Conscious Gratitude.

 

I’m still reeling over last night’s Wave of Light.

As we all know, yesterday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and the annual Wave of Light in all timezones at 7pm. Throughout the day, I saw the light beginning and spreading across the world on social media. When it was our time in Ohio (Eastern Standard Time), my newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram was flooded with pictures of candles from bereaved parents and support people!

Our children made their mark last night and their light shined so bright. I believe we raised awareness while celebrating our babies’ lives. It was truly beautiful.

Today’s Capture Your Grief prompt is all about gratitude. Last year, I wrote about the people I was grateful for that supported me and others who did not. Each experience had brought me to that moment and I was proud in who I was becoming. This year, I could go on and talk about my ever-growing support system. I am consciously grateful for them, but I wanted to talk more about yesterday.

I want to share with you all some pictures I received that honored Jensen and Huxley. Each message and picture I was constantly grateful. As I said in an earlier prompt, the power of their names is so strong. I am grateful for those who remember and aren’t afraid to grieve and celebrate with me. Last night, I truly felt lifted by those around me and I hope I was able to do the same for others.

For you reading this post, whether its your first one or hundredth, thank you. Your support keeps motivating me to share their stories and say their names. It keeps their memory alive. I am so grateful for that.

Advertisements

Secret Acts of Kindness.


I never knew the power of a name before I had Jensen.

There came a time in my early grief where the people around me stopped saying his name on a daily basis. This just happens, I understand that now and don’t hold any anger towards them. Yet, I longed to hear his name and talk about him as much as I could. I would say it out loud to myself whenever I could and filled my house with it and J’s. During this time and even now, I want to be surrounded by him because I miss him and he should be here. Still, I felt like I needed to share his story, say his name, and remember him with others who understood what losing a child felt like.

Finding the baby loss community so early in my grief has helped me heal and know I’m not alone. I remember not even a month into my grief, I was sitting on the couch, and watching Carly Marie write names on Christian’s Beach. Each time she wrote a baby’s name, I felt the mother and father’s name. As I saw others write their child’s name in the comments, I wanted to do the same and see his name clear on the other side of the world. So I did and within a few moments, there she started his cursive J. My heart felt easy, which was a crazy juxtaposition to how I felt beforehand. Then the waves, trickled up, and washed away his name. He and his memory was forever on that beach and then in the ocean.

I didn’t think of it as an act of kindness in that moment. It was a gift. One that I needed, but didn’t know I did.

Since then, members of this community and even those who are not, have sent me secret acts of kindness: his name. I have hundreds of pictures of Jensen travels from around the world. For his birthday, I even made a scrapbook of them. Seeing and hearing his name are the greatest gifts I can ask for post-loss. Just recieving a text from a friend saying they’re thinking of Jensen can completely turn my day around.

This is a gift, an act of kindness, you can easily give to your friend, family member, or someone you know who has experienced loss. As a loss mom, I’m thankful to have been able to help other moms by making name wreaths and writing their child’s name on the beach. We all need support and sometimes it’s as simple as knowing the power of a name.


Thank you Avery’s mom, Tara from Avery’s Garden, for including Jensen in your Leaves of Love Tree for your Wave of Light project. You do so many beautiful projects for our community, I’m thankful to know you and Avery.

A Day to Shine. 

His light guides me everyday like a lighthouse guides boats into shore. Whenever I’m in the dark, I wonder what he would want me to do and an answer always comes. 

Yesterday I wasn’t able to post for Capture Your Grief. My mother was released from the hospital and I was able to get her settled back home. It has been a tiring four days. It’s taught me lessons I didn’t know existed and calmed worries I thought I would have forever. I honestly thought for the rest of my life if someone was in the hospital for a dire reason, they would die. That’s my past experience. Although my mom was/is in pain, she’s here. I’m so thankful for that. 

During our stay, Jensen did really shine. I wore my pregnancy and infant loss awareness pin and people were asking what it represented. There was also a ton of comments on his footprint tattoo. I felt so proud to tell anyone who asked about him and felt like I was the lighthouse opening up the conversation on his life and this month. 

Jensen will always shine. 

