This time four years ago I was holding our first son and our daughter. Their life energy had already departed but we were given the quiet place to hold them, rock them, sing to them, memorize their little bodies, and kiss their sweet foreheads. I can’t express how important those moments, hours, nearly two days were for my husband and me.
In the midst of all the pandemic craze people are talking about grief again. People are listening to the grief experts discuss the various forms that grief can take, the marginalized and quiet kind, the anticipatory kind, the I’m not sure I should be grieving kind, the my world just fell apart kind. I believe grief in all its depths is worth discussing – because grief often what shows us where our love lies.
One of my favorites to discuss grief is David Kessler. He worked closely with Elizabeth Kubler Ross (5 stages of grief) and has since proposed a sixth stage. Its important to know (and both Ross and Kessler note this) that the stages are not meant to be linear, that presence in each ebbs and flows as you experience grief, that reaching acceptance does not always mean that “it’s over.” Instead the stages guide us in recognizing our emotions and shaping our continuing lives. Kessler has a new book coming out (I’ve pre-ordered) that proposes the new stage: making meaning.
Making meaning does not mean you come to some resolve that what happened ‘happened for a reason’ … in fact that would be impossible in many cases. But it is the process in which we access healing by making something meaningful out of our pain. Or as Kessler says: “meaning comes through finding a way to sustain your love for the person after their death while you’re moving forward with your life. Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.”
Finnian and Maisie’s lives were brief, I only carried them part way into the second trimester. In many ways the world never shared in them. Aside from our family and close friends, those not present would never know of them if it wasn’t for our sharing the story.
And what meaning does our story have?
I believe it’s this – love is profound. That life, no matter how small, can flip your heart around, change and shape you. When I tell of Maisie’s heart beating for a moment on the outside, I am reminding the world that they were alive. When I recall Finnian’s face being similar to Lochlan’s but his movements in utero being vastly different, I am reminding the world that they were human. Our loss was that of infants AND of pregnancy AND of a million other things attached to them and those experiences. And mostly our loss, the most aching part of it, is that we are not able to parent them. That while they are our son and daughter, we do not get to experience raising them.
And what Daniel and I have chosen to do with this meaning, what beauty we hope to achieve, is that for their birthday each year we will choose to donate to an organization in Finnian and Maisie’s honor. The donation (monetary or material), which is generously matched by Daniel’s company, seeks to support an organization that will benefit children they age they would’ve been. In a small way - a parenting act for their would-be birthday celebration. Last year for their third birthday we donated to Sleepy Head Beds – because they would’ve been decorating their own big kid beds.
This year they would’ve been turning 4. As we discussed what their lives at 3-4 would look like, we wondered what music or books or art or games or toys they might be interested in. Things we will never know for sure. We looked at our living son’s artwork on the fridge and listened to him sing along to songs he has learned. And we wondered what they would’ve created, what class would’ve been their favorite.
We also feel very compelled in the current climate to support our local businesses, so instead of a charity this year we decided to make a gift to a children’s art studio and a kindermusic program.
If you are in the Kansas City area, we encourage you to explore the programs offered at Wee Create (www.weecreatekc.com) and Injoy Music www.injoymusic.com. Each one of these small businesses teaches children to access their creativity, to build knowledge through experience, and to feel. The programs are a labor of love, each run by amazing committed women, both coincidentally named Amy. They have worked in this crazy time to still bring art and music virtually to our preschoolers. And we are hopeful these gifts will help them continue that work.
One asked me about a book that she might keep in studio to honor Finnian and Maisie and our family. I told her:
“We were fortunate enough to have some time to spend with our twins after their birth. In that time, we read them the story Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. And though they had passed on, we read in hopes the words would carry on with them. In fact, it is the line: "I wanted you more than you'll ever know so I sent love to follow wherever you go," that inspired us to begin the donations. Because, in some small way, we can send love to follow what could've been the course of their life.”
And there is our meaning.
Dearest Finnian and Maisie, our love for you will always exist and because of that we send it out to follow you wherever you go.
Happy Birthday, darlings.
Please join us in supporting Wee Create and Injoy Music by following their social media and sharing their programs with friends or family!
I took this photo when I was 8 weeks pregnant with our twins. We had an ultrasound that morning and had seen their rapid heartbeats for the second time. Their little gummy bear bodies floating around made my own heart race in excitement. I was shocked at the small bump forming, which funnily is just what my body looks like now.
But I look at the smile on this face, and I realize its purity. I didn’t know the heartbreak in store. This was the most innocent pregnancy ever was for me. When I was pregnant with my son, after our loss, I was scared. I would take bump pictures for preservation, but I could never emulate this smile. This purely innocent, excited smile.
Pregnancy and infant loss is life altering. It changes you. And no matter if you go on to have a rainbow baby or not, you can never regain this moment. This first time, excited anticipation.
Today, I grieve that. I don’t just miss my babies. I miss her too. Me. I miss some parts of me that I can’t get back. Still, I am ever grateful for the life I have. The son that greets me every morning. I have laughter and joy.
Perhaps, I feel stuck back in some of these early moments again because we jumped back into IVF at the beginning of last year. And in a year we have had a series of disappointments and some overall wins. I hope to get back to this blog and tell you about it. When I can, when I have the breath, the mental space. When I even know what to say about what is going on.
