A loss brings out so many raw emotions in us, but I’ve realized that it also brings beauty. When you’re faced with death, it dawns on you how fragile life is. I’ve never felt so amazed and overwhelmed by all of the things that have to go right for a life to come into existence. It’s a perfect storm of timing, genetics, and external conditions. Since our loss, I’ve felt so connected with nature. Watching birds build nests around our home out of twigs and dirt. Seeing trees grow in our flowerbed from acorns a squirrel buried. Having a plant bloom again for the first time in spring.
Tiny miracles are all around us. It takes a miracle to create life, and millions of miracles each day that keep us alive. If you’ve ever narrowly escaped a traffic accident, you know what I mean. You suddenly become thankful that it took you 5 extra seconds to find your keys that morning, when you were previously frustrated by the inconvenience of them being misplaced.
In my case, it’s strengthened my relationship with the Lord and for that I am forever grateful. I’ve learned that God can fill voids that no person can fill. He can repair a heart and breathe hope into it again.
Grief has become a common ground for me to make friends with people who were previously strangers. Nothing brings people closer together than a shared painful experience. I’m forever thankful for the new friends I’ve met and how this experience strengthened my existing friendships.
Despite how fragile our existence is, I’ve learned that I’m incredibly resilient and strong. I feel like I’ve become a better person through my grieving process. I feel like I can connect with others on a deeper level than I did before. There truly is nothing to make you more grateful than living through a loss.
You learn that no one has the right words, because there are no right words that can comfort you when you’ve lost someone you love. You learn that the only thing you have control of in life is how you process, experience and react. You learn that you get stronger one day at a time. Before you know it, you’re flying with your own wings. Just like a phoenix, beauty rises from the ashes.
To all my sweet friends flying with their own wings…I’m so thankful for you. I’m praying for you and sending you hugs always! ❤
The latin phrase “alis volat propiis” is translated to “she flies with her own wings.”
I’m a nester by nature. There’s always been a part of me that likes to surround myself with things that comfort me. Some might call it sentimental, others (
not naming names MOM!) may have called me a “pack rat.” I’ve managed to keep this flaw quality under control as I’ve gotten older; however, odds are you can pick out any item in my home and I’ll be able to give you a full story behind it. When I give gifts to loved ones, I do it with thoughtfulness and consideration.
When I was single, I listened to some audio books about finding your soulmate. They sounded incredibly sappy but ended up being so helpful. One of the chapters talks about holding an intention for things you want to call into your life. By creating physical space for someone, you also start making space in your mind and heart for them. The author gave the example that if you want to call your beloved into your life, you can start by making space in your home. Empty your things out of one of your nightstands, clean out your dressers and make sure your clothing only takes up half of your closet. I remember feeling silly making space for someone who wasn’t in my life, but within that same year those spaces would become occupied by my husband’s clothes and belongings.
As God started putting the idea of being a mother in my heart, I started collecting things for my future child. Every time I saw an adorable stuffed animal, I bought it and stored it in my spare bedroom. If the theory worked for calling my husband into my life, then surely having items picked out for my child would also call him/her into my life.
It’s probably no surprise that I went shopping for my baby before the strip turned pink. I purchased a yellow rocking chair and ottoman from a neighbor. I picked out the perfect crib and sleepy sheep bedding. We’d already designated our office to become the nursery so we could have the baby downstairs closer to our bedroom and kitchen. We moved out the desk and chair and made space for our crib to be delivered a few days before our 11 week appointment. When the crib arrived, the delivery men opened the boxes and started the assembly process. As the last rail was unwrapped, they noticed it was cracked. The crib had to be boxed up and returned since it was a safety hazard. When they left with the broken crib I remember feeling so sad that my nursery would have to stay empty. I had no idea just how empty that room would soon be.
Three days later, my heart would be broken too and my dreams shattered. My husband called the store to tell them that we didn’t need them to send a replacement crib after all. We returned the unopened bedding. I wish I were here in this room preparing a warm, cozy space for our newborn to sleep, but instead we moved the desk back in and the only thing I’m creating is a blog about the baby I’ll never hold in my arms.
The only remains of the nursery are a single bookcase which still holds my books about pregnancy and childbirth (and now books about molar pregnancies, gestational trophoblastic disease, and grieving a child I never knew) and those soft, snuggly stuffed animals. They hold space in my heart reminding me that hope isn’t lost…that this room may one day be filled with a sleepy eyed baby, first steps, and bedtime stories. But they also remain in this room holding space for our baby in heaven. She is gone, but she used to be mine.
