Dear Fellow Bereaved Mothers,

I feel like it’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I see all of you and your babies gone too soon.

Whether this is your first Bereaved Mother’s Day or fiftieth or somewhere in between, I want you to know that your child and the way you mother them is not unseen. I know some days are harder than others and maybe you’re in a long line of hard ones, but you are doing the best you can do. Please reach out on this day or any of the difficult ones you have. There are so many of us here to remember our babies with and to lift each other up when we need it most. And if you’re having a good, gentle day, I’m so happy those moments are here for you. You are so deserving of them.

I’m so sorry that we know this deep of a loss and the tidal waves of grief that comes after. There’s nothing quite like it. On the other hand, there’s love. That love you feel for them, oh, it’s so powerful. This love powers through death, not that anything could tear apart the love a mother has for her child.

Like everyday, say their name. Share a memory about them with someone who knew them or someone new. I know how proud you are of them. They’re proud of you too.

So today, and everyday, I want you to know, I see your motherhood and your child matters and is loved by many. And you, beautiful mother, for as much love as you pour out, there is so much coming your way.

Love,

Danielle

Forever Jensen’s Mom

Its just an inch, but feels like a mile.

Today we made a memory. One that isn’t going to go away any time soon either. I marked Mila’s height on one for the doorways in our house.

Through this little mark, I learned two things. The first, Mila is actually pretty tall. I didn’t realize it until I stepped back and saw how high it was compared to a door. When I see her running around, I still see a little girl. I know she’s getting tall, but wow. The second thing… how much I’ve healed in four years.

I know that probably sounds silly. How does a little mark show growth? For me it’s the permanence of the mark. When I was pregnant with Mila and for so long, I thought I was going to lose her. I thought she was going to die so many times during pregnancy and that first year. Then I thought she’d be taken away with the psychological mind games that were played with me.

It sounds dramatic and overboard, but it’s true. She’s mine and no one can take her away, but I never believed she could stay. I felt like if I let myself believe it, something would happen. It’s been an awful battle. But she’s not going anywhere.

When I look at that little mark, I can picture the next sixteen years of measuring her. You know if she lets me and all. But I’ve never been able to see past so many years ahead. I’ve always thought I just had today. Those intrusive thoughts with parenting after loss are hard and can suck the joy out of everything. I’m really trying though.

We made a memory today and the physical memory is about an inch long. I know when I look back on those hashes, I’ll see Mila wanting me to remeasure her and the shock in her face that mama drew on the wall. I’m sitting here picturing how tall she’ll be next year and thinking I’ll write what she wants to be when she grows up beside them too.

I’m so happy about her growing and progressing. There are so many moments I wish I could pause, but I want her to keep getting older and growing as big as she’ll get. I know what it’s like to not have my child grow and have their hashmark on the doorway. Jensen has taught me so much about life and myself and Mila is teaching me how to move forward and grow. One piece of information doesn’t shadow the other. The light and heavy are always present in my life. I’m just doing my best juggling the both of them and making sure they both know how much I love them.

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.

April… We Meet Again.

Amidst everything happening in the world and the personal things too, I’ve not been looking forward to April. It’s the fourth one since everything changed. That feeling of grief climbing out of my chest is present.

Some part of me thought this April would be different with the coronavirus, Mila being a lively almost two year old, and dealing with things happening closely to me that I can not control. Yet, here I am. The last few days, it’s weighed on me more heavily. I just can’t believe it’s been another year without him.

I’m trying to be positive, but it’s just unfair. All the things I ‘should’ be doing for Jensen are more present around these days. I keel thinking about how much different quarantine would be with him. Life in general just would be… different. It’s so hard to explain. There’s no word or explanation that would make sense to other people. Here we are almost four years later and I can’t quite find the words to describe how sucky it is to not have your kid with you.

