Happy 4th Birthday, Josephine!

Thank you to everyone for making this day special! Your kind words, hugs, prayers, and thoughtful gifts meant so much! I was really happy to see many of you today.

I was especially touched by this beautiful piece commissioned by my friend Rachel and painted by my talented babysitter and art student Michelle. It captures so perfectly the essence of the first poem I wrote for Josephine after she passed away:

Josephine flashed before us

with the brightness and beauty

of a shooting star

Our hearts are broken by the briefness

of her visit with us

She has climbed onto our Father God’s lap

and is whispering to him our secrets

with sweet confidence

Speak to her in your hearts

the only language she will ever know is love

Four Years but Love is Forever

I have footprints on my heart. Don’t think that because they were left there four years ago they have faded. The impact of those tiny feet on my heart is irrevocable. I will be forever changed by losing a baby at birth. Besides a tiny curl of dark hair, all I physically have of her is a little plaster cast of her feet. Of course it is unspeakably precious to me. I have it nestled in a piece of the same fleecy soft blanket she is buried in. This is much more than many poor women who lose babies through miscarriage get.

Those of you who are close to me or have been following my blog for some time will know that I lost my baby Josephine just before she was born, due to a cord accident. She was my sixth and I was so ready for her to come…the bassinet set up, newborn diapers on the shelf, the house stocked with groceries…I even had her Christmas present already: a wind-up musical swan with her baby on her back.

She was fine at our last checkup, and then, that night in the hospital…no heartbeat. Just silence. Of course it broke my heart. My family and friends, sweet husband and kids helped hold it together.

She would have been four years old this Sunday, September 30th.

Four years and two healthy babies later, I am much more ok than I was at her first anniversary, or even her second, but sometimes things catch me off guard. I was trying to plan her birthday…maybe lots of us could go to the graveyard and bring tons of flowers…and then I thought, four year olds don’t want flowers! They want toys, and cake and balloons…music and mess and the chaos of 20 kids running through the house dressed as fairies and princesses. It hurts that I can’t give her those things, even though she doesn’t need them. Even though she’s up with the stars and her heart is brimming with love, utterly safe, totally loved, in the peaceful presence of God. I still want to do these simple, silly things for her.

So, we do what we can. The kids and I have made it a birthday week. The other day when we ordered groceries from Save-On, we got chocolate cake. We put on candles and sang. We celebrate her because we love her. We are proud she’s part of our family.

We ordered ice-cream, too and had it the next day. Ben and Jerry’s “If I had a Million Flavours.” We made blueberry crisp, too. We will have mini-cereal boxes on her birthday, as we do for the other kids on their birthdays, because they need her to be just another one of them. She’s in Heaven, but she’s still their sister.

On Sunday after Mass and pancakes we will go to the graveyard and bring flowers. We will spend a little time near her praying, and the little ones will likely run about on the grass and read the names of the people who’ve gone before us: young soldiers from the bicycle squad, grandmas and grandpas from the old country, mothers, fathers, babies who never took a breath outside the womb. All the people who await us in Heaven.

Then, because it’s nice to not be alone on this bittersweet day, we will pick up some of our favourite Indian take-out and go to have dinner at a friend’s place. Surrounded by love, just like our daughter Josephine.

Next week we will plant fall flower bulbs to bloom next spring, just like we did last year: Josephine’s flowers. Hiding under the earth and snow, but secretly full of life. Like the promise of eternal life…always making this life more beautiful.

We want her to be remembered. We are proud to be her family. Sharing her story helps us to honour her and to heal, and to know we are not alone.

Do you have footprints on your heart?

Share your story with #IHaveFootprintsOnMyHeart.

Bittersweet Because

Little darling

how my heart is bursting

with the beauteous warmth of you,

your cuddly down-softness

snuggling in my arms,

fluffy dark hair caressing my cheek as I cradle you.

And yet in all this glory

a bittersweet strain of music

tugs at my heart,

because you are so much like her,

your big sister who was born asleep,

eyes closed forever,

motionless,

and here you are

—thank God!—

alive.

I want to cry grateful tears of sorrow

when you squeak and grumble like a little bear

because your sister was so silent.

And when I smell the milky scent on your neck

because your sister never tasted milk.

I was left bursting but alone…

my arms like edges of an empty cradle

with only myself to rock.

I get choked up by your little hands

which look exactly like hers–

long slim fingers and grandma’s double jointed thumbs.

They’re curled up in tiny fists above your head

in the abandon of sleep,

yet warm and ever ready to grasp my finger

instead is still, pale, and cold.

In this bittersweet place

I love you both

and want to give you everything:

all the affection and tenderness

I wished to give her

but also want to give you for yourself.

I drink deeply both of sorrow and of joy.

How life and death are woven together

–intertwined–

in this strange tapestry where all the shadows

make the colours brighter.

What is painful

and what is precious

have become inseparable

and love runs through it all.

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Like a tiny baby, this holiday that is a bit mysterious and new. How can one honour this day well, and support family and friends who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss? Here are some tips from one who sadly knows what it’s like to lose a little one in labour. If my experience can help others, I will be glad!

