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One of my very talented blogger friends, Stefanie Tong, has recently published her new book: Chasing Light, a beautiful and raw look at life after pregnancy loss.

Centered around her two miscarriages and her subsequent grief and depression, Stefanie writes about both the challenges and the search for hope and wholeness following the death of a child.

Reading through this book, I was constantly struck by Stefanie’s incredible honesty and willingness to embrace and explore her grief. She is not afraid to be vulnerable and peal back the intricate layers surrounding loss. Touching on her husband’s grief, as well as conversations that they had with their three-year-old daughter, I appreciated this book’s accurate reflection of how grief and loss affects the entire family.

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Dear Grieving Mama,

It’s October. The trees have begun to shed their colourful leaves and the smell of pumpkin spice lattes float throughout the cool air. For everyone else, this is a month about Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving turkeys, and trips to the pumpkin patch. But for you, this month signifies something a little different.

This is your first October after the loss of your little one.

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It feels like it’s taken me a long time to get here. To arrive at this in-between place where I’m finally ready to entertain the idea of ‘trying again.’

Another pregnancy. Another baby.

The thought volleys around in my head. Back and forth I debate whether I’m ready to get pregnant again – whether I even want to. Maybe we have already reached our family’s final number; maybe we will find new ways to grow, just the three of us.

But I know in my heart that I’m not satisfied with this ending.

Not that this wouldn’t be enough. Not that I wouldn’t be perfectly happy leaving things the way they are. But there’s more to this story – it’s not finished yet.

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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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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

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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“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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