Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stumbling Blocks- What were yours?

I'm about 6 weeks out from Gabriel's day- I can't believe we are going on 7 years. Unreal.

I was thinking back to the early days. The shock. The numbness. The two-steps-forward, one-(or two or three)steps-back.

How do you help someone through those early days? What were some of the little landmines? Is there any way to 'prepare' someone for these? To make life just a little easier?

Some things that I remember being very difficult (some unexpectedly so) for me were:

Going out in public and fearing I'd run into someone I'd have to tell

Getting the mail (and the formula samples and the 'Congratulations!' mailers)

Getting a phone call from my dentist telling me I didn't 'take my dental hygiene seriously' because I asked to reschedule our appointment the day I got home from the hospital.

Seeing pregnant women (and infants) everywhere- Target, the grocery store

Being asked "How many kids do you have?" and not having an answer prepared

Telling my then 4 and 5 year old kids that we were not going to have a new baby. And the very honest reaction of my 5 year old daughter as she started to scream "But he just didn't have a chance to live!"

The middle of the night

The 6 week follow up doctor's visit

What were some things that were most difficult for you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beauty in the Breakdown

I want to thanks Stephanie for this honest and beautiful piece:

I didn't set out to creative. In fact, it was the exact opposite. I set out to be destructive. To smash and destroy.

I am a big believer in allowing yourself to feel your emotions, especially when they are grief driven. I think it is dangerous to bury them deep inside of you, where they will fester and stew until they have permeated every cell in your being. For me, I need to sit with my anger, my sadness, and allow it its space. I let my emotions crash over me and drag me under. I feel their weight on top of me, sometimes I am sure they will suffocate me this time, but the wave always recedes eventually.

In the beginning it was all shock and numbness. I felt nothing and so I did nothing. I sat on my couch in the dark and stared at the wall and ate cheerios.

As the shock and numbness wore off I was overwhelmed by the intensity of my emotions and I desperately needed a release. I would become so angry sometimes that I just wanted to smash everything in my house. After breaking some of our dishes I admitted to my grief counselor that I was afraid I was destined for a life of paper plates and dixie cups. She suggested I buy some cheap clay pots and smash those instead. I stopped at AC Moore on my way home and picked some up. The woman at the register began wrapping them in paper and kindly pointed out a small crack in one of the pots to me. I replied flatly that it didn't matter, I was going to destroy them as soon as I got home. It was months before I realized how odd that must have sounded.

When I got home I stood in my driveway and heaved the pots at the asphalt as hard as I could. They smashed splendidly. I loved the crashing sound they made as they shattered against the ground. When I was done I surveyed the driveway, there were shards of broken flower pots everywhere. They had been completely destroyed, and it felt good. I took a deep breath, savoring my destruction, and then went inside. My husband swept them up and threw them away. It continued like this for awhile. A wave of frustration would take hold of me, I would take it out on a flower pot or two, and my husband would take care of the mess. Then one day I picked up a few of the pieces myself. I looked at them and thought about how these broken little pieces used to be a flower pot. They used to have a purpose, they were molded into the perfect shape to hold a beautiful flower, and now they were nothing but wrecked little scraps. I started to cry as I thought of all I thought I was destined to be for Madeline, and how broken and useless I felt without her. I decided not to throw away these broken pieces, to instead give them another chance to be something. I collected them and brought them inside. With workable cement and paint I sculpted them into a mangled heart. This is me, I thought as I examined its rough edges and misshaped form. Badly broken but somehow still here.

Seeing how creation could grow from destruction was inspiring. And using my creativity to give voice to my emotions was liberating. I began painting and sculpting and writing out everything I felt. Sometimes I would begin a piece with a specific idea in mind, but most of the time I just sat down at the canvas with a brush in my hand and tears in my eyes, and I just let it happen. I can't even begin to explain how good it feels to release the those toxic feelings from my body and spread them all over the canvas.

Turning to creative expression was without a doubt the very best thing I did for myself in response to Madeline's death. I would encourage everyone who has lost a child to try to explore your emotions this way at least once. Don't worry if you don't think of yourself as an artistic or creative person, that is not at all what this is about. This is about allowing yourself and your sadness a voice. It is about expressing your honest feelings, feelings that are all too often ignored or avoided in our society. So take a moment to pick up a brush or a pen or an unsuspecting flower pot and just see what comes of it. And if it grows into something that you would like to share, I would love to see it and even add it to the community gallery at Beauty in the Breakdown (with your permission of course.)

