This is Two.

Mila turned two yesterday! Celebrating during a pandemic was something I’d never even thought would happen. She didn’t miss a beat though! When we first woke up, I sung happy birthday to her and the rest of the morning she danced and sang. During breakfast, she requested to watch ‘Anna,’ which is Frozen. It was such a fun morning, I’ll never forget it.

I will say, it seems like between Monday night and Tuesday morning, Mila learned a bunch of new phrases and words. It seems silly, but it’s like as soon as she turned two she jumped further into toddlerhood. I know she’s been expanding her vocabulary, but it felt like a huge leap! She’s been saying, ‘what the heck’ and ‘what happened’ over and over.

Anyways, we ended up doing a little photoshoot. If you don’t follow me on other social media, we celebrated with ‘Taco Twosday.’ Our little setup was fiesta inspired and even had a homage to the coronavirus. It was funny and made me laugh. Mila looked so cute. She was supposed to wear a little sombrero, but REFUSED to keep it on. There were so many cute pictures and I’m glad, now, we took them.

Let me tell you… anything with patience and staying still is not Mila’s forte. She is a runner and moves constantly. It was a workout to get the pictures I did. Midway through, she had a completely toddler tantrum to the point I made her lay down to take a break. That break turned into a two hour nap. BUT, I loved the pictures we got and the memories we made. Two can be difficult. Lots of emotions and things going on in her head!

Afterwards, we had a little fiesta at my parents house. My dad and Mila share their birthday. I remember when I was in labor, he was hoping they’d have the same birthday and said it was the best gift. Its heartwarming to me that they have this bond.

Mila is obsessed with blowing out candles and made us relight them two or three times. I made her cake and my mom made my dads. Obviously you can see the little finger swipes in Mila’s cake. I wish I could’ve heard her thoughts because she thought it was amazing she had her own cake.

After dinner, cake, and presents, we had gotten a piñata for her to hit. It was pure comedy. She had a piñata stick and everything. For some reason, she was in this hunter/spear fisher pose to hit it. (I’ll post one of the videos) Honestly, I want to go get another piñata for her to just take her aggression out. We let her play with it for like fifteen minutes until we broke it. She would’ve easily played with it for a lot longer! Just a little heads up if you’re looking for something for your toddler to do. Would not recommend keeping the stick in reach, since she chased me around the house with it today.

I won’t go on forever about the day, but I truly was so special. There are times parenting is so hard and days like this make all those moments seem so not important. Seeing her smile and just be happy is unexplainable.

It’s hard to believe she is two, but it’s here. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for her.

Yesterday while she napped, I wrote this…

This is TWO.

This is pure madness at every corner. This is growing. This is having fun. This is pushing the limits. This is her becoming the person she is meant to be.

Her two doesn’t look like anyone else’s two and I’m so happy for that. No matter where this next year takes us, I know she’ll blossom in all she does.

FOUR.

Jensen is officially four years old.

Four years of loving, grieving, and learning who I am post-loss. It’s also four years of wondering what he would be like through every stage and how amazing of a big brother he’d be. I wonder about small details like his smile, the sound of his voice, and how deeply I could look into his eyes. Of course, I wonder about the big things too. Every day I think about him and what we’d all be doing. I don’t think that’ll ever change.

This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.

Instead of being sad, I just got angry.

Maybe it’s a mix of what’s happening in the world and just the constant realization he’ll never be here… or maybe it’s because it’s just sad and hard. We’re not supposed to talk about how angry we get. Anger is such an ugly emotion. It can show the worst in a person and it’s hard to control. Usually, it’s reactive and not the deeper emotion, but it’s hard to let go once you have a hold on it. I’d go through bits of being angry and then weeping. Honestly, I just miss him and I think my brain didn’t know how to cope with grief this year. This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.

I’m scared about going into year five. It’s insane to think that it’ll be half a decade since he’s been born. Before I started writing this post, I wrote my annual letter to Jensen. While writing, I kept remembering the last time I felt him; to the point where I felt like a residual movement in my body. I wondered when they would go away and realized I wanted to keep that feeling forever. It’s hard to think one day I’ll lose that and I don’t want to lose any more of him.

The day did lighten up a bit as it went on. We had cake and sang to Jensen. That made me so happy. When I get to hear and say his name out loud, my heart feels at peace.

So, a little fun fact. On Jensen’s first birthday, I baked him a cake from scratch. It was cute. All blue and two or three-tiered and I tried so so hard. Honestly, it wasn’t the best tasting cake, but I loved that I made it for him. For the last two years, I’ve bought a cake for his little party. They’ve been much tastier and better looking, to be honest.

Well, this year, with COVID, I decided to make another cake for Jensen. I could’ve ordered one or whatever, but I’m glad I didn’t because I needed the space to create instead of being mad. This time, I had the help with a box cake but spiced it up a little bit. I put chocolate chips in the batter and decided to use fresh strawberries in between the layers and on top of the cake. Well, I didn’t have my two circle cake pans and had to use a rectangle one. I planned to cut it in half to make two layers… it crumbled while I was getting it out of the pan. The horror right?

