Toddler Friendly Summer Bucket List – Go On A Hike

This week is going to be full of crossing bucket list items off and today was no different. Although the Coshocton Three Rivers Bikeway might technically not be a hike, it is with a one year old. Good thing we had the best company in tow.

Located just outside of Roscoe Village in Coshocton, Ohio, the Three Rivers Bikeway is an easy walking, biking, and pushing a stroller path. It’s paved so it’s smooth sailing and wide enough to get around people too. Although we went on seemingly the hottest day of the year (not complaining), the water and trees provided us a nice breeze and shade. I didn’t keep a step count, but the trails around two miles long.

There were lots of benches and spots to picnic along the way. Locks that were once used for canals provide even more shade and exploration. I can definitely see lots of places to take pictures, maybe Mila and I will be back in the fall to do so.

The path circles a pretty big pond, which was beautiful. If you’re into fishing, there were spots to fish. We didn’t have our bathing suits, but the aquatics park was there. I was a little jealous of everyone swimming and even Mila was pointing to it. If you go and have extra time, I’d suggest going there or even taking a canal boat ride.

Although we just walked the pathway, it was really nice and gives kids a lot to look at. Mila was pointing to all the animals, trees and water areas. As I said, it was super hot or we would have probably explored more. One thing I wish I would have done was brought better bug spray. Mila didn’t get bit, but the mosquitoes attacked me. I’ll be itchy, but at least they didn’t get her. BUT I’d definitely recommend taking big spray and lots of water!

Afterwards, we went into Roscoe Village toneat at Warehouse Stein n Stein & Lock 27 Pub. My best friend went with us and it was his birthday too (happy birthday again to you!). If you go, definitely get the bacon and mac n cheese burger. It did not disappoint! The restaurant was kid friendly, even when Mila was grumpy and ready to leave.

We were there for a few hours, but could have easily spent all day here. I can imagine I’d be a great day trip when she’s older and can really experience all of what Roscoe Village has to offer.

I am DEFINITELY checking this off as a hike, but imagine we’ll go on more this summer. It’s another day to remember and so many memories were made.

Mila and I are both looking forward to this holiday weekend and will have another adventure to tell you about. We hope it’s a safe and fun one for you too.

If you have any other places (hikes, museums, or adventures in general) you’d think Mila and I would like, let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

Mila Visits the ER… Again.

I’ve went back and forth on whether I wanted to post about this incident due to some serious self-inflicted mom shaming. After Friday’s house cleanse, Mila, my mom, and I had to make another special trip the the emergency room. If you’re keeping tabs, that’s twice in one week.

It’s not a really elaborate story and it wasn’t anything super traumatic. Pretty much, after the house cleanse we went to my parents house and when we were leaving Mila almost fell down their porch steps. In efforts to save her from another fall and potential head injury, my mom grabbed Mila’s hand. As she grabbed her hand, she was still falling and her arm made a big POP. Instantly, she started screaming and crying. At home, it didn’t quit and when I tried to comfort nurse her, her arm popped again and there was no end of the screaming in sight. After a quick internet search and text messages, we packed our things and went to the hospital.

Let’s just say, the whole ride up I was worried.

Here we were again. I had no idea what the nurses and doctors thought of me. Mila has this huge black eye, scraps on her knee, and bruises. She plays hard all the time. I don’t limit what she does and do my best to keep her safe, but she’s a kid.

The first hour and a half was rough. We had an awful nurse who kept telling Mila she was fine and to just be quiet. I didn’t think she was the best person to have for a child who is only 14 months old and has no idea why she’s in pain… but whatever. Mila kept crying through everything and they didn’t have individual rooms since they were so busy. She just wanted held and comforted, so that’s what we did. During this time, she wouldn’t let anyone touch or arm or couldn’t put pressure on it. They ordered X-rays, but we just had to wait.

Then, all of the sudden, something switched. My mom had to step outside and when she did, Mila decided she wasn’t hurt anymore.

She started playing with me and pushing off on this with her ‘bad arm.’ I immediately knew her accident wasn’t as bad as we originally thought. Then when my mom walked back in and Mila pointed and said ‘Gi,’ it was all over.

At around 12:40am, Mila took part in ‘walking’ my mom, playing at the table, and took part in running a half marathon. No joke on this. She ran for like 45 minutes straight. I was tired watching her.

