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”

Little Souls Like Shooting Stars

 

All this pain, Lord

all these broken hearts

broken open and flowing with beauty

Heaven escaping like steam from the geysers of love

that rush out of these parents’ broken hearts


2.6 million a year stillborn….

An overwhelming quiet

A heart stopping silence


Why is it that we must be broken to become more beautiful?

To finally reach out and connect

to honour each other’s pain

to realize each person is precious

and irreplaceable?


How mysterious this growing in love

that in losing the ones we love most

we become more loving

that in suffering we become more divine

just as You became human

to suffer with us

that we should never

no matter what

feel alone


Living in pain

we no longer live for ourselves

but for those we long for

and for those who are also broken by yearning

for little ones lost too soon


Our life is gift

and it is meant to be fruitful

We are not here for ourselves

but for others

to hold each other up with webs of love and hope

sparkling with dew-like tears 


Above in the sky

a sound like thunder

a thousand angels’ wings

accompanying with solemn joy

the little souls who enter Heaven like shooting stars

and light up the sky

Never to fade

never to disappear

a light in the heavens always 


Unique

irreplaceable

individuals

who will inspire us forever


Let us all become saints

so we can join them one day

and shed light into the shadows of a suffering world 

Honouring International Bereaved Mother’s Day

May 3rd is international bereaved Mother’s Day. It is an important and beautiful opportunity to acknowledge all the mothers around the world who have suffered loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, child loss or painful struggles with infertility. 

It is a chance to share grief and hope, to reach out and be vulnerable, to connect, to encourage, and to honour the women whose mother’s hearts are suffering deeply. 

 
Every baby is, in the words of Still Life Canada, “a unique and irreplaceable individual.” It is fitting that we honour their passing with our whole hearts. Sometimes sharing your grief is the first step to allowing others to share theirs, too, and beginning to heal. Let’s break the silence with gentle words of love.     Also, the Mothering Your Heart program is a lovely way to connect with other bereaved moms, be encouraged and supported in your journey of grief and healing. There is a Facebook page to share with other moms if you like, and a series of helpful emails you can receive each day leading up to Mother’s Day, with gentle ideas on self-care and nurturing your wounded heart, honouring your baby and seeking the stillness in which to discover the still, small voice of hope….    Wishing you all peace, strength, healing and hope…

With all my heart,

Anna

Mummy of Josephine, my little star in Heaven 

Why Ignoring Anniversaries of Loss Doesn’t Work

Nearly three weeks ago, on March 30th, it was the six month anniversary of my  baby daughter Josephine’s stillbirth. I approached the day with a bit of dread, worried it would send me back and undo my recent period of emotional improvement. I tried to decide what to do…plan a trip with the kids to Science World to distract myself, or invite fellow babyloss moms over to honour the day. In the end, because of a tummy bug, we did neither.

I tried to truck through the day, homeschooling the kids, keeping them fed and occupied, and not allowing my emotional guard down too far. Around 4 pm my sweet friend Kate stopped by with a little pot of bright yellow flowers and homemade chocolate chip cookies. “It’s a day for chocolate,” she told me.

This little visit and chat outside her car (which was full of her own 5 kids who were sick), meant so much. Her kindness in acknowledging my grief gave me the freedom to release it a little. It often takes the hug of a good friend to bring out those hidden tears that are lurking inside like saturated storm clouds, waiting to fall and wash your heart clean again.

The kids, always happy for any birthday, ate Josephine’s half-birthday cookies with gusto as we walked over to the graveyard accross the street where she is buried. We brought her the yellow chrysanthemums, and the kids gathered sticks to make a little enclosure around them.

After this, we took some anniversary pictures, and the kids talked about how big and beautiful baby Josephine is now in Heaven.

  

Their assurance that she is safe and happy shines through their smiling faces. For them, Heaven is very real, and very close. Once my oldest said,

“Mummy, it’s kind of good Josephine died and went to Heaven.”

“Really, why?” I asked.

“Because then she’s right with us all the time, just like Aslan, and never even as far away as if she was sleeping on the couch when we are in the kitchen.”

Kids really get it that love breaks down all barriers, even that of death, and keeps us together.

It is true, but I am little Jo’s mummy, and want to have her in my arms, so while the other kids played happily in the graveyard, I sat by her grave and cried. It was around 5 pm, the time I had been in early labour, when she had quietly passed away from the tight cord around her neck.

The kids hunted for dandelions and blossoms and went about placing them on graves with no flowers, “so they’d have some.” After this we went to the dollar store and everyone was allowed to chose a new colouring book in honour of Josephine’s special day.

Perhaps it seems that we did a fair bit…we at least did something, but it wasn’t enough really. Except for a call from Laura, one of my best friends, who remembered, the day was spent very much alone. I had asked a few friends for extra prayers that day, but that was all. It is a lonely feeling to be living the anniversary of a tragedy when for almost everyone else it is just another day. The very cars driving by so blissfully unaware seem rude. You unreasonably want them to stop, or a least drive slowly, as in a funeral procession.

For me, the next day was not March 31st, it was November 1st, the day after her birth, and the day I came home from the hospital without her. The awful quiet of no newborn cries or coos.

I wanted to write all about it then, to reach out for sympathy and support, but it can be hard to keep talking about loss. Sometimes you feel bad to burden others with your pain, but when you keep it inside it grows claws and shreds it’s way out…so it’s much better to come out in tears.