I made it work. It might not have been the prettiest cake… but it tasted AMAZING. I feel like I redeemed myself from year one and that Jensen would have approved of all the chocolate. Mila sure did.

I’m happy I could celebrate Jensen and his life.

Four whole years of loving this amazing little boy who never ceases to amaze me. I wish he was here every day and in so many ways he is. This year of grief is going to be different than in previous years. I don’t know this part of my journey. It feels like a new ‘step’ or part that I’ve not encountered before. Maybe shock has finally worn off? Or reality has cemented in? Grief is so hard to explain, especially with it being different for everyone.

I just know I’m trying my best to be a good mom to Jensen and Mila. I know how much I love them both and miss my little man. I’m ready to evolve and have Jensen guide me through this next stage.

He’s always right here with me.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Jensen! You are so very loved and missed. Thank you for always being the light in my life.

In the Ashes of September.

I’ve never been one to wish away time.

Even when I was super pregnant with Jensen and my feet were so swollen. I happily waddled around and was so blissfully happy that everything seemed so perfect. Honestly, I didn’t even have a countdown for his arrival. His due date, April seventeenth, was always in the back of my mind, but each day was so special with him.

For the first time in my life, I wished time away. I wished September would have ended two weeks ago. It’s been a month full of pain and change. There were many days I just sat and thought of loss and death. I’ve had my darkest thoughts this past month; times I wanted to literally rip the skin off my body to feel some relief. Tears fell so freely and there were only bits of relief. As bad as this month was, no month, from forever on, will ever compare to April, but this September comes in second.

At the beginning of the month, I posted a blog: The Promise of September. I wish I would have listened to my gut instincts that I had on that day. The words I wrote even doubted good things to come. They were full of fear for the future. It’s like I knew deep down that this month would be another month that would change my life, just in all the ways I never thought.

“The promise of change scares the living hell out of me.”

Those words are ringing in my ear. September kept its promise of change and I’ve felt that living hell each day.

But I’m going to let you all in on a secret, no matter what happens to me in the months to come, nothing will compare to the pain of losing Jensen. I am a survivor. No matter how hard it is to be left or hurt or beat down, if my heart can still beat after Jensen’s stopped, I can take everything else. Death has creeped inside of me and stolen away the one person who I would have given the whole entire world. If I could survive that, I can survive whatever else this cruel life has to throw at me.

Once another beautiful mother told me, us loss mommas were like phoenixes. I might have posted about this before, but it holds true during these bad days and months. My soul and insides have caught on fire and burned out, just leaving ashes behind. But I’m rising from those ashes. For Jensen, for me, and for our story, I will rise and wish away the remaining hours of September to be stronger for October.

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Just another reminder that tomorrow is the beginning of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month! I will be posting every single day with the prompts from Capture Your Grief. Hopefully, you all can follow along and share your stories as well.

 

The Greatest Gift.

If I could ask for anything for my birthday, and every single day, I’d ask for you.

For my birthday, I wish I could be counting your toes. I wish I could have taught you how to walk and then I’d see your footprints all the time. I’d have to wipe them up each day, but every night they’d grow just a little big bigger. In this lifetime, your feet will forever be this big. Even though they were just little, baby feet you continue to leave a huge footprint on my life and this earth.

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This is one of my favorite pictures of your perfect feet. Your ten little toes, that look just like mine. All those perfect creases make such a unique print. Every single part of you as beautiful as the last. I’ll forever be longing to see you using these perfect pair of feet. You are the greatest gift I’ve ever had.

Jensen Grey, I’m wishing for you today and all the days of my life.

To Danielle at Twenty-Two.

Happy twenty-second birthday. This birthday will bring you joy and hope for the future. It will be busy going to a football game, spending time with your most loved ones, and choosing baby names. Today you found out you are carrying the most precious gift in the whole entire universe. At that second it turned positive, you knew this year for you would be completely different from any before. You would start counting down the days to important pregnancy milestones and planning for the rest of your life. Soak in this happiness, this will be your last birthday that you will be able to freely smile with meaning.

This year you will grow and not just your belly getting bigger and bigger. Your love will grow and be greater than anything you thought was possible. The pride you have for you family and son will burst from the seams. There will be a light in your life that grows with every single beat of Jensen’s heart. He will grow and as you watch him dance across that screen, your smile will grow at each visit. Your little house will have a ceiling and walls up, even a nursery. Instead of your mind focusing in on a single person’s house, it will grow suitable for a small family. Everything around you will be nurtured for the future you came up with, as you woke up on your twenty-second birthday.

November will be the happiest month of your year. You find out the little baby in your belly is a boy, your Jensen. He sits there just like Dad does on the couch. He isn’t shy about being a boy and you’ll soon find out he cooperates for everyone when you ask him to. Even when he’s being the most stubborn little boy for the nurses, when you ask him to move he does. The love you have for each other is unbreakable. You find out his heart is strong and he has hair; the only two things you asked for when you found out you were going to have a baby. Even though you didn’t think you would see Jensen twice a week while you were pregnant, you will be so thankful for that time with him.