Stephanie Cole

Stephanie is the founder of the Sweet Pea Project (http://www.sweetpeaproject.org) and the artist behind the Beauty In The Breakdown exhibit (http://www.beautyinthebreakdownart.blogspot.com)
More importantly, Stephanie is the mother to a beautiful little girl named Madeline, who passed away after 41 weeks of perfect pregnancy for reasons unknown.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Remembering Our Babies Bracelets

In the early days after Gabriel's death, it was very difficult to go out in public. It seemed there were pregnant women and babies everywhere I looked. What took me a while to realize is that I was also probably seeing women who had experienced loss, too. But although a baby dying crushes you inwardly, there is no outward sign or symbol.

An orphan is someone who has lost their parents. A widow or widower is someone who has lost their spouse. But someone grieving their child? Our language has no word for that particular person. Just mom. Grieving mom. Or dad.

How awesome it would be if we could recognize each other. If we could walk into a PTA meeting, or church, or grocery store and know that the other person we are talking to knows our particular pain. That they understand.

These rubber band bracelets were created to be just such a symbol. The white ones say "Remembering Our Babies" and have a little baby footprints. Dads are wearing these, too.

The smaller pink and blue 'swirl' ones just say "Remembering" and also have the baby footprints. They are for women with smaller wrists, or for siblings.

Because none of us should feel that we are alone.


To order bracelets, please visit PregnancyLossRibbons.com I do donate from the profit from this site.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Cracked Pot

I heard this story today and wanted to share it with you.

A water bearer in India had two large pots,
one hung on each end of a pole which he carried
across his neck. One of the pots had a crack
in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always
delivered a full portion of water at the end
of the long walk from the stream to the
master's house. The cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master's house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it
spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.
"I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."

Why?" asked the bearer.

"What are you ashamed of?"

"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house.

Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.

But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side?

That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them.

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers
to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

It is funny. I didn't see that ending coming. I was relating to the water carrier- toiling along day after day and only getting half of what he should.

But we are the pot- imperfect, cracked, leaky. We try our best but end with less than we think we should have.

Look around. You may be influencing those around you in spite of your defect. Or quite possibly because of it.

None of us quite know the impact we have on the world.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lightning Strikes

I have been trying to write this post off and on for several days. I'm not sure why it has been so difficult. In any case, I'm just going to post it and throw it out there for whatever it's worth.

I have been thinking about the actual chances of what happened to us. Our babies dying, I mean. Whether they died before they were born or after- What are the actual chances?

This pondering came about as I have been thinking about what has happened to actress Natasha Richardson- she was skiing on the bunny slopes Monday and fell and hit her head. She thought she was ok, but later decided to go to the hospital. It was more serious than initially thought and last I heard was she is brain dead, on life support. (Actually, in checking the newsites it appears she has died- at age 45. So sad)

How many times has one of my kids fallen and hit their head? My oldest two just went skiing for the first time last month. I'm sure they did not wear helmets- my husband is not the type to insist.

Great. One more thing for me to worry about. It is not just enough to get them here safely. So many accidents waiting to happen.

(As I was working on this post last night my husband came home with a present for our 11 year old's birthday. An air rifle. Does that man want me to never sleep soundly again?)

But I hear my husband's voice "But that skiing accident was such a rare thing! Not common at all- no need to worry about that happening.

But those of us here know we do need to worry about uncommon things occurring.

How many of us were told by our doctors "It was a fluke- a one in a 'insert-large-number-here' chance of happening.

And yet, let's look at some statistics.

If you can find them.

Googling statistics for pregnancy loss or stillbirth or infant mortality are tricky things.

Firstly, why is it every site I come across has statistics from 1995 or 1996? More than ten years ago.

Secondly, the sites have it all broken down into little subcategories. Different reasons. Different etnicities. Different states. All on their own little colored charts and maps.

It is easy to turn away. I didn't really want to know, anyway. It is too complicated to figure it out. I just know our babies are gone. Will the statistics really change anything?

And yet, I do think I want to know.

On the AmericanPregnancy.org site I found these statistics:


There are approximately 6 million pregnancies every year throughout the United States:

* 4,058,000 live births
* 1,995,840 pregnancy losses

Pregnancy Loss:

Every year in the United States there are approximately 2 million women who experience pregnancy loss:

* 600,000 women experience pregnancy loss through miscarriage
* 1,200,000 women experience pregnancy loss through termination
* 64,000 women experience pregnancy loss through ectopic pregnancy
* 6,000 women experience pregnancy loss through molar pregnancies
* 26,000 women experience pregnancy loss through stillbirth

Pregnancy Complications:

Every year in the United States:

* 875,000 woman experience one or more pregnancy complications
* 458,952 babies are born to mothers without adequate prenatal care
* 467,201 babies are born prematurely
* 307,030 babies are born with Low Birth Weight
* 154,051 children are born with Birth Defects
* 27,864 infants die before their first birthday

Holy crap, am I reading that right? Out of 6 million pregnancies in the US each year nearly 2 million of those do not result in a live birth? Nearly 1/3 of pregnancies? 1 out of 3?