Mila helps. I’m weary of typing that because it’s unfair to her and parents who can’t or choose not to have more children; but she helps me. She makes me smile and I remember April is her month too. Jensen wouldn’t want her to be sad or for us not to celebrate how beautiful this month is even though it’s filled with sadness too. I know Mila senses the sadness. She’ll come over and flash her smiles, stroke my face, and just give me a kiss. I know deep down he picked her out for me.

One thing I’ve learned through it all is we’ll make it. Somedays you just have to take it second by second, but we’ll survive.

Like I’ve said in the past, the days leading are always worse than the actual day. Grief makes anticipation feel like dread. This past weekend, Mila hasn’t felt well and I was scared that it’d roll into April. So when she woke up fever free and happy, I knew it’d get easier.

We actually went and picked up a picnic table/bench that we’ll probably use frequently in the next few months (social distancing was practiced). She’s immediately taken a liking to it and it just makes me feel better. Finding happy moments when everything feels heavy makes the day a little nicer.

I’m hopeful April’s will get easier. I’m hopeful that I’ll start celebrating them again. I’m hopeful that Jensen’s day will be seen as happy and I won’t be as sad. I know I’ll always carry the grief and heaviness of losing him, but I’m getting to a part in my journey where it can coincide with happiness simultaneously.

Today I’m just grateful for Jensen, Mila, and watching her cheesy fingers throw Cheetos to Max. I’m hopeful for peaceful April’s and breakfasts our on our new picnic table. This year, I’m ready for April and going into year five of grieving.

My Minutes with Jensen.

I still screenshot every time I see 11:11 pop up on my phone.

After almost FOUR years, it’s still Jensen’s way of saying hello; amongst many others. I take that moment and just look at his face and tap it to my own. It might not be every day, twice a day this time jumps out at me, but it is most of them. I imagine he’s right next to me and I feel a sense calm fall over me.

When I look through the screenshots on my phone, a good amount of them are of Jensen with 11:11 over his head. Four years of screenshots and countless minutes that were just him and I even after he’s been gone.

Recently, I saw an Instagram post from another loss mom that described how it was hard to write about their child now than it was when it was still so raw. I found myself agreeing with everything she said. During that first year and a half, words flowed so easily. I tried my best to put what I was feeling into words and it helped. It helped me heal and remember Jensen in the best way I could.

Since Mila’s been born, it has been hard to write. She fills my day and each time I think I get a minute to write, she either wakes up or finds my laptop extremely interesting to inspect. The words seem to still come to me but get stuck in my head. They jumble up, and when I go to actually get them out, they stop flowing like before.

It’s so hard being without him. Even when it feels like Mila and I are doing good, I know he’s missing. He’ll always be missing and that fact will always make my little family feel incomplete.

I wish I could finish those blog posts that I’ve tried so many times to write. About when I found the notes to Jensen and me from his baby shower or how I already feel the weight of my grief crashing down as April draws nearer.

I really can’t believe he’s going to be four. Just knowing how much I’ve missed out on all things Jensen for four years. I wish I knew his likes and what movie he’d have Mila and me watching 800 times. I wish I could see him be a big brother for Mila and play all day, every day with her. I wish I could hold him tight and never let him go.

Gosh, I miss him.

Anytime I hear Usher, I think of Jensen’s movements. I think of seeing him on the ultrasound screen and watching him cover his face when the wand was over him for too long. I think about this time four years ago about how excited I was to meet him, wondering what kind of mom I was going to be. Now it feels like I’m always waiting for those moments I thought I was going to get with him.

In some ways, I think he still gives me the moments I needed. That’s why I have hundreds of screenshots of 11:11 and the feeling of him giving me an Eskimo kiss during that minute.

New Adventures in Parenting After Loss.

Parenting after loss is full of ups and downs. There are a lot of days I think of the what if’s and wish to see Jensen and Mila playing together.

Lately, Mila’s been more explorative in how she plays. I showed her how to make a tent by putting a blanket over her little table and she thought it was the coolest thing ever. She’ll play under there for so long and evening puts her animals to bed under there. It’s the sweetest thing ever.

