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!


Good Friday

Today I want to tell you about my sorrow
But words catch like thorns in my throat.

    
Today we mourn the loss of someone we love deeply. Today there are no words. Only tears. And so for all who have lost someone they love deeply..heart of their own heart, flesh of their own flesh, I offer you my silent company. I mourn with you. I weep with you. And I hope with you. The hope of one who has been broken-hearted and again seen the dawn. 

  

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 

Eat My Heart Out

Sorrow creeps into my heart

like a crazy caterpillar

and eats everything in sight.

  

 Then falls exhausted

into a dreamy upside down slumber,

while the delicate paper-thin chrysalis

pulses with new life—

silent transformation. 

From the broken walls of my heart

emerges a vivacious hope,

bourne up on the wings

of a butterfly.