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Celebrating and Surviving Milestones

Celebrating and Surviving Milestones

From the moment I first held that pregnancy test in my hand, my heart was filled with dreams for my son’s childhood–one that I hoped would be filled with love, laughter, and plenty of family traditions. I envisioned the milestones to come: his first birthday, his first day of school, his high school graduation. My dreams were shattered into a million pieces when our precious firstborn baby was born prematurely and succumbed to a fatal genetic condition at just 93-minutes old. The milestones that I once looked forward to with such joy and excitement were now anticipated with such deep sorrow. Three years later and my heart aches each time kindergarten enrollment begins, and I often find myself blinking back tears as I count down the years until Ethan’s class will start school. The loss of a baby has a way of changing a simple date on the calendar into a point in time that feels so significant and so heavy with a wide spectrum of emotions. How can we face the due dates, the birthdays, and the milestones that now feel so bittersweet? As we approached Ethan’s first birthday, I reached out to my friends within the loss community for ideas of ways to spend the day and received plenty of great ideas for celebrating and surviving milestones.   Throw a bash One of my loss mama friends throws a birthday party for her son each year. Through the years, this tradition has been a great way to celebrate her son’s life with friends both new and old. Some party ideas include a butterfly release, cake and icecream,...
5 Ways to Support a Friend Who Lost Their Baby

5 Ways to Support a Friend Who Lost Their Baby

“My friend just lost a baby and I’m at a loss of what to do or say. How can I be a support during this time? I’m often asked this question by caring friends and family members who know someone who has recently lost their precious baby. If you’re asking yourself this same question today I want to start by saying thank you. Just the fact that you’d ask shows that you truly care. The loss of a child is one of the deepest griefs to face and one of the most complicated to respond to. In those first few months after losing my newborn son I could hardly imagine what I needed, let alone articulate it to someone else. I’m so grateful for people like you who met us where we were at when we needed it the most. While there is no “one size fits all” approach, there were several things that my husband and I found especially helpful as we processed the loss of our newborn son. Don’t be afraid to talk about the baby. I love it when people ask me about Ethan, or when they say his name out loud. Simply start by saying, “I’d love to hear more about [baby’s name] sometime” and be prepared to hear as much or as little as they feel comfortable sharing. Your loved one hasn’t forgotten their child, not even for a moment, and hearing or speaking their name is one of the greatest gifts a bereaved parent can receive. Consider remembering their baby’s legacy alongside them by joining them at Forever Footprints’ Walk to Remember or...
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...