She did a great job of entertaining everyone else in the waiting room too. Everyone got waved and talked too. They were laughing and smiling with her, which I think helped them waiting too. Even though I was exhausted watching her is always a treat.

I ended up opting out of getting her an X-ray and the doctor agreed with me. Around 1:15am we got a room and she got checked out again. The doctor said it sounded like Mila had nurses elbow, which is a dislocation around the wrist. There’s way more technical terms and a better description but that’s the best I got. She said it sounds like it dislocated when mom tried to grab her and popped back in when I was comforting her. It’s a common thing that can happen and I’m guessing Mila will frequent the ER throughout her childhood too.

Before the night played out like it did, I seriously thought CPS was going to be called on me. I’ve really let myself feel bad for her black eye and falling off the counter. Then being back in the hospital again… it made me feel like an awful parent. I just keep reminding myself that I just have an adventurous baby and things just happen.

So here’s another look into our life and this messy business of motherhood. No matter how crazy our life is, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

He Wasn’t a Bad Deal in Life.

When I was a little girl, I would never have guessed I’d be here.

I wanted to travel the world and had/have a huge list of places I want to explore. As I got older I realized that, you know, took money and you had to have a job to make that money. Before I knew I wanted to travel, I wanted to be a teacher; really even before I knew what that entailed. I loved knowledge and letting others know new information. In high school I wanted to teach during the year and travel during the summer. Then in college, it changed to being a travel writer. I didn’t want any strings attached to anyone and just be free. Being married and having kids was never on the top of my list. I didn’t want to be that person who never left where they grew up. Nope. That wouldn’t be me…

Obviously that’s not what happened.

Instead of moving away and being this single, empowered woman with no worries, I bought a house in my hometown and got pregnant with Jensen. With him, my view of the world changed. I wanted to be the best mom to him and I really did my very best. His death absolutely crushed me. I had never really been an optimist (for no reason really), but after I was a zombie walking around.

I became this person I didn’t recognize in the mirror. The world didn’t seem as big and bright as it did before. Everything I had ever known I distrusted. I had changed, the world had changed, and life had changed.

And honestly, who wouldn’t think that? You don’t go into a pregnancy thinking this baby that I love with every part of me is going to die and you certainly don’t walk out of an experience like that thinking everything is just good still. Excuse my language, but your child dying fucking sucks. I honestly wouldn’t wish it on any person in the entire universe. Not even the worst person. No one is deserving of that.

Losing Jensen is my first ever loss. That grief shakes me to my core and anyone who has been through losing a child only knows that pain. I can also tell you that me and any of those other moms and dads would never have taken away that time with their child. And for me, I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to the way it was before.

I wasn’t ‘dealt shitty hands in life’ by Jensen’s death, a miscarriage, or anything dealing with Mila’s ‘dad’ or that whole mess.

Do I wish I could have Jensen here with me? Absolutely. I wish with every fiber of my body that I could go into his room and just look at him sleeping. I wish I could watch him play with Mila. I wish I could be sending him to preschool this fall. I wish for all the things I’ll never have with him. If I could change anything in my life, it’d be having him right here with Mila and I.

There’s no child that’s a shitty deal. Yeah, Jensen’s death was awful, but he taught me how deeply a person can love. He taught me how I can get through anything by myself and honestly so much more that I’ve written a trillion times. I would relieve those thirty-eight weeks over and over again and still not think the life I created was shitty. My miscarriage, although tragic and still find myself processing it, was not a shitty deal. That baby gave me so much hope and that hope made me know I wanted to eventually have another child. Then there’s Mila. God, there’s no part of her that I regret. Like Jensen, she taught me how to love again and showed me how strong of a person I was. Again, like Jensen, she’s pushed from highs to lows and I will never be able to thank her for what she’s done for me. I have this vibrant little girl all to myself and if anyone thinks that’s shitty..

Maybe I’ve grown through a lot of pain in the last three-ish years, but to say I’ve been ‘dealt shitty hands in life’ is probably the most untrue statement I’ve heard about my life.

