Stillbirth Remembrance Day.

Jensen has taught me so much in the time he was with me and after. He taught me a new kind of love and appreciation for life. My time with him brought me so many smiles and tears. I learned Jensen would much rather have a gallon of chocolate milk instead of water. He most definitely would have been a night owl who slept all day. His stubbornness even inside my belly made me laugh. I could go on and on about all the things I learned about him and how it effected me to this day. Even though he didn’t take a breath on this earth, he still lived. My little guy was a person who had his own emotions and personality. He’s the amazing, little baby that I would never been able to dream up. Jensen is my son, my first-born boy.

His death taught me others.

In fact, I learned that September sixth is Stillbirth Remembrance Day. That’s today, which falls on his twenty-second week. If you hadn’t noticed, a lot of important dates fall on Tuesdays this year. Honestly, before Jensen’s heart stopped beating, I didn’t realize what a stillbirth was. I mean, some part of my brain knew babies died and they were still. History documents so many women and families having multiple stillbirths, but that was way in the past. In my mind, it didn’t happen with all this technology we had or in this time. A baby’s heart just didn’t stop beating. No matter all these horrible things that can happen during pregnancy would never happen to me and my baby. Until it did.

Those words still ring in my ear, “I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat, you need to go to the hospital.”

Then the, “Do you understand what this means?”

I wish I could go back to this moment and scream at the doctor. No. I didn’t understand what that meant. How could he die? I just saw him dancing around on the screen four days before. He was just moving the previous day. It hit me as we drove over to the hospital that I’d have to go through labor and birth my son. Just as we practiced, but he wouldn’t be there. Instead of the screams, there would be nothing but silence. Some part of me believed the ultrasound machine was lying. That he would come out screaming and just faked everyone out. He didn’t, the room was silent.

Our time at the doctor’s office and the hospital still hasn’t come back to me; well not fully. I do remember being home the week after his funeral and it was the first time I looked up stillbirth on Google. What I found was so surprising. One in one-hundred and sixty pregnancies end in stillbirth. That’s a huge number of babies dying everyday. It’s another mom and dad losing their child. Another childhood that won’t be lived. A mom who feels like she’s unable to grieve the loose of her child because stillbirth is so taboo. Death is so taboo, yet it happens to so many babies before they’re even born. Yet, we’re told to ‘get over it’ and ‘just have another one.’ Jensen was not a statistic. I’m not a statistic. We are both human beings. Our lives have a purpose and we’re not defined by death. This happened to me and my family, but we’re not just this number in a study.

On this Stillbirth Remembrance Day, I remember Jensen and all his friends in heaven, just as I do everyday. Our angels are not just a number in a scientific study. Their lives are so meaningful and our motherhood is real. Don’t ever forget.

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I made this for Jensen. The modern wreath and his name are written in his colors, navy blue and orange. Triangles represent the shapes that flooded his nursery. He is remembered and honored everyday. My son will never be a statistic. His life will always be celebrated. I love seeing Jensen’s name and today I want to reach out to all my angel mom friends and ask if you’d like me to do a wreath for your angel. To see their names and remember they are not a statistic. My heart goes out to you mommas on Stillbirth Remembrance Day and everyday.

*Edit: currently not making name wreaths due to my schedule.*

Five Months.

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I usually don’t talk about Jensen’s big hands, just his perfect feet. Sometimes I don’t have the words to describe each of his features, in my mind they’re each just so perfect that there are no words to encapsulate him. This past week, I dove into Jensen’s drawer and looked over his hospital folder. These big, bear hands just reached for me to look more closely. I never realized how ginormous they were until the last time I saw them. We also printed off a few of his pictures to hang around the house and the one that sits next to Anthony really shocked me. His hands looked bigger than they do on his prints. They’re chubby and really long actually. You can’t see that in the prints, so you’ll just have to trust me. Those hands would definitely be bigger than mine. I hope he’d give better high-fives than me too.