But like I said, sometimes only the loving acknowledgment of your suffering by others releases them….enables you to drop your stern guard and be vulnerable. This involves telling others what you are going through, so they can walk you through it, or sit with you in it, or whatever it may be.

So I encourage everyone who is suffering some kind of loss, to reach out to others who love them and ask for support, to acknowledge what is happening inside and not try to bury it inside to fester. Put your anniversary of loss on the calendar, own it, do something special on it. And if possible, don’t do it alone.

I’ve been told we can only get through grief by going through it, and anniversaries, as hard as they are, are an opportunity to move through it…rather than remaining stuck in grief by denying it…so don’t skip them. No one gets better by saying “La, la la!” and pretending nothing happened. Sadness grows in darkness and isolation, so let the light of love, that of family and friends, shine upon your soul.

Light a candle, release balloons, have a prayer circle with close friends, make a fancy dinner and toast your loved one lost, or whatever it is that honours the day, and lets you know it’s ok that your grief is still raw, whether it has been 6 months or 10 years.

 

Little Joe Plays Peek-a-Boo

This poem is dedicated to the children of my close friend, who recently suffered an early miscarriage, shortly after the joy of discovering she was expecting another little one. They feel quite sure he was a boy, and have named him Joseph, just like my little Josephine. I’m sure they’re playing together right now.

As Dr. Seuss says, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” and there is no one too small to be honoured here in Crazy Land, so here is a little poem, with love.

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Little Joe Plays Peek-A-Boo

Little Joe plays peek-a-boo,
he pops up his smiling head
just long enough to blow a kiss
then to his heavenly bed

He snuggles down
his golden crown
of angel’s softest thread
sweetly woven and gently placed
upon his tiny head

And in between his pleasant dreams
he gazes down at you
and smiles to see
bravely carrying on
the hearts who love him true

And if the tears come
now and then
don’t worry or feel shame
your little brother gathers them
like precious jewels
and with them writes your name

Speak to him softly
he hears you
oh so close though he seems far
for between hearts that love each other
there is no gate or bar

Your Joseph keeps the windows open
and the latch upon the Heavenly door
is open ever ready
for when you all come Home
once more

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The Ever Changing Tides of Grief

I received this beautiful advice on grief during the holidays from my lovely big sister. Having been widowed when her children were very small, she knows about grief…that we can’t skip it, but have to go through it. She has been a great support to me since I lost the baby.

Hi sweetie,

I know all these celebratory days are falling flat under the weight of your enormous grief. It’s awful and expected and normal. That doesn’t help. Nothing really helps. You have to ride the wave of it. It will wash over you again and again. Sometimes you’ll think the tide is way out there, that you’re safe and far away from it, and yet another wave will cut you off at the knees.

The intervals will eventually get farther apart and yet when a wave hits you, it will feel every bit as intense. That, in my experience, is just how it goes.

The thing is – the waves will send you spinning but they won’t drown you. You’ll keep going because you are tough and resilient and wise and beautiful and have a thousand blessings to offset the struggle.

All my love,
Dymphny

I wanted to post these words today for all others who are grieving, and especially in honour of two of my friends who recently had fairly early miscarriages. My heart is with you as you ache for your babies in Heaven. Your truly lost a little child, just like me. All the potential for a whole life was there in that tiny little being, that new little soul created in love. It is understandable that your heart is broken. This child—with their unique DNA, their individual soul, their mysterious mission—can never be repeated. It is ok that you long for them forever. Forever will come.

May you be comforted by family and friends, and carried by grace through the ever changing tides of grief. And as you keep swimming to that distant shore of peace, know that you will be a sign of hope for others.

The Mystery of Losing a Little One

Today I want to share with you an article I recently wrote about losing my little Josephine during labour. I’ve had a hard time doing much narrative about this event, and have mostly blogged poetry since it occurred, as it felt like a safer way to express myself somehow.

But I really felt called to share my experience and to reach out to other bereaved parents, so I was very pleased when the paper accepted my article. I’m posting the link to it in honour of a dear friend who lost her baby son three years ago today. Perhaps you can all send a little extra prayer her way. The pain of losing a little one comes and goes in waves, and I imagine it might be stronger again today. Honouring this in some way is part of healing.

The Mystery of Losing a Little One

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So to all bereaved parents, I send you my deepest condolences, and stand with you in your pain. May you know that your children are still an amazing gift, and that you have been for them not so much a place of death, as a gate to Heaven.

May our little stars shine forth with their pure, sweet light and ever guide us home.

Song of Longing for Little Ones

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United in grief we stand
here with our hearts in our hands
Walk with me pretty please
so I’m not alone
so I’m not alone

Reach through your pain
to touch mine
Let me heal yours
you heal mine

Together we’ll bear
this big weight
holding on tight
to ropes of grace

Let my tears
wash you clean
begin anew
to feel free

Love is strong
oh, so strong
It tramples death
with it’s song

“I am alive
forever alive
In your hearts
you know that’s right”

Our little ones sleep
but in peace
This is the joy
in our grief

Walk not alone
on this path
silently tread
so often before

Let my cry break
the prison of glass
that’s freezing your heart
that’s holding you back

Shout out your grief
let your heart thaw
In the warmth of the sun
things don’t feel so raw

Together we stand
united in grief
Love makes us whole
it makes us complete

Keep up your chin
sparkle a smile
You’ll see your little one
in a little while