I had another appointment with my OB yesterday.  It was a pretty routine visit – I had to have some repeat bloodwork done, and they also took my weight, blood pressure, did a urine test, and heard baby’s heartbeat.  She had a bit of a tricky time finding it because Baby K is hiding out low and far to the back, but she did eventually get it, guessing it to be somewhere in the 150s.

The actual consultation with my OB brought up some unexpected news.  Their request to expedite Brock’s autopsy was approved, and we finally had the full report to go through.  My OB went through everything with us thoroughly, commenting that a lot of the ‘anomalies’ that showed up either meant nothing at all or were consistent with the fact he’d died at least a couple of days prior to his birth (which, of course, we already knew).  At the end, the summary said what I already knew, but was still amazingly hard to see in writing: no further markers came up to suggest anything wrong with him or me, and, in all likelihood, his death was absolutely related to his cord.  If not for that, he would have been perfectly fine.

It was what we’d fully expected to hear, and it was still totally heartbreaking to see on paper.  I’d almost hoped that they would come back with something new and tell me that he’d been doomed regardless.  Hell, I would still almost prefer than something had been wrong with me.  I knew neither of those things were likely to be the case, but I feel like they would have been easier to swallow.  I wanted to close the book on all this and have something that might give me the power to forgive my midwife, and even though I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get it, knowing for sure now that I have to keep being mad really, really sucks.

I am trying to see the positive side of things – at least this lets me rest a little easier with my current pregnancy, knowing that the odds of losing this baby as well are very low.  I’m healthy, Brock was healthy, and the occurrence of cord accidents is actually extremely low.  We got very, very unlucky.  My OB was even nice enough to give us a quick peace-of-mind ultrasound, and our little guy/gal is looking pretty happy in there – they even gave up a little wave, and we got to see him/her working on lip smacking and swallowing.

As a closing note, can I just mention how very sick I am of having to look for silver linings all the time?  While my OB was sympathetically trying to talk me through the new information, saying that they would do everything they could to make sure we had the best outcome possible this time around, and that this new information makes us worry less for the future of this baby, I just couldn’t stop thinking that, even though it was true, this baby wouldn’t be here at all if my first practitioner hadn’t messed up so bad.  I wouldn’t be high-risk and be under such watchful eye if my first child hadn’t died for no good reason… and, as much as I am sure I will love this new baby, I’m still also sure I’d rather just have Brock (for now, anyway).  I’d rather not have to drive into Toronto twice a month, paying $20 in parking and another $15 in gas each time.  I would rather not have to come to terms with my son’s death.  I miss my innocence.



Happy Mother’s Day

I truly, sincerely apologize for my absence lately.  I guess I’ve been having a case of writer’s block, because I have tried to write several posts in the last few weeks and none of them seem to come out quite right so they never see the light of day.  I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts and feelings to words lately… and that, I think, is because they change so often.  One day I’ll be completely down in the dumps, the next I will be feeling much sunnier.  Some days I lament being pregnant again at all, and on others I can’t wait to meet my new child.  I am all over the place all of the time, and it’s exhausting to feel, let alone explain.  I think I wanted to wait for some consistency and stability to start writing regularly again, but honestly, at this point, if I do that it seems like I might never post again.

Anyway, it’s Mother’s Day.  I have dreaded this day for weeks, and now that it’s here, I’m surprisingly much more at ease than I expected.  Lots of awesome things are already in the works for me, and it’s not even noon yet, so I’m feeling pretty good, all things considered.  My husband works, but gave me a beautiful family ring and plans to make us a wonderful dinner tonight, and my brother is taking me out for lunch and a mani/pedi.  I have had several other friends and family members wish me a happy mother’s day as well, which brings me peace if only because it reminds me that they haven’t forgotten Brock.  Telling me that they know I am a mother is also acknowledgement that he was here, even if only briefly, and I love them for that.  Thank you all; it means more to me than you know.

Family RingMy beautiful family ring with our birthstones in it – me on the left (aquamarine), Brock in the middle (tourmaline), and my husband on the right (tanzanite).  There’s two diamond placeholders on the sides for our future children.  “What if we have more than two?”  I asked.  “Then you’ll have earned a new ring,” he replied.  What a cutie.