In the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking of Jensen’s teepee I got for him. It was supposed to go in the corner of his room for a little reading area. Since it never got to be put up, it’s been packed away in my basement. This morning, Mila was begging me to get under her little kiddie table and with her, the dog, and I, the table wasn’t cutting it. I decided to be strong and go in Jensen’s corner of the basement to get the teepee.

Honestly, it’s hard. It’s hard to see his stuff that’s never been used and is just there in boxes. Knowing that there’s a live that should have been lived in a corner in my house, truly breaks my heart. I don’t think I’ll ever have the right words to describe what it feels like. But I bet a lot of loss parents know the feeling I’m talking about.

Anyways, I got into his corner and knew right where I was looking. Mila and I brought it back upstairs and I sort of just went into mom mode. Her and I put together this huge 5 foot tall teepee in the middle of the living room. She was shocked to see it and as soon as it was up, she ran right in. Her smile was so big and it just warmed me up.

It turns out Mila, Max, a hundred stuffed animals, and me all fit in this big tent.

Any time Mila has used something of Jensen’s, I’ve never felt regret doing it. She wore some of his clothes, has his crib up, and used his car seat and stroller too. On the other hand, there hasn’t been anything super sentimental she’s used yet. We changed that today and I’m happy to have done it. I let her know this was Jensen’s tent too and he would’ve loved playing in it with her. She nodded and said Jensen’s name, then continued playing.

Jensen will always be her big brother and I’ll always be both of their moms. I don’t think being a loss mom will ever get easier, but I hope learning how to juggle both will. I don’t want Mila to ever think bringing Jensen’s name up or asking questions is a bad thing. Or I don’t want her to be afraid to look at and use his things makes me upset because it doesn’t. It’s just another part of this journey that I’ll figure out.

For now, I’m so proud of the little girl Mila is becoming. She has a brother who will always guide and protect her. Although he might not be here to physically play with her, I know Jensen’s spirit flows through our home. I’m just happy to be here through it all, learning to be the best mom I can.

Parenting after loss isn’t easy, but I’m thankful to be their mother.

Adventure on Mila Rae. There’s so much to see.

Family Portrait – Capture Your Grief

This is my family: Mila, Jensen, and I.

Our family portraits will never look ‘normal,’ but they’re perfect to me. They’re still full of love and an actual representation of who we are as a family.

Story time.

I was being brave today. This whole month I’ve felt exhausted. In the middle of potty training Max AND Mila (yes, I will post those adventures soon), doing school work, and trying to get back in the swing of subbing, plus everything else, I found myself neglecting what actually means a lot to me… Capture Your Grief. Every October I’ve done my best with it and this one, I just have been doing what I can do.

When I saw today’s prompt, I told myself I was 100% participating and going to get a picture of us. I picked out Mila and I’s outfit and Jensen’s bow. We grabbed our fall stuff and a big blanket to take outside. For like 15 minutes, I was in the backyard finding the perfect spot while rigging a stand up for my phone to sit…

I wanted it to be perfect with a fall background and all of us looking in the camera. Let’s just say… that didn’t happen.

Toddler’s aren’t the best at taking direction and Max wouldn’t sit still and Mila kept taking Jensen’s bow off and it seemed impossible to run back and get us all set up in time in a matter of ten seconds.

Did I feel a little defeated? Yes. But, I looked at Mila and held Jensen bear close to me and realized the most important people in my life didn’t care about a picture. They cared about me and know I’m doing my best. I let grief and stress and feeling like a bad mom get the best of me. It happens to all of us and that’s okay.

After my moment, I squeezed Jensen bear again and got Mila to come sit with us. I was going to get this picture no matter what and what’s wrong with a selfie?

This is our life. It’s three and a half years of grieving and a year and a half of parenting after loss. It’s one full of love and craziness. One that the only thing I’d change is having Jensen physically here with us.

I love our little family portrait today. My littles are in my arms and close to my heart. I’m smiling and everything is going to be just okay.

Kisses for Jensen.

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