Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Listen to Your Mother

LTYM was an amazing experience. Words cannot describe how validating and thrilling it was to stand before a sold out audience of 700 people and share my story of mothering both Zoe and Nora! If you are interested, I have shared what I read below. 

Thank you to Listen to Your Mother and the producers for believing that the bereaved mother's story needs to be included and heard in the quilt of motherhood story telling. 

Invisible Motherhood

“He had forgotten,” I thought as I opened the Mother’s Day present at brunch.  Inside was a beautiful blue sapphire necklace on a slender silver chain. Gently running my fingertips over the smooth stone, I turned to my husband, said thank you and asked, “Why a blue sapphire?”

Proud of his purchase he replied, “It’s Zoe’s birthstone.”

Looking at our eight week-old baby girl sleeping soundly snuggled in her car seat next to me, a sad obliged smirk quickly came and went upon my face. Tears formed in my eyes but I held them back as I thought, “Where is Nora’s birthstone on this necklace? Why is her name missing from this card? Have you forgotten about our daughter that died just 15 months ago?”

Instead of yelling these words of discontent across the table at my loving husband, who was so pleased with his procurement of what he assumed was a thoughtful gift, I instead simply smiled and said, “I love it! Can you help me put it on?”

And I did love it. I mean I do. The keepsake is a reminder that I birthed yet another beautiful baby girl into this world and I should have a necklace of just hers to cherish as I do her older sister.

But at the same time I hated it.

I hated that Nora was not somehow represented on that chain. I hated that there was only a newborn sitting to my right at this table and a toddler missing from my left.  I hated being an invisible mother to one daughter with the world only noticing and acknowledging my motherhood to the other.  I hated the inflexible and confusing truth that without Nora being stillborn there would be no baby Zoe here in my arms. I hated having to live daily on this bridge between being a bereaved mom and a mother to a living child.  I hated the fact that I even say phrases like “living child.”  I mean who says that?  Most moms just get to say, “Hi.  My name is so-and-so and I’m a mom to three beautiful children.” But there is another thing I hate, that seemingly simple question so many ask innocently when you first meet, “How many children do you have?” has now become a challenging conundrum to answer. “Ugh, one, I mean two.  Do dead children count?”
I hated all of it, but what I hated most was the fact that he forgot to put her name in the card just like my parents also forgot to put Nora’s name in the card that they sent the day before, “Happy Mother’s Day honey! We are so proud of you for being Zoe’s mom,” it read. 

I wanted to scream, “But I’m not just Zoe’s mom; I’m Nora’s mom too!”

It seemed as though another fear of mine was coming true.  She had been forgotten, replaced. Overshadowed by the living, breathing child that came after her.  Not even those closest to me, that had lost her too, seemed as if they wanted to remember her. My heart was shattered.  I thought that somehow this thing called grief would get easier.  I guess some days are, but those days ill prepare you for and make you foolishly think that all days will be better. Boy was I wrong. Moments like this one just seem to add salt to a wound that will never heal, no matter how many F-ing times you try to bandage it.

But if I’m being honest, my greatest fear was that I would forget her too. That somehow among raising Zoe, memories of Nora would fade away along with my love for her.  You see it’s getting harder for me to remember her now.  The demands of raising a living child take away from the time there is to mourn the dead one. Dinners need to be made, chores need to be done, diapers need to be changed, and so the act of living must go on. With so much to do, it’s easy to forget her, not intentionally, but slowly, over time, as she slips silently into the background of life.

So how am I supposed to parent a child I cannot hold?

My answer?  I write her name on the glass shower door every morning.  As the steam rises and the water droplets form into fog on the glass entrance, I ritually carve the letters of her name out of the dew upon the door. Four letters, short and sweet, like her life was, appear every morning on the window pane because I place them there. While the water from the shower head beads off my back I decorate her name on the glass with hearts and sometimes retrace the lettering over and over again. Taking a moment to remember her, if only for a minute so that I can be with her once again.

The other morning as I stepped out of the shower and was dressing for the day’s events my husband, holding Zoe, turned to me and asked, “Can you wear Nora’s necklace today too?”

“Sure honey, but why?” 

He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I just like it when you wear both.”

I smiled. He hadn’t forgotten her, and neither will I.

Just remember to always…..

Monday, May 4, 2015

Why I Don't Want to be Pregnant After a Loss Again Right Now

Photo by Kerry Kresl Photography

When I was six months postpartum with Zoe my mom during one of our once a week phone conversations would say, “Maybe you’re pregnant again” when I would describe some kind of physical alignment that I as a hypochondriac often feel on an hourly basis.