Thoughtful gift ideas:


When words fail, as they really do on this case, a simple “I’m thinking of you with a lot of love today” accompanied by a sweet gift can go a long way. Kind notes and the assurance of heartfelt prayers on hard anniversaries have helped them go a lot better for me. Here are some ideas:

  1. Flowers. To someone shaken up by the trauma of loss, anything beautiful makes the world seem just a little more friendly, hopeful and safe.
  2. Food:  this could be chocolate, home baking or a nice dinner, or even a person’s favourite take-out. Grief is exhausting and it’s really nice to not have to cook sometimes. 
  3. A lovely piece of art work ( or even card) that somehow relates to their baby…perhaps a nature picture from the season they passed away in, or something you know their parents find symbolic like a ray of sunshine, bird, or a single flower. 
  4.  Jewelry: I’ve been given several special necklaces in honour of my daughter Josephine, such as one with tiny baby feet, an image of the Holy Family, and a single pink jewel. Another special one was a heart necklace with a turquoise pendant, and a large matching heart shape stone for me to put in Josephine’s special memory display cabinet. The hospital sweetly gave me a silver heart necklace with a mini heart inside it on a separate  string. Some people bury the smaller one with their infant, but I couldn’t stand the look of the gaping hole in my heart, so I kept them together. 
  5. Time: Simply offering to spend some time with the person who has experienced loss is also a great gift.  Suggest accompanying them to the graveyard if they’d like to go, followed by a nice lunch out, or you coming over to keep them company and watch a favourite movie and eat popcorn if simple quiet pleasures or a pajama day are desired. Let them decide what they need that day, and how they want to express their grief. 
  6. A self-care basket with gentle hand lotion or body wash, lip balm, a candle to light in honour of their baby in Heaven, and a few treats. The gorgeous basket pictured above was made by my friend Agi with honey from her own garden’s bees! If you want to go all out, you could even include a massage gift certificate, to help work out all the tension the body holds when grieving. 

None of these gifts are meant to ‘fix’ anything…so you don’t have to feel awkward or like they are not enough. They are simply acknowledging that your friend or family member has suffered a tremendous loss, and that their little one’s brief life is not forgotten. This means so much! And don’t forget the infant’s father has lost his child, too, and make sure he is remembered. Even if he perhaps doesn’t express his grief as verbally, he feels it deeply and should be equally honoured and supported. Does anyone have any more good gift ideas for bereaved fathers? Please share!


Babysteps into eternity: no one is too small to do good

 

Some people might doubt the impact on the world of a person who never saw the sun. Or even took a breath. What could such a person possibly have to say? What could a baby who died in early labour have to teach the world? 

Love. Unconditional, perfect, unending love. The kind that doesn’t have to be earned. The kind of love which created us all. Rather the Love Who created us all, and to whom we return. Losing my baby Josephine three years ago today has ripped open my heart and exposed it to this kind of love. I have been honoured to share it with many other beautiful people who have lost little ones as well. 


Through my daughter’s silence, I found my voice. I had the courage to speak words of sorrow, of brokenness, of hope and of consolation. I wrote book of poetry spanning the first year after her loss, and in this past year have been able to send almost 250 copies of it out into the world. Less than a handful are left and I’m planning to order more copies of unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope this coming week. If you know someone who has suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, and who could use some words of encouragement and solidarity, please let me know. 

Every now and then I get an amazing email from someone who has found an echo of their heart’s sorrow in my book. It’s a consoling reminder of the beauty that can come from shared suffering. I hope those ladies won’t mind if I share a few of their sweet words… One friend who suffered a mid-pregnancy stillbirth told me “Your poems express what I felt but couldn’t describe…they made me feel less crazy about my grief.” Here are a few more responses:

Your book – your words- have been so therapeutic and healing. I really enjoyed it and I am so thankful for you for sharing it with me.

For many weeks I worked very hard at working through and processing my feelings and my grief. It is difficult to face pain head on, but so necessary. 

M.S.

I really wanted to take a moment and let you know how truly touched I was (and am!) by your vulnerability to share your story through your creativity. I cried like mad as I read the book from cover-to-cover in I hid under my blankets while the baby was sleeping and the 2 eldest were watching a video! I treasure your words, and please know how profoundly they have touched my heart and surely helped me along the road of healing. ❤
E.D.

 I’m sharing these with you not to applaud myself but to rejoice in the impact my little daughter has had…the powerful healing she helped bring about by uniting me with other babyloss mamas and affirming that the depth of their grief comes from the profound depth of their maternal love. 

So Little Jo, on your third birthday, know how incredibly proud I am of you and all the good you do from Heaven. May it be the icing on your cake of heavenly joy!

