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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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The backseat of my car is strangely quiet – the ride curiously devoid of its usual symphony of animal imitations, tired cries, and gleeful toddler babbling. I turn the radio down to listen for sounds of rhythmic breathing or the gentle pop of a soother falling from my son’s sleepy lips.

It is completely quiet.

It is then, with my car enveloped in relative silence, that the panic decides to strike. The feeling is not unfamiliar; my chest tightens and I am slapped with an inexplicable feeling of alarm.

“Someone is missing.”

The thought springs unbidden to the forefront of my mind, anxiety overruling logic. I have forgotten someone, I have left them behind.

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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

 

“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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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 hit “publish” on my first blog post.

I still hesitate before clicking the little blue button that sends a post zooming into your emails and Facebook feeds, but that first time was especially intimidating. Feeling vulnerable, and slightly self-conscious (not to mention fighting off every blogger’s worst fear – “What if nobody reads this??”) I took a deep breath and began to furiously type out our story.

Twelve months and sixty posts later, we’re here. Wherever exactly “here” is.

I started this site as a much needed outlet for grief; thoughts that I had previously been unable to speak found their voice on these pages. And during the process, I re-discovered a love for words and a quiet delight that comes along with each satisfying click of the keyboard.

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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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The Forget Me Not’s were dead.

Arriving home from a weekend away, I discovered my meagre assembly of potted plants withering and wilted on the balcony. With the faint smell of basil still lingering in the air, I looked at the shriveled leaves and dried dirt with aggravation.

This had been my first attempt at livening up our micro-sized balcony with a bit of greenery. It was our third summer without a backyard vegetable patch and by late Spring my fingers had begun itching to get back into the dirt. But despite my best intentions for fresh veggies, my forgetful “mommy brain” combined with an intense summer heat wave had not been doing the plants any favours.

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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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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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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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