I would huff, “ugh” into the receiver and say, “I am so not ready for that!”  

Then mom would let me know that her friends and others had started to ask when “we” meaning Nick and I were going to start trying again.

Being pregnant again was the farthest thing from my mind.  I had just gotten MY body back!!!!  I was done breastfeeding because I went back to work and the milk dried up the longer I went without pumping, due to this my weight was finally falling off and I was getting back to my pre-babies size. However, due to Zoe getting colds every other week so was I, as Zoe and I were introduced to the germ factory known as daycare. Also it was the first time in 15 months that I wasn't suffering from extreme perinatal and postpartum anxiety due to starting on meds after I stopped breastfeeding. Most importantly though, it was the first time in 2 years, yes 24 months that I hadn't been pregnant or worried about becoming pregnant.

I was free!

So when I started hearing that the low rumbles and soft whispers of the rumor mill were asking questions about our timing and plans for another child I got annoyed.  I was another one of those things about grief, life after loss, and pregnancy after loss of a child that I don’t think people get.  You don’t have to want to rush creating your family just because one of your children died.

Now I did feel that way after Nora died.  I think that’s normal.  And I do feel this way now at times as Nick and I often begin asking each other, “Do you think we are ready to try again?” as each month comes and goes since this past December.

Maybe we come back to our question each month because of our loss and that our plans for starting a family were derailed and pushed back 18 months when Nora died or maybe we ask this question because I am in my early 30’s with my fertile time running out and Nick is in his mid-thirties and is starting to believe that his window for being an active dad is shortening?  Probably, and most likely it’s both.

The thing is, now that Zoe is here I want to spend as much time with her as I can. I hear the first two years of a child’s life are important for their development and yes, because of the loss I am afraid that if I were to get pregnant again while Zoe is under two, that my anxiety and fear would take me away from being present for her.  

I already have mommy guilt that I’m not present enough. I already feel guilty that I wanted for this child so much, that I worked my ass off for her to get here and then there are days when I drop her off at daycare a feel a relief that I can go to the coffee shop without having to carry a diaper bag and juggle a toddler. I already feel mommy guilt that in some way Zoe was a replacement and that if we rush into having another baby that child would be a replacement too.

Mostly, I feel guilty because I know that Nora's death pushed back our plans to be parents and that we feel the tugging of time at our side urging us to try again, because we know pregnancy and parenting aren't guaranteed and even knowing all of this, I still feel guilty because ALL I want is to have my body back.  

To NOT be pregnant.

Because I want to linger just a few days and weeks longer in this place of contentment with the small family I have and with a being - body, mind, and heart that finally feels it has shed it’s weighted layers of grief, sadness, pain, suffering, pregnancy after loss, anxiety, hope, fear, pounds, and breast milk.
Life is a little lighter these days without the layers.  

Photo by Kerry Kresl Photography

I want to linger here just a little longer.

And that is why I don’t want to be pregnant after a loss again right now.

Friday, March 27, 2015

You are one.

You are one.

I never thought this day would come.

Your life from the very beginning has been over shadowed by death.

Not yours, but by your sister’s.

You, my beautiful life filled Zoe, with sweet tooth filled smiles and wrinkled nose giggles, were born out of the shadows of darkness and brought me into the light, like a lotus flower reaching for the sun through the black mud.

You. Zoe. I have feared for your life since before you were even conceived. From the day your sister died I was afraid you would too.

I also worried that you would be a replacement.  A child whose identity would be tainted by loss and forever live in the shadow of the older sibling never to be.

Oh but my sweet, sweet jovial Zoe!  I know now that this was my story and no longer has to be yours.  You may have been the life that sprouted from death but my dear darling daughter that does not define you.

You adoring daughter, you! You are ZOE! Not your sister.  Not Nora.  Not a replacement and not a shadowed life lived tainted by loss. 

No.  You are LIFE, not the result of a death that happened before. 

There is so much to you. 

You are the girl who laughs through her teeth when her daddy chases her around the furniture in the living room. 

You are the girl who smiles at me with a crinkled nose and bright wide hazel eyes when I tickle your toes.

You are the girl that gives hugs and kisses to those she knows and stares with a watchful eye at strangers who have not made their loved deserved.

You are the girl who steals socks from her doggy George and babbles with mama and dada when you walk across the kitchen floor with knobby knees and a stick waddle.

You are the girl who put back together the pieces of my heart when they were broken, shattered, and thrown widely across the hard wood floor of life and scattered beyond repair.  

