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I was seven months pregnant when I lost my first child. The doctors hurriedly pulled him from my stomach but they found no heartbeat, no breath. He was declared stillborn.

My second pregnancy ended quickly. I barely made it to the eight week mark when the doctors confirmed what my body had already told me – it was over. They told me I had “experienced a miscarriage.”

When you look at their definitions on paper, a miscarriage and a stillbirth are essentially the same thing. Both involve the loss of a beautiful baby in utero. A miscarriage occurs before 20 weeks of pregnancy, a stillbirth occurs after 20 weeks.* Both types of loss involve the pain of losing a child; and both leave a mother with empty arms and crushed dreams.

And yet, there’s no denying that these are two very different experiences.

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At the edge of a grassy graveyard, surrounded by little bronze markers and drying flowers, sits my son’s gravestone. His name is boldly inscribed across the top: “Landon A. Mannegren.” This grave is a physical reminder of his short life, a place that marks his brief stay in this world. This tombstone is a declaration that he was here.

But none of that exists for my recent miscarriage.

I never felt this little one’s first kicks. I never knew their gender or held them in my arms. There is no birth certificate, no ultrasound photos, and no baby nursery. All I could give this precious babe was eight weeks of love snuggled up in my womb and a name to call their own.

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To my sweet, little man; my sunshine, my Alistair,

Today you turn two. Just the thought of it evokes all the imaginable cliches about babies growing up too quickly. Because although you still refer to yourself in third person, “baby” has now graduated to “big boy.”

This was a big year for you: learning to walk, beginning to talk. You’re getting bolder as you maneuver the equipment at the playground. You dance and run, tiptoe and sing. If there was a toddler edition of “So You Think You Can Dance,” you would win hands down.

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Two years ago I sat on a hospital bed and learned about the excruciating heartbreak that can accompany motherhood. I said good-bye to a baby that I had carried for 31 weeks; a precious little one that I had never officially met and yet had whispered to and loved on for seven months.

Almost exactly two years later, I’m here again. I sit in a blue hospital gown, my arm still bruised from where they’ve drawn blood, and watch as the ultrasound technician carefully maneuvers her wand over my belly.

I booked this appointment weeks ago. I should be sitting in this room with my husband, watching a tiny heartbeat pulse on the screen. I should leave this appointment with a confirmed due date and a printout of my baby’s first ultrasound photos. Instead, I arrive at the clinic knowing that this appointment will be different; I arrive knowing that the sonogram will be empty.

We’ve miscarried.

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When I was little, I used to love flipping through my baby book – seeing the handwritten dates describing when I got my first tooth or my first haircut. There’s just something special about documenting these little moments, details that would otherwise have been long forgotten.

But when it comes to pre-designed, store bought baby books it seems that not much has changed in the past twenty years. For the most part, these books seemed overly generalized and weren’t quite what I was looking for. When I discovered I was pregnant, I decided on a more streamline baby book for my sons – I wasn’t interested in having to print and glue pictures into a paper book.

That’s where Shutterfly came in.

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“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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When our doctor confirmed at the four month check-up that our son was teething, I assumed that we’d see those pearly whites popping up shortly thereafter. It was another eight months (and countless bouts of swollen gums) before we finally saw that first tooth – needless to say, we were all pretty relieved.

We all know that having a teething baby can be exhausting for the whole family. Here are 9 simple tricks to help you and your little one get through this process:

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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

“Aren’t you afraid that he’s going to fall?”

Legs dangling, feet swinging, my son stuffs a handful of cheese into his mouth and giggles from the comfort of his Guzzie + Gus Perch highchair. Whenever we invite guests over for dinner, this is inevitably one of the questions that gets asked. Will this “floating” perch hold his weight?

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Now that the weather is colder and wetter, I’ve been busy searching for indoor activities to do with my 18 month old son. That’s when I came across this easy, mess free activity for little ones with short attention spans – painting in a bag. 

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“At least he died as a baby. It’s more painful to lose them when they’re older.”

The burial had concluded moments earlier. We sat under a green canopy, rain dripping lazily off the sides and watched as funeral workers tidied up the area around my son’s fresh grave.

This was not something that I wanted to hear. Not today, not ever.

“At least he died as a baby…”

These words were offered to me by a much-loved family member, an individual who was clearly struggling with painful memories of their own. I knew this comment wasn’t meant to cause pain – in fact, it wasn’t really about me. This was simply the truth as they saw it. But it didn’t make the words sting any less; it didn’t make them any more appropriate for that moment. It may have been “more painful” to lose an older child but I still would have given anything for a little extra time with him.

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Remember when Baby Showers used to be a lot simpler? Back when a group of women would sit in a circle, tie balloons to the new mom’s chair for decoration, and watch as she opened up a pile of presents? We’d eat cake, guess which melted chocolate bar had been smeared inside the diaper, and go home with a couple clothespins clipped to our sweater.

But thanks to the wonderful and all too time consuming invention of Pinterest, things have changed. Now a days, even the once-a-year party planner is expected to channel her inner Martha Stewart, and quite frankly, it’s all a little daunting to live up to.

When it came time to organizing a Baby Shower for my marvelous friend April, I struggled to come up with a simple to execute, budget-friendly theme. So I decided to go back to the basics: a good ole’ “Baby” themed Baby Shower. (The fact that we knew her little one is a boy helped to refine the colour scheme a bit.)

And I have to say that I love the way this party came together. Cute. Simple. Budget-friendly. What’s not to love?

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