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

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Anxiety.

Dear Mila,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you.

Mama

Beginnings.

Dear Mila,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you.

Mama

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The 2018 May We All Heal prompt list:

Post Mila Triggers.

Photo by Katie Finnicum at Simplicity of Grace.

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

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

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

Holding her for the first time…

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

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

Seeing my family with her…

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

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

Being wheeled out of the hospital…

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

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

Shower time…

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

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

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

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

The little things I never knew about before…

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Fifteen Months. 

Another month is here without him. One more that I never thought I would survive, yet here I am trying to be strong. The anticipation of each month change has not gotten easier since the very first one. I feel its weight in my bones trying to make me crumble. 

This past month has been one of the hardest. Two weeks ago my second child’s lifeless body was taken straight from my womb. The grief of losing him or her ontop of what I feel for Jensen and his loss has been complex. Most of the time I don’t know how to describe what’s going on in my brain. Maybe this extra weight has made this month change so much worse. 

I went into his room today. Sometimes I have this strong pulling to just sit in there, more than my everyday look. 

Every time I step in there, it’s like I’m transported to another reality. I see his room what it would be like if he was here. Not at infancy, but right now running and testing his limits three months after his birthday. Toys are scattered along his rug and there’s clothes to be put away. There are projects we have done on the wall and all his books are on the shelves. I see this scene and him in there. Somehow I wish I could describe it better than just being transported to another reality, it’s literally like I step through another veil and there he sits. That’s how I picture Jensen and I’s heaven.

After snapping out of the world I want to be living in, I saw things I hadn’t paid attention to in awhile. The little details that I love that wouldn’t be exactly there if he was here. On his changing table lies a little racecar and my favorite sign I bought before he was born. ‘Just be awesome.’ There wasn’t any pressure on him to be something, just as long as he was happy and growing up to be a good boy. Then there’s the books I actually have in his room. Stuffed away with a lot of his things is his whole library, many of those books from the book drive we did during the baby shower. The ones in his room are my favorite though. Sometimes I pull them out on special days and read out loud for him to hear. I know he’s listening and sometimes Leo comes to listen too. 


Yes, I accidentally bought two of the same J’s…. oops. 


Fifteen months have gone by since I last physically felt Jensen. In that time I’ve picked up most of the pieces, dropped them multiple times again, and kept trying to place them back to a new normal. I’ve felt the biggest heartbreak, twice, but I’ve also learned how to love so deeply. 

To feel everything so deeply. 

I wish this wasn’t my reality, but I’m surviving and doing my best to thrive. Even if I knew what was going to happen, I’d still choose my little, blond hair boy born fifteen months ago.

May We All Heal | Broken

broken – violently separated into parts, shattered

My world stopped when I heard those words. His heart had quit beating and I was thrown, violently, into a different dimension. When I looked down at my body where he was housed, I didn’t see the brokenness I felt. If I could have looked inside, my heart would have been in pieces. This body would have looked mangled to anyone who saw me. 

That’s the hard part with grief and mental illness, others can’t physically see it like a broken bone. If they did, they would understand. They could see my heart constantly bleeding out and how it’s trying to heal itself too. 

In Japan there is an art form and pottery repair called kintsugi. I’m sure you’ve seen the descriptive picture. It’s when there is broken pottery and instead of hiding it, gold powder is used to mend it. They don’t hide where the pottery is faulted, they show its beauty. 

In the beginning (and even now on my bad days), I didn’t think this pain and brokenness would ever amount to any beauty. How could the loss of my son be anything but horrible and ugly? The immense weight of his loss hasn’t gotten lighter by any means, but I have gradually became stronger. 

The pieces of my broken heart are still being put back together. Heck, there will always be a Jensen sized hole there. Yet, as they are being placed, there is something more beautiful than gold repairing my heart. The love I have for Jensen and his whole being holds and mends my heart. There isn’t bright, shiny gold, but his name and light. 

Yes, I am broken, but I’m also healing. 

Empathy.

Before I begin this post, I want to show the difference between empathy and sympathy. I think a lot of people think they’re the same thing, but they’re very different from each other.

empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

sympathy – feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

The first time I thought I understood what empathy really meant was in college. I remember the professor telling us her sister’s story; I won’t tell her story, but it deals with the loss of a child. My professor said to feel empathy you had to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and somehow understand those feelings.

Then she said, ‘I could never imagine losing a child, therefore I can’t have the full understanding of empathy for her situation.’ Continue reading

Sunrise.

The crisp morning air welcomed me as I stepped outside, hot tea in hand. As I sat down on my cool porch, I noticed clouds covered the sky. There was no way I would be able to see the sun light up the sky in all it’s brilliance. I was disappointed as I realized I wouldn’t be getting the beautiful colors that we would expect from a sunrise. But I sat and waited waiting to see the sun poke through as I let hustle of the world go on around me. I thought of the morning Jensen was born. It was the last time I watched the sun say hello to this side of the earth.

As I impatiently waited for the perfect shot to capture my grief and love for Jensen this morning, I asked him just to give me just a little light today. One minute later, Leo was meowing loudly from the window. I walked over to calm him down through the screen and he stopped. I looked back to where I knew the sun would be rising and saw just the perfect amount of light. The sunrise I dedicated for Jensen was in turn dedicated to me by a special little boy in heaven.

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Gnadenhutten, OH – 7:22am

Continue reading

Father’s Day.