You Zoe girl!  You are the girl who brought colors back to life again.  Who made the days less dull and the nights full of laughter instead of tears.  You Zoe girl!  You are the girl who made hugs feel fuller and kisses seem sweeter and my life beautiful again.

You Zoe girl!  You! You are the girl who brought me out of the depths of darkness and back to life.

You. Zoe.  You are life.  You are you and only you.

And today…

You are one.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl! 

Love Always & Forever,


Friday, February 13, 2015

The Brave Moment When I Became a Model!!!

Did I ever tell you about the time I was a model?  I know, I know.  Me?  A model?  Well a few months ago back when Zoe was only 4 months old I slyly shared this AWESOME photo of me as a model for The 4th Trimester Bodies Project on my Facebook page.

The project is "dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding" as Ashlee Wells Jackson loss mom, amazing photographer, and founder of 4th Trimester Bodies Project says on her site.

This mantra and motto is why I was brave, embraced the little moments of life and decided I could be a model for a day if it meant helping others and society realize that motherhood, ALL motherhood is beautiful and transformative not only to our bodies but also to our souls.

You see my motherhood, ALL OF IT in this photo.  My role as mom to a dead child and a living one is visible.  The scar from one and the stretch marks from the other are all present in this photo.  All.of.it!  Yes in one arm I hold my living child and in another I hold the elephant stuffed animal, the first gift Nora ever received from her Aunt Kristi represents my dead child.  This is why I participated in this project!  Because I wanted my motherhood to be SEEN!  Not JUST my motherhood to Zoe but my motherhood to NORA too!

Lately I have been on a kick to raise awareness about the invisible motherhood of the bereaved parent.  I think at first when Nora died people recognized me as a mother although a bereaved one.  But after Zoe arrived my motherhood to Nora seemed to fade, not in my eyes but in the eyes of others.


That is why I am re-sharing my modeling picture here with you today, because this project helps bring to light ALL aspects of motherhood and embraces every part of this messy but beautiful thing called being a mom.  Every shape and size is embraced, every last mark and pound, every kind of mother from the bereaved to the adopted, every kind of birth from at home to hospital c-section, every kind of feeding from breast to bottle, and every kind of postpartum experience including everything from 'I feel like everything is coming up roses after birth' to postpartum depression is included in this project.


We need more projects like 4th Trimester Bodies.  Because ALL MOTHERHOOD no matter how sad, complicated, challenging, and beautiful is recognized! The project embraces and CELEBRATES the journey, warts and all.  We need more of this if we are going to end the mommy wars.

Oh and the other reason I participated, the one that makes me the most brave is because of what I wrote to Ashlee after my session.  I didn't have the words at the time but here is the other reason I needed to participate in order to HEAL not only my grief but also my relationship with my physical body.

”I believe there is a tremendous amount of shame and feelings of failure that manifest as anger towards our bodies when we experience a loss during pregnancy. It has taken me many months and another pregnancy that resulted in the birth of a living baby for me to come to find a loving relationship with my body again. I’m at a point now where I can forgive her (my body) for what I thought was betraying me and I have come to the realization that my body did not fail me but was attacked just like my daughter was by the infection that stole my eldest child’s life. It has taken a lot of work, but by carrying my rainbow baby and bringing her into this world safe and sound I feel a deep sense of love for my body again and I just wanted to capture that love and gratitude for my daughters and my body in some way. Participating in the 4th Trimester Bodies Project was a way of doing that. A celebration of sorts for my healed relationship I now have with my body.”

Maybe if we can all embrace EVERY type of body, our own and others as well as embracing our own motherhood and that of others we would heal as a society too.

To see my full modeling career (Ha! It was one picture) and my story as highlighted on The 4th Trimester Bodies Project click here.

Now please go out into the world and love your body, others bodies and your motherhood and others motherhood without judgement or shame!  You deserve that kind of mommy love this Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Will She be Forgotten?

I'm writing over at Still Standing today about my fear that Nora will be forgotten and overshadowed by her little sister Zoe.  Nick edited this post for me last night and ended up in tears.  (I love that man so much!)  The post is about him mostly and my parents (I love them lots too) and when I asked Nick why he was crying he said, "Because I feel the same way too."  It was another beautiful grief moment we both shared.

Read all about the tears that Nick and I shed over this article and moment in time here

P.S. Mom and Dad, I might have been upset by what I describe in this post but that was only a moment in time.  I'm actually choked up as I write this realizing I have such supportive parents that have taught me it's okay to express my feelings and that you accept that I do so in such a public way.  I only hope I can give Zoe the same gift of freedom to share her voice as you have given to me.

photo credit

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