I don’t have the life I planned I would have when I was a little girl, but I think my life is better than that (don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to travel the world with Mila and write Jensen’s name wherever we go). I love where I am right now. Three years ago, other bereaved moms told me I’d never forget Jensen and I’d always grieve for him, but I would get to a place where I could smile, be happy, and not feel guilty (there’s guilty days plagued with grief still though). I remember thinking that they were nuts, but here I am. It’s not entirely Mila induced, it’s all the lessons I’ve learned and knowing the fragility of life. There’s not darkness when I think of Jensen, there’s light and love and knowing he’s rooted so deep in my heart. And yeah, there’s Mila who has this radiant smile and is so full of life. I would do everything all over again to have them both, even with the knowledge I have now.

Because I haven’t been dealt shitty hands in life. I’ve been given support (by amazing family, friends, and the loss community), independence, confidence, security, intelligence, experience, and love that I wouldn’t let anyone take away from me.

To you who thinks this of me… I’m not sorry about the hand you’ve been dealt.

Mila: 0 – Kitchen Counter: 1

***Warning- The pictures I’m going to post here are a little upsetting. There’s swelling and bruising on Mila’s face and I understand some can find them uncomfortable to see.***

I had this AMAZING idea the last week to try a new Pinterest recipe per week and share how it goes. Mila loves to watch and ‘help’ me cook, so I thought it’d be fun to do this with her too. For dinner last night, I decided to try out this kid-friendly (not spicy), Indian dish. I had everything cut, measured, and ready to go. As usual, Mila sat in her spot on the kitchen counter, which is in the corned where the countertop comes out furthest. She was pushed clear back and playing with the spice containers as I began cooking.

Everything was going normally. We do this for two meals a day since she’s been super steady. I didn’t even have a second thought when I turned around to grab the chicken from my island. When I looked at Mila, she was sitting happily. Then, literally, one second later, I turned around and heard a thump on the ground…

Instantly I knew she fell. I was scared to turn around, but I had to. She was laying there, conscious, and rolling on to her back. As soon as her eyes locked on to mine, she let out this blood curdling scream and I picked her up so fast. I went to our couch and held her close. She leaned back to look at me again and I realized she fell straight on her head; her left eyebrow in particular. It had already started swelling and was so red.

The only thing I could do in those first twenty minutes was just hold her and try to calm her down. She was scared and I’m guessing in a lot of pain. She still nurses so I offered her that and it helped a little. I could feel her sobbing in my arms and grabbed my phone to see what I should do. Family/friends messaged me back and I eventually called the nurses hotline, which they prompted me to take her to the ER to just get checked out. I did check her eyes to see if she had a concussion and after calming her down, she named who was in the pictures on the wall. This made me feel better, but seeing her eye get worse and worse I knew it was best to take her.

Thankfully my friend, Dana, was able to drive Mila and I to the hospital. I needed to sit in the back with her. One because she hates the car normally and two because I needed it for me. At the hospital, Mila wasn’t happy at all. She screamed at the nurses when they tried to get her blood pressure or if the touched her at all.

Again, I could finally get her calmed down enough and we stripped her down to her diaper. This made her happy of course, my little nudist. After throwing one more major fit when the nurse gave her Tylenol, she started playing and talking more. The same nurse who got to witness all the meltdowns gave Mila a stuffed, rainbow dog, which she LOVED. She played with the bed that reminded her of the lawn mower and reorganized some medical equipment I’m not sure she should have been playing with.

We were in the emergency room for a few hours for monitoring. The doctor was worried about a concussion, but when he observed her he realized that she was acting like a normal one year old and there was no way she’d stay still for any testing. He mentioned how he’d prefer to get an x-ray of her eyebrow bone (I’m aware that’s not the technical term, if you know it and let me know, I’ll change it on here), but told me to just keep an eye on it. She was discharged and I was given papers about head injuries, directions on how to keep the swelling down, and contact information if anything changes.

She went right to sleep on the car ride back and did well through the night. I was up for a lot of it, but wanted to make sure she was herself. I watched her facial expressions as she dreamed and there weren’t any nightmares tonight, just smiles. For that I’m so thankful.

Her face is very swollen this morning. I’ll be following her lead throughout the day and will constantly be offering snuggles. She’s so tough. I’d love to say it looks way worse than it feels, but I think she just is a little badass.

