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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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To all the Mothers with Empty Arms and Grieving Hearts

Some days are easier than others. There are days when the painful throb of a broken heart briefly eases and tears are replaced by small smiles. These are the moments when the world seems a little lighter, a little brighter, and this new form of “normal” appears almost manageable. There are days without questions, “what-if’s” and the heavy weight of a grieving heart. But today is not that day.

Today is Mother’s Day.

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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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It was Easter Sunday and although we were a few minutes early, the church building was already feeling crowded. We squeezed into the sanctuary and made our way towards the family seating area in the corner. The main floor was quickly filling and my husband made a beeline for a row of available seats.

A few steps behind him, my gaze wasn’t on the empty seats but rather the row immediately in front of them. Perched on the theatre style seating were two matching car seats with a teeny tiny baby nestled in each one. Newborn twins.

My breath caught in my throat and I felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach.

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Until I began maternity leave, I worked part-time as an admin assistant for my home church. Typing, filing, organizing, formatting, and editing, may sound like death by paperwork but I was in my element. I couldn’t have been happier. My favourite time of the day was first thing in the morning as I’d begin preparing for office hours. With fingers flying over keys and emails whizzing out of my inbox, I’d open up YouTube and let my little computer fill the air with worship songs.

The musical notes would soak deep into my womb and the boys would respond with leaps and flips. With a belly morphing and bouncing, the three of us spent daily time in joyful praise and adoration of the one who gives life. One of the songs in particular caught my attention and I would play it over and over again, the melody lifting high in praise, my heart soaring alongside:

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When it comes to picking out a gravestone, some cemeteries only allow for markers so as not to disturb the natural appearance of the landscape. A marker is a flat headstone, compared to upright headstones which are called monuments. The price of our 20×12 baby sized marker was more than the funeral and came complete with a granite base, name, date, a five word epitaph and three emblems.

I’m twenty-three years old, I should not have to know this. But I do.

Last week we finally went to pick out a marker for Landon’s grave. For eight months his little plot of earth has been marked by a plastic slip of paper with his name and the occasional flower or stuffed bear.

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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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Today marks the six month birthday of our beautiful Alistair! Half a year with this little one.

My heart swells when I look at him and think of just how far along he’s come. Inquisitive and determined, always bursting with smiles, he’s the sweetest, funniest little man. With tiny feet that are now as long as his arm was at birth, he’s grown exponentially before our very eyes. His three month clothes are being packed away for a bigger size and our arm muscles quickly tire when snuggling all fifteen pounds of baby chub. Alistair loves to sing and squeal, coo and gurgle. He’s strong and has the most adorable, squishable, baby rolls.

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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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It’s that time of year again. There’s something about Christmas that just feels different from the rest of the year; a tangible change in the atmosphere that marks the beginning of the festive season.

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