Truthfully, I don’t know where our story is going. And I’m a read the last page to decide if I want to read a book kind of gal. But if grief and joy have taught me anything, it’s that many things are unpredictable - or you know, unread-ahead-able. There is no Timehop ap for the future, just the past. And memories are good (to have), but so is being present. I'm working on that.
This share is for anyone else out there, grieving yourself before your loss. I feel you. And it's okay, it doesn't mean you don't love you now, you after other good things have happened. You can love you now and miss you then - just like you can wish for them back and still love the life you have now.
I breathe out that moment, and breathe in this present one.
I just pulled from scratch strawberry cupcakes out of the oven. We bought pink heart and green star balloons. Tomorrow we will bring out the box of hospital mementos, their bears, and the book of all their photos.
Tomorrow marks the third year since we lost our twins. Tomorrow is their third birthday. These small traditions unfolded organically but purposefully. Ways to celebrate in the midst of sorrow.
This year we also began a new tradition. We picked a charity that felt symbolic to the twins’ missed year. Three years old … they’d be wanting their own space, to decorate with their own style, big kid beds.
I looked at so many bedding sets. Let tears flood my eyes. Closed the computer. Came back. Tried again. Maisie’s bedding jumped out at me. It felt perfect. Girly but sassy. Strong somehow. I haven’t had a chance to know her, to know what her favorite animal is, or favorite color, but this foxy orange and pink felt right. Daniel agreed with a huge smile. “That’s for her.”
Finnian was a little harder. I immediately was drawn to the sharks. The deep green and blue. But I worried if it was because Lochlan would love it (he did, he wanted it right away). Daniel believed they would like the same things. I wanted it to be just for him though, so it sat in my cart for a week before I bought it. Then I went back to look again and noticed it was named “FINN” … not like a shark fin but like the nickname of our boy.
They arrived perfect. I opened the box and felt a flood of emotions. We also picked up two twin mattresses similar to the one we use for Lochlan’s floor bed. And Daniel’s company generously matched our donation in dollars.
On Friday, we took the bedding and mattresses to Sleepy Head Beds. This amazing organization ensures that regardless of income all children have a place to sleep. A bed of their own.
“These will be in a home by next week,” they told us.
We gathered ourselves in the car, Dan slipped my hands in his, and we sighed. In a home by next week, tucking in little bodies, in memory of Finnian and Maisie.
We wish desperately we could tuck them in tonight, or just have another moment, or even just a glimpse of their faces as they grew. We can’t have these things and the rawness of that pain has not eased in 3 years. But we will always pause in our grief to celebrate the first son and daughter that made me us parents. I’ve got some cupcakes to go frost now …
Happy Birthday Finnian …
Happy Birthday Maisie…
We love you more than we could ever show.
Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Even though we are away on vacation, we will be lighting a candle at 7pm to remember or twins. If you would like to join us in the wave of light or want me to remember your baby(it’s) with you please share their names below or over on our blog Facebook page - Facebook.com/lossandlife .
If you are new to reading the blog and came to read about the twins story (or our early grief) I suggest starting in May 2016. You can also navigate the categories on the side. I am in the process of writing a new landing page to help find the best place to start based on where you are in your journey. I am also working on pulling together a resource page to hopefully upload in early 2019.
Please check back! You can also catch me on Kansas City Mom's Blog from time to time. Today my post is a letter to our rainbow son about his brother and sister ... https://kansascity.citymomsblog.com/about-the-babies-i-loved-before-you/
Thank you for following and please feel free to send me a note on the contact page. I'd love to hear your story or just correspond with others who have experienced loss, are supporting someone who is going through grief, or simply those with a heart to share their story.
We will post our wave of light picture tonight. <3
“Oh hi, Finn. Say hi to Finn, Ada,” the mom gently instructed her one-year-old as our children climbed around each other on the gym mats.
“This is Lochlan …” I said with a small smile.
Her cheeks blushed, “I’m so sorry,” as she scrambled to catch her wobbling toddler, “He looks just like a Finn …”
I looked down at L as he ducked through a tunnel and smiled at me on the other side. He does look like a Finn too. A little spunky with a slight tint of auburn to his brunette locks that are just starting to push through and curl. Rounded cheeks, long lashes, and a full toothed smile at only 15 months.
She tried to continue to apologize and say something about still getting to know the kids, etc. But I stopped her with a smile.
“Actually, I had a Finn – Finnian,” the name felt at home in my mouth, “we lost twins before him. So Finnian was his brother.”
“Oh I am so …” she started but I stopped her, “no … thank you … I imagine they would look a like so it’s nice to hear.”
The gym teacher, who knows our story because we chat often, smiled and asked, “What was your daughter’s name again?”
“Maisie,” I said feeling full.
“Gosh you have such great names!” The teacher rubbed her pregnant belly and I felt proud.
You could tell the other mom was beginning to relax that she hadn’t actually made an awkward moment and that all was well. And we laughed about the kiddos trying to figure out the social graces of passing each other on the tumbling equipment.
I thought - I’m really doing okay at this mom and loss mom thing. The whole incident felt like a God-nudge, see they are still connected to L, they are all siblings.
I pushed the stroller up the sidewalk before slowing pace behind a mom and her son. Our little dog pulled forward a little like, hey let’s keep going.