Additionally, my day was made when I realized that Pregnancy After Loss Support featured my Courageous Mama story on their blog – on today, of all days!  How marvelous.  They run these story submission sections annually around Mother’s Day and I was honoured to find that they enjoyed mine enough to publish it.  You can read my story about losing my son, the aftermath, and my philosophy with my rainbow pregnancy here.  It’s hard to keep true to the principles I talk about in my article sometimes, but I do try very, very hard to stand by what I wrote.  I want to be the best mother possible to my new baby, and even though I am sure that it won’t always be easy to do so, they deserve as much, don’t they?

Anyway, that’s all from me for now.  I’ll be sure to post again a lot sooner this time – no more month long hiatuses from me, I promise!  I leave you all with an all-too-true poster I ran into today.  I wish all of you a wonderful Mother’s Day, even if you are struggling with infertility or loss like many of us have and will in years to come: you are all mothers in spirit, and just because some or all of your children can’t be seen doesn’t make you any less of a wonderful mother.


Happily Sad

Today, my Facebook has been full of sad things.  Like, chock full.  People just won’t stop posting things that make me misty-eyed.

I don’t know what makes today special, but I have been a blubbering mess all day.  I was a bit weepy and sad from the start.  First it was this, a thoroughly heartbreaking story about a woman losing her baby during labour despite the best efforts of her nurses and doctors, and how the loss heavily touched everyone present.  Then it was hearing about a woman who lost her 4-year old daughter to an ongoing battle with cancer.

Then, the icing on the cake, was this – the story of a family’s tragic loss of their three children in a car accident, and their subsequent pregnancy that ‘replaced’ all three of their children – two girls and one boy – via triplets.

This article rubbed me the wrong way by suggesting that new children can ever replace lost ones, and I wanted to badly to post as much.  I started typing a furious rebuttal.  Then I started rereading what I was thinking about posting, and one of my sentences hit me like a tonne of bricks:

Nothing I do will ever bring Brock back.

I felt like I was crushed under the weight of a sledgehammer made of grief.  I started bawling.  I went and pulled out Brock’s things, hugged his urn, crawled into bed, and cried some more.

And you know what the most unusual thing about this episode was?  Even while I was crying, I was relieved.  Almost happy, even.

It had been at least a month since I’d cried for Brock.  I have been so distracted and preoccupied with life – expecting again, getting through school work, and everything else that has been going on – that I just felt so distanced from him and what had happened.  Some days I feel like it was just some terrible dream, and it takes touching my stretch marks or looking through his things to convince myself, yes, it really did happen.  I had a positively adorable son, and, because of totally preposterous circumstances, he’s not here with me.  It’s messed up, and I found myself frequently feeling bad about how little his loss seemed to touch me on some days.

Crying for him felt good in a way I can’t really explain.  I think there’s two main reasons for it: one was that it came about organically, in my own time and in my own way.  I have tried to ‘plan’ grief in the past, to try and keep it from getting to me at inconvenient times, and it doesn’t work that way (I’ve ranted about this in the past).  Secondly, it just felt right.  It was cathartic and dealt with a lot of pent-up emotion that I didn’t realize I had until it was coming out.  I feel refreshed now, like a terrible weight has been lifted from my chest.  My emotional state has been reset, and now I can move forward with things – for a little while, anyway – without feeling that I’m doing something wrong by not being extremely sad.  (I know, I know – a strange concept to try to wrap your head around, isn’t it?)

I’ve begun to feel an odd attachment to the grieving process.  It’s a part of life now, something that is second nature to me.  Grieving my son appropriately is one of the only ways that I feel close to him, and, as awfully depressing as that is, I have to try to find the peace that I can in the fact that grieving is a healthy process, and anything that helps me to honour Brock’s memory is a good thing.  I would much, much sooner have him here with me, but since that is not an option that’s available to me, the best I can do is continue to love him, even though it’s at such a great distance.  If that means crying about the unfairness of it all once in a while, so be it.

I don’t think I ever anticipated being in a world where I could find comfort in overwhelming sadness.  Grief is a complicated beast.

A picture says a thousand words: a rant about a pantry

If you were to look at the photos I took on my phone between May and November of 2014, you would , knowing my backstory, watch a terribly depressing story unfold.  At the time, the photos were innocent and fun, almost all of them heralding the inevitable arrival of our son.  Of course, at the time, we didn’t know what was going to await us at the end of this journey.

