sharing these, I’ll feel less alone or guilty that these special, special moments with her have a cloud of grief hanging over them… I guess this is parenting after loss.

Holding her for the first time…

When Jensen was born, I remember asking the doctor if he had all ten fingers and toes. I just needed the whole thing to feel somewhat normal because it was anything but. With Mila, I didn’t hear her cry right away so I remember having a mini panic attack and asking if she was okay. Then I heard her cry…

After the doctor cleaned her off and suctioned everything out of her nose and mouth, she was placed right on my chest. I can’t remember if she had a diaper on, but I don’t think so. It didn’t matter anyways because she was right there: a living child in my arms. I remember being faced with wanting to cry happy tears for her being safe and then immediately after sad ones because I never had that with Jensen.

Seeing my family with her…

This was so hard in the hospital and still now when people see her for the first time. When Jensen was born only one of my friends came and my mom and dad didn’t stay the whole time. I felt completely alone and heartbroken and everything a new mom should not feel. If I could travel back in time, I would go to myself right then to just hold me. I’d go get Jensen from the room next to us and tell myself how perfect he was. I would hold him and show her she didn’t do anything wrong at all.

My time in the hospital now was more… light. She’s healthy and everyone wanted to see her. They took her and held her. The room was rarely quiet, unless it was nighttime and just her and I. Each time someone held her, they just smiled and talked so sweetly to her. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. I do every time someone falls in love with her. But each time, I think of him.

Being wheeled out of the hospital…

Right before we left the hospital with Mila, I was already crying. I felt exhausted and I could feel all my emotions bubbling up. She was in her car seat ready to go and all my bags and flowers had been packed in the car. The only thing left from me having a living child at home was the wheelchair ride down to the car.

As soon as I sat down, I was sobbing. I was thrown back to leaving the hospital without him, only holding his stuffed elephant. Goodness, I can’t even describe the pain I was in that moment. When they sat Mila down on my lap before the started wheeling me, I didn’t even know what to think. I hated it because I knew I should have been happy (and I was) and all I could feel was my heart skipping and breaking all at once.

Shower time…

After getting home from the hospital this time, I asked my mom to stay with me for a little while so I could shower. During both my pregnancies, shower time was my favorite. Jensen and Mila would dance away in my belly and I could feel them move to the warmth of the water. After Jensen was born, I took a shower after getting home too. I broke down. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this before, but being in the shower and feeling my belly so empty made it even more real. I cried for myself and I cried for Jensen. In that one shower, I had never felt more vulnerable, until the one I took after Mila.

I asked my mom to sit in the room with me. Mila was still in her car seat and I had the hot water turned up as high as I could. When it hit my back, it felt like a corset of grief broke open. The sobs sounded a lot like before. My mom had to be mortified and asked what was wrong. Why was I crying after everything? After composing myself a little to talk, I told her what was happening in my head…

I was happy Mila was healthy and safe at home. That’s all I asked for during my pregnancy, but my heart hurt. I missed Jensen and everything that had transpired in the last few days are all I wanted with him. It hurt not to have those memories. I told her I was afraid that he’d be forgotten now. That no one would ever say his name again and sometimes that’s all I want to hear.

God only knows what she was thinking. She probably thought I was a hormonal lunatic.

The little things I never knew about before…

Before even giving birth to Mila, I knew I’d be triggered by certain things. I was prepared for all the firsts and coached myself into not having them be ‘bad’ triggers. Jensen wouldn’t want me to take one moment with her for granted. He’d want her and I to be happy. In the ten days I’ve had her, she’s surprised me with different things she does. Even the ones that I never expected.

Instead of listing everything, I want to share something that happened yesterday… After a long walk and spending time with my mom and my friend, Becka, we went home. I fed her and changed her diaper. After a big afternoon, I knew she would be tired, so I set up a nap area for her and I both. I wanted to be close to her to hear her breathing, it’s the one thing that gets me to sleep well now. Anyways, I woke up after a little while and she was still sound asleep. I had my arm close to her feet and before I knew it, she moved them and they were resting on my arm. The warmth of them and just the way she did it gave my chills. I didn’t want to move and hope she’ll do it again in the future.

When she finally did move again, grief hit. I never imagine something like that with him. It was always the big moments I knew I was missing… my mind protected me from so much.

As I sit here and reread everything I wrote, I just want to say I know reading this is triggering to so many. I am beyond thankful for both Mila and Jensen. Honestly, I never thought I would take her home. I cherish every second I have with her and love making these memories. The whole entire thirty-nine weeks with her in my belly, I just was preparing for her to die, which sounds awful. With that said, I didn’t even think about triggers until they were right in front of me.

It’s always been important to me to share this journey and this is just one part of it. I’ll never forget Jensen or stop seeing where he should be in our home. I also hope Mila grows up knowing her brother and how much she is loved and wanted. Parenting after loss is a new road in this journey that I hope I can continue sharing.