The boy was holding his mom’s hand and swinging it around. With his backpack slung over her shoulder, she was listening to him chatter about his day. She peeked over her shoulder, “Oh there’s a little one behind us!”
“Excuse us we will just scoot around,” I said as she pulled to the side and we smiled. Her son poked his head into the stroller and exclaimed, “he’s so so cute, oh he’s so cute, I just love him.”
“Okay,” she said kind of pulling him back and giving me somewhat of a sorry and pleading look. I could tell he was somewhat precocious and probably prone to over-crowding others. So I smiled at him and said, “thank you he is so cute. You’re sweet.”
We pushed ahead and the boy shouted at us, “what’s his name?”
So I looked over my shoulder, “Lochlan and this is his friend Oreo.” He then asked my name so I told him while I continued to walk just a few steps ahead. The boy continued to chatter telling me his name, his mom's name, his dad’s name and his sister’s name.
“What a nice set of family names,“ I said. His mom looked at me grateful kind of shaking her head. L peeked around the stroller fascinated by the older boy. The air was perfect and nearly fall like. Other kids were zooming past on bicycles, backpack clad and heading home from school. Our little dog was trotting along with a happy pant.
“I assume your married, so what’s your husband's name?” The mom’s eyes widened and I kinda laughed. “Yes I am, his name is Daniel, pretty simple.”
“So Lochlan is a boy right,” they were side by side with us now on the sidewalk, “so does that mean he has a brother or a sister?”
“Oh,” my voice stuck as the boy looked right into my eyes, “he doesn’t have a brother or a sister ..” and it caught, here, I couldn’t get it out before his mom started to explain …
“That’s their first baby, see some families only have one and some just have one to start…”
I started moving faster ahead. I’m sure she thought I was running from them.
I was. But not because of him. Because of me. I pushed across the crosswalk and turned the corner as fast as I could. The air felt stuck in my lungs. I won’t hyperventilate.
I won’t say I made it home without tears streaming down my face. Or I didn’t pretend I was laughing when L turned around in the stroller. I won’t say that I didn’t talk to my husband and that my voice didn’t disappear into a fit of tears. I’m failing them. "Of course you aren’t," he reasoned, "you are doing what is right for the situation." He’s right - you can’t tell random kids on the street about dead babies. And L doesn’t know they were his siblings. He can’t comprehend that. May never. He IS growing up as the oldest child, essentially a first.
But the thought just sat in the pit of my stomach all day, I’m letting them disappear.
I can remember the first wave of grief after bringing L home from the hospital. I laid him down briefly in his crib and looked down on him. It hit me with such great force that I did not have siblings for him. I wept for his lost brotherhood. Raging postpartum hormones didn’t help me to put into perspective that we would try again. At this time, I had considered him our last, our youngest, our planned third.
But as he would grow and change and monopolize more and more of my time, the waves of grief would spread. I’d often take a deep breath and push across the surface of them, surfing into a place of joyfulness in order to parent my living son. Then, somewhere in the last few months, as his independence has increased little by little, I’ve had moments to feel the spray of water. I’ve had secret cry sessions in the bathroom. I’ve felt the absence of his siblinghood.
If things had been different, if they’d made it to term, Finnian and Maisie would be turning two this month. If things had been different I would’ve said, “Oh no, this is Loch, Finn is his older brother.” Or “He has a brother AND a sister, how fun.” If I close my eyes and imagine the three of them together the chaos seems delightful to me.
I’m not sure why I’m sharing these stories now other than to illustrate the ongoing nature of infant loss. After we lost our twins I sat across the office from a well-respected counselor that specializes in perinatal issues. And she reminded me that pregnancy and infancy loss falls under the category of ‘marginalized grief.’ Meaning the hidden or unexpected nature of it often pushes it to the outskirts – the experience is not uncommon but it is not mainstream either.
This particular type of grief is often quieted under guilt. My guilt stems from a nagging thought that somehow acknowledging it discounts the profound happiness that having our son here offers. I don’t talk about it as openly in my daily life anymore. Not in the way that I imagined I always would. I’m often afraid my grief will somehow make me seem ungrateful. Or that it will somehow shadow him.
I also don’t feel it in every moment like I used to. That acknowledgement carries with it a different kind of weight to process. But that’s just the reality of how time moves us forward. When the grief does come though, when it rushes in, it’s like torrential downpour again. Only to be lifted once more by the breeze of daily life. And so it goes and goes and goes.
Fifteen. That’s how many years have passed since my sister was stolen from us. Fifteen years. Some that have creeped by with ache and anger. Others, like this last year, that galloped by full of goodness. Not related to her being gone of course, just a by-product of living. Even in fifteen years I still spend chunks of time wondering what it would’ve been like with her here. Curiously imagining how she would’ve changed and grown. We were 18 and 19 when she died. I had just spent my first year away at college and she was close behind. We were about to take a leap into our twenties – that decade of figuring out what you think and feel and believe and like and don’t on your own. And she was gone. Taken. I was altered. Sometimes I wonder who both of us would have been if she was still here.