There are weekly bump photos from 17 weeks onward (when I first started to notice his presence), pictures of the progress on our son’s nursery-to-be, and lots of photos of our adorable baby shower and the 10 or so people who showed up and made it a great time.  Later, there are a number of photos to follow of our temporary bedroom setup, just waiting for our baby to arrive and, inevitably, get his various bodily fluids all over it.  There’s a brand new, newly assembled glider and ottoman with a boomerang nursing pillow ready for use.  His clothes were all washed, folded, and neatly sorted away in his dresser for later use.  Washcloths and receiving blankets all sit on the dresser top at easy access.

This was the last photo I took before I found out Brock had died.  On the 19th of October, after my bad NST, we joined my MIL for dinner and she had a customized message written on a cake to show she shared our distress over the situation and to try and lighten the mood (the grammar is a bit odd, but you get the point):


There are no more photos until 11 days later, when I took this picture.


Yep, a pantry.  Specifically, it was a photo of the pantry at our new residence, that we’d moved into 5 days prior (yes, we moved two days after our son’s birth).  I took this picture to text to my brother (who had the other half of the pantry that was not half so tidy) and show him how neat and organized I’d managed to make it.  Seems innocent enough, doesn’t it?

And yet, for reasons that are hard to explain, I hate this photo with a passion and I don’t know why I continue to keep it.  I don’t like to use the word ‘hate’ because hate is a very strong word, but it’s the only word adequate for my feelings about this picture.  It reminds me of some of the darkest moments of my life for various reasons.

This photo reminds me, every time I see it, that my son died five days before it was taken.  Three days later, I would be standing around at his visitation with what felt like hundreds of sets of eyes on me, people who felt badly for me but just had no idea what to say or do to lessen the pain.  I think I felt as confused and lost as they did.

This photo reminds me of all the weird, irrational ways I tried to deal with the feelings and emotions surrounding my loss.  Why did I think that meticulously sorting and facing all of my dry and canned goods was going to make me feel better?  I spent the next several months inwardly panicking, trying to fill the hole left by Brock with things and obligations.

Deep down, exacerbating the issue, is the fact that I feel like this photo should not exist at all.  In all probability, I feel that my son should have lived – and, if he had, things would have turned out a lot differently than they have thus far.  I wouldn’t be blogging about the loss of a child because I’d have him here with me.

In reality, on the 30th of October, the pantry should have been the furthest thing from my mind.  I should have haphazardly thrown all our food into the pantry and then rushed away again, because I would have had a plethora of things to do in the short reprieve I had while Brock was asleep somewhere else in the house.

When I look at this photo, I see and feel all of those things: me, badly coping with a loss that made no sense, in the only way I knew how at the time.  I would have much, much rather had a messy pantry, no photo to document the beginning stages of the insanity to follow, and a very young newborn taking up all my free time.  Instead of this one photo, I had expected that my phone would be drowning in badly framed, poorly lit photos of my baby by then.

Instead, I have a picture of a pantry.

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart/A Letter to Bereaved Parents

Shortly after Brock passed away, my aunt-in-law (who works at the hospital where he was born, and assisted with his delivery) handed me a book.  It was kept by the hospital and loaned out to parents after the loss of their child to read and return in their own time.

Called Empty Cradle, Broken Heart, the book was ratty and frayed from years of use and many changes of hands.  A plastic envelope was taped to the inside cover and filled with letters written by other parents who found themselves in temporary, unexpected possession of this book over the years.  In those first few critical days, reading and rereading those letters gave me hope and solidarity.  I realized I was not the only one who had been through this, and that life would, albeit slowly, go on.  I read the book over the following few months, when I felt able, and obtained a lot of helpful information from it:  it’s written with great sensitivity, understanding, and personal recounts from other people in situations like ours, and it covers a wide variety of useful subjects.  It helped me quite a lot and I would certainly recommend it to other bereaved parents.  You can buy a copy on Amazon for as little as $1.00.

My last course of action before returning it was to add my own letter to the front.  I originally wrote it quite early, about a month and a half after my loss, but ended up making some hefty revisions when I looked at the letter again later.  I wanted to keep it short and concise, but I also wanted to help other parents avoid making the same mistakes that I, and those around me, had.  My biggest lament so far is that I have not been terribly open about what I want (and need) from others.  Now that it’s been almost 5 months since Brock’s passing, people seem to very rarely bring him up anymore, and I regret that I have not been very vocal about the fact that I don’t want him to be forgotten, still need to talk about him, and I am happy when he is mentioned and talked about, not sad  (I have more articles to post soon that emphasize these ideas).