This prompt has also got me thinking towards the Wave of Light happening on Sunday. Last year I felt so connected to the community and throughout the world. It lets all our babies shine collectively. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be doing. There’s an event in Ohio that I’m thinking about driving to, but it depends on how my mom feels. I might also be speaking on Still Standing’s Facebook page, I’ll make sure to share if I do. If you’re unaware of what the Wave of Light is, in short, it’s on October 15 and whatever your time zone is, you light a candle for your baby/ies at 7pm. There will be a continuous wave of light light that spreads across the world as a result. Make sure to share your pictures on social media. 

Also, a big thanks to Kerstin, Mathilda’s mom, for creating this beautiful graphic for Jensen and I. This community constantly warms my heart and gives me hope. 

Life is Short. 


For some, it’s much shorter than others. 

Jensen lived thirty-eight glorious weeks. In his lifetime all he knew was love, warmth, and the sound of his mommy’s voice. He danced to Usher and posed for ultrasound pictures. Everyday, he was told how loved and wanted he was. In that time, he grew to be seven pounds, one ounce and nineteen and three quarter inches long. His blond hair was curly and he had ten perfect finger and ten little toes. 

His life was short, but so very beautiful. 

Unfortunately, I found life can be even shorter than thirty-eight weeks, some babies pass much earlier. Ten weeks was never enough with Hux, but it was his and was so full. 

It’s been twenty-four years, one month, and some odd days that I’ve been born. In this time I outlived my child. Their have been lifetimes lived within my belly and I can feel them with every step I take. Sometimes it feels like I have lived a thousand years and other days like I’ve barely made my mark. I get down on myself, constantly, but I think of the life I grew inside me and how he would want me to be happy. 

Life is short. 

I could wake up tomorrow and be gone. We don’t know our destinies or ever predict when we’re going to die. A lot of us know this firsthand, when we learned of our children’s death. Everyday I try to make it a great day and do my best. Whether it’s advocating for baby loss, bettering my future, or taking steps for Jensen, I’m living my life because I know how precious it is. 

A Space Reimagined. 

There were only two places Jensen’s body was housed after he was born. One was the funeral home and the other is the wing of the hospital pictured above. Every time I drive past the funeral home, my stomach flip flops. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to go back in there without the waves of memory hitting me in the face. That’s how I thought my visits to this hospital would turn out too. 

When I was bleeding at ten weeks pregnant this summer, we went to this ER. I was terrified to get bad news and couldn’t believe it when I did. Then a few days later, I had my D&C. I had left without my babies in this hospital, twice. 

I have yet to return to the labor and delivery wing. There are so many memories from the day Jensen was born there that I’ve revisited over and over. They’re hard. I’m terrified to go back and see those same sights or maybe to see a happy experience knowing mine was everything but. After my D&C, I promised myself I wouldn’t come back here unless it was an emergency or if I was ever lucky enough to have another child. 

It’s only been four months since my surgery and on this Tuesday, I got a call that was completely unexpected. 

My mom had to get emergency surgery today. 

Her room’s window faces the labor and delivery wing. I’ve faced it head on and know exactly what room I had Jensen in. Facing that place felt like the scariest thing I could handle today, but it wasn’t. When I had Jensen, although I felt completely hopeless, I was in control of my breathing and physical pain. I’ve never thought of how it would feel to be my mom or dad watching me go through labor knowing Jensen was already gone. Today I know how it feels to be helpless when someone is in pain. 

This hospital was a space reimagined in these moments. The wing that holds my nightmares is just a part of the hospital today. I’ve stared at it and waited for those memories, but the intense feeling of wanting to help my mom not feel pain overrides my fear. Plus, I know Jensen knows his way back here. I feel him and people have mentioned his footprint on me. That’s my sign that she’s going to be alright. 

A place where I have so fear for has shifted in helping heal my mother and I hope it’s much sooner than later. 

Clear + Let Go. 

I didn’t deserve him. My body failed him. I am alone. Love didn’t save him. I’m not enough.

These thoughts have crossed my mind more than a few times during the last eighteen months. They lead to self-doubt about my motherhood and grief journey. I wonder what Jensen would tell me if he knew I had these thoughts. What would I tell my mother if she had said these things to me?