Honestly, I’m so afraid to share this with all of you. TWO DAYS IN A ROW she’s been hurt: one out of my control and the other I could have prevented. Accidents happen within seconds and they’re so unpredictable. Mila literally sits in that same place everyday and never tries to get up or if she wants to move, she tells me up. I would have NEVER thought she would try to stand up, but she did and she fell. It only took one second. I go back and think why was I so dumb? Why didn’t I just pick her up to grab what I needed? So much mom guilt and at this moment I feel like I deserve feeling like crap.

Here’s the thing, this stuff happens all the time to moms (dads and guardians too) everywhere. Kids fall, they get stung by bees, and way worse even under a watchful eye. I am so thankful nothing worse happened to Mila because it could have easily been a fall to her death. There are so many different way kids die and here I am, knowing this happens, but putting her in a situation like this. I honestly feel awful, but I know it doesn’t make me a bad mom. There’s going to be many more ER trips and thinking I could have prevented them. But things happen and that’s motherhood for me and childhood for her.

Will I ever let her sit up on the countertops without me being right in front of her? Probably not.
Am I going to forgive myself for letting this happen? Eventually.
Has it taught me that Mila is stronger than I ever imagined her to be? Hell yes.

Even though I was so scared to be judged to tell you about Mila’s fall, I think it’s important to show that motherhood’s not perfect. It’s not always how you plan it to go and bad things do happen. She’s going to be okay and will have no memory of it as she grows up. I’ll always remember this and will make me even more aware of what I do with her. Everyday I’m thankful for having her and think how much peace and happiness she’s brought me. I have no idea what I’d do without her and that’s why I feel so bad for this incident. But I already know she doesn’t think any less of me as she looks up at me (with her face half swollen) and smiles like I’m the only person in the world.

Thanks for reading and understanding everyone. I’ll still be posting a million pictures of her, like usual. Even with a puffy face, she’s the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.

Mila: 0 – Bee: 1

I had something else planned to share today, but life always has its own plan. Today was one of those scary days when a moment happens and you question everything. Our moment wasn’t that big, but it did the trick.

Mila loves to be outside. She points to our door when we’re inside to let me know she’s ready to go play. When she has to go inside, she screams until she realizes she’s not going to win. I’m so happy she loves to be outside. On the flip side, Mila is fearless. She’s not afraid of heights, animals, the water… anything. I mean, she’s a little young to know real fear, but when something hurts her or if she falls, she just keeps redoing it. It’s a little scary for me, but I like her a little wild. I don’t play into things and just let her experience what she needs to. Obviously I don’t let her get injured, you all get the gist.

Anyways, today we went to my mom and dad’s house to help maintain the pool. They have a hot tub with steps that she loves to sit on. After playing for a little while and eating her snack, she took my mom over to the steps to sit with her. As soon as she swung her legs under them, she started screaming. Not an attention scream, but a ‘I’m really hurt, help me’ one. Mom instantly picked her up, brought her to me, and said a bee stung her. This is the first time (of many that’s sure to come) that she’s been stung. I just help her close and kept reassuring myself she would be okay.

Then that little voice in my head was playing tricks on me.

What if she’s allergic? She could die if she was. What if this is the last time you get to comfort her? My mom is allergic, is anyone else she’s related to? Please don’t let her die.

I put a strong outside appearance on, but I was terrified. Immediately, we tried to get the stinger out, washed it out, put a cold compression on it, then baking powder to stop the burn. After a few minutes she calmed down and wanted to walk. Her foot was bright red and swelled right up, but the swelling stopped at her ankle and she’s been fine since. My mom joked and said handled it better than she did, I can agree with that.

Now that she’s fine and I can take a deep breath, I realize how scary that was for me. I kept thinking about the movie “My Girl” and was so upset. Thoughts about what I’d do if Mila died went through my head.

Sometimes I wonder if these are just normal, mom thoughts. She’s my first living child and I know there’s a lot of worry with that. Then I think life is fragile and it sometimes ends just like that. I’ve been there. I lived that. That’s one of the lessons from Jensen dying that I’ve embraced. We make each day special because it could all just be done in an instant. I recognize this and I realize it’s okay to be scared when these things happen. Being scared to lose her isn’t so unbelievable for me, but I hope one day I don’t instantly have those thoughts.

So today the bee got Mila, but she took it with grace. I’m also proud of myself in how I was able to handle my thoughts and mothering her. Losing Jensen will always play into how I parent Mila and I think it’s made me an even better mom.

