When grief feels harder than the year before.

Mother’s Day last year was so bittersweet. The days leading up to it were grueling, and the day itself was so emotional. Somehow, despite all the sadness, it ended up being a really good day. My husband and I went kayaking, ate lots of Chantilly cream cake, and I was showered in flowers and gifts from loved ones. It was a day of love more than anything, and I felt Aria’s spirit so close to me. But when the clock struck twelve and Mother’s Day officially came to an end, I felt grateful it was over. Even though it was good, it was still so messy.

I wasn’t really expecting it to be this way, but Mother’s Day this year feels harder than the last. I told my husband that I want to skip it altogether, which I said last year as well, but I mean it a lot more this year. I just don’t feel like celebrating my own motherhood right now. Truthfully, I don’t even want to talk about it.

All of this is compounded by the grief I’m feeling about it being over sixteen months since the day we lost our first child, and still being without a second. I haven’t spoken too much on this subject because of it’s personal and sensitive nature, but it’s weighing so much on my heart right now. You see, the silver lining of my last Mother’s Day was the hope of holding a second baby in my arms, or at least in my womb by my second Mother’s Day. I’m still as barren this year as I was the last, and it makes me feel so stuck. I feel like my life hasn’t progressed at all, even despite knowing how much I have grown in grief in the last year. And there is some fear mixed in too, because I have a few too many cysts in my ovaries, and I am so afraid they are impacting my body more than I realized.

So I’d like to ask for prayers. Prayers for me and my aching heart, along with prayers for every other grieving mother this Mother’s Day. I hope this day comes and goes gently and quickly.

Learning more about our baby.

It all started with a clerical error.

I had requested a copy of all of Aria’s ultrasound images, longing to have copies of every picture ever taken during her brief life. I asked them to withhold all the other records, like the lab results and diagnostic information. I was so afraid of going down a rabbit hole and researching every little number, trying to find a way she could have been saved. I just wanted the images and nothing more.

And then I opened up the envelope and realized the huge stack of papers I was holding were my medical records, and not a single ultrasound image. They had gotten my request backwards, and now I was facing my worst case scenario.

I decided to double check, and make sure the images weren’t somewhere in the stack of papers. The first page I flipped open were the surgical notes from Aria’s birth.

I went from calm to hysterical in less than a second. I grabbed my phone and quickly dialed my best friend because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop myself from reading everything, and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. We stayed on the phone as as I skimmed through everything. I was stunned to learn new, sweet details about my baby girl.

Here’s the thing about baby loss, it’s the loss of so much more than just a baby. It leaves you with a lifetime of wonder about who she was, or who she would have been. So to learn something new, another detail about her life, no matter how small is absolutely magical.

I learned that her Apgar scores at one minute, and five minutes old were both a two. Which isn’t a good score by any means, and is a sign of how truly sick she was, but it’s something I didn’t know until now. It’s new information about her life, and when you don’t have much, it’s everything.

I also found so much comfort in the notes made about her condition at birth. “Her skin is warm. Her body appears well nourished. She is active and alert.” Beautiful reminders that she was here, and she didn’t suffer.

Then there’s the notes they made about me. Someone wrote that I was “grieving appropriately.” I felt so loved and cared for by our hospital staff, and I was grateful that they cared enough to make note of how I was doing emotionally and not just physically.

It was still so hard on my delicate heart, but overall I’m grateful for the mix up. I got to learn more about my sweet little girl, and that is worth more than I could ever put into words.

They are mothers all the same. (International Bereaved Mother’s Day)

Bereaved motherhood is different, but it is motherhood all the same. I still raise my child in my own unique way. I still worry about her, despite knowing in my heart that she is safe in heaven. I still think of her every second of every day. And the space in my heart that was made for her the moment we began to discuss having children will always be hers.

But bereaved motherhood is a confusing version of motherhood. It’s the type of motherhood that you often have to squint your eyes and search for. It’s the type of motherhood that constantly forces you to ask yourself if it really is motherhood at all. Could I really be a mom if my child isn’t standing next to me? Or if I never stayed up all night rocking her? Or if I never changed a dirty diaper? What if your child never took a single breath on this earth? What if their heart beat for the last time before you even had the chance to know if the baby in your womb was a boy or girl? What if all you know of your baby was two pink lines on a pregnancy test?

It is motherhood all the same.

Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day, and I want to invite all of you to celebrate this sacred version of motherhood. For it deserves celebration despite the inevitable pain it brings. Bereaved mothers are warriors, and among the bravest women I have ever met. They have been through the unthinkable and yet continue to wake up each day clinging to hope. They manage to find light in the darkest and most desolate spaces. They are links in the strongest chain of support I have ever seen. They are mothers of the most sacred kind.