I know these lyrics aren’t about losing a baby, but over the last few months I’ve found so much comfort in this song. Sometimes I feel like I not only lost my baby, but I’ve lost myself. As usual, Sara Bareilles is able to nail so many of my emotions in her lyrics. If you haven’t heard this song, I highly recommend giving it a listen! I’ve underlined my favorite parts of the lyrics below.
She Used To Be Mine – by Sara Bareilles
It’s not simple to say
Most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and its patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be
Although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl
She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine
It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew
Who’ll be reckless just enough
Who’ll get hurt
But who learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised
And gets used by a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck
And be scared of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day
‘Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone but used to be mine
Used to be mine
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine
One of the strangest things about a miscarriage is not knowing how to interact with moms who are still happily pregnant after your loss. The day we found out we lost our baby, I was messaging with a long time friend of mine who is due about a month before I was. We had spent weeks sharing in each other’s excitement and she was looking forward to hearing about my appointment almost as much as I was excited to share details. After we had trouble finding a heartbeat on the doppler, I was sent to the imaging suite. I quickly sent my friend a panicked message as we sat in the waiting room.
In that moment, she comforted me in ways that others couldn’t. She knew exactly I felt because she had experienced a loss herself years ago. That day she was so kind to me, and I felt awful knowing that my tragic experience probably caused her unnecessary worry and stress about her own baby.
When we spoke again, I expected to feel jealous or envious that she still had a healthy pregnancy, but I never once did. I’ve read that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a loss and I told her that if my baby had to be the 1 that didn’t survive, that I’m so thankful that her baby was one of the 3 that did. I started placing my hope into her baby and praying that he would be born perfectly healthy in July.
As word spread about my loss, I felt my pregnant friends withdraw a bit. Perhaps with the intent to ease my pain. Though, on this side of things, it sometimes made me feel like my sadness and misfortune was contagious. That my unhappiness and heartache could put their happiness and joy at risk. I understand that perception is not reality, but it’s how I felt.
Two days after my D&C, I went shopping for baby books for friends who had a shower that day. I expected it to feel painful and was surprised that it made me feel better. Buying those books was the first time I got out of bed, showered, and dried my eyes. It gave me a reason to move forward. It ripped off the proverbial band-aid before jealousy and envy had a chance to scab over my deep wounds.
I just want you to know that I am so happy that your pregnancy/baby is healthy. I wish no woman ever had to feel the heartache of losing a child. If I decline a shower invitation, it’s only because I’m worried I might end up crying and spoiling your special, well-deserved day. I still adore seeing your growing belly/your baby’s precious face on your social media sites. I desperately want to hold and snuggle your baby and breathe in that sweet newborn smell. Your baby brings me so much hope. They are what make me feel more excited than fearful to try again. Thank you for sharing part of your joy with me. ❤
Here’s a post about GTD that I wrote for Courageous Mothers Blog! ❤
GTD. What’s that, you wonder? When you’re preparing for or expecting a baby, your mind is full of acronyms like BBT (Basal Body Temperature), AF (Aunt Flo), DPO (Days Past Ovulation), BFP (Big Fat Positive), FTM (First Time Mom), PG (Pregnant), and OBGYN. If you were to Google the acronym “GTD”, it’s likely that the first result is a link to the American Cancer Society’s website. Strange, isn’t it? Usually when a person thinks about pregnancy, it doesn’t include the word cancer.
Gestational Trophoblastic Disease is a group of rare tumors that form as a result of a pregnancy. While the tumors are usually noncancerous, some forms of GTD can become malignant and spread to other parts of a woman’s body. That’s right, a woman who was hoping to grow a precious baby inside her could end up having a tumor grow instead.
There are two main groups of GTD – hydatidiform moles (molar pregnancies)…
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“Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
It’s said there are 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’ve questioned this theory recently, because no matter how much time passes, a parent can never fully accept that their baby is gone.
Denial is what makes your experience feel like a nightmare. You wonder if it really happened, or did you just imagine it? Of course this didn’t happen to you, it only happens to other people. When you lose a baby, it’s easy to feel denial because there’s a lack of physical evidence that they ever existed. Often times there are no photos, no clothing or toys to serve as sweet reminders, and there are no memories to reflect on. How you you grieve someone you had to say goodbye to before you ever had the chance to say hello?
Anger is what makes the experience begin to feel real. You feel angry that your baby is gone and that a part of your heart and soul is gone, too. You feel angry that there is nothing that could have been done to change the outcome. Angry that you never saw this coming. Angry that your body betrayed you and your baby. Angry that no one can make you feel better. Angry that you were robbed of memories with your child.