Five whole months. He would’ve been using his hands so much by now. Holding his bottle, gripping my fingers hard, and probably flailing them around. I’m sure they’d be right by his face all the time, just like he had them during all the ultrasounds. He would for sure be a thumb sucker, but that’s okay. I can just imagine how he would have grown by now and I would be seeing this beautiful boy with his hand in his mouth and slobber everywhere. Then when he’d get our attention he’d just give us this ornery, big, gummy smile with his hand still stuck in there. I can just picture it…

Honestly, I didn’t imagine me being able to make it to the five month mark without Jensen with me. Sometimes I think my heart is so broken that it’s going to stop too. Kind of like how older couples die just months between each other. I feel like that’s going to be me. Everyday I’m amazed that I wake up, feel it beating, and can get out of bed. The pain of outliving my child stings with every breath I take. I try to fill the house with him each day so I have a reason to smile. Most times I wish I could just stay on my couch curled up in my blanket with all my candles on and just be. Not doing anything, but being warm and present. Those days are necessary most of the time, but I have to get up. I have to work and try to keep living the fullest life I can.

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The Promise of September.

It’s been a weird day.

September is here. I keep seeing post full of excitement for fall, the weather getting cooler, and everything pumpkin. The kids are back walking past my house every afternoon. I always loved the idea of being close to the school, now it’s torture. Leaves on the trees are slowly turning and will soon fall to the ground. There’s promises of change surrounds me from every direction. It pressures me to feel it, but everything in my body is telling me to run back to April. Run away from Jensen being five months old here in a few short days. The promise of change scares the living hell out of me.

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It’s crazy to be at a point where I remember being pregnant last year and can compare it with now. I guess what I say it like that it doesn’t make sense. It’s easy to compare the physical aspect of my life from last year to now. I was pregnant and happy that Jensen was here and now he’s not. The ‘interesting’ comparison is the train of thoughts. Last year I was constantly thinking for the future and what was best for the little life growing inside me, now I’m thinking of the past. What could I have done better? Why didn’t I take more pictures? I do a good job of making myself feel guilty…

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Twenty-One Weeks.

All day I went back and forth on if I wanted to write today. After yesterday’s fairly ‘good’ day, nighttime was a completely different story. I couldn’t sleep, stop crying, or thinking. My empty arms ached all night. Tears soaked his nightly letter and my eyes burned from them. Thoughts of the happy moments of Jensen being here and his death wrestled in my mind. This morning didn’t fare any better. It hit me that when I woke up, it’d be the next week without him. My face was all stuffy and my eyes bloodshot red. I swear my hair was sticking straight up and to the sides. The dark blue underneath my eyes weren’t as surprising. I looked sad and it didn’t even reflect how horrible I felt on the inside.

When I looked in the mirror, I saw the reflection of a bereaved mother.

This momma had to face another week without her son. Twenty-one to be exact, so three days shy of one-hundred and fifty days without him, here with me. I swear each day and week gets harder and harder. We’re coming up on five months in less than a week, the month is changing, and fall is quickly approaching. Change. It sucks when I’m still here experiencing what would have been brand new to Jensen. I can’t see the beauty in the leaves changing or really appreciate the weather getting cooler. All the things I was excited for when he was still with me is just gone.

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Why We Need To Talk About ‘Good’ Days After Loss.

If you would have told me twenty weeks ago that I would be able to smile again, I would have rolled my eyes at you. I would promise you that a smile would never cross my face again because how could I smile after my baby died? When I thought of smiling, I thought of the pure happiness from before Jensen was born. A smile that filled my whole entire face and came from the soul. I’m not sure I’ll ever have one of those smiles again in the after, but I have smiled. My post-loss smiles are broken, but they come and go.

My good day today falls on the day Jensen’s heart stopped. I never really pay attention to Mondays because I was so numb that day. Now I won’t let myself just focus on his death, but I mourn alone on Mondays. Tuesdays represent the last physical connection, which is harder for me. But alas, I’ve finally had a good Monday. Even on the Monday before the month changes! There’s been multiple reasons to smile today. I’m still gushing over the sunset that reminded her of Jensen, shared with me on Saturday. Yesterday while swimming, I found a little feather from Jensen. Today I got to see Jensen’s name (three times!) from two other people. One on a beach in Canada and two others from the Painted Name Project. I looked through all his pictures and hospital memories today too. All these moments are happy moments that stemmed from Jensen and his time here. It hit me after all these good things that these good days, with tears, don’t get shared enough.