Today, I’m sending all of my love to every mother walking this journey after loss alongside me. I want to thank all of you for being part of this community, for you have been my strength in so many difficult moments.

Wildflowers

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“They say that time in heaven is compared to a blink of an eye for us on earth. Sometimes it helps for me to think about my child running ahead of me through a beautiful field of wildflowers and butterflies; so happy and completely caught up in what she is doing that when she looks behind her, I’ll already be there.” (Quote from Sufficient Grace Ministries)

Ever since I read this quote about a year ago, I have been in love with wildflowers and the symbolism they now hold for me. If I let myself think too long about the moment Aria will turn around and say, “Come on, Mom!” my joy and excitement always turns into the sweetest tears. One of the big reasons I fell in love with our house in Texas is the field of wildflowers just down the street. It is a daily reminder each spring of the child waiting for me in heaven. In our family full of Roses, Aria is our wildflower.

So when I saw this field of flowers during our road trip today, I just had to get a picture of Aria’s furry sister next to them. Its the little things!

That time I felt like a hypocrite.

I recently started a part time retail job as a way to get my feet wet after taking a year and a half off to grieve the loss of my daughter. Going back to work has been hard in so many ways. I realize now how much I miss my former coworkers, and the field I used to work in. Going bwork was also the loss of the plans I had to be a stay at home mom to my daughter. It felt like going back in time and returning to the person I was before she entered our lives. It was also scary because I was afraid of meeting new people and being asked, “Do you have kids?”

It’s not that I don’t want people to ask, and it’s certainly not that I don’t want to talk about Aria. I always, always, always love to talk about my sweet girl. But it’s challenging because people are always so stunned when I say, “I have a daughter, but she passed away in January 2016.” They’re always so shocked and dumbfounded by my response. Sometimes they just end the conversation there. Sometimes they immediately change the subject. Sometimes they say well intentioned but hurtful things as a way to gloss over my loss. Sometimes they surprise me and say the perfect thing, and that makes all the difference.

It’s so frustrating that the topic of my child instantly derails a conversation. Think about a conversation between parents of all living children.
“Do you have kids?”
“Yes, we have two boys.”
“Oh! How old are they?”
And the conversation continues and stays pretty light hearted.

For me, it’s quite different.
“Do you have kids?”
“I have a daughter, but she passed away last year.”
This is when I see shock all over the person’s face and they say, “Oh. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine.”
And the conversation turns into discussions of her illnesses, or thoughts about life after death, or other heavy topics.

You know, sometimes I really loathe that. I love that people are trying to be sympathetic, but I wish we could talk about her without getting so sad. I wish I could talk about her all while keeping a conversation going in a smooth and typical fashion. But I know that unless this is your normal, talking about a child who died isn’t going to come easy. I get that. Nonetheless, it’s still incredibly frustrating.

So on my first day of work, I found myself at the center of a team huddle in front of half of the store’s employees being asked to say a few things about myself. I fumbled through all of it. I joked about not being that interesting. Then I said I was married, and just moved to Texas from Florida. I tried stopping there but I could tell the girl leading the meeting wasn’t satisfied with my very non specific response. So she asked, “Do you have any little ones?” My heart raced, my stomach twisted into forty knots, and I panicked. So I lied. “I have my dog, Lana.”

I instantly felt sick. How could I just pretend Aria never existed? I feel like I’m fighting day in and day out to make sure people remember her and know that she still matters. I’m constantly trying to find ways to talk about her, and show the world who she was. I felt like the world’s biggest hypocrite.

I keep envisioning Aria watching over me from heaven. She’s getting excited to hear her Mama talk about her to a big group of people at work, and then she watches her Mama tell a big fat lie. I worry that she thinks I forgot her, or that I don’t think of her as my daughter anymore. What if she’s saying, “Mom… what about me?” The thought is heart breaking and terrible.

I just didn’t want to make this meeting all about me. I didn’t want to derail it the way I always do in conversations. I didn’t want this to be one of the first and only things a group of strangers knew about me. If it had been a one on one conversation I would have jumped at the chance to talk about her, but I was so afraid of being branded as “the girl whose baby died.” Yet I also feel guilt because my love for Aria should have overcome all of those things, shouldn’t it? I know I was trying my best to be a good employee, but I feel like it cost me my ability to be a good mother.

I just wish society was different, and that my life story wasn’t so taboo. I wish the topic of my child’s brief life wasn’t so jarring. But most of all, I wish I could tell Aria how sorry I am, and that what happened that day does not mean I love her any less. She is still an equal part of this family, and she always will be.

