My Response to My Daughter Being an ‘Only Child.’

Grief is an ever-changing entity in my life.

Since losing Jensen, I’ve heard the wildest things in efforts to help me ‘get over’ his loss. Now since Mila is three, it’s evolved.

I’ve not been shy in talking about how things can come off as rude or intruding. Honestly, I don’t think that anyone means to come off that way. They mean to be helpful, but it’s just not.

Anytime anyone mentions me having one child, I always let them know “I have two.”

Here’s what I wish I could say…

“Don’t you want more kids so she’s not an only child?”

I have more kids. He just died.

She’ll never, ever be an only child because one came before her. I’m fact, Jensen will always be her big brother. Not even death can take that away from her, him, or me.

If you have a conversation with Mila, she’ll tell you who her big brother is. She’ll let you know he lives in her heart and she loves him.

When we have guests, she shows his pictures off and wants everyone to hold Jensen bear.

She is definitely NOT an only child.

“It has to be lonely for her not having a brother or sister?”

Just because her brother isn’t physically here, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a relationship with him. She talks to his pictures and bear. When I hold his bear for too long, she gets jealous. She misses him dearly and always wants us to read his book. Her relationship with him is beautiful.

Mila also has an amazing set of kids she’s with all the time. Friends and cousins love her and play with her whenever she asks. She is in dance classes and will be starting preschool too.

She’s not lonely.

“Don’t you want to give her another sibling?”

She has a sibling.

My daughter grieves her brother. She wishes he was here and could come to our house all the time. We talk about him because he’s a part of our family. Our family just looks different than most.

If she were to have another sibling, it wouldn’t take away that she misses Jensen. Just like how no other child could fill his spot for me.

When she talks about missing Jensen, Mila has never asked to have another sibling.

She already has one.

One other thing… don’t ask intrusive questions about private lives. If you were supposed to know what was going on, you would.

It’s rude to assume that everyone can have a child easily. For a lot of people, it’s not.

Some people are healing from abuse.

Some just like their family unit just the way it is.

My Everlasting Flowers.

I always dreamed of Jensen picking flowers for me. We’d have a house filled with dandelion and wildflower jars.

Although I do have a house like that now, it’s not from Jensen. Mila brings as much love as she does flowers into our house. Our life is happy, but we will always be missing a piece.

For a long time, I’ve wondered how I could get the dream of flowers from Jensen. Then I got a random tattoo.

After that tattoo, I talked to the tattoo artist about Jensen and how I’d love a bouquet of forget-me-not flowers on me. I wanted to always carry them, just like how he always walks with me.

So, we scheduled another tattoo session.

In a couple hours, I have my flowers picked by my Jensen. Every time I see blue forget-me-nots, I think of him. Now when I look at my arm, I think of him and the countless amounts of flowers he’ll have for me.

It felt a little radical to get a tattoo on my forearm that can always be seen, but I love it.

He and these flowers are a part of our story.

Most of my tattoos are in remembrance of Jensen. I love knowing that even though he’s not physically with us, I can always see him in my body. No matter if it’s on my foot, wrist, or arm, I can always catch a glimpse of him.

By the way, Mila likes this tattoo way more than the one on my ankle. She loves counting them and telling me how blue is for her brother.

What’s your favorite tattoo that you have? Or if you don’t have one, what would you get if you did?

Making Over Motherhood: My Battle with Maternal Mental Health

With the Mother’s Day soon, everyone is celebrating motherhood. Yet, there is a side of motherhood not a lot of people talk about. It’s the maternal mental health challenges that 1 in 5 women face each year in the U.S. This statistic is why Maternal Mental Health Week is so important to recognize.

Mothers all over the U.S. are sharing their stories of maternal mental health and making over motherhood.