—————————————————————

Since it’s her first bee sting and I was paranoid the swelling would get worse, we took pictures of her foot. Her little foot was so hot, red, and swollen. Here’s a visual. It might make me look like I overreacted, but who cares.

Her little toes which are normally pretty skinny got so big. They’ll be normal by tomorrow. Thank goodness she can walk normally. She’s freak if she couldn’t run wild. Again, swelling has stopped and I’ve been putting wet baking powder on there to stop itching. If you have any other suggestions, let me know.

Distractions.

My body knows April is approaching.

Honestly, it’s like I have this internal clock that just relives these last weeks I had with Jensen. They’re all happy memories, but the build up to the big day is still so dreadful. It feels like something else bad is going to happen or my body and mind dealt with the worst trauma during this time that triggers everything to be… weird.

I can remember in the early days, I always heard how everything would be better with time. A part of me wanted to believe it. How could someone live with that intense of grief for their entire life? Another part of me thought it’d be awful to lose that connection with Jensen. It’s not that I wanted to be a zombie like I was, but I didn’t want to let go of any of the pain. So, where are we almost three years out? It’s not better. It’s different, but not less. I wonder what he’d be doing or looking like everyday. It’s hard when people ask me if Mila has siblings and I’m unsure if I want to see the look of horror on their face or not. Losing a child isn’t just a thing that happened in someone’s life, they carry it with them everywhere they go.

Lately, I haven’t been sleeping. It’s sort of a new March tradition in my life. Near his first birthday, I had a lot of nightmares. I don’t remember if I wrote about any of them here, but they still haunt me. I’d wake up in a cold sweat and would just not go back to sleep. I haven’t had a nightmare about Jensen since then, but they were awful. It had to be a mix of not knowing what to expect on his big day and just the fear of time moving on. Then last year, when I was pregnant with Mila, I didn’t sleep for like an entire month. I would only get like two to four hours a day. I was processing another year without Jensen and trying to manage my grief with this new life inside me. Then I was in constant fear of her dying. I kept reliving how it felt when he died in my stomach. Anytime I felt like she had gone limp (she was probably sleeping), I’d nudge her and just tell her to move so I could relax for five minutes. I hope she never has to feel that panic or fear in her life.

Somehow now I’m three years out and still not able to sleep. It’s almost one now and Mila’s fast asleep beside me as I type away. Since last week, I felt myself staying up longer and waking up through the night. I think deep down I’m terrified of those nightmares coming back. It’s been two years since I had them and I can still see them play out. I’m also trying to be so positive with her first birthday coming up. She deserves a happy mom and I am a good majority of the time. I just hate knowing my child died and there are days when her smiling face doesn’t even put a dent in how badly that hurts. It’s a terrible feeling and makes me feel like a bad mom to them both.

Now that I think of it, it’s not like I’ve been physically tired during this time when I haven’t slept. My body just turns on autopilot and does what it needs to. If only I could figure out how to do that with my thoughts.

Anyways, I wanted to write today because noticing the lack of sleep and realizing I was distracting myself from thoughts made me realize this is how my depression/grief plays out. Every year, it’s the same. The only outlet I’ve had is this right here. Instead of making something for Mila’s party tonight, I’ve been trying to connect and do what’s best for my mental health… easier said than done.

I don’t know about other loss parents, but finding an outlet and some healthy distractions have helped get from day to day. Writing has always helped me. That’s why I have a stack of journals beside my bed and I’m writing now. When I heard that Jeremy Richman, a dad who lost his daughter, Avielle, in the Sandy Hook school shootings, committed suicide this morning, I just felt it. It being his pain and just feeling out of control. I feel for his wife and other child. My friend, Amber, actually told me about what happened and to check out his haikus too. I read through all the ones he had pictures for and they just echoed through me. Like, how many people just suffer and feel like they’re losing grasp of it? I mean, I do. If I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be awake right now and distracting myself even further from going to bed…

There were three that stuck out to me the most, you can find all of them on his Facebook page, here. I’m going to copy and paste his words. I didn’t know this person, but I don’t think he’d mind if I shared his words on here (mostly because they were public on his page, but I think he’d like to know his thoughts really made an impact on someone who is also grieving).