Your life matters, sweet pea.

Celebrating Easter Sunday when you feel stuck in Saturday.

Today is the second Easter since our daughter was born. The second Easter since she passed away. My second Easter as an empty nester in her mid twenties.

It’s a difficult holiday because of all the things I wish I could do: the egg hunts, the pretty frilly dresses, the big baskets left by the Easter bunny, the children’s books about the resurrection.

But it’s also a hopeful holiday for a grieving heart. Hope because Sunday came for Jesus, and Sunday is coming for me.

It’s hard because there are so many times when I feel like I’m stuck in Saturday. Good Friday feels like it has come and gone, but I’m in the in between phase. Still on earth yet missing my daughter who has gone to heaven before me. I’m still waiting for my own day, when I can hold her in my arms again. And while I try not to live that way, just wishing each day away until I can see Aria again, it is the hope of that day that keeps me going.

While we were still in the hospital after giving birth to Aria, Brian and I had a conversation about Easter and what it meant to us. I said to him, “If there is no heaven, I’m done here. If I don’t have the hope of seeing Aria again, I don’t want want to live another day on this earth.” In this moment, my faith was being rocked and shaken harder than ever before. Was my faith going to overcome my pain? Was I going to keep trusting in a God who was allowing me to lead an earthly life filled with so much agony?

Somehow, despite so many prayers that look a lot more like me screaming angry frustrations at God, I’ve grown to trust Him more than ever before. I’ve leaned on Him in the moments when I’m walking through more than I can handle. He hasn’t always rescued me in the way I wanted, but He has carried me through. I know this because I’m still here, and without Him I wouldn’t be.

I don’t know where you may be in your life today. I don’t know if you are like me, and your heart is hurting in an unimaginable way. But I do know that Sunday is coming. All will be made new. Every tear will dry. And this is why I celebrate. This is why I hope. This is why I live.

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My sister in motherhood.

Mere minutes after my pregnancy test turned positive, I called my best friend to give her the news. We cried, we laughed, we celebrated.

About two months later, she texted me with the same news. We cried, we laughed, we celebrated.

We walked through our pregnancies practically hand in hand, despite living hundreds of miles apart. Not a day went by that we didn’t ask each other “Is this normal?” We constantly sent updates saying things like, “She’s doing backflips today!” or “I think he has the hiccups!” We were so in tune with each other’s pregnancies that at times it even felt like her baby was mine, and my baby was hers. We were sisters in motherhood. It was one of the most exciting and beautiful bonds I have ever shared with another person.

And when my sweet baby passed away shortly after birth, I was very apprehensive to give her the news. It took days before I had the strength to type it into a text message. I knew it would break her heart.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to our friendship after that. But she stood beside me, and never pushed me to do more than I was ready to take on.

When people ask, “How do I support my friend who just lost her baby?” I say, “Just show up.” And then I tell them this story:

About two weeks following Aria’s passing, my best friend arrived home from vacation and sent me a text. She said, “I made some chocolate chip banana bread and I have to bring you some. So I’m coming by, but you don’t have to come to the door. I’ll just leave it on the porch.”

It was one of the greatest gestures I received in those first few months. It made me feel loved but also took all the pressure off of me. I didn’t have to conjure up a response to the overwhelming offer of “let me know if you need anything” And I didn’t have to worry about being social.

And as the condolences started to end, and the cards/flowers stopped arriving, I wondered if this was the part where she would continue on her journey with motherhood, while I stood still in a wasteland of grief.

I greatly underestimated her.

She refused to let me go, even though I tried many times to force her to leave our friendship behind. I felt like such a dark cloud over her, and I didn’t want to ruin her happiness. Each time she firmly denied my requests, and refused to let me think I was a burden on her. Even though I know I had to be one of the hardest people to stay friends with.

It takes a lot of bravery to spend the entire second half of your pregnancy walking alongside a woman grieving the loss of her newborn. She could have easily walked away, and I wouldn’t have blamed her for it.

But she reminded me, “Aria is my baby, just like M is your baby.” We were still journeying through motherhood together.

On the second day of every month, I awoke to a text wishing Aria a happy __ month birthday, and she would always ask how we planned to celebrate this month. She listened to me as I vented all my pain, anger and frustrations. She visited Aria’s grave whenever she could and always sent me pictures. Once her baby boy was born, she even brought him along so he could visit his best friend. With her as a friend, I could never say I didn’t feel supported. Not for one second.

It’s been such a hard fought journey for both of us. We have weathered more storms than I have the energy to write about. We could fill rivers with our collective tears. And we have survived. Even more than that, we have thrived.

Thank you so much, sweet friend. For everything.