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To the bereaved father, on Father’s Day

To the bereaved father, on Father’s Day

Last year, my husband told me that he didn’t feel the need to be celebrated on Father’s Day since he didn’t have a living child. His announcement didn’t come from a place of anger or even apathy–he was simply stating a fact. He truly did not see any reason to be recognized and was okay with that. While I knew he was satisfied with this arrangement, I couldn’t help but think of just how worthy he was to be recognized for the incredible dad he is–despite how different his day-to-day life may appear when compared with other parents. Bereaved dads are top-notch fathers, often giving their all with little to no recognition from the outside world. But we see you, dads. As partners, we see you and we celebrate you even when the world forgets. We saw the way your heart overflowed with love and pride the first time you heard your baby’s heartbeat. We saw the way you supported us through morning sickness, discomforts, and a wide spectrum of emotions. We saw the way you faithfully stood by our side, as friends, family, doctors, nurses, and even strangers showered endless attention on the mom-to-be. We saw the way your heart broke when that precious heartbeat stopped. We saw the way you asked the doctors questions and selfishly advocated for our needs, as our world stopped spinning and we crumbled beneath the weight of grief. We saw the way you strongly held us up when we felt so weak–and we know you were hurting just as deeply. As friends, family, doctors and nurses continued to shower us with endless...
This is your day too

This is your day too

Mother’s Day changes when you’ve lost a baby. A day that was once filled with so much celebration and hope has been shadowed with grief, pain, and perhaps feelings of isolation. It’s not that you dislike the holiday or all that it signifies–it’s simply that someone very special is missing and motherhood has suddenly taken on a whole new meaning. Brave mama, please hear me when I say this. Though it may not always seem true, this is your day too. Whether the sentimental greeting cards and commercials featuring smiling women and cooing babies fill your heart with hope, despair, or a combination of both, this day is for you. To the mamas who have said goodbye to a baby of any age or gestation: You are an incredible mother. You have been handed the sacred and immensely extraordinary task of mothering a child you can no longer hold. You are among the those who have been chosen to experience a love stronger than death. You have the privilege of having known someone so small, yet so important. You keep moving forward day by day, all the while keeping your baby’s memory and legacy alive. Even when no one says your baby’s name, this is your day too. To the mamas whose arms feel empty: you matter. While the world may not see your motherhood, I do. I see the way motherhood has seeped into every corner of your heart and mind. While your home or the backseat of your vehicle may not show any evidence of children, I see the ways your baby has changed every part of...
Grieving who I was before loss

Grieving who I was before loss

After my newborn son died, I grieved more than his passing. Of course, the grief I felt over losing Ethan was the loudest, the most painful, and demanded the most attention, but there were other losses I experienced in the wake of his death. I grieved the girl I was before being forced to say goodbye. I missed the optimist who assumed that a positive pregnancy test promised a healthy baby in nine months. I missed the joy I once felt attending baby showers. I missed being able to walk past the baby section at Target without my eyes filling with tears. I grieved for the extrovert who enjoyed smalltalk and crowded social gatherings. I grieved for the girl who didn’t struggle with anxiety and didn’t feel everything so deeply. I missed the girl who had incredible focus and could keep track of deadlines, assignments, birthdays, and daily tasks with ease. I missed the girl who didn’t feel so foggy headed and forgetful. I grieved for the girl who smiled far more than she cried. I grieved for the girl who was once so innocent. Part of me died along with my son and I yearned for all I had lost. Though most of my tears were shed over the loss of my son, I cried over the loss of the pieces of myself. Pre-loss Kristin was gone and I missed her. It took some time for me to become acquainted with my post-loss self. As time passed, I began to see that I was still the same girl at the core. Yes, parts of me had changed–some for...
Finding (and accepting) support after loss

Finding (and accepting) support after loss

It was difficult for me to ask for help after our newborn son died. The struggle partially stemmed from my pride and my desire to continue to be the friend who provided support to others, not the other way around. Even more so, I barely had the ability to articulate or even identify what I needed in the first place. At times, it seemed easier to go it alone. Surely I could do this. Deep down I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t do any of this on my own. My heart, mind, and body were weary from months of high risk doctor appointments, processing bad news on bad news, saying goodbye to our firstborn child, and trying to recover from the physical and emotional impacts of childbirth mixed with grief. My husband and I needed community. Sure, we did our very best to support one another–yet it was difficult to fully support the other when each of us felt so weak. As daunting as it sounded, we both knew we needed support. We took the initially terrifying step of tearing down our walls and saying yes to others–yes to support in the form of warm meals, yard work, funeral assistance, and company. Day by day, we began to see that we were never meant to do life alone. We were never meant to have it all together. We were meant to enter into each other’s messes and support one another. This beautifully messy community is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given. We found support within the pregnancy and infant loss community. I immediately found myself connected with...
For better or for worse: Love after loss

For better or for worse: Love after loss

For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. As I spoke those words back in 2011, I truly meant them from the bottom of my heart. Sure, I knew marriage wouldn’t always be easy and I knew there would be hard days, but this wide-eyed, innocent 20-something had no idea of the depth of what those words would truly mean until years later when stood beside a tiny cemetery plot and buried our infant son. For worse, for poorer, and in the wake of devastating sickness, our innocence was stripped away and things were suddenly so much harder. On the evening our son died, a kind nurse took my hand and warned us that things were about to get hard. She encouraged us to dig our heels down deep, to remember the vows we had meant so fervently those years before, and to fight for one another when things would become difficult–and difficult they did. Loss has a way of changing you. In some ways it made me better, and it other ways it brought all of my imperfections to the surface. It challenged my thinking, shifted my perspectives, and altered pieces of my identity. I grieved the person I was before losing our son and I struggled to figure out who I was. I quickly learned that when two people are simultaneously being shaped through the pain of suffering and loss, things become even more complicated. We were both grieving, changing and growing. I was still trying to get to know this whole new me, all while trying to get to...

When the New Year is anything but “happy”

-Kristin Hernandez Gold confetti, champagne bubbles, and excited grins pierced my aching heart like knives as I scrolled through social media. The entire world welcomed 2016 with open arms–not just welcomed, but celebrated it–and I wasn’t ready to move forward. My son was born and had died in 2015. There was no dash between years on his headstone as there should have been. My entire pregnancy and his short little life had all been crammed into that year and I didn’t want to step forward, let alone throw a party over it. New Year’s Day can be blindsiding when you’ve lost a baby. In December, many of us brace ourselves for the social gatherings, the unfulfilled traditions, and the constant reminders of the empty seat at our holiday tables. We breathe a sigh of relief as the holiday season draws to a close, only to be faced with the unexpectedly difficult transition of leaving another year behind without our children. So how do we step into a new year and into this “new normal” when a piece of our heart is missing? What resolutions can we set for ourselves when we may not even know which way is forward? Make a list of things you are thankful for in the previous year. As we transitioned into 2016, I resolved to write down the blessings that had come in 2015. At first, I could hardly come up with one thing, but as I began to write my teary eyes began to shine with pride and gratitude. Perhaps the previous year made you a mother, even if it came with struggle...