In the picture of Mila and I, you might see me as a mother who is comforting her child. We’re all dressed up for pictures and beautifully done. The things that you can’t see are what makes motherhood so challenging. You don’t see my son who should be five and helping Mila take pictures. There’s an endless amount of tears that I’ve shed to get to this point. You’d never understand the turmoil and challenges it took to get to this one moment.

No one can outwardly see mental health issues. As a mother, we instinctually put our children’s needs before ours. Our mental health can slip and slide away.

I am the 1 in 5 who have faced maternal mental health disorders.

Throughout my time on this blog, I haven’t been shy about talking about my anxiety, depression, and PTSD that I faced after Jensen’s birth. What I didn’t expect was postpartum depression after having Mila.

How could I not be happy and joyous after having a living child? I didn’t have to plan a funeral or never see her again. All the things I had wished for after Jensen’s birth was happening with her. She would be growing and learning. It felt so unnatural to not be in love with the time after she was born.

But, I wasn’t. I loved her and wanted all the best things for her, but I couldn’t be happy.

I think I cried more than I smiled that first year. It was hard to even get on a schedule or do certain things. If I wasn’t sad, I had horrible anxiety.

There were constant thoughts of her dying and all the scenarios that could play out. I honestly felt crazy. It didn’t feel like anyone else had these thoughts with their newborn. It was isolating, just like I felt after Jensen’s birth.

Except, after I had Jensen, I gained a community that helped and uplifted me as much as they could.

With Mila, I felt completely alone.

Now that she’s three and Jensen would be five, I’ve lived with anxiety and depression for quite a while. I’ve talked to my new therapist for a year and she’s been a big help with my mental health. It makes me wish I would have gotten help sooner.

We all live in a world where social media rules all. People can project to you happy faces and times, but there’s a side to a people’s lives we don’t see. Not talking about maternal mental health and the challenges of motherhood can be especially damaging to new moms. They might think their emotions to how they’re handling motherhood is wrong, but it’s not.

As a mother who has lived through their child die and then dealt with intense mental health issues after their living child, I’m here to tell all mothers, they’re not alone.

It’s time to make over motherhood. That doesn’t mean putting our best foot forward on social media or how we present ourself to the world. It means showing the struggle and letting others know there is help out there.

Please know you’re not alone in your maternal mental health struggles. Reach out for help if you need it. You deserve the same love and care you give your child.

I promise, you’re worth it.

Here’s some information about Maternal Mental Health Week. If you can, share some information to help another mom out. If you’re feeling brave, you can share your story too.

You are never alone.

Resources:

6 Life Lessons from a Three Year Old.

photo by simplicity of grace.

I always thought motherhood was teaching your children about the ins and outs of life.

We teach them to walk, talk, and be functional humans. Or that’s the goal. Through their trials, we help encourage them to become better people and learn from what life hands them.

My unconventional start to motherhood sort of took that away from me. I learned so much from Jensen and his death that I would have never imagined. With Mila, I thought it’d be me doing all the teaching, not the learning. In many ways, being her mom has surprised me.

As much as I’ve taught her and helped encourage her to become the sassy three year old that she’s become, she’s made me into a whole new person.

With Bereaved Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day coming up the next two weekends, I’ve been thinking a lot about my motherhood. Jensen has taught me so much about love and living fully. I’ve talked about it extensively through this outlet. This morning, as Mila hugged me not to go, all the lessons she’s taught me have flooded my head.

Here’s just a few.

It’s okay.

One thing Mila did not get from me is anxiety. She is the most steady person I know and it’s a beautiful combination with us two.

When she needs comforted, I’m there for her. I never thought kids could do the same thing. Yet, anytime I’m upset, she comes over and just says, ‘it’s okay.’ Then she’ll shush me and just give me a tight squeeze. This act of hers has taught me so much about patience and realizing the moment will go away.

Anytime I’m feeling stressed when she’s not around, I remember her sweet voice and that seems to help make a lot of things feel okay.

Laugh at the little things.

All I have to do is give our dog a certain look and Mila laughs wildly.