Three months ago I was planning Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts; Father’s Day more in particular. I imagined getting baby and navy blue paint to put on Jensen’s feet and showcase them in crafts for Anthony and my dad. A canvas and a mug for them both, with touches of Jensen everywhere. Of course they would get a picture of them and Jensen in a frame, I would fill all our walls up with Jensen’s face. We would get fun little first Father’s Day cards for Anthony and a grandpa card for my dad. It would be the first of many perfect Father’s Days for our little family.

Instead, I broke down at Hallmark. Well actually my breakdown started in Hallmark, then I ran to the bathroom in the mall to really get into it. I felt pretty pathetic sobbing in the stall, everyone in there had to hear me. At first I was okay. The cute cards got to me a little bit, but I was focused on the ‘adult’ looking cards for my dad and Anthony. Then it all happened too fast for me to comprehend at that time… Little kids came running in, right in front of me, picking out the cute cards I had my eyes one. They excitedly picked out their favorite cards having their mom read them out loud to them. Their smiles lit up the room. Except for the spot I was standing. I stood their paralyzed with my tears building up. Somehow I kept it composed long enough to buy my cards and run.

I’ll remember to just DIY my cards for the next occasion or order them online.

But this post isn’t about me, nor is this whole day. It’s about the two amazing fathers I was blessed with in my life: my dad and Anthony.

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My dad, my superhero.

This is my favorite picture of my dad. I know you can’t see his face and I know I have a thousand pictures of him and I together, but this is the one. My dad has always been my biggest cheerleader, my protector, and the best guy I know. Everyone says that about their dad, but it’s true for me. Even when I’m so mad at him I can’t even look his direction, I still know I would be able to go talk to him about anything. He’s the first person I call when something truly does not go right because he makes it better. My childhood was a dream and it’s because I had him, well mom helped too.

I can just remember when I was first pregnant how scared I was to tell him. For some reason I thought he would be disappointed or mad. I remember puking up water on the stairs before I told them and he came along to help clean it up. He never asked me if I was or pushed me to tell him. When I did tell him, he just smiled and said, “I’ve known all along.” He was there to find out Jensen was a boy and was always wanting to know how my appointments went. When we found out Jensen would most likely have Down syndrome, he told me Jensen was loved no matter what. The moment Jensen was born, he was in the room. He talked to Jensen and held him. He cries with me and listens. Jensen is so lucky to have him as his grandpa. We even got him a #1 Grandpa grill spatula.

There’s no rulebook on what to do when your daughter’s son is stillborn or what to do when your grandson is stillborn. My dad has had a tough role to play since Jensen has been born: grieving his grandson and watching his daughter crumble to pieces. Through it all he’s been so gentle, patient, and kind. He’s handled losing Jensen with such grace that I don’t think I’ll ever have.

I’m so blessed to have the dad that I do.

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A+D=J

On our way up to stay with Anthony on New Years Eve, I cried. It was funny, Jensen was kicking and dancing away all day. I remember feeling every kick and just crying for some reason. Halfway up, I called Anthony and just kept saying I didn’t want this year to end. It was such a great year; I graduated, I met Anthony, I bought a house, I got pregnant, and he was my Jensen. Anthony listened, as he always does, and just reminded me we were going to meet the best part of our future. Our Jensen was to be born in April and that I should be happy because we were going to have so many good parts of 2016. He calmed me down, made me laugh, and we took this picture.

Let me tell you, Anthony is my rock. On day one when we found out about our little Bebe, he was scared, but excited. Through all the good news and the bad, the multitude of appointments, and all my pregnancy hormones, Anthony was right beside me. He read Goodnight Moon and Go Dog Go to Jensen and made sure I took my prenatal vitamins every day. When we got bad news, he told me it would be okay and Jensen was still our perfect boy. We went to baby class together, did the baby shower registry, and planned every last detail. I tried my best to prepare him for our little bundle, but I could never have prepared him for Jensen’s passing. Nor could I have prepared him for this grief that is so woven into our every day lives.

Anthony’s first Father’s Day is without Jensen physically here. It hurts me. We shouldn’t have to spend tomorrow without Jensen, he should be almost three months old. I know he would have been the best daddy in the whole entire world and at the same time, he is.

There’s a difference in parenting when you’re a bereaved parent. We can’t physically hold Jensen or feed him, but we parent him in all other sense of the meaning. Anthony loves Jensen, cares about his legacy, and still does everything he can for him. Sometimes my grief and I take over our relationship, but he’s right here to help. As I’ve said before and will always say, Antony is my rock. I know Jensen is so proud of his daddy. He showed it every time he would hear Anthony’s voice and feel his presence.  As much as I know how proud Jensen is of Anthony, I know the love between them is so strong and so endless.

My two boys. My perfect little family.

Related to Father’s Day, I submitted to Still Mothers a post I wrote about Anthony and his grief. I’d love, if you haven’t, for you all to go read it. I’d really like to say it was an honor to have them publish it on their site and let my family’s story be seen by so many other people. The post, in short, is really about a bereaved father’s grief and how society really needs to take in account that these dads really are hurting too. That not only a mother has lost a child, but the dad too. Click here if you want to check it out.

I’d like to wish all the fathers out their a Happy Father’s Day, especially my dad and Anthony. All you guys out there fathering your own, not your own, or just being that father figure in another’s life has so much impact on this world. To all the bereaved fathers out there, I see you. I see your grief and I want you to know you are as much as a father as any other father. You love and care for child while they’re waiting for you in heaven. You are not forgotten nor should you ever be overlooked. Your child loves you, that you should never forget. If you know a bereaved father, tell them Happy Father’s Day. That will mean more to him than anything on this day.