My family started a tradition on this day, somewhat unplanned but consistent. Every year we – my dad, mom, sister, and I – get together and have lunch. We have lunch as a core unit. We laugh and share stories and memories. Sometimes we tear up and sometimes we sit silently. We never wanted to celebrate her dying but instead this lunch is like our protest. It’s our protest against death: you cannot remove her from us as much as you cannot remove the love that connects us all. It’s comforting. My parents are remarried to new partners, my youngest sister is a grown up now (oh my!), and I’m carrying along my own treasure. My little chunky toddler made lunch extra interesting today. Between devouring food and pretending to drive my dad's car (while honking the horn with his belly), he certainly spread sunshine around.
When I started this blog it was to share about living with grief. Living and longing still. We were approaching the ten-year mark of Rachael’s death. That number hit me hard. It was a third of my life, a decade - a ringing, dangling, round number. I imagined writing here about the experiences of growing through and around grief. Then, of course those who read here know, we lost our twins. And as my world crumbled again with less violence but similar force, I wrote. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I did the same thing after we lost Rachael. I process through words on the page. And in doing so I’ve had others reach out to say they needed to read them, which feels like a small redemption.
I bring that up because I have been blocked. This is the first post I’ve written in 7 months. Not because there haven’t been things to say or new understandings or even beautiful stories to share. But every time I’ve gone to put word to page I’ve stumbled. It hit me today why.
Today, as I tried to find the words to post a picture on Facebook in honor of my sister I couldn’t gather them. I couldn’t find a picture that was new, because there aren't any. I couldn’t express how sometimes I feel like I can cheat death and still experience her in my life ... and sometimes I feel like I can’t remember what she sounded like at all. I couldn’t let the tears fall all the way down my face today. They stopped at my lashes and crawled back into my eye sockets. I’m afraid to grieve right now.
As open and raw as I usually am about sharing my life story, as much as I try to give room and permission for feelings to exist, as much as I try to live the very things I advise therapy clients to do – I’ve been blocked by a fear that grieving will somehow threaten this current happiness. Because what if I get too sad and seem ungrateful for my son. What if something terrible happens. What if I don’t get another blessing. And I really hope we get another blessing.
This is my new grief insight to share. It changes again. Grief hasn’t gone away; it shape-shifted on me. It looks a little bit like guilt and a lot like fear right now. The brain-based side of me understands that I do not need to feel guilty for longing for my twins back or for longing for my sister Rachael to be here. I recognize that feeling those things does not make me any less in love for the ones I have here. Saying it out loud (or at least on this page) is an effort to tell my heart it’s okay to let out its breath now. I posted a beautiful video a on the L&L Facebook page from a woman that said it perfectly:
"But you're allowed to miss what you had and still love what you have... One does not negate the other. One does not replace the other."
Heart, can you hear that? It’s okay to want both, to miss one and embrace the other, it’s okay to love all of it. It's okay to wish for the past and not want the present to change. Guilt and fear aren't needed here. You can laugh and grieve and love and long all at once.
I hope to start writing more again. I have stories I’d like to share beyond grieving. Things about parenting and marriage and everyday lived experiences. Things I’d love to curl up on the couch and talk to Rachael about in the way that we used to sneak into each other’s rooms after bedtime and talk til morning. Perhaps I could share those here too? Perhaps this blog can shape-shift too.
My beautiful sister Rachael. I remember snapping this photo on a disposable camera in the middle of a giggle fest. We were up really late, we were really hyper, and we were laughing a lot. I don't remember what about but sometimes when I look at this I can feel that same laughter fill my bones. Some things time can never erase.
We moved. Ten or so days ago we moved down the block and around the corner from our little house, but I’m still trying to unpack. We hadn’t planned on moving this year, but we suddenly needed more space. Unpacking with an infant is not the easiest process, who knew?
In September, my father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. The news rumbled through the family. This was the same disease that took my husband’s mother (non-smoker) just 5 years prior. My father-in-law is an Iowa farmer, born and raise and tilling the land on a farm that has been in the family for nearly a century. But we are not in Iowa and neither is my husband’s sister and family. So together we all looked at the best options and decided that he would come live with us and have treatment at the University of Kansas.
The plan works on many levels. KU has a great program, the treatment center is only 10 minutes from us, J doesn’t have to be in a house alone (and I can make sure he eats), and most importantly he and Lochlan are getting some special grandson/grandfather bonding in. They have a special way of making each other smile and I like to think it’s part of the healing plan.
Shortly before he was diagnosed, J had picked up a puppy to keep him company. It became quickly apparent that keeping a pup was not going to be easy so he gifted it to Lochlan. Yes, I feel like I’m going crazy with a 7-month-old puppy and a 6-month-old baby, but they ADORE each other. And most of the time our old boxer really digs the pup. Probably because he lost his life companion last December and as annoying as the bouncing puppy is, the company is comforting.
And the thing about an extra adult, a young dog, and a baby is that they need room to spread out, toss toys around, and get comfortable. It became quickly apparent that our little 1600 square foot home was not going to cut it for long. So, we found a beautiful house.
When I told my father about the new house, he was super excited for us, but he immediately told me that it would feel bittersweet and that’s okay. He said your first home will always hold a special place and you will miss it from time to time; just like he misses “the little blue house.” And he’s right, leaving the house felt sad. We teared up when we got the over asking price offer from the first person who saw the house. We sighed heavy when all our stuff was boxed up and we started patching holes where our pictures had hung. My eyes welled again when I erased our name off the chalkboard painted door in the garage.