Would you drive in a car if you knew 1 out of 3 trips you would be in a fatal accident?

And why why why do people not talk about it more? One out of Three seems very common to me. Why do we never hear about it until it happens to us?

None of us should feel like we are alone. None of us should feel that we are the only ones this has happened to. Clearly, it is more common than I ever thought.

I came on here to write what I thought would be an entirely different post.

How to make this a hopeful piece? I try to not leave on a totally down note, generally.

And yet I'm left with that number echoing in my head. One out of Three.

To put it in perspective (and just because I was curious) the odds of being struck by lightning (in your lifetime, est. 80 years) is 1/5000.

None of us are alone in this. Sadly, many other women know our same sadness of losing a child. Thank goodness for the support and friendship I have found. I don't know what people did before internet, before support groups, before blogs. It is how I've stayed sane.

((HUGS)) to everyone out there grieving their children.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Magic Quilt Project

As part of my participation in the March Compassion Challenge I decided to participate in the Magic Quilt Project. I had been meaning to do it for awhile- but sometimes I appreciate a good swift kick to get me going.

My entry was posted yesterday, I'm going to copy it here. But be sure to go over to the Magic Quilt Blog and see all the other stories and find out what it is all about.

When my son Gabriel was stillborn, we were blindsided. I had no idea that in this age of modern medicine babies still died. It was something that happened back in the pioneer days, or maybe third world countries. Not now, not to me.


Coming home from the hospital I refused to wear my maternity clothes- what a cruel joke. And yet, none of my regular clothes fit me. My mom bought me a pair of pajama pants- a field of deep blue with stars. So cozy and comfortable.

I wore those pants probably for the first month straight. I holed up in my room, watching MASH reruns and sleeping. And my family and neighbors let me do what I needed to do- shut down for a little bit. They took my kids back and forth to school. They dropped off meals to feed my kids. I remember so much love expressed from those days. Sadness, too, but lots of love.

Even still I wear those pants, even now. And I have worn them through two subsequent pregnancies and the sleep deprived days of nursing new babies. They are faded and worn, but so comfortable.

I went to the fabric store last night intending to get a piece of cloth with little bugs on it- ladybugs, maybe. (Gabriel's nickname was 'goldbug', from when we were reading a Richard Scarry book to our then 4 and 5 year old when we told them we were going to have a baby.) Or maybe a piece with butterflies- butterflies are symbolic to so many.

But I was drawn to these blues. The deeper blue in particular. They look so similar to the pajama pants. I remember the love my mom expressed when she got them for me and gave me permission to mourn. The love of those days as I grieved my baby. And the sleepless nghts and days as I have nursed my new babies. The starry design symbolic of endless love of a mother for her children, through the eternities.

This is for anyone, anywhere, remembering their children.


Friday, March 13, 2009

March Compassion Challenge: Random Acts of Kindness

How's it coming?

Has everyone started their 10 acts of kindness?


Me neither.

Well, I did do one so far.

I have such good intentions! It is harder than I thought- I have to change my game plan.

Instead of just saying "I'll act when the situations arise" I am changing it up

I've got to create those opportunities. Purposely.

I will be back later with a list of 10 things I am going to do. If I post them here that will help me be accountable.

Anyway, in honor of all of our babies I'm committing to 10 acts of kindness in March.

I've got to get crackin'!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sparrow Farm Creations

Heather from It Only Hurts When I Breathe blog posted this gorgous print her cousin made for her with little plants from her garden. I love love love it. Fantastic.

You can get details on:
Sparrow Farm Creations site

I'm going to run right over there and order one for Gabriel.

Thanks for pointing me over there, Heather!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Early Days (and Nights) of Grief

I had this email from Claire:

My 14 mos old daughter Savana Ashlan had recently passed away on Dec.11,2008 from Acute Leukemia. ...we were so unprepared and had no idea she had this till it was too late..my heart is broken into pieces..i cry everyday when i think of her since we miss her so much. But to answer your question from your blog of what helped me the most to deal with her loss is having so much faith in God, hope and prayer but i have made her memory positive by promoting awareness and contributions in her memory to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society...many people have made donations in her name..i also believe having support from family , friends and neighbors are important and comforting..