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Up until a few weeks ago, I felt guilty over smiling. Heck, I felt guilty for having a ‘good’ day. Before I go any further I’ll explain what a ‘good’ day looks like. A good day after loss is different from before loss. It’s when you can breathe without feeling like you’re drowning. Where you can leave the comfort and safety of your home and not be overcome by triggers. Tears still come during these days, but they don’t stall everything else. You can live in the moment, still thinking about your angel, but able to do things for them and yourself. Good days are still hard right now, but they’re crucial during grief. But when it hits you that you’re having a good day and you find yourself smiling; the guilt rushes over. Especially on that first good day.

Then it all spirals down again. Grief hits harder and it pulls you under. You feel like a horrible person for being able to enjoy a day when you know your baby isn’t here and will never be here. There’s guilt in feeling like you haven’t fully mourned your child on that day. There’s distrust in good feelings and emotions. A part of you doesn’t ever want to feel happy again because how can you when they’re not in your arms? How can a mother feel anything but the pain that comes after hearing your baby’s heart isn’t beating? It hurts and you breakdown. The first good day for me ended up in tears. So technically it was half a good day. It was a learning moment in grief and I learned it was okay to have a good day.

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Healing through Creating.

After a beautiful morning and afternoon, I was stuck inside for most of the evening listening to the pouring rain. Most days I can keep busy with writing or reading, but I just couldn’t read or watch anything. This is when grief really sets in and since it was so nice out today, I was having a good one. I did not want the rest of the day to turn sour and completely breakdown for the rest of the night. My hands kept fidgeting, so I knew it was time to create. Thankfully I had a project in mind and I went right to it.

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Jensen’s Certificate of Life.

Yesterday was such a whirlwind of emotions for me. I’m thankful for all the support and love that poured in. My family helped me have the the best birthday I could have considering I was so upset I couldn’t be celebrating with Jensen. I’ll admit, I cried a few times, but I survived one of the first big anniversaries of his life. Being yesterday was also the day we found out we were pregnant and it was his twentieth week in heaven. I never like to wish time away, but I’m glad yesterday is over. Thanks to each and everyone of you who sent over birthday hopes and wishes. I was so happy to share a piece of Jensen yesterday. His feet are just so perfect and one day we’ll be able to share all of him with you.

Besides everything that came with yesterday, I’ve had a lot on my mind about the events and differences after a stillbirth happens. For one, we never received a birth certificate or any document that says Jensen lived. We have his fetal death certificate that they gave us right after we picked up his ashes. I was really bothered we never received anything to say that Jensen was here in the eyes of the government. Maybe that’s silly of me, but he did exist and he lived 38 weeks. In Ohio, you can actually get a Certificate of Stillbirth. The parents have to apply for it through the Office of Vital Statistics and send it in. I can’t speak for every state or country since I haven’t researched it, but it gave me another sense of closure to have something from the government stating his name and birthdate. It didn’t say anything about death though, which is so nice to have something office not talk about his death. His name and birthdate was also filed away so they recognize he was alive and born. If you can get one where you live, I’d really recommend doing it. It didn’t take too long to fill out the form, send it out, then receive the documents.

If you have been through that process, I’d love for you to share your experiences so others could read from different parts in the world.

Anyways, my friend, Melissa, and I were talking about how we never got a document that celebrated our angels’ lives. It really bothered both of us how there’s no standard papers for stillbirth or miscarriage. We both agreed how we thought their lives, no matter how long they were with us, should be on a certificate and shown off. So, Melissa ended up coming up with a way to celebrate and honor her son, Lachlan, by making certificates of life. She wanted to really embrace what made our babies special and acknowledge their length and weight and what time they were born. Just because our babies were stillborn, our birth experience matters and is important to us. All those little details are so unique to each and every baby, that they should be celebrated. Of course when she told me she was going to start making one, I wanted one for Jensen. Today I received it!

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The Greatest Gift.

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

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

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

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

To Danielle at Twenty-Two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow, you will keep surviving.

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

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

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

Love,

Danielle at almost twenty-three.

Day of HOPE Prayer Flag Project 2016

When you drive by my little grey house with black shutters, you’ll be welcomed by a big pallet chair, flowers, and a big signs welcoming you. Everything is very monochromatic, besides the flowers and one flag that hangs to the right of the chair inviting you to sit. This flag is different. Even though it’s oddly out of place, it feels like it’s right where it should. It hangs behind an angel that sits and protects the house. When the wind blows the frays on the bottom dance. Each part of the flag tell a story and as the frays dance in the wind, it also tells a story of love, loss, and hope.

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