We lived a lot of life in that house. We became a true family in that house – we got engaged, married, and pregnant all while living in that house. We brought our son home to that house. When we lost the twins, I sat at the picture window and imagined them in the yard. The yard we put a new fence on shortly after we became pregnant with them. We put in that picture window and spent hours sitting at our fireplace or kitchen table looking out it. We loved that house. And it’s just a structure, we carry our home with us as a family, but it started there.
This new house has a great layout, beautiful windows to stare out of, and two fireplaces to lounge around. We will grow into it, our son will know this as his home, and eventually all of our things will find their place. But the sentimentalist in me had to write a goodbye letter and a blessing to the new owner.
The new owner is a 25-year-old that just returned from living overseas. He grew up in the area and his parents are notable in the Kansas City community. He may find the letter sappy. Dan informed me most 25-year-old guys would shrug it off, but he also said that were he to get one now he’d know it was important. And I told him, as much as the letter is for the young guy, it’s for us too. When we went to drop it off, my typically pulled together husband also got a little emotional leaving the house. Because it was a good little house. Because he put a lot of sweat and dollars into the house. Because we truly lived in that house - ups and downs and lots of life.
So, I’ll share my sappy letter as a tribute to a house well-loved and to put the blessing into the universe for the new owner and for our new house also.
Welcome to your new home! We hope that you love this little house as much as we did. But even more than a house we hope you find it to be a home, a beginning, and a place where life’s big moments happen for you. These walls held some of the most pivotal years of our lives, some of our biggest ups and a couple of our biggest downs.
Off to unpack and make more memories and build a home in this new house. I’m hoping to write more in the new year, but if you haven’t had a chance to yet, you can check out my latest blogs over at Kansas City Mom’s Blog. The once a month deadline helps me keep posting!
“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When a parent loses a child, there is no word to describe it.” (Ronald Reagan)
There is no word to describe it. There is no collection of words to adequately capture it. There is no book, no song lyric, no essay that can fully articulate the way it feels to have lost your very wanted baby. Each life uniquely loved and cherished for the child they were to us, whether we held them in our arms for a moment or not at all.
Tonight at 7pm, in every time zone, we light a candle in remembrance of our babies. This is known as the Wave of Light.
My husband and I will be participating in the Wave of Light to remember our darling twins Finnian and Maisie, who we wish with every fiber of our being were in our arms, but whose light will never leave our hearts. We will also light a candle for the many other babies lost in pregnancy and after, some very close to us by way of friends and family.
Please feel free to share in the comments any babies you are remembering today so that we can acknowledge them with you <3
You may also contact me if you would like to share more of your own story. I'd love to listen and also help you share it with others if you would like.
Love and hugs, Tiffany
It’s been nearly six weeks since we brought our son home from the hospital with us. I’ve wanted to post a hundred times about it, but I have been in a daze that we had finally made it. We made it through the pregnancy and the birth and we got to take him home … all of these hoped for things became true. And he is perfection.
Six Fridays ago, we walked in the front door of our little house, greeted our excited doggy, sat the car seat on the ottoman, and looked at each other. “What are we supposed to do now?” I asked my husband, honestly uncertain about what was next.
What now? After figuring our way through infertility, after bearing the terrible weight of loss, after fighting through a high-risk pregnancy, after pushing through ten days of prodromal labor (ugh), and finally after 20 hours of labor that ended in a c-section … and here we are with the prize. What now?
“I guess we just get to know this guy,” my husband said (or some variation of that).
I’ve learned now that this is a common response to bringing baby home. Several friends said they had the same moment walking through the door. Normalcy. Wait … normalcy!?! We are finally having some ‘normal’ moments in all of this!
Of course there are some less commonly shared moments, there are some moments tinged with our longing for his brother and sister to be here too, tinged with our grief that he will not get to know them, tinged with our sheer amazement that this baby came from a frozen embryo. While the word journey often gets overused to describe life experiences - this has truly been a journey.
I was hesitant during our pregnancy to call this a ‘rainbow baby.’ I recognize that the colloquial term for describing a child that comes after loss has been picking up momentum in society. That the term rainbow is a gentle and acceptable way to explain that someone came before this baby … and that this one was conceived after the loss to bring happiness again.
I struggled with this term. For one, we always intended to have Lochlan. He was partially conceived before the loss, frozen and suspended in time, conceived as part of a trio and put on hold. We always intended to have him with them.
Also, if he is a rainbow, does that mean they are the storm? Does that mean that they are less real, or that the pain of their loss is erasable? These swirling thoughts kept me from using the term to describe him during the pregnancy. Instead I stumbled around different ways to describe him in relation to the twins.
But I’m using rainbow now freely and openly when introducing our son. Since bringing him home the term has taken on a new depth for me. Lochlan is a baby born after loss. Whether I want that reality or not, his presence here has made the twins absence more real. That hurts. It is a forceful truth and I’m not sure really sunk in until now. But also ... he IS renewed joy. He is laughter in our house and he ushers in hope in ways I didn’t think was possible again. The dichotomy is enough to make the rainbow metaphor stick for me.