There will be so much happiness and love in this year, you will be on the greatest high in your life. Collect those moments as they come and never let them go. You will have bumps while you’re pregnant that you’ll never think you can get over. They are not important. You would’ve got through the, but you didn’t think anything worse could happen. You could never have imagined the alternative. Instead of listening to almost everyone around you, you’ll fight for Jensen. Just as any mother would. No matter the challenges placed in front of you, you will always do what’s best for Jensen and you.

Then comes April. At this point in the year, it’s gone so perfectly. You will be so ready for his arrival, just getting a few more things the weekend before. In the second day of this month, you will joke how you feel like Jensen won’t wait to come out for very much longer. You will be surrounded by Anthony and your family. Love will pour in that weekend. Everything will feel just like it has, until you walk in the doctor’s office on Monday, April the fourth. This is when everything changes. The joy and happiness that you felt on your birthday, this day one year ago, will vanish. Your hopes and dreams will go away and you have to say goodbye to the one, little person that brought you so much light.

On April fifth he is born. You find out he did in fact have hair, looked exactly like you, and never once brought you pain. He’s a perfect baby at seven pounds one ounce and nineteen and three-quarter inches long. All ten fingers and all ten toes are there for you to count. His big cheeks and button nose would have scrunched up to boast a big smile. You made him with love and he looked so peaceful. The day will be static, even as your twenty-third birthday comes. I can’t tell you when that day comes back clear. It hasn’t yet, there’s a chance it never will.

I’ll be honest with you, Danielle. The days, weeks, and months that follow his birth are hard. You’ll plan your son’s funeral, tears come more freely than smiles, and the light is impossible to see. It will hurt to breathe and nothing will scare you anymore. I wish you never had to meet death this year. This isn’t what you wished for as you blew out the candle on top of your sundae. You’ll wish to go back in time, something you never did before. Depression will creep up, self-doubt will happen, and all you will be able to do is survive. There will be people who don’t understand this and you’ll feel alone. A loneliness and emptiness will eat away at your everyday. There will be darkness.

Somehow, you will keep surviving.

Jensen, even in death, is your light. He and all the memories you have with him will keep you going. There’s not a lot of smiles in the last few months of your twenty-second year, but when you do, it’s when you remember him. Many will tell you to find some light in your life and somedays it’s just a flicker. Jensen’s light is so strong, but sometimes grief is pitch black. When you feel like giving up, search deep down. You’ll see his light. No matter how pitch black it is, Jensen’s light never goes out. He never hurt you when he was here and he would never leave you in the dark.

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I want you to know that grief does not get lighter, we become stronger. This pain and darkness does not go away. You just learn how to live with it. There will always be an absence in your life, but his presence was so great. Through this year, soak up all the light and happiness you can. Even now, as this year is coming to its close, I would never wish it away. I would never want to forget all this love and each day Jensen was with us. I can say that even through this darkness and pain.

This year you will become a mother of all mothers. One who does not hold her son in her arms, but in her heart. Forever.

Love,

Danielle at almost twenty-three.

Grandma’s Belated Birthday.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved birthdays.

My favorite birthday in the whole entire world was when I turned twenty-two and the day I found out I was going to have my little Jensen. We went to the Steelers game and talked about our new secret. Anthony and I laughed and smiled, came up with Jensen’s name, and fully jumped into the idea of our new life. All I wished for was a happy little baby and for our little family to have a bright and happy future.

My least favorite birthday I’ve celebrated was my dad’s last birthday. I know that sounds horrible; it was nine days after Jensen was born so silently into this world. How could I be happy for a birthday? Someone else being able to be another year older, when I was angry Jensen couldn’t be another second older. It was a hard day, but my dad is such a trooper to understand my sadness on his day.

Then yesterday came, May Nineteenth. It’s one of my favorite person’s birthday: my beautiful mother’s. I woke up crying, it was going to be a bad day. A day where I know Jensen would have brought so many smiles to his family, especially his grandma. It hurt all throughout the day. Her smile brightened up the room when I walked in with her big gift bag. She showed me her roses my dad bought her. When she opened her present and read her card signed from Jensen and I, I knew she sensed my sadness. Her smile faded to a frown as she looked to my face. As she came over for what I thought was a thank you hug, became a comforting one.  She’s such a strong mom and grandma.

That moment made me remember the day I told my mom she was going to be a grandma. I was so afraid to tell her. She was asking me every single day if I was going to have a baby, but I just kept telling her not to worry about me and that I would tell her. I finally broke down on September 17 and sent her the ultrasound picture via text. Yes I know, how silly to tell someone they are going to be a grandma.

Then she said the best thing: “This baby is such a happy surprise. You will be a great mother.”

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This is my mom’s favorite picture of our family. She has it on her phone and I gifted it to her in a frame for Christmas from Jensen and I. We have it up in our bookcase. Our happiness from the before shines down on us everyday. I love the before, I loved the during, and I love how strong we are growing.

Although a day late (online), Happy Birthday to my beautiful mother. I know how vibrant I usually am on days like yesterday, I just wish my little love was here to celebrate with us. He always loved hearing your voice.

I know Jensen smiles down on you every single day.