Mila’s taught me not to take life so seriously. After Jensen died, it was hard to laugh freely. With her, she just demands humor and lightness. She’ll do things just to make other people laugh. Or when she’s upset, I know if she laughs once, she’ll be much better.

The mix of seriousness and lightness has balanced out the last three years. She’ll always be the one who giggles at the the little things. I’m happy for that.

Just be you.

In a world where social media dominates, it’s hard to just be yourself. Influencers and the media try to sway us constantly, but Mila has taught me the opposite.

She doesn’t understand advertisements and social media yet, but she’s the opposite force. When I look at her, I see so much uniqueness and individuality, I would never want her to be like anyone else. Just herself. I reflect on that often and encourage her to do follow her ways.

Then, I think about how I can apply that to myself and others around me. I want those that I love (and beyond) to just be them. For me, I just want to be me. There’s not code to follow or correct way to live. The most beautiful person we can be is just ourselves.

Every time I look at her, I’m reminded of that.

Live in the moment.

Mila has taught me to see the world completely differently.

The main way is to live in the moment. I can have 100 things planned out, but she pulls me into the present like no other. It’s funny because I could be doing work and she says, “watch me.” Sometimes I tell her to wait, but then I realize, I can never get this moment back with her. So, we pretend and play and just live.

Work will always be there and it gets done, just a little bit later.

We’re in this together.

I know moms, even myself, complain about never having any alone time. It’s exhausting, so of course Mila and I are in this together.

But, that’s not what I mean.

At three, I have such serious conversations about what she wants for our life too. We decide on where we want to go or what we want to eat. We’ve talked about different vacations or what plants to buy too.

It sounds silly since she’s three, but this is her life and childhood too. Together, we have to make it the very best it can be. When she’s happy, I am too.

We’re in this life and growing together.

Love.

The one thing children bring unconditionally is love.

Love, love, love.

I love Jensen and Mila more than anything. Mila has physically showed me how kids love outwardly. It isn’t in the moments everyone sees or knows about. Even though she’s in a “I like you” stage, she always nods her head when I say, “do you mean love?” back to her.

Love isn’t in her words though. It’s in the hugs where she tells me it’s going to be okay, her laughter that fills the room, and the fruit snacks and juice she brings to bed for us.

She’s taught me how love can glue back a broken heart and even leave space for more.

In these three years, sometimes I get confused about who’s taking care of who. As much as I help her grow, she helps me grow too. I love being her and Jensen’s mom.

What big life lessons have your children taught you?

3 Self Care Tips for Busy Moms.

After another intense week of grief, schoolwork, and parenting, Self Care Sunday is here.

Now I know it’s still hard find a moment to yourself when you’re a mom, but taking a few moments for yourself is crucial. Set your child up with an activity, go outside with them, or give them a few minutes of screen time. Setting time aside for you is needed.

Even though my time is short today, I wanted to share with you three tips I use every Sunday to recoup. It’s not a ton of time, but it makes me feel prepared and refreshed for the next week.

Use a planner.

If I didn’t have a planner or make lists of what needed done every week, I’d be lost.

I try to put important dates in there every month, but like to review each week. Things pop up and I need to know the game plan.

If you’re juggling more than a few things like me, I’d highly suggest using different colored pens. It makes your schedule more appealing to look at and it’s always fun to write with gel pens. I guess you could say I’ll always have the heart of a middle school girl.

Don’t let your planner make you stressed out. Sometimes if I plan too far in advance, I want to get everything done. Your planner should help guide you, not stress you.

Looking for some planners? Check out this one from Alena Michelle. I love how it breaks down habits, weekly schedules, and your role goals. Or if you prefer a classic planner with lots of space to write, try something like this out.

Take ten minutes for you.

Yes. You deserve ten minutes ALL to yourself.