They were not the storm … a storm swooped in and took them away, dark clouds have brewed over the skies, and the ground is still damp. But there is a rainbow appearing, a reminder of hope and connection. He is on one side and they are on the other. That’s how I see it now. I can finally see the rainbow.
Getting to “know this guy” has actually been the easy part. We’ve been pinching ourselves over the last couple weeks because it turns out we had the easiest kid ever! He rarely cries and when he does its less than 30 seconds to say, “give me that milk!” He is super aware and curious of his surroundings, eats like a champ, and sleeps in 4-7 hour stretches already! Hopefully I’m not jinxing myself by putting this out there, but honestly guys, this is one of the most mellow and lovable babies I have ever known. And I’ve known a lot of babies.
Perhaps that is part of our gift, part of our rainbow package, a little white flag from God saying, “I know it’s been extremely hard and painful getting here, so here enjoy this SUPER EASY BABY.”
We would’ve enjoyed him any way he turned out because he was so very wanted. But man, this kid rocks!
I hope to write more about motherhood on Loss & Life. I hope to keep sharing with you all about what this life can look like and connecting with various readers about their own experiences. Since this little blog has started to have a small (very small) public following, I probably won’t share many face shots of our little guy … but here is just one, because this is the smile that can melt away pain.
Hello everyone: Our son is here! I am working on a longer post about bringing our sweet baby home but wanted to let anyone checkin know, our darling Lochlan was born June 6th at 10:29pm. He is completely healthy and we are enthralled with him. After a difficult pregnancy, a hard and long labor, and finally an emergency c-section we were blessed with a big, beautiful boy. All 8lbs 15oz and 21inches of him were more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. The first four weeks home have been sort of surreal - complete with incredible joy, waves of grief, and newborn normalcy. I hope to update later this week with a fuller picture of what bringing a rainbow home has been like for us ... until then here is the moment I met the love of my life:
Today is a mini-celebration. I’m doing a happy dance. For the final time this pregnancy, I have placed a block of ice against my butt cheek in preparation for my husband to give me a shot of progesterone. It’s not nearly as sexy as it sounds. See picture. Any woman who has been through infertility treatments or has been at risk for premature delivery knows what these bad boys feel like – and it ain’t fun. I’ve had 151 of these shots. We also had 22 other shots (and a number of patches and meds) to get our frozen cycle going and countless blood draws throughout the process. Needless to say, I’ve felt a bit like a pin cushion. But today is the last one. Which means … we’ve made it! Okay it might be more than a mini-celebration!
In two more days, we will have another happy dance celebration – they will be taking my cerclage out. About halfway through our pregnancy we found out that my cervix was shortening and our risk of early labor was increasing. So the doctor sewed me shut. No one knew if it would work. I had been having contractions since the beginning of the second trimester and the doctors were giving this a chance but not a guarantee. That sucker has held though – strong. I’ve never been more in love with a piece of wire string in my life.
Once they take that out … my baby boy could be born at anytime. He will be born and put into my arms and taken home. Even typing the words makes my heart swell. We have learned that there are few certainties, anything could still happen – so we are keeping our senses aware like good soldiers. We are going to get to this finish line. We are going to meet this goal. We are going to love this boy with every ounce of strength and fight and determination needed to get him home. And honestly, I feel a little bit like a bad-ass having made it this far.
A few weeks ago I was able to shift my thought process from just how to keep him alive and growing to how to get through labor. I was able to shift to imagining what the delivery room will look like, what my preferences for birth will be (and how to be flexible when they need to change), and mostly what it will be like to be handed my son, to hear his cry fill the room … I ache for this moment! That shift was emotionally monumental and not without a few moments of surging grief for our twins.
This month has been difficult physically as I think most third trimesters must be. I’m swollen beyond reason, I ache in every place imagineable, and I have no idea how to navigate my new center of gravity. But I am so proud of myself for being here. I don’t say all of this in a bragging way … or maybe I do … but in part it is because I don't think we women are often vocal enough about celebrating our own accomplished strength.
The days leading up to Mother’s Day were hard for me this year. It was not my first Mother’s Day like I thought it would be, with twins crawling in every direction and some painted footprint card from them. It was instead my second one without them. Last year we held their memorial the day before Mother’s Day. In the days leading up to Mother’s Day my longing for them reverberated in every room of our house … But when the day actually came, I woke up with a contentedness – because I knew deep in my soul that the day was still for me too. They made me a mom. And the boy I’m carrying me now showed me something about myself: I am brave.
I am so much braver than I ever gave myself credit for before. Courage is not being without fear, resilience is not being without heartache, and bravery doesn’t exist in the absence of doubts. I am brave, courageous, resilient because despite the heartache and doubts and fears, I have done it any ways. I have fought any ways. I have chosen to love and feel joy any ways. I am so proud of myself for this. And do you know what forced me to be truly brave? Motherhood. And on Mother’s Day this year I thought of the many friends who I had witnessed be brave because of motherhood in the last few years.
...Like my friend who’s son was born a day before 28 weeks and she stayed by his side repeating “every day in every way [my son] gets bigger and stronger.” I saw her bravely repeat this mantra and belief every day as he has grown into a curious, strong, healthy toddler.
...Or my friend who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder shortly after a miscarriage. She bravely chose to carry another child with extra monitoring and persitence, with her own physical heart on the line. And she got them both to the end of the pregnancy safely, bravely.