Bargaining is your desperate and failed attempt to regain control of the situation. Wishing that you could trade in your life so that your baby would have one. I begged God to undo the nightmare. I said “I want my baby back” so many times I sounded like a Chili’s commercial.
Depression becomes a constant. Your new normal. It’s what makes you feel impossibly empty. Depression makes you dread the night, and dread the dawn. I cried every night when I got into bed because I wasn’t ready for the day to end and for all my thoughts to catch up with me. I woke up in the middle of the night crying and reaching for my belly. I woke up the next morning crying because I wasn’t ready for the start of another day, knowing that a new day took me further and further from the day when my baby was growing inside me.
I’m starting to think that the possible 5th stage of grief is patience. You won’t ever fully accept the reality that your baby is gone because it’s too heartbreaking, but you will learn what patience means. Patience is learning that the only thing that can make you feel better is time. It’s learning that you are not in control and that holding anger in your heart serves no purpose. Patience is learning that you can overcome the most unimaginable heartache one day at a time.
To my angel baby. Thank you for making me a mama! 💕
Stepmomming is so hard, but so rewarding. It’s like having all the perks of being an aunt and all the complications of parenting…but with your hands tied behind your back. I love them like I would love my own children but feel like I’ve had to maintain this invisible boundary that says I’m not their parent. Heavy on the STEP, light on the MOM. You feel awkward at events where people assume you’re the mom. When someone in public compliments the kids, do you say “thanks!” and move on or do you go into an explanation that you’re not actually their mother but you’ll pass on the compliment? When you meet new people, you don’t want to jump into the “I’m actually their stepmom” conversation right away, but you also don’t want to make the kids uncomfortable or feel like an imposter. It’s a delicate balance of wanting to be an involved stepmom (sans the wart on the nose), and also wanting to avoid looking like the creepy nanny in the movie “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
I’m so fortunate to have a wonderful husband who supports my relationship with his kids in whatever manner the kids and I find comfortable. There is so much joy in sharing a life with them. Their laughter, creativity, and kindness leave me in awe on a weekly basis. I love watching them succeed at school and activities. We share our own traditions, like making fairy gardens each spring. They absolutely have changed my heart for the better. I’m a better person because I know and love them, and I think I’ll be an even better mother because of them.
Then there’s the heartache that comes with it. This week I reminded my stepson that it was Mother’s Day this weekend and asked if he’d made his mom a card or present at school. He looked at me and said he didn’t know it was this week. Then with a puzzled look asked “wait, does Mother’s Day include you?” My heart soared just knowing he considered me at all, but I also never want him to feel uncomfortable or take away from his mom. I told him “it doesn’t have to include me, but that is your decision to make.”
I can say with certainty that I’ve been a wicked awesome stepmom to these kids – most days anyway! But I can also say, I’ve had a really hard time building a relationship with their mom. Meeting each other in the beginning was so awkward…for both of us I’m sure. We share kids now and at some point both loved and married the same man. I suppose it can either give you a common ground to stand on, or it can become a breeding ground for insecurity, jealousy, and negativity. In this case, I’m sad to say it created the latter in me.
When I picked up the kids from school yesterday, my stepson handed me his backpack and his Mother’s Day gifts for his mom as he ran to the car. I looked down at his carefully drawn hearts and inscription “Mommy+Me=Love” and it softened my heart. For years, there’s been so much tension between his mom and me. Like it’s somehow become some sort of competition between us…either her or me. But why haven’t I considered our mutual love for these kids to be common ground? Then the answer hit me as I looked back down at that card. She has what I long for most which caused jealousy to build up in my heart. Beautiful children with the man I love. Handwritten Mother’s Day cards. A love for her kids and from her kids that knows no limits.
All the bad blood and toxic feelings flooded out of my pores. When I saw her later at a baseball game, I prayed that God would soften my heart and give me a way to repair all the damage and hurt between us. And without me even realizing what I was saying, I asked if she wanted to join us for dinner after the game.
We all enjoyed a pizza dinner on a patio and got to enjoy a beautiful night with our wonderful kids. Later, we exchanged some text messages apologizing for hard feelings and how events, words, and misunderstandings created a huge complicated knot we didn’t know how to unravel. And just like that, we’ve started working on unraveling it together. The best gift that I never expected to receive has turned my first and worst Mother’s Day into a pretty awesome one. Wicked awesome.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
Since I was little, I have always loved being around dogs. Growing up, if you asked what I wanted to be, my answer would likely either be veterinarian or She-Ra Princess of Power. My parents were always concerned I’d end up with a house full of animals if I were a vet, which ended up being the case regardless of my profession. My husband laughs that I’ve introduced him to friends and coworkers by telling him their dog’s name before their own. In my opinion, a house is not a home without a dog.