When I saw today’s Capture Your Grief prompt, I wondered what I needed to let go? My space, my home, is pretty much where I need it to be. I don’t feel cluttered here. Yet, sometimes I feel trapped. I remembered this weekend and feeling anxious on the day of the walk. There were times Saturday where I felt all of those statements. That’s when I knew my mind needed to let go of the negative and clear space for the positive.

Today I held a little cleansing fire, on my dining room table. It’s raining out so it really wouldn’t have worked out there. I took the risk. On a piece of paper, I wrote down every negative thought that came to mind about me, my motherhood, and this grief journey. It was a longer list than I wanted.

I read them all, out loud. Each word stung and my tears felt cold on my cheek. It felt like I needed to feel what I thought they meant; yet they felt strange as I heard them. I crumbled the paper up as forcefully as I could then put it in my makeshift fire pit. Then I lit my match, watched the fire take over the words, and the smoke cleared them out. As I watched the paper burn, I felt those words leave my head. I was able to clear and let go.

I did deserve him. My body didn’t fail, it grew a perfect little boy for thirty-eight weeks. I’m never alone. Love keeps his memory alive. I am more than enough. 


Although I wouldn’t suggest doing a fire cleanse on your dining room table, the fire is such a healing element. Every few months I have a fire in my backyard and burn letters to Jensen so the smoke delivers it to him. I would suggest anyone to try doing this, it has felt like a weight has been lifted since I did this morning.

Tribe Circle. 

Technically today’s Capture Your Grief prompt is ‘Sunday Tribe Circle,’ but my Sunday has revolved around self reflection, healing, and resting. This is because yesterday was all about my tribe circle at one of the annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness walks I go to. 

If you’ve never been to an awareness walk like this, it’s full of conflicting emotions. You’re surrounded by a ton of people who have had similar experiences to you. The room is full with bereaved parents and their support people. In this journey, it’s hard to feel like you belong anywhere or that you’re the only person who’s walking this path. At events and walks like these, you realize you’re not alone at all. On the other hand, it’s devastating. When I arrived yesterday, the line to just get registered was SO long that they had to have two separate ones. It dawns on me that each person has felt this immense loss. All that pain. Yet, somehow they’re able to keep living and moving forward with their child always in their hearts. 

To mark our second year of walking for Jensen, I made another pin. Last year’s was the ‘J’ button with all his colors. This year’s was my meaningful mantra, greatness starts here. (Both pictured above.) It’s a way I can share a little about Jensen with someone just looking at me and the pins. I think it’s also nice for people to see where I am in my grief journey and maybe it will help them out. 


Through my journey, my tribe circle has gotten larger. The group walking for Jensen this year all dawned his mantra ans have helped me heal with each step of my journey. Not only do I have the support of my family and friends, my tribe circle continues online through Facebook and Instagram. Most of these women and men, I would never have met if our children didn’t die. We were complete strangers, but have learned to lean on each other because we all understand. Awhile I go, I posted a graphic that said, ‘find your tribe, love them hard.’ Sometimes I don’t know where I’d be without my support system. It makes me think of all the mothers in the past who were silenced and didn’t know who to turn to. Projects like Capture Your Grief and so many others help the bereaved across the world not be silenced like those before us. 

During the walk yesterday, I was hot and wanted to complain about it feeling like it was constantly uphill. Then I saw all the children walking for their brothers, sisters, cousins, aunt, and uncles and I realized I’m walking for Jensen and the steps he’ll never take. We’re so lucky to be living, even when life and losing our children feels like anything but luck. So, I carried on with Jensen forever being held in my heart. 

When we arrived back to our starting place, we were prompted to take balloons to release to the heavens. I love balloon releases. They are so relaxing and feels like a little part of my grief and sadness is being lifted. It’s such a beautiful sight too. Blue, pink, and white flooded the skies; each representing a child the releaser was walking for. This also visually represents the tribe circle the bereaved community has. We all walk and advocate from our different experiences, but for the same cause and love. 

Meaningful Mantra. 

I’ll never forget the day his heart stopped being and my continued. 

