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.

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!

The night before

Tonight
is the night before I lost you, dearest,
two years ago
when you burst from my womb
and were launched straight into Heaven.

Two years ago tonight,
it was Michealmas
and perhaps your passing the next day
was accompanied by him–
this warrior angel
this strong protector—
to carry you on high
in arms safe and loving as your daddy’s.

Great angel,
protect my spirit now
and give me the courage to face the night,
knowing what tomorrow brings.

Help me be brave enough
to feel the pain of loss
yet again,
ever still,
but also to live with the simplicity of my children
who know how to rejoice in each moment
and sing Christmas carols with gusto
no matter what the season.
Sufficient for the day
is the joy thereof.

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!

    My first poetry book! “unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope”

    My first poetry book just arrived in the mail! It is dedicated in loving memory of my little daughter Josephine, whom I lost in labour almost two years ago. These poems chronicle my first year after her loss, my grief and love for my baby girl and also the hope I have of one day seeing her again.

    Writing has been really therapeutic for me, and helped me give expression to the intense emotions that come with losing a little one. I want to share these poems with other families who have lost babies so that they would know that they are not alone…that others have experienced and survived such a loss. 

    I first thought of this project when talking to my friend Anne Schweitzer, who makes “Mother Mary Baskets” for bereaved moms. The baskets contain little comforts like bath salts, lip balm, chocolate, a fancy tea cup, etc as well as a few books on healing and hope after miscarriage. There are also special prayer cards, including one to your baby in Heaven. We thought it would be so nice to include some of my poems in the basket. Now I’ve been able to publish them in a little book, the kind you can carry in your purse and pull out to read in those quiet moments when you have time to release some of the sadness welling up inside. 

    Because my main goal is comforting other babyloss moms, every time a copy is sold, another will be donated to a bereaved family. I’d like to reach as many people as possible, so that instead of just an impersonal pamphlet from a hospital, bereaved moms could be given something special, something beautiful, something that honours their love and grief. I hope to donate copies to hospital chaplains, midwives, doctor’s offices, etc, as well as giving them to individual moms. It will be a thoughtful gift for people to give loved ones who lose a baby…something for them to give when they don’t know what to say themselves…

    I want to thank my dear friend Rachel Lalonde, who really helped move this project along, taking care of all the technical details and keeping me on track. She also did the delicate rose photographs on the front and back covers which wrap my poems in beauty. I couldn’t have accomplished this without her! And also thank you to my brother Monti, who believed in the value of this little book so much he donated $100 towards the project when it was still just an idea. That very bill will soon be used to order copies to donate!

    I’ll keep you posted once my book is available online via the publishing site Blurb, and in the mean time, for anyone near me who’d like a copy, be sure to let me know; when I do a bulk order I’ll be able to save you some shipping costs. It will be a joy to hand it to you!

          

    Deafening Silence 

    This is one of the most loving, beautiful and expressive posts I’ve ever read about miscarriage…the hidden quiet, heart shattering pain of it, and the difficulty we have discussing this kind of loss. Well worth reading, both for those who have lost babies, and for those who’d like to understand better how it feels so they can support their families and friends who have.  Click on the link below to read it all if you wish. 

    It’s in the quiet moments that I hear it the most. The soft pop and hiss of tiny fractures spreading across my aching heart. It reminds me of that first step you take onto thin ice. You feel …

    Source: Deafening Silence 

    What it’s like to be pregnant after losing a baby.

      
    I’ve been keeping this sitting in my heart for a while, so you could say this post has been a long time in coming. As you can guess from the title, for those of you who don’t already know, I am expecting a baby this November, after having lost my little Josephine in labour last September 30th. It is hard. Beautiful but hard. 

    I’m normally one to be on the phone with mom buddies the second the little plus sign shows up on the pregnancy test, but this time I’ve been much more hesitant to talk about things. My usual excitement has been tempered by the confusing feelings of having lost my last child, and not knowing how to experience a simple, trusting hope that everything will be fine. 

    I do hope and trust, but in a more complex and nuanced way. Not in the way of thinking things will always turn out how I want them to. But hoping in a plan that’s bigger than mine, a vision far wiser and more encompassing than mine. In a love stronger than death, knowing that no matter what, I can never truly be separated from my babies. 

    Sometimes children are so wise. My five year old told me, “Don’t worry, Mummy. Either the new baby will come be with us, or will go be with Josephine in Heaven. So it’s ok.” What strength and clarity of vision!

    It is hard to take this risk again—the risk that I might not see my baby smile or breathe until I meet him in Heaven—but it is a way of affirming that I am still alive, still have hope, still believe in goodness in a world where hard things also happen. Besides, the only way to ensure my heart could never be broken again would be to stop it pumping, but risking brokenness is essential to being open to life and to love. It’s part of the fragile thing called being human. 

    Several of my close friends have lost babies and have been able to have one after. Those babies are a beacon of hope for me. I rejoice in each one of them. I realize they are miracle and a free a gift, rather than a right. We think we have so many rights, but we forget that people can only come to us as gift, in the freedom of love. 

    I also rejoice in the children I do have, just seeing them running around full of life, dancing and laughing, and I think to myself, “They made it. That incredible journey…like little travellers from a far off planet, they made it through the epic journey of the few inches from womb to world, and arrived home.”

    So as November approaches, please keep me in your prayers. Especially my little one, that he may arrive safely into his mama’s arms, and that this time, my tears will be of joy. And for all of you who are in the same boat, know my heartfelt prayers are with you as well. 

      

    Parched Grass

      
    It’s such a hot summer that I don’t know

    which flowers to bring you

    Everything dries up so fast

    gets parched and wrinkled in the heat

    and there’s enough death already 

    in the graveyard

    There should be a stone at least

    shiny and beautiful at first

    with simple eloquent words in your memory

    nestled in the grass ever more cosily and 

    eventually getting dusty and scratched

    But I hesitate

    and hover over your small grassy mound 

    like hot air unable to settle

    unwilling to take that last step

    lay the last stone

    and seal the tomb with the stone which 

    forever silently repeats the word “goodbye”