Untitled on July 4, 2014

Miss my hummingbird

She is everywhere I look

But nowhere I am

Untitled on August 22, 2014

The mirror reflects

A face I don’t recognize

Have you seen my ghost?

Untitled on August 29, 2014

Another first day

Lost in empty yellow space

Haunted by echos


Since Jensen’s been born, I’ve always said I wish I could live on an island with a community of people who’ve lost a child. Everyone would understand. There would be someone to always listen if you needed and if you were having days like the ones I’m having, they’d be patient and help you get to the next day. I know that’s impossible. Maybe this online community is our virtual island where we get to do our best from afar.

And maybe, I’m just distracting myself from feeling what I need to feel and giving my body the rest it deserves.

Mila reading her big brother’s book. She helps heal me in more ways than she’ll ever understand.

3.21.2019

There were a lot of world and national “holidays” that were recognized today. Of course today was 3.21.2019, which is World Down Syndrome Day. If you’re not familiar with Jensen’s story, after his anatomy scan, they told us he would have Down syndrome. This day took on a different meaning for me. Every year, I rock my socks with Jensen bear and now with Mila too (I posted a picture of all of us on Instagram, which is hilarious because Mila kept ripping Jensen bear’s socks off). It’s another thing that Jensen has brought to our little family that I’ll definitely continue doing with Mila. I’d like her to learn all about Jensen AND appreciate the fact that every single person is different in the world. Instead of looking at these differences like they’re bad, we should honor and celebrate them.

Although I knew one of today’s celebration, I learned another too. It’s National Single Parent’s Day. I didn’t really think much of it after I first heard, then it made me really think. Everyday, it’s just Mila and I. Yes, we have an awesome family and Jensen always in our hearts, but I’m her one and only.

I haven’t really thought about how it’s just me for a long time. In the beginning, Mila cried constantly and I would think how badly I needed a break or just a second to take a breath. Parenting after loss and being a new mom was difficult for those first few months. Then there’s times I wish I could share her new things she does or all the pictures I take with someone. I didn’t plan everything that I’ve been through in this crazy life, but especially not this.

Tonight when I was giving Mila a bath, I really needed to use the restroom (TMI, sorry). I tried to wait till she was done playing in the water, but I couldn’t. It was so fun watching her splash and I didn’t want to end her fun. Weirdly, after knowing that there was this day for single parents, I was almost hyperaware of what our normal. I thought, if someone was here during this, she wouldn’t have to stop her fun because of me. It’s not disappointing to think about, but it’s almost like I think she’s missing out. Anyways, I wrap her up, but her in the bathroom sink and everything is normal. I could tell she wanted to go back in the bath and play, so I did something different. Instead of waiting to take a shower after she went to sleep, I just brought her in with me. Something that I couldn’t do before, I was able to now. And let me tell you, in that exact moment, I was so glad no one was here with me.

I got to hold her and really look at her discover something new. She liked how each bottle made different noises and how the water felt on her arm. When she saw me wash my hair, she wanted to help out. It was a whole new adventure for her to be in there with me and it was just as new for me too. I got to see how the water droplets hit and stayed on her face. Then after I would try to wipe them off, she’d stick her face right back in it. When she was experimenting with the noises, I really got to stare her eyes. Who knew trying to really look at your kid’s eyes would be so hard, but I finally got to really look at them. A light brown on the inside then darken up to a deep blue ring on the outside.

And to think I would have never gotten those moments with her if things weren’t different. It also makes me wonder how I missed moments like these with Jensen, so getting them with her is just extra special.

After our shower, I got her in her jammies and read the same book twenty-five times. We crawled into bed after all the reading was done. I laid there, playing with her hair and just reflected on everything that her and I have: a house that we love and is perfect for us, food that I love making for her, a comfy bed, Jensen watching over us, a family who loves us, and most importantly each other. I love where we are in life, even the hard moments.

I’m unsure what the future holds, but I do know we’re going to be perfectly fine. Being a parent no matter if you have a partner or not is full of ups and downs, but so worth it. Everyday I just look at her and am so happy she’s physically here with me because I live the other part of my motherhood not being able to see my son grow. Jensen taught me to never wish a moment away and it really prepared me for Mila. I’m so thankful for all the responsibility I have in raising her. Yes, it means less sleep, less time to myself, less (sometimes) sanity. It also means, I get to feel and have all the pride, all the time, and all the love.

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