I surround myself with angels- figurines, pictures of her around the house..remember her in the happy moments and memories we had with her, her smile the most. I've been trying to talk about her more in a positive way, the good times we had...but now the difficult thing i still struggle each day is at night, when everything is quiet,can't sleep right away since i constantly think about my baby girl and how i miss her just being with me and when i see other little baby girls it still breaks my heart - knowing my baby girl is no longer here.


I thank Claire for sharing so much with me and with us. I think she expresses so well how the early days feel as we learn to live without our darling babies, and how we can try to 'create our children's legacy' by making their memory positive.

For more info on Leukemia or to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, click the link below.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

((hugs)) to ((Claire and Savana Ashlan))
Wishing us all gentle days-

Monday, March 9, 2009


I've been feeling kind of Blah. Bleh.

Not too inspired.

So I hate to waste your time, my loyal readers. I've been quiet in bloggieland.

But I wonder how much of this has to do with the weather. The grey skies. The cloudy, dark days. Cold.

February is hard for me- staying inside and mostly spending my days wandering from computer to kitchen wishing something delicious and chocolaty had magically appeared. Or that the laundry has done itself.

The house elves have let me down. Where are you when I need you, Dobby?

Earlier this week we had a big snow storm- and I do love a good snowstorm! Here in Maryland if we get more than half an inch it closes the schools and shuts everything down. Like I need a reason to stay in my pajamas and drinking hot chocolate and cancel my big time plans of wandering around Target.

Monday we got about 6 inches of snow. So beautiful to watch it coming down. So pretty covering everything. I love love love a good snow storm.

Then, by Friday we had 70 degree weather. GORGEOUS! We spent a lot of the weekend outside. My kid even wore shorts to school today- he is probably jumping the gun, but as I say the house elves have been shirking their laundry duty. It may have been all he had clean.

And as I sit here thinking about it, it is a pretty good analagy for my life. Long dark days. Sadness, purposelessness. But then I am given a glimpse that better days are coming. Sunny skies. The little green shoots of early crocus, tulips and daffodils pushing through the dirt. Like little blooms of hope, peeking through.

I am a little scared that the cold dark days are not done.. but hopeful that warm gentle days are ahead, not too far away.

Hold on..
It gets better. It gets easier. It does.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beautiful Bracelets

Rose from SHARE emailed me about these gorgeous bracelets

She writes:
I’ve been making these for years. The first one I made was several years ago as a gift to my friend Barb (whose baby’s name I had your sister write in the sand) on the 3rd anniversary of Hannah’s stillbirth. I had just started making jewelry as a hobby, and it sort of snowballed from there. I ended up making 15 of them that we sold at the Angel Ball that year, and I have given them often as gifts and donations to silent auctions, etc. I usually don’t sell them as it’s such a special bracelet to me, and I feel guilty making money from it.

Any money made is going to benefit SHARE. Take a look. If you click on the photo to make it larger it shows even more 'sparkly'- the photo doesn't really do it justice.

Thanks, Rose!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

I thought this was a great chance to share some quotes from my favorite twentieth century poet and philosopher. Yesterday was Dr. Seuss's birthday- he would have been 105.

One that has always reminded me of Gabriel:
A person's a person, no matter how small.
-Dr. Seuss

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
-Dr. Seuss

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.
-Dr. Seuss

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
-Dr. Seuss

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go..."
-Dr. Seuss

and my new favorite:

"I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!"
-Dr. Seuss

An Award From YaYa

YaYa gave me this award. If you haven't read her blog, pop on over and take a peek. I especially enjoyed ">this post. Little pup pup pup puppy!

Thanks, YaYa!

This award is for bloggers who display any of the items below:

1.The blogger manifests exemplary attitude, respecting the nuances that pervades amongst different cultures and beliefs.
2.The blog contents inspire; strives to encourage and offers solutions.
3.There is a clear purpose at the blog; one that fosters a better understanding on Social, Political, Economics, the Arts, Culture and Sciences and Beliefs.
4.The blog is refreshing and creative.
5.The blogger promotes friendship and positive thinking.

With this award you are supposed to say what your blog has accomplished. The desired accomplishment (we'll see if it is actually accomplished or not) is that all of us can know we are not alone on this path.