...Or my friend who’s son was medically incompatible with life and had to be born much too soon. Her son was born hours from her twin sister’s live son. And she loves her nephew with openness and grace and she continues to parent her older daughters with new appreciation for life, all while grieving her own son, all while living bravely.
...Or my friend who’s blood pressure spiked at the end of her pregnancy requiring an emergency c-section. Her daughter was not ready to be born and spent a week in the NICU. When they told her that the anesthesia would have to wear off before she could see her daughter, she hoisted her numb legs over the side of the bed and said “I’m going now.” She shocked her nurses as she walked with superhuman strength down the hall to meet her daughter. She’s been by unwaveringly and bravely by her side since.
...Or my friend who's father (and closest person to her) died a month before her youngest daughter was born. She bravely managed through her own grief to make sure it didn't impact her baby girl. She chose to let her dad's legacy be of the strength he gave her.
...Or my friend who unitnentionally became pregnant, threw up every single day of her pregnancy and had a terrible birth experience, but still picked up her battle torn body and gave every ounce of it to loving her baby girl even before she was fully healed.
...Or my other friend who unitnentionally became pregnant and made the difficult decision to find an adoptive family. And when the family backed out at 8 months, she took a deep breath, threw herself into motherhood, and has made her son her number one priority every since.
...Or my friend who lost her first son halfway through their pregnancy on a vacation. She bravely decided to try again and fought with every ounce of fight to get her second son here while still in her first year of grief. And because her story echos mine, she stood by me through my entire pregnancy, cheerleading and using her own story to help me. She bravely put herself out there to encourage and help and love again.
I have joined the ranks of these brave mother-women. These are just a few of their stories, I have witnessed so many others – women battling infertility who pick up every day and keep trying, women who have lost a child at any age who still live and love, women who have fought through their own illness or their child’s illness or disability, women who work to provide for their families, women who stay at home to support their families, women who mother and mentor through every kind of hardship.
I am proud to be a brave mother. This is all loss and life and courage and motherhood and love. It’s not easy, but it’s a damn good club to be a part of.
I am ecstatic to be done with shots. I can’t wait to ditch my stitch. I am ready to meet my beautiful son. The next time you hear from me, I will hopefully be incoherently in an exhausted newborn haze. Here's to the next countdown: bringing baby L home!
I wrote this poem for Finnian and Maisie and read it at their memorial after we lost them. I was still trying to figure out how to tell my heart what happened and also tell them how long I will love them – near or far.
“How long do you wanna be loved?”
I held your toes, little half grains of rice, each perfectly rounded.
Your tiny feet made prints on my heart, now splashing in sky puddles -
If there is laughter in heaven I’m sure it is yours;
I’ve never before heard a sound so clearly that my eardrums hadn’t vibrated,
but I know it, just like I know you.
Like I know each inch of your tiny body,
The way it sat in the palm of my hand -
Your long fingers wrapped around the tip of mine,
Your knuckles rapping on pearly gates to make an early arrival.
If there is sunshine in heaven I bet it surrounds you.
When your lips blow kisses into the wind,
And your heartbeat swooshes among starlight,
I breathe in deeply -
One day closer.
If my arms could have rocked you longer,
If my pelvis had been stronger,
If my body had mimicked my love for you,
If we could have had longer,
I still could not have loved you more.
You have it all.
If there is time in heaven I hope it stands still -
Still as the moment we last embraced,
So that when I wrap my arms around you again,
And the smile spreads across your face,
I’ll know that you remember the way my heart sounds from the inside;
And together we will make footprints in sky puddles
and laughter in heaven.
And I’ll sing your lullaby one more time -
“How long do you wanna be loved?
Is forever enough?”
By: Tiffany Kann
One year ago our twins, Finnian and Maisie, were born much too early. My labor started the morning of April 13th and despite every effort available to stop it the twins were born just before 8:00am on April 14th. The last 24 hours I’ve re-lived, re-hashed, re-experienced the desperation of one year ago. But in the end we are still here … without our darling babies in our arms. One year ago today I still held them. They hadn’t survived but we still held them, rocked them, sang to them, kissed them, and marvelled at their beauty. Our hearts are still sore and the desire for them to be here is as palpable as the first moment we walked out of the hospital. It seems though, no matter what we do, that time does not go backwards.
We knew every second of their lives. After biting the IVF bullet and all its physical and emotional demands, we were able to know them earlier than most. We knew the moment they were conceived, the moment they likely implanted, the moment they were confirmed, and every single moment since. We knew them, wanted them, loved them for every moment they existed here and it hasn't turned off … all those things remain.
“It’s probably going to always feel that way,” my husband said across the table a night ago. The tears were sliding down my face again as I told him about the future memories that still seep into my dreams, the ones that I don’t actual know for certain but somehow my sleeping brain has conjured. All the moments we lost, invisible to the outside world, and still my sleep knows them. We talked about how one year hasn’t dulled the pain, but that we both know at some point it will become more familiar. At some point, the grief won’t feel like it’s choking us. We’ve had other big losses, so we know that the body and heart and brain figure out how to preserve themselves and live on. One year is not that point for us, yet. One year still feels like yesterday, or a week ago, or this morning, even when we've aged so much since then.