This shouldn’t be the ten minutes with your planner, but ten minutes (or more if you can) of something you actually want to do. Maybe this is just sitting in silence, listening to your favorite songs or podcasts, or reading. Trust me, after you take that small chunk of time for yourself, you’ll feel refreshed.

Here’s a list of toddler activities you can use to occupy them and give yourself ten or more minutes.

Today, I read rupi kaur’s home body. Rupi is a poet that I’ve followed on Instagram for a long time. Her writing is beautiful and I really connect with her words. She’s relevant to what’s going on in the world and I think anyone can find a connection through her writing.

In my ten minutes today, I read, cried, and felt a lot better about the week and where I’m at with life.

Drink water.

This might sound like a silly tip, but drink some water.

I’ve cut out almost everything besides water with mio added to it. Admittedly, I still can’t cut out my Cherry Coke with dinner, but what can you do.

Anyways, there are SO many benefits that come with drinking water. A big glass always makes me feel better. Plus, my body is thanking me for all the water. My skins been clearer and I’m not craving sugar as much.

The drink your water tip is not just for Sundays, but you could do something special today. Find a water bottle that you love to motivate you to keep drinking water. Lately, I’ve bought different cups and water bottles to keep me wanting to drink more. One of my favorites is my S’well bottle because it stays cold all day. Plus, I love the marbled look.

Pun intended, but you deserve self care and to feel your best.

Did you get any self care time in this week? What can you do to get some in this week?

Jensen is FIVE.

I always need a few days after Jensen’s birthday to collect all my thoughts.

Five feels really big. He should be half a decade old. That realization is hard to wrap my mind around. Then I remember, I have to live the rest of my life without him. It’s a mix of seeing Mila grow older and knowing five holds so much that really brought me to a dark space this year.

Not that every year isn’t hard because having your child die really sucks.

Anyways, Jensen’s actual birthday was everything it needed to be. We still celebrate his birthday and I probably always will.

This year, I wanted to do an activity a five-year-old would love to do. So, we went to the zoo.

I want to go over how much we loved the Cleveland Zoo in a future post, but it was a huge part of Jensen’s fifth birthday. It would be silly not to share the highlights of the day.

My favorite part of going to the zoo was that all the animals were out. Since it was a cooler day, they were playing and being active. The big cats were all out and not napping. Even the bears were out of their caves and showing off.

Honestly, I thought of Jensen’s birthday eve book. We read On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. In the book, the animals were all dancing the night the baby was born. It felt like the animals were out at the zoo for Jensen. I know that sounds silly, but those little connections are my only ones to him.

As with anything during child loss, I also wondered what animal Jensen would like seeing the most at the zoo. At five, he’d definitely have a favorite. Part of me felt like he’d have liked the red pandas the most. I wonder if he’d want his face painted too. Just those little things that constantly pop up.

I’ve finally realized it’s okay to have those sad moments in a happy day. Grief and happiness coexist in the strangest way, especially on their birthdays.

Of course we had dippin’ dots at the zoo!

After the zoo, we went out to eat.

There were a few birthdays that got celebrated and it was hard because Jensen didn’t get that. Mila is at an age where she wants to sing along with everyone else’s birthday celebrations when we go out. Yet, we didn’t get one for her brother at the restaurant.

I often wonder what Mila thinks of those types of things. It’s just our life, but it’s just something I think about.

When we got home, we had family over to celebrate Jensen and his birthday. There was ice cream cake, singing, and bubbles. Everyone said his name and that will always be the greatest gift of all.

Just knowing Jensen is remembered and loved brings me such happiness.

Throughout his birthday, I received so many birthday messages and love. I can’t thank everyone enough for that. The love that surrounds him and his memory is so beautiful.

I don’t know what this year of grief looks like. Whenever I try to plan something, it feels like it gets a little derailed.

One thing I want to do in honor of Jensen this year is a backpack drive to donate to a local school. Since he’d be a kindergartner this year, I feel like that would be a beautiful way to honor him. The closer we get to the summer, the more details and information I’ll have on this.

