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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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A night of gift wrapping used to be synonymous with a roll of reindeer covered paper, a glass of eggnog and a Michael Buble Christmas CD. By the end of the evening, a pile of presents would sit under the tree dressed in shiny gift tags, sparkling bows, and delicately handcrafted snowflakes.

But with a toddler in the house, everything looks a little different…

While I envy your Pinterest inspired wrapping techniques, and gifts pretty enough to hang over the mantle, our boxes are going to have a little more “character” this year. But in case you’re still curious about that foot-shaped imprint in the middle of your present, here’s what it looks like to wrap gifts with a toddler in the house:

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Our family has been trying to visit the aquarium for months now. On three separate occasions we’ve arrived at Stanley Park and promptly driven home again in order to avoid parking chaos and hordes of swarming tourists. But eventually, our determination to introduce our son to the bubbly world of undersea creatures outweighed our desire to avoid pushy crowds. And so, one overcast October morning, we were delighted to finally find ourselves inside a relatively quiet Vancouver Aquarium.

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“I lost my baby too.”

I’ve heard these words over and over again. The stories may differ but the heartache remains the same. These are the quiet confidences whispered between grieving mamas; a single sentence that binds us together over stripped wombs and ragged hearts.

The day I lost my son, I found myself joining an unexpectedly large group of mourning women. They were all around me and until then, I’d never even noticed.

Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage – but despite this staggering figure, it can be difficult to put faces to these numbers. As a comparatively quiet group of mothers, it’s sometimes easier to ignore their loss rather than figure out how to approach them.

But how do we respond when a grieving mother shares with us the crushing pain of infant (or child) loss? How do we offer support for the friend who calls us in tears from the hospital? How do we walk alongside mothers in the midst of such heartbreaking grief?

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October: the time of year when store-bought gourds begin to line the steps of neighbouring homes and fallen maple leaves give a satisfying crunch beneath your boots. It’s the month where we bust out our cozy knit sweaters and foamy lattes to fight against air that’s suddenly grown a little crisper. It’s four weeks of fake cobwebs, clever costumes, and tiny packets of chocolate. It’s also the month of everything Pumpkin.

With pumpkin spice lattes advertised on coffee shop chalkboards, carved pumpkins guarding front doors, and pumpkin smelling hand-soaps in the bathroom, it can be rather difficult to avoid these giant, orange spheres. We can buy them at the grocery store (whole or in pie form) or lug them home from the farmers market. But, for a true October adventure, there’s only one way to find the perfect pumpkin: you have to go to the Pumpkin Patch.

Because seriously, is there anything more “October-y” than a muddy field full of bright, orange pumpkins?

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I held the delicate, silver necklace up against the light and watched the baby birds sway on a branch; my heart burst with thankfulness for this unexpected reminder of my two boys. I hadn’t seen this pendant in over a year and yet, in that time, it had grown to mean all the more to me.

It had been an incredibly thoughtful gesture. A friend had pressed the necklace into my hand shortly after my son’s funeral: a visual reminder of a heart that would always carry two boys. But in the chaos of the following months, the necklace was somehow designated to a drawer full of tangled earrings and old bobby pins. As I stumbled once again across this gift, I questioned the strong, blinding grief that had caused me to gloss over such a beautiful gesture. Quietly, I began to wonder about all the other acts of love that had gone unacknowledged over the course of this past year.

That’s why this post is dedicated to you. The brave ones. The ones who loved us, each in their own way and their own time.

In an inadequate attempt to display the depth of my gratitude, this entry is for all those who have walked alongside us with patience, comforting arms, giving hearts, and listening ears. 

Because I need to say thanks.

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When you dream of being discharged from the hospital with a healthy, full-sized little one in your arms, it can be crushing to suddenly find yourself in the organized chaos of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Most families never plan on spending time in the NICU. The average mom is unprepared and unfamiliar with this strange world of beeping monitors, bubbling oxygen machines, and gowned hospital staff. And when you factor in a little baby that’s not doing so great, a few postpartum hormones, and a ton of stress, it’s no wonder that it can feel particularly overwhelming.

That being said, here are a few tips that this NICU mommy wishes she’d known in advance:

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Strapped into the five point harness of my baby stroller is a mini superstar sucking on a dinosaur soother.

That’s right – I have been given the highly sought after and seriously underpaid job of chauffeuring a little celebrity around town in my Graco buggy.

At least, I’m pretty sure there’s a celebrity in there…

Because how else can you possibly explain the unfathomable amount of attention given to the tiny human chewing on a toy giraffe?

Anytime we leave the house, we have to tack an additional half hour to our schedule for spontaneous “meet and greets.” We barely make it out of our apartment elevator without being mobbed by a herd of cooing grandmas and cross-eyed strangers pulling silly faces. And forget about the days of messy ponytails, sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt – my little passenger ensures that there is no longer such a thing as running a “quick errand without seeing anyone.”

Clearly the only plausible conclusion is that I’m carting around a blue eyed, button nosed, internationally recognized superstar.

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Note: This post was written for Michaela Evanow’s blog series on “This is Motherhood (Too).” This article was originally posted on Michaela’s site on August 10, 2015. 

I was eight weeks pregnant when the ultrasound technician turned a grainy screen towards me and pointed out not one but two little miracles. And in that moment, with two hearts blinking on the screen and cold jelly oozing down my belly, all fears dissipated. My husband and I could only marvel at the God who delights in giving such sweet surprises.

Amazed, we stumbled out of the appointment with a fistful of fuzzy ultrasound photos and the reassurance that One greater than ourselves was holding this pregnancy in the palm of His hand.

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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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Twelve months ago, the baby in the incubator looked more like a broken bird than a plump polar bear. During those early days, we were so focused on making it through the next hour that we couldn’t even dream of the next week, let alone an entire year.

But before I knew it, I was mailing out birthday invitations and dreaming of coconut covered cupcakes and polar bear guestbooks. A month of naptimes were spent making bunting, pompoms, and paper snowflakes. Our Costco membership card was broken in, presents wrapped, fondant rolled, and an overflowing igloo cake was stuffed in the oven, cried over, and very nearly stomped on. (Never again!)

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To my dearest, sweetest, little man, Happy 1st Birthday!

Exactly one year ago, you and your brother surprised us with your unexpectedly early entrance. While I was busy envisioning September birthday parties amidst crunchy, fall leaves, God had an entirely different birth date in store.

And His plan was perfect!

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