We had 3 dogs throughout my childhood. Since college, I’ve adopted 6 rescue dogs. Just like children, they all have different personalities, issues, health problems, and strengths. Dash, a black and tan dachshund, is my loyal protector. He had a rough start to life and has many fears and triggers but in ways he knows me better than almost any person in my life. He’s been by my side when I was sick or sad and never fails to make me feel better. He’s got more nicknames than I can count, one for every one of his personalities.
Dori, another black and tan dachshund, is beautiful. Far and away the prettiest dachshund I’ve ever seen. I should have named her Scarlett O’Hara because she has that much sass and spunk. She has epilepsy, gave birth to stillborn puppies and required surgery to remove the puppies she miscarried but couldn’t deliver, she was heart worm positive, and at some point (perhaps during birthing?) had her pelvis broken in 5 places. She’s a MESS but hilarious at the same time. Anxious, annoying, affectionate, unapologetic and unafraid. She absolutely loves my Dad more than anyone.
BatBat (Stellaluna) is a small 5 pound chihuahua that knows no fear. She kicks grass, cuddles/smothers you with love, and guards the yard like a Rottweiler. She gives high fives and loves when you sing to her. Even though she has 4 legs, she runs on 3. Won’t get out of bed in the morning until you sing to her and rub her belly.
Zoe, a dachshund/chihuahua mix, is my love bug. She’s probably the easiest going dog I’ve ever had. She’s happy in all situations – loves to cuddle, play, lick, run, sleep. She follows me pretty much everywhere. Wouldn’t hurt a fly unless it got between her and her food bowl. Her favorite thing in the world is to go to our family farm, run around through the grass and hay, and ride a four wheeler with me. She used to love chasing squirrels in the back yard, but her vision has been getting bad over the last year or two.
Last week, we learned that Zoe has a condition called SARDS (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome) which has caused vision loss. That vision loss resulted in her getting under my feet two weeks ago when I was moving laundry, and I accidentally stepped on her foot and she yelped. The next day she was limping and in pain. She got better with some rest but was in pain again a few days later. I took her to the emergency hospital last Tuesday, then to the vet again on Thursday. We decided to do a CAT (shouldn’t it be DOG??) scan to check for injuries and to rule out a tumor causing her vision problems. The scans showed no tumor – hallelujah! But it did show a small disc injury which is likely causing the nerve pain in her front leg.
It’s really difficult to not place blame on yourself when bad things happen. I blame myself for not knowing Zoe’s eyesight had gotten so bad as a result of SARDS. For accidentally stepping on her paw and causing her pain. For not knowing when or how she injured her back. I blame myself not knowing something was wrong during my pregnancy. For having a defective egg that was possibly the cause of the molar pregnancy. Honestly, I’m just having a tough time being inside my head lately. I find myself submerged in podcasts, books, and TV shows trying to escape the emotional pain and negative voices in my head. I’m realizing that you can’t escape or hide from the grief when you self-blame.
There are times when we think the waves of guilt and grief may drown us. We struggle to keep our heads above water and over time we get stronger. Each experience gives us practice, strength, and knowledge so that when the next wave comes crashing down on us, we can successfully swim against the waves of guilt and grief without being pulled under.
Maybe I need to learn some life lessons from my precious dogs. Become fiercely loyal like Dash, unafraid and unapologetic like Dori, loving and happy like Zoe despite having to navigate through darkness, and learn how to set emotional boundaries around what is ours and what is not ours like BatBat. The grief, pain, and memories are mine, but the blame is not. Yesterday, I talked about our baby for the first time without breaking down in tears and it made me realize I’m not drowning anymore.
I know now that we never get over our losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder creatures.
Today there’s a soft, kind voice echoing inside my mind saying “Beloved, do not make war against your own heart. Love yourself fully – even with your wounds, even with your broken heart.”
Mother’s Day. The dread set in about a month ago, thinking about the Sunday when my *mostly* flat and empty belly will serve as a reminder of the pain I’ve been through. A reminder I’ll never hear my baby call me “Mommy.” Or smell it’s sweet newborn smell. There won’t be Mother’s Day gifts made of my sweet angel’s footprints or hand prints. It’s an ache so deep, I swear it’s left a scar on my heart and soul.
Today, a woman in my support group posted a sweet message about International Bereaved Mother’s Day which is observed the Sunday before Mother’s Day in the United States. How did I never know this day existed?