A lovely review of “unexpected blossoming”

Reading Anna Eastland’s collection of poems from her beautiful book, Unexpected Blossoming—a journey of grief and hope led me into her honest, vulnerable, and talented writing. Her therapeutic poetry also opened a personal portal which had long been curtained. Thirty-one years ago, my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at fourteen weeks. ~Janis Mcdougall

I am honoured to share with you a truly lovely and heartfelt review of my poetry book “unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope.” This review came about by a string of connections…beginning with my former writing coach Caroline Woodward introducing me to her Tofino artist friend Joanna Streetly.

After guest-posting on her poetry advent calendar a few years ago, I returned to her blog to stumble upon a poignant poem about an eight year old boy, William, who disappeared one day by the seaside and was never found. (http://www.joannastreetly.com/written/writing/poetry/). The mournful longing for this little one, mingled with the mindfulness of his abiding presence in the surrounding countryside, made me feel Joanna could understand my poems about losing my baby daughter.

Joanna both bought my book and kindly delivered another copy to her local hospice. Some time later she shared my book with her poet friend Janis, who had suffered the loss of her first baby at 14 weeks. As the poems resonated with her, she generously wrote a short review on Joanna’s blog.

With Unexpected Blossoming—a journey of grief and hope, Anna Eastland offers consolation and invites readers to join a newly formed constellation of broken-hearts linked together by their collective grief. —Janis McDougall

Please visit Joanna’s blog and take a look to read the full review! http://www.joannastreetly.com/blog/april-is-poetry-month-2/

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P.S. My book, which is $10, is available through me on my blog (anna@eastofcrazyland.com) or through blurb.ca.(http://www.blurb.ca/b/7346068-unexpected-blossoming#). If you’re a grieving mama, please contact me about a free copy. 💕

Whisper 


There’s a whisper of sadness in the crisp November air;

solemn raindrops adorn the bare tree branches 

like bejewelled tears.

The sun peaks out and smiles wanly

at the confused pink flowers 

which have emerged so late in the day…

How soon will the cold kill them,

turning their girlish blush into brown rot?

Memories creep closer like Christmas.

Loss hangs at the back of my throat—

waiting to pounce!

Summer in Crazy Land


How I have missed blogging much this summer! I’m bursting with ideas but haven’t found enough quiet moments between camping, swimming, visiting friends, researching new homeschool programs for the fall and editing my new poetry book, unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope. This has been a really good process, and quite time-consuming…going over each poem with a fine toothed comb and, on the advice of my big sister (beautiful poet and editor Dymphny Dronyk), making sure that each word, each line break, each bit of punctuation or lack thereof is intentional. The poems were written more as passionate cries from the heart, but it’s been good to read them slowly and try to make sure they express my feelings in the clearest way. 

I’m excited to say that that process is just about finalized and I’m going to place my first bulk order in a day or two. I have been telling lots of people about my book and already have about 125 pre-orders, which means that another 125 will also be ordered and donated to bereaved moms, hospitals, midwife or doctor’s offices, or any other place where families suffering from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss could benefit from my poems. I’m also getting my Blurb bookshop set up for online orders, and hope that women around the world will be able to benefit from knowing they are not alone in their grief after losing a baby. 


On top of all this, my little Mr. Baby has combined late night teething and his newfound mobility to keep me on my toes night and day, and my trusted iPad mini conked out for a few weeks—leaving me a strange internet-less vacuum. Happily my sweet techie husband managed to restore it to life by cleaning up the excessive digital load it was storing…kind of like the Internet version of a home rescue. I had 1100 emails (combining inbox, sent, drafts, trash etc) and 1300 photos!! My iPad mini just couldn’t handle this kind of clutter—poor little beast! After loading the pics onto our Mac instead and deleting the insane amount of emails (gah, remind me to stop signing up for things online!), my iPad is purring away again, much to my relief. As my friend Julia put it when I told her it was out of commission: “What!? That’s your life!” 

Does make you wonder though…why this need to keep everything? To read everything? To document everything? To be present everywhere (omnipresent) and to know everything (omniscient)…doesn’t that sound like Someone else’s job? Reflecting on this makes me want to strive for more simplicity. To be fully present where I am, right now, and not feel the need to hang on to old things from the past. I’m just one tiny part of this vast creation, and all I need to do is play my little part with all my heart. The rest will be taken care of by Someone much wiser than me, who doesn’t get overwhelmed by trying to fit so much into one little head!


So I hope you’ll be hearing from me more often as we settle into school this fall…wrapping ourselves in cosy scarves and sweaters and sipping cinnamon dolce latté’s as we watch the scarlet leaves tumbling against steely grey skies…oh, dear, sorry…slipping off into fantasy land! I meant as I juggle 4 homeschoolers and the baby chews my face while my toddler climbs the furniture…

Anyway,  here are a few posts I hope to write soon: 

  1. How to support a bereaved spouse
  2. Baby Burpin’Blues (a bluegrass poem)
  3. Scene Players: making hours of fun games out of stickers and junk mail 
  4. Things you don’t need to bring when camping with kids
  5. Teamwork, happiness and household chores 
  6. Online educational programs I’m excited about this fall

Any votes for which one to write first? Let me know! A huge hug to you all from us here in Crazy Land, and best wishes for a beautiful year of learning ahead!