Here is what I came up with.


Dear grieving mothers and fathers,

I am so, so sorry that you are reading this letter. I know all too well that there is nothing I can say or do to lessen your pain, but know that my husband and I are with you, in spirit, during this terrible time.

Our first child, a precious boy named Brock, was stillborn on October 23rd of 2014. His umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck so tightly that it had to be cut before he could be fully delivered. On the 19th, he was still alive with a strong heartbeat; by the 21st, he had passed away. I was five days overdue when we found out that he had passed, and I still wonder, every day, if I might not be sitting here with empty arms if things had happened differently. What if I had gone into labour on my due date, or even a couple days past – why wouldn’t my foolish body go into labour on its own? What if I’d been more insistent about being thoroughly examined on the 19th, when I noticed he wasn’t moving? I will never know for sure if more could have been done to save him, but I will always wonder.

I have had some time to assess and deal with my emotions in the previous 4 months, and I have learned a lot along the way. Your grief journey will be a long, hard one, but do your best to have faith and believe that you will make it through. As impossible as this seems, you may even find that you are a better person, in some ways, at the end of all this. Here are a couple of things that I wish I had known at the beginning of my attempts to navigate my grief.

Firstly: there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone grieves differently; handle it however is right for you. Don’t feel as though you need to mourn the loss of your child at specific times or in specific ways. Moreover, don’t think that certain emotions are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Your grief will come and go in the most bizarre ways. Often, you won’t even know what is going to set you off until you’re there. Try not to let yourself get tied up with worrying about how you are feeling (or not feeling): just let it stay in or come out in your own time. Everyone grieves differently.

Next up, I highly suggest that you are open with your friends and family about how you are doing and what you need. From the outside, people seldom understand what we, as bereaved parents, are going through and need to get by. This is especially true later on, when your grief is not so fresh: around two months after our loss, the cards and phone calls stopped coming in, and people collectively seemed to assume that we had ‘gotten over’ our loss. This is not how bereavement works, but it is hard for our loved ones to understand this from their vantage point. Would you know what to do if you were on the other side of the fence?

One of the comments I receive most often is people telling me that they wish they had done (or could do) more, but simply don’t know how to handle the situation. They’re not sure what is welcome and what isn’t, so feel free to guide them in the right direction. Be real and honest about your feelings: make sure people know how they can continue to help you, even months or years after your loss. Refer them to resources (such as books or websites) about loss and grief, or just talk to them about what you need and when you need it.

Lastly: It probably seems impossible to believe right now, but try to take what comfort you can, as well, in the fact that things will eventually get better. Some days, admittedly, will be terrible… but someday, you will find that the good days once again outweigh the bad, and you’ll find ways to cope that are right for you. I find the advice to take it one day at a time to be terribly clichéd, but it’s also quite sound in this case. I also often find strength in trying to be the person that I imagine my son would want me to be. I’d like to believe that he wouldn’t want me to let his loss define me; he’d want me to go on to be the best person that I can be, and to try to find ways to better myself. When I face difficult situations or lack motivation to do things, I often ask myself, “What would Brock want me to do?” and find inspiration in the idea that I am honouring his memory in as much of what I do as I can. It doesn’t make it any more fair that he’s not here with me right now, but I find it important to try and find as much good in a situation as possible, even if it seems like there isn’t any good to be found. It’s never an easy mentality to keep, but it does get easier with time.

Please, take care of yourselves, and of each other. My deepest sympathies are with you, but I also hope you will both come out of this horrible experience as stronger, more resilient people. Despite this awful experience – having to survive one of the worst fates that can befall a parent – you will come out on the other side of this with the ability to love more fiercely, appreciate more deeply, and the strength to overcome any obstacle. It is very likely that some of the worst days of your life – if not the worst ones, period – are now behind you, and you’re now ready for anything else life might throw at you. You are stronger than you know.