What I do know is that as we dive into year five, he is still so loved and missed.

I think about my little boy every single day. He is the reason I keep going forward and shapes the way I parent Mila. Jensen is a part of our lives in all ways. Even though he isn’t here with us doesn’t mean he isn’t in our hearts.

No matter how many years pass, I’m so proud to be his mom.

April is National Poetry Month…

…and a bunch more too.

April is not an easy month for me and this year feels extra difficult too. On top of my intense grief with Jensen’s birthday only four days away, I’m drowning in my last semester of school, work, and Mila’s birthday too. It’s a dangerous combination. Breakdown probably imploding soon.

Through it all, I’m trying to remain positive, even when it feels really hard.

This morning, I didn’t know if I was going to blog today. Instead, I took the morning easy and painted with Mila. Since it’s National Poetry Month, I thought it’d be fun to write a poem too.

My plan is to write a poem a day, whether I share it or not. It challenges me to think inward and be expressive. In a month where I don’t have a ton of time to self reflect or do a lot of self care, this will be my time.

For the first one, I thought it’d be poetic to write one about April.


April.
you hold so much of my heart,
i don’t know where to start.
you’ve brought me life and death,
promise you won’t take my breath.
your sun shines so hot,
my son comes through forget-me-nots.
you have flowers grow all around,
while my daughter runs all around.
you always tempt me to love you,
and one day that’ll be true.

It may not be the best poem around, but I think it perfectly describes this month for me.

Here’s what’s coming up for the rest of the month. Again, it’s going to be really busy here, but I’ll be around… promise.

  • April 4 – Easter & Family Pictures
  • April 5 – Jensen turns FIVE!
  • Mila’s Birthday Party
  • April 14 – Mila turns THREE!
  • April 22 – Earth Day
  • April 27 – Last day of this semester.

When it’s listed out like that, it doesn’t seem like so much. Yet, behind every single one of those is a lot of emotions and time. So, I’ll be just a bit busy.

Let me know if I should share my daily poems. Maybe I’ll paint too!

What Happened to Laundry Weekend?

It was supposed to be a laundry weekend.

Moms know what this means. We had a long weekend so all the clothes in the house were to be folded. Extra cleaning was to be done too. The chore list doesn’t just do itself. It was all supposed to be neat and tidy for the week ahead.

Even though it was supposed to happen, it didn’t.

All the clothes are still waiting to be folded. The floors are swept and the house is somewhat tidy, but not to the level it could have been.

Instead, I focused on the hardest job: being a mom.

Mila and I played outside most of time. We went to get dinner at a food truck and made new friends. When the weather was it’s nicest, we went on a hike. She made me wear silly headbands, pretending to be a pirate. I played along with all that she asked. At night, we cuddled and watched movies. I listened when she needed to be heard. She showed me her new superhero power. We did what we needed to as a family.

Even though there’s a to do list full of chores, it didn’t seem so important in the moment.

At this time next month four turns to five and two turns to three. Time is continuing on, even when I want to hit pause.

I’ll always think about the should be’s, the moments I missed, and the extra laundry too. The Jensen-size-hole in my heart is just aching a little more. It reminds me of the choices I make on weekends like these.

He reminds me of moments and why I soak them up with her. Things around the house will stay, but she’ll continue growing. I don’t want to miss any more.

So, if you ask how my laundry weekend went just know…

All the laundry that was supposed to be folded will always be there. These moments won’t.

The Unwritten Milestone

To say I wasn’t prepared for Mila’s new and unwritten milestone would be a complete understatement. Not only did it come out of no where, it completely took me off guard.

Usually, Wednesdays are to tell you all about their weird things Mila does. It’s one of the things I look forward to sharing most about. They make me laugh to think about and I know other parents can connect to them too. I’m pretty sure all our kids are somewhat weird.