After we heard the news, we rushed to the hospital. We weren’t in my car with the neatly packed diaper bag or the black and white striped car seat. All I had was the clothes on my back and my son still in my belly. I had to call my mom to tell her the news and to tell her she needed to get me some clothes. She asked what I needed for Jensen, I told her his coming home outfit was in my car, so he needed clothes. 

I gave her the task to pick out his first and last outfit. What a harrowing one it was. 

They told me what he was wearing, but I didn’t see him in it until a couple months later. He was absolutely perfect from the strands of his hair to the tips of his toes. Something else struck me too: the saying on his shirt. 

Greatness starts here. 

When I feel overwhelmed in my grief, I remember this. Greatness did begin with Jensen and it hasn’t ceased. It is within me and I have the choice whether grief or greatness wins. 

Death didn’t take away Jensen’s greatness; nothing will ever be able to. This mantra has gotten me through some of my darkest times and I know Jensen would want me to always believe in it too. 

What I Wish Society Knew About Stillbirth.


A couple days ago I found this prompt on Pregnancy Loss Journey‘s Instagram account. Instantly, I was flooded with reactive thoughts, but thought I would think about it more in depth. Since then, I’ve encountered a very uncomfortable conversation that left me emotionally distraught and the fact that I’m coming up on a HUGE milestone day for Jensen.

Since I knew I wanted to respond before Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I’ve narrowed it down to five things.

Grief doesn’t magically end or subside with time.

Long ago and still to this day, some person or group decided there was an appropriate length of time a person should grieve for their child or for any person. Whether this be in the short three to five day grievance time employers let employees take off or as long as one year. In the early days, I remember being told grieving will pass in a year and you’ll start to feel normal again.

This is a lie.

At least it is in my situation. I’m about a year and half out from losing my first born and I still cry almost everyday. His absence in my house is felt in the bones of my house. He is constantly missing from my day-to-day life and big family get-togethers. The grief of losing a child never ends. I will carry losing Jensen till the day I die. What I wish society would know is that it does change in time. It might seem like a person is doing better or smiling more, but that doesn’t mean they stopped grieving the loss of their child.

Another child wouldn’t erase the pain from loss.

Stillbirth is defined as a loss after twenty weeks gestation, in the United States. I had Jensen at thirty-eight weeks pregnant. He was full term and everything was ready for him to come home. That was his entire lifetime, just as it is for any child who was stillborn. During the time a mother (and father) has with their child, they plan and dream of years beyond the present. They don’t just see this baby as a baby, but a person who they will raise and help achieve all their dreams. When that child dies, there is so much pain from losing them now and the future they very much wanted.

In the midst of this pain and realization, others outside the situation might suggest the couple or mother just have another child.

This is a very complex idea for a person after pregnancy and infant loss. For starters, it’s not always ‘easy’ for people to just get pregnant. Infertility is common and there might have to be intervention to help a couple achieve pregnancy. If a person does get pregnant, there’s the stress and worry of pregnancy after loss. Everyday could feel like the last with their child. Some might lose more babies. Even if the subsequent pregnancy results in a living child, they still have lost their other baby. Another child does not erase what they have been through or make them forget about the child they hold in their heart.

I monitor what I say to make those who haven’t lost comfortable.

This is a hard one for me to admit. I wish society knew all that I held back in my head. There have been many times where I’ve been in an uncomfortable conversation or situation regarding pregnancy, birth, or infants that I wanted to scream or run away. Instead, I have to mentally calm myself to make sure I don’t completely break down or snap.

I know, I know. The world can’t bubble wrap me from being around pregnant women and newborns, but I also can’t erase my experience and knowledge with what can go wrong. Yet, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for me to talk about my child and time being pregnant without looks of grimace. I understand complaints about children and pregnancy are just how life is, but I am so jealous of the ignorance around them. Stillbirth has opened my eyes to how cruel the world really is and how every baby is a miracle whether they live or not.

Although I won’t get into intricate detail, I just was involved in a conversation about birth stories that had me biting my lip the whole entire time. I was battling with myself whether to just blurt out how lucky anyone with a living child should feel because it could be so, so much worse. Instead, I kept quiet. Afterwards, I felt ashamed I didn’t stick up for Jensen, myself, and all women who have experienced stillbirth.