Much love,



Unfamiliar Waters

Being a bereaved parent is tricky for a lot of reasons.  Of course, the most obvious of these is the fact that, well, I have a dead child.  It was, and continues to be, an emotionally and mentally draining experience to be a part of.  I will spend countless hours over the rest of my life thinking of Brock, wondering over the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘could-have-been’s.  I get to contend with emotional episodes, crying when sometimes even I don’t know the reason, and constantly trying to seek a balance between honouring my son’s memory and not letting my loss completely take over my life.  That, in itself, seems like enough to chew on; it’s more than anyone should have to deal with.  Unfortunately, I have realized it gets much worse than that.

Aside from the standard grief you have to navigate by yourself, you also need to contend with the fact that infant loss is also a surprisingly taboo topic among ‘normal’ people – people who are lucky to not be where we are. Nothing kills a conversation faster than bringing up your stillbirth, especially with new people; however, even my friends and family don’t really know how to take it when I bring up Brock.  They get awkward and change the subject, or say they don’t want to talk about it because it’s “depressing”.  I understand that they don’t really know how to handle it… if our roles were reversed, odds are good that I wouldn’t either, because you don’t know what it feels like until you are here.  At the same time, though, Brock is still my son, and I still feel the need to talk about him once in a while, so feeling the need to repress that for the comfort of others around me leads to more sad emotions.  Not only are you saddled with a lifetime of grief, but you also get the pleasure of doing it practically alone.

This is where support groups come in great handy, and why I think every bereaved parent should try to attend one.  My husband and I began visiting a monthly support group in December, and I have always found I leave those meetings feeling a bit more normal.  When you’re left to deal with all that emotion by yourself while everyone around you  proceeds as usual, it’s easy to start feeling pent-up and, frankly, a little crazy.  You think and feel a lot of strange things in the wake of a loss like this, and it’s nice to have some people who do know what you are going through to share your thoughts and feelings with.  It has been an invaluable service to me; even though all of our stories are a bit different, and there are not many people in the group who are in our exact position (many of them had premature babies who were too small to survive, or carried babies who were incompatible with life for as long as they could), it is still nice to be able to talk about Brock with people who don’t mind hearing about him, and know how therapeutic it can be just to talk about their baby.

Now, here’s where things get tricky for me: obviously pregnant women aren’t allowed to attend the support groups in case they may be a trigger to the other women there.  It’s a perfectly fair rule, of course – were I on the opposite side, I wouldn’t be happy to see a pregnant woman in the group, either.  However, the reality of not being able to attend these ever-important meetings as soon as a couple of months from now is terribly distressing.  Fortunately for the general population, bereaved parents are not a terribly common occurrence; in my region of about 300,000 people, we only get six to twelve people coming to these monthly meetings.  (I am sure there are many more that do not go to group meetings, and that other organizations have meetings as well, but the turnout is surprisingly low nonetheless.)  With the demand so low, the odds of finding a group for my niche market (pregnant again after an infant loss) are basically non-existent.  So, unfortunately, at a time where I am going to be even less sure of myself than ever, I’m looking at having to work my way through it by myself.

I am trying to juggle a lot right now, and I’m going to be perfectly honest, I feel overwhelmed by it all.

I feel shock and disbelief over being pregnant again, and due at almost exactly the same time as I was with Brock, no less.  I bounce back and forth between the two pretty often.

I feel guilty, like I’m rushing to replace him, and I should have waited longer to be fair to his memory.

I feel overwhelming fear that this pregnancy will end badly, either in miscarriage or, by some terrible freak occurrence, the same thing will happen again.  I realize, statistically, it is extremely unlikely that the same thing could happen again, especially since I will be under much closer watch this time, but you tend to be a little irrational after something like this happens to you.  (Knowing that I am irrational does not help me to be less irrational, sadly, lol)

And, oddly enough, I feel anxiety over a lot of the silly little things that I did in my first pregnancy.  I wonder what gender we’re having.  I wonder what the delivery will be like this time around.  I still have no idea what parenthood is actually like, and I don’t know what to expect in that regard.  I’ve never had the pleasure of bathing a baby or breastfeeding or changing a diaper, and I get to deal with wondering what those things will be like all over again.

But, this time, I get to go at it with the full understanding that life is not always fair, nothing is certain, and there’s always a chance that I’m going to be left with empty arms again.  It’s almost too much to handle.

I know full well that life is not fair, but I guess I’m just going to have to cross my fingers and hope that it decides to be this time.