I give this award to:

Crash at The Magic Quilt

and the folks at Spirit Jump

Both super inspiring sites.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

March Compassion Challenge: Random Acts of Kindness

I found this post over at KotaLoss blog

March 11 is the tenth birthday anniversary of Kara and Hawk's son, Dakota. As a tribute to Dakota, and to honor the amazing work Kara and Hawk do for his legacy they are challenging their readers to do random acts of kindness throughout the month of March.

I accept this challenge. 10 Random Acts of Kindness done in the month of March.

What a wonderful way to create our children's legacy. I do this for Dakota, I do this for Gabriel, I do this for all our babies.

If the thought of 10 seems daunting, try 1. One Random Act of Kindness in honor of our babies.

Post here if you'd like. I'd love to hear what you have done.

Under the Tree

This is a post inspired by Under the Tree Click the link to read more about it.

How long have you been blogging for? Why did you start? What do you want from writing? I started blogging in Nov 2008. I have had my site www.PregnancyLossRibbons.com for several years but it was becoming unweildy to share so much of the info I wanted to share. And a blog was born. I want.. a place to express myself. To put down in print the conversations I hold daily in my head. And to perhaps help another mom or two along the way.

Where is safest place for you to share your feelings? Is there anywhere you feel completely accepted just being however you are really feeling?
I have always felt most welcomed at SHARE. I pop in and out of other loss sites but have never felt as welcomed at other sites as I have felt at SHARE

Can you recommend any books that you have read that have given you a new insight, hope or courage in this new life you find yourself in? I look over at my bookshelf as I write this. There are a few that have been particularly helpful. In the early days: Help, Comfort & Hope after Losing Your Baby in Pregnancy or the First Year by Lothrop. Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby by Davis. and most recently An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by McCracken

How would you describe yourself before you lost your baby. How have you changed, who are you today? Before I was.. pretty naive. Kind of purposeless. Now.. I am more compassionate and more patient. I think. I try to be, at least.

How do you think you are coping? Do you see any light in this road or is it all dark right now? Where do you imagine yourself to be in a years time? I am mostly in a good place. It has been nearly 7 years. Only, every year at the new year I feel a slippery slide down until we are past Gabriel's date. This year it is on Mother's Day. Double Whammy. In a year.. I hope to be even stronger.

Love the One You're With

If you’re down and confused, and you don’t
remember who you’re talkin’ to. Concentration slip
away, ‘cause your baby is so far away.
Well there’s a rose in the fisted glove and the eagle
flies with the dove, and if you can’t be with the one you love,
honey, love the one you’re with.

~Stephen Stills, Love the One You’re With~

When I popped over to Zil's blog and saw this quote at the top I knew it was time. This song has been in my head for about two weeks. I've talked about it to several friends, and my husband. I've been thinking I should post about it. So here it is.

If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with.

Not recommended marriage advice, I don't think. That's not what this is about.

Except maybe it is good advice for me, for my life right now.

I look around and am dissatisfied with my life. My house is a constant mess. I'm unhappy with how it is decorated. I'm embarrassed to have people over. I am unhappy with my weight. With my sloppy clothes. With the amount of yelling I do at my kids (too much) and the amount of time I spend doing things my toddler would love (too little)

So I sit and think about how much it stinks. I am pretty much in a constant state of either sadness or anger.

And I remember I had once heard this advice. If you are not ok, fake it. Fake it and pretty soon you will be ok.

Not quite sure how that works. Has anyone had that work for them? I'd be interested to hear.

Instead, this line keeps going through my head. Only I'm changing one word when I sing it to myself

If you can't be with the LIFE you love, honey, love the LIFE you're with.

Instead of wishing my life was different I need to learn to love the life I have. I love the kids I have, the husband I have. I love that I have a house. I love a lot about it.

And I think I need to start doing it better. If I am unhappy with it, I need to do it better. Do my job better. My job of being Emily.

Some of you may or may not know I have my daycare license. Only, previously I have only done care for before and after school kids. Ages 5+. That is the best of both worlds. Not a ton of money, but I get my days free. Only, I don't have anyone enrolled right now. With this economy people are not paying for daycare for kids that are old enough to stay home by themselves.

And I had a call this week to watch 2 kids- a 2 year old and a 6 week old. Uh oh.

See my last post about holding other people's babies

And the thought comes to my head.

If you can't be with the life you love, honey, love the life you're with.

I have been thinking in this state of economy I need to have much more of a bank account buffer than I currently have. My emergency account right now is just about enough to take us all out for one chocolate overload trip to Dairy Queen.

And I am gearing up. I need to do my life better. I give myself a mental smack in the head and tell myself to get going.

If I'm going to do daycare, let's do it. And do it well.

I'll let you know how it goes.