Honestly, I’m thankful for this day. I’m thankful for a day when I can think about and talk about my baby that is no longer with me. That child is still my child, and they forever changed my heart. That baby made me a mom. Even if I never got to see its face, kiss its soft cheeks, or count its toes…I am still a mom in my heart and I long for the day when I get to see my child’s face.
It’s been a wonderful day, better than I could have imagined my first Mother’s Day! My husband and I went to a spin class this morning. We (finally) booked our honeymoon! We spent the rest of the day listening to music as we cleaned up around the house and did some much needed yard work. As I was working in our flower bed, I peeked inside our birdhouse. We had a family of birds nesting there the first summer we bought our home, but a few weeks ago, I decided to clean out what remained of their nest in hopes that another family would move in this spring. Sure enough, a new bird has made a nest in that birdhouse.
I’ve been so scared thinking about trying to have another baby. I’m worried it might turn out in another molar pregnancy. Or possibly a chemical pregnancy or blighted ovum, both of which seem common after a molar pregnancy. I’m absolutely terrified to feel that pain all over again. How do women find the strength and hope to try again after they’ve been devastated? I’m learning you don’t ever forget that loss. You learn that a new baby doesn’t replace the baby you lost. You’ve learned that you can survive the worst heartbreak imaginable and not completely give up hope. I guess what I really need to do is clean out that nest of worry that’s been built in my mind and make room for something new.
If you are a bereaved mother, I’m sending you love. If you know a bereaved mother, give her a hug today. She matters, and the one(s) she lost matters.
“On Mother’s Day I can thank of no mother more deserving than a Mother who had to give one back.” – Erma Bombeck
My favorite color has always been green. One day when I was a kid, my mom saw me sitting on the curb. She came outside to ask me what I was doing and noticed a lizard warming itself on the sidewalk next to me. It was surrounded by a rainbow of M&M’s. I’d tried feeding the lizard all the different colors and I couldn’t believe he wasn’t interested in the candy. “He doesn’t even like the green ones!” I said, convinced green tasted better than the other colors.
My love for the color was a well known fact by the time I got to kindergarten. My favorite outfit was an all green dress. I had a green bedspread, a green radio, and Patio Green was my favorite Rainbow Brite character. During a spring road trip to visit my grandparents in the hill country, my mom questioned why green was my favorite color. I was confident in my answer – “because it’s God’s favorite color!” She asked me how I knew that and I replied “just look around, everything is green!”
This week I traveled to Colorado for work and despite some cold weather over the weekend, spring has started to turn the landscape green. Last night, I had some time to explore and I found myself driving toward the Rocky Mountains drawn by their majestic peaks reaching up to the clouds. The sun peeked through the thick clouds and small beams of light stretched down onto the mountains and valleys below. As I was driving, I wished for a good place to pull over so I could take in the view. Within seconds, I drove past a sign indicating a scenic overlook at the very next exit. I pulled my rental car into the parking area and walked over to a park bench. It was a breathtaking view and I could feel my heart start to beat harder in my chest as tears filled my eyes. Have you ever had moments like that? When you’re overwhelmed with the beauty of the world we live in? It makes you feel so connected with the earth and so small at the same time. I reached for my phone to snap a picture, wishing I had brought a better camera with me to better capture the moment that filled me with so much emotion. In that moment, I noticed a man to my right setting up his camera on a tripod. I asked him if he’d be willing to share one of his photos with me. He said he’d be happy to email me one and I explained how I had stumbled upon this overlook. He told me that he’d found that location by using an app called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” which shows you on a Google map the locations that the sun and moon will rise and set with respective times. It’s amazing to me that the path of the sun and moon drew this photographer to the exact location I was emotionally drawn to.
God doesn’t make mistakes. Everything we go through is a part of His big plan. Of course, we have the ability to make our own decisions, but they become part of a bigger picture. One of my favorite movies, Serendipity, describes this far more eloquently than I ever could with these words “…life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences…but rather, it’s a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan.” We are all God’s masterpieces. Every person we meet and every experience we have shapes us into the person we were destined to be. Just as water dug the depths of the Grand Canyon, life carves us into the masterpiece of God.
My little angel would have been born in August of this year. For those of you who don’t know, the birthstone for the month of August is peridot which is a light green stone. Now I wear a small peridot charm on a necklace every day to remind me that God didn’t make a mistake. He put that baby in my life for a reason and he’s shaping me into a person I wouldn’t have become without having this pregnancy and loss. A loss so painful at times, it takes my breath away and tears instantly form in my eyes. But just like the green of spring, God brings the promise of new beginnings.
“My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 11:19