Anyways, I couldn’t even call what she did yesterday weird. It was more like… touching, heartwarming, and inspiring.

She absolutely made my heart grow with one little sentence.

Here’s what happened.

As I was leaving to go back to work after lunch, Mila did her normal goodbye routine. She has to give whoever a hug and kiss, at least two times. Then tells them she loves them and to have a good day. Just when you’re about to walk out the door, she’ll yell, “I need a hug and kiss!” Then run up to you.

Well, this lunch period was a little different. She ended up walking me out of the house, instead of watching me go. When I bent down to give her a hug and kiss, she said something new. Something no one prepared me about: the unwritten milestone.

You’re the best, Mom.

She has never, ever said that before; especially when I’m about to leave her for a few hours.

As she said it to me, she gave me a big squeeze. Then, she flashed her smile and walked back to the door. She waved and told me to have a good day.

In that big moment, I had to take a deep breath and get back to real life.

On the inside, I melted. I swear if it was any other time, I probably would have cried. With all the leaving her lately, I wonder how she thinks of me. That statement let me know everything I was doing was right.

It might sound silly to cherish this one unwritten rule, but no one told me what that one little saying would feel like when they said it.

There’s a high chance I’m not the best mom in the entire world, but I’m the best mom to MIla and that feels pretty good. One day she’ll learn the power in her words and how I’ll always think she’s the best girl.

For now, I’m celebrating this victory in motherhood and the unwritten milestone.

How Anxiety Makes a Scary Situation Worse.

Story time.

Three nights ago, I had a scary incident. I still have the bruises on my arms to remind me what happened.

Since it’s happened, I’ve been unsure if it’s a loss mom thing or a general parent worry. Either way, I wanted to share it with everyone who reads this little blog because you’ve followed my family’s story this far.

So, I have a barn door for my bedroom door. The doorway is in between my bedroom and living room. My mom and I built it and it’s pretty heavy and sturdy. It’s fallen off the tracks a few times, mostly when I’ve been messing around with it and no little living thing is in the way.

The other night, Mila and I got home later than normal. Max was super excited to see us. As I’ve stated before, he can get a little hyper.

I fed Max and gave him a bone to calm down. Afterwards Mila and I walked into my bedroom and I didn’t latch open the sliding door. Max figured out we weren’t in the living room anymore and took off to my room.

While he was running, the door was shutting. Mila was going toddler speed and was only a few steps in front of the door when it happened.

Everything that happened next was in slow motion.

Max tore through the door and knocked it off the track. I saw it pop off and lift up. Then it started to tilt.

I yelled for Mila to move. All my anxiety could just imagine the door smashing into her.

Of course, she was frozen because she didn’t know why I was yelling. The dog looked scared… probably because it hurt a lot and he knew I was upset.

As it falls more slowly and everyone’s still froze, I had to jump into action. When I took that first step, time caught back up.

I threw my arms under the heavy door as it neared Mila. Somehow I kicked her to safety too.

The door landed on my wrists and forearms. There’s cuts and bruises, but nothing I can’t handle. Mila was upset and the dog was too, but everyone was safe.

After it all happened, I just kept thinking of what could have happened.

What if I was in the laundry room and didn’t see it happen?

What if I didn’t catch it in time?

How serious would it have been?

Would she have gotten badly hurt?

What can I do to make this safer?

Even though everything turned out ‘okay,’ all those questions scare me. I don’t know what I would have done if she had gotten hurt.

I think after losing a child, the thought of losing another is always right there.

Anxiety is always in me. When I’m not with Mila, it skyrockets because I can’t be there to save or help her. It’s exhausting to always keep worrying and thinking of the bad.

These cuts and bruises on me remind me that she is safe and I’m doing my best.

I’m never going to be able to protect her from everything; I’m just learning how to manage that.

Do you overthink situations like this? Or can you just put it in the past?