“Is he your first child?”

This question follows us around wherever we go: playing at the park, buying shrimp at the grocery store, hanging out at a mom’s group, or celebrating a friend’s birthday. This is the question I have to answer most frequently. Coincidentally, it’s also the one I find most challenging to respond to.

Most often, the truth feels too time consuming to put into words; it carries with it awkward responses and a lingering emotional toll. So I take the easy way out and simply say, “Yes.”

I know that in a few years, I won’t be the only one struggling to find an appropriate answer to this question. Alistair will have to find his own words for this story too.

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“Do you still have bad days?”

The question lingers in the air as I quietly debate how best to answer it. I’ve had to answer this question more frequently of late – it seems to be yet another by-product of the passage of time.

It’s been twenty months since I lost my sweet baby boy; twenty months since I felt his final kick goodbye and wailed over his tiny, breathless body. There are days when these moments feel like a lifetime ago. But there are days too when my heart aches and I miss that little boy more than words can tell.

People are naturally curious as to what the grieving process looks like now – a year and a half after loss. Most individuals have heard that “the first year is the hardest” and wonder what happens after that. Do I still grieve? Is the one year anniversary some magical line drawn in the sand that erases all grief? Do I still have “bad days?”  Read more

Every year on January 1st, life hits the reset button. Echoing around the globe are calls for “fresh starts,” “new beginnings,” and a detailed plan of attack for the inevitable weight-loss goals. Out with the old and in crashes the new on a glittering wave of 10-second-countdowns and misty eyed renditions of “Auld Lang Syne.”

At the stroke of midnight, we boldly launch ourselves into a new year filled with endless promise and opportunity. Excited over the prospect of what these next twelve months will hold, we dutifully record our 105 resolutions and set out to achieve our “best year yet!”

This year will be better than last – we tell ourselves this over and over again as we toss out half eaten chocolate bars and strap on brand new pairs of running shoes. The blank page before us is just waiting to be transcribed; it’s brimming with possibility and void of last year’s sorrows, mishaps, tears, and pain. This year we’ll be a better, stronger, happier version of ourselves.

But resetting isn’t always that simple.

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One year ago today, I buried my baby.

It was grey and drizzly as we made our way from a nondescript funeral viewing room to a soggy graveside. As my husband and our fathers lifted the tiny, white casket out of the hearse, I couldn’t help but picture blue booties and a tiny baby clad in airplane pyjamas.

I had never gotten the chance to dress him, never seen him smile, or felt him burrow against my chest. I had never even seen the color of his eyes. And yet, here I was, saying good-bye.

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Sitting outside the hospital with my empty, saggy tummy and watery eyes, I watched family after family proudly and ever-so-carefully carry their day old newborns out to the car. With every step the beaming parents radiated a wave of pride, nerves, and pure delight. Caught up in a world of wonder, they smiled broadly in my direction, inviting me to join them in this brief moment of bliss. And while I desperately wished to share in their excitement, to feel something, I couldn’t seem to get further than the fake smile twisted on my face.

This was their happiest day. But it certainly wasn’t mine.

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As our first official Father’s Day flitted by in a haze of early morning snuggles, a baby entranced by empty watchband boxes, and a quick trip to the doctor for a bad case of diaper rash, I was reminded that this day was yet another milestone for our family. Our first Father’s day was one of joy and remembrance as we celebrated my husband and the boys who made him a dad, and a time of reflection as we mourned the memories that we had hoped to make as a family of four.

Sitting on the couch, watching the lake water reflect through the window of our summer cabin, I asked my husband about his experience with grief. As he paused for a moment to think, I was struck by the sudden realization that for the past year, he has had to carry an extra heavy burden. As husband and father, his shoulders have borne the weight of both his pain and mine. He has stood tall as protector, provider and supporter for our family during an uncertain time, and he has emerged from the other side stronger but still scarred.

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A few years ago, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across photos of a mother holding her newborn baby. With tears in her eyes, she gazed lovingly at the tiny babe that had just been brought into the world. Bundled gently in a white hospital blanket, he was small and beautiful. And although he appeared to be asleep, this little fellow would never wake up.

He was stillborn.

To be completely honest, this picture confused me. I was genuinely grieved over the loss of this mother’s baby but more than anything else, I was weirded out. I found it strange that they’d posted a photo of their deceased infant and odder still that the mother’s arms were wrapped so tightly around him. I couldn’t imagine wanting to hold someone who was dead, even if they were your child.

“Would I hold my stillborn baby?”

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In the little white casket sat a pair of blue booties, knit with love.

I was nineteen and in my second year of college. There was this certain, red headed boy that I’d been dating for a few months and I was busy working on my commercial pilots license. When we weren’t wandering our way through an Albertan blizzard, we spent a great amount of time trying to knit. Very few college students had managed to avoid the knitting fever – even the boys spent time “brocheting.” And so, when my roommate tossed me her old pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn, I eagerly set to work.

Three failed attempts later, I’d finally completed my first project – a wobbly, lime green, garter stitched scarf.

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It was Tuesday evening. I was 31 weeks pregnant (seven months) and had been on maternity leave for a week and a half. We had spent the week getting the boys room ready:  two cribs built, framed photos hanging on the wall, two carseats and a double stroller purchased and sitting in the living room.

Andreas and I were sitting on the couch, chowing through a bowl of noodles and watching an episode of Downton Abbey. But at that moment, not even Maggie Smith’s classic one-liners could chase away my growing sense of unease; a gnawing “mother’s instinct” that was threatening to build into an all out state of panic.

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From the start, our pregnancy was classified as high risk simply because we were carrying twins. Truthfully though, since the beginning of our pregnancy was so smooth, I really didn’t pay much attention to this label. Until one takes a quick glance at the statistics regarding twin or triplet pregnancies, it’s easy to forget just how delicate a multiple pregnancy can be.

Compared to singleton pregnancies (one baby), multiples are almost 17 times more likely to be born prematurely, with half of all twins having a birth weight under 5.5 lbs. And, as was such in our case, women carrying twins are twice as likely to experience a stillbirth.*

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I’ll always remember our first ultrasound photo; a grainy image capturing two little blobs sitting side by side. It’s a moment forever engraved in my mind, a feeling I could never forget – the day we discovered we were pregnant with twins.

Three weeks earlier, we were at the doctor’s office and had just found out that we were expecting. Overloaded, mind swimming,  we were in a state of shock. Pregnancy wasn’t part of our plan – at least, not yet. We had laid out a road map for our marriage and it didn’t include kids for another five years.

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