Stillbirth has changed me into the person I am today.

A year and seven months ago, I didn’t know stillbirth still happened. I didn’t think a baby could just die. Nor did I think it could happen to me and my child.

When I think about my life, I see it in three different zones: before, during, and after. My pregnancy transformed me into being a mother and not thinking of myself first. Then, when Jensen died, when stillbirth robbed me of my future, I changed again. Grief has morphed me into this person I was so unfamiliar with, at first. I’ve grown into my new self (I fought it for a long time) and although I will never completely accept what has happened to me and my son, I’m thankful for my strength, kindness, and independence I have gained after Jensen was stillborn.

I would give it all away to have Jensen back with me, but I will not let his death be seen in a negative aspect. His life has inspired me to be who I am today.

There are no reasons why a child should die.

Stillbirth taught me that some things are unexplainable. I’ve always been a person who has to see the reason why a certain situation happens, but I never got any answers as to why Jensen died. In fact, most families will never get an answer to why their child was stillborn. That’s absolutely terrifying.

It’s sort of difficult to explain how I feel when I have pregnant women ask me what they can do to prevent what happened to me for them. Sometimes I feel like it’s a slap in the face or like I have ‘FAILURE’ tattooed on my forehead.

The fact is and what I wish society would take away from any pregnancy or infant loss, not just stillbirth, is there’s really no reason a baby dies or how you can prevent it from happening. Again, another scary statement. During my pregnancy, I did everything my doctors told me to do, I had extra monitoring, and I prayed everyday for his safe arrival. Society makes us believe since they died in their mother’s womb, somehow moms should have this instinct knowledge something is wrong. It shames anyone who has experienced pregnancy and infant loss and it’s completely untrue.

A mother who has lost her child didn’t do anything wrong and there is no reason there child isn’t with them.

Dear Beautiful Mother,


I’m so sorry for the loss of your beautiful child. I’m sorry you’re here and we have to meet in this way. The loss of a child at any age is devastating. It completely rips a person’s insides up. It feels like the world has turned its back on you and that no one understands. On top of all of that, your arms ache and you realize your child is really gone. Your whole life flashes in front of you in just and instance.

How am I going to do this?

Unfortunately, I can’t take all your pain away; if I could, I would and I’d bring your baby right back to you. But, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s let you know what has helped me…

Moments.

In the beginning, I thought I had to take the rest of my life on all at once. The future I had with my son disappeared and there I was, alone and drowning. My anxiety heightened, which made my depression and grief deeper. Every emotion hit me then lingered. I was completely lost.

Life was like this for the first six months (and there are still days I feel like this). It slowed down one morning when I watched the sunrise. I was able to appreciate the beauty and warmth as different shades of orange painted the sky. It was a crisp October morning and it was like I was the only one awake. The moment the sun peaked felt like a hundred years. I felt my son, Jensen, was in every bird’s song and dancing all around me. It was like the sky was telling me to listen and feel what this moment brought.

So, I listened.

The elements soothed me and let me know he was right there with me. This moment also connected me with all the other bereaved moms in the world watching the sunrise. I didn’t feel alone and I didn’t feel lost.

It also told me…

There are light and dark moments.

There are moments full of love.

There are moments full of pain and agony.

There are moment of support and understanding.

There are moments where everything feels helpless.

No matter the moment you capture, you will power through. This is just one moment and I know you can make it to the next. I did.

Give yourself this moment. Right now.

Take a deep breath.

Feel any emotion you need at this second. Recognize if you’re feeling the sadness that pulls you down, the pain that cripples you, or the love that carries you through.

Then, breathe out.

Your survived this moment and I promise me and this tribe of mothers will help you through the ones you don’t think will ever end.

We remember your child with you.

We see your motherhood.

We feel the unending love that only a mother has for her child.

Always remember, you’re never alone in this journey of loss and love.

All my Love and light,

Danielle Ridgway

Forever Jensen’s mama

Want to purchase this book to read all the letters? Click here!