He is right, we will still always feel this way … this wanting way for them. There is no replacement and no amount of time that will remove them from us. We’ve passed every marker now at least once. Every day after this is the second time we’ve lived it after them. And then it will be the third and fourth and so on.
While my heart feels like it’s broken in half, while I feel like I will never ever be complete again, while this day has throat punched me and my face is swollen with salty tears, we still celebrate the life that we did have with them. And we celebrate the fact that Finnian George and Maisie Rebecca will always, forever and ever, be our son and our daughter, our first precious children.
Thank you for all of you who have continued to love us on this journey. Thank you to those who've said their names in the last year, to those who've allowed us to speak of them and cry for them and laugh about them and love them out loud. And if our story has helped you recognize the impact of pregnancy loss, to express your own feelings of loss or grief or love, or simply just hold your loved ones tighter, than thank you for listening/reading as I've written my way through this. Thank you for allowing Finnian and Maisie to be a representation of the unbreakable bonds of love.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is give ourselves an activity. Something that feels like we are doing something. I’ve included photos below of how we are marking today for any other grievers looking for ways to commemorate their loved one's day. I got through yesterday by preparing these things … earlier today I also posted the poem that I wrote for them and read at their memorial: Dear Baby. And as I do on many days I will listen to and sing their lullaby. Because forever is the answer.
I apologize in advance if this post is somewhat disjointed. I have been dealing with serious pregnancy insomnia complicated by heartburn, racing thoughts, and a desperate need to be doing more. BUT, I will take all of this because I am still pregnant. Certainly pregnancy is rough anyways, but these ‘normal’ symptoms make we want to scream in triumph because everything before this – infertility, loss, and threatened loss – is way worse, way way worse.
We have reached another pivotal milestone in this pregnancy – we are officially in the third trimester! Not only do our son’s survival statistics improve at this point, but the likelihood that I will carry him closer to term increases as well (thanks to shifting pressure). Additionally, I am getting the go ahead to slowly start increasing activity. Something that I believe will help work out some of the lingering anxiety.
This is a huge celebratory moment and I feel wholly present in it. I feel excited for him in every inch of my being. With lots of laughter and tenable joy I am preparing for him with oppenness and immense love. It is important to note this before I go on.
As March comes to a close, I am also viscerally reminded of the constant teetering between two worlds that I have become accustomed to. April holds another milestone, a dreaded marker of the time lapsed since I last held Finnian and Maisie. In sixteen days we will have lived one year since their birth.
We are still in the first year of grief, despite the joy that we feel for the new life coming, there is an undeniable weight of the first year after loss. A weight of sorrow, confusion, longing, disbelief, and ultimately reckoning with what life could, should, and does look like. I can’t look past this, because I can’t unlive it. As much as people close to me would love for me to focus solely on the woman excitedly preparing for her baby boy, I can’t deny the other woman I am. I feel their absence in every inch of my body. I feel longing for them in every second of my life. I can’t pretend that I am not wholly her too.
At times it completely confounds me how I can feel two opposing emotions so strongly. But perhaps it’s because they aren’t opposing at all, perhaps it is because joy and grief are from the same cloth. Because they both wrap around the heart and stem from the same place, because grief is simply the expression of love in absence and joy is the expression of love in presence. And I have both right now. I have both equally.
April opens up both sides of things for us – celebratory joy that we are in the third trimester with our new baby boy and intensifying grief that Finnian and Maisie are not here to smash a cake. We have some ideas swirling about how to memorialize them on their birthday. A brief pause in all the planning and counting down for Baby L’s arrival to prepare for memorializing our other babies. D and I have talked and we still want to celebrate them, to remember just how much joy and love they brought us, to recognize that four short months was enough to change our hearts forever. Right now we plan to have cake, to light candles, and to make a donation in their name (perhaps I will write more on this later).
Milestones and memorials. My life seems to be marked in countdowns lately. As I go through these new experience and grapple with what this kind of loss and life looks like, I continue to share bits here in hopes that it will help someone like me or someone that is supporting another woman in similar shoes.
It’s important for anyone that may be supporting a mother pregnant again after loss to know that she can feel wholly and completely happy and be intentionally bonding with her new child, while still experiencing full and total brokenness from her grief. The two emotional worlds of pregnancy and grief overlap in confusing ways. Her days are filled with equal parts love, fear, hope, and pain.
There is often a subtle shaming that many pregnant women receive about how they should feel, what they should be doing, how they are or are not appropriately managing emotions and how that will effect their unborn child. And while there is some research to indicate consistently higher levels of coritsol can impact the unborn child, it is helpful to remember in these cases that this is also a grieving person. And likely, a person who is doing more than you could ever imagine to manage the balance. Save the advice and direction - all she really needs from you is grace and acceptance and probably some chocolate.
We live in a “move-on” culture. But I don’t buy that philosophy. I don’t believe that healing has to include releasing, forgetting, leaving behind, and moving on. I do believe healing requires moving forward, shifting, opening, and redefining. And as this little boy’s foot jabs into my ribcage, as I feel him roll inside me, as the joy of his life vibrates in my core, I know for certain that I am moving forward.
I take in a deep breath, equal parts relief, excitement, and longing as we enter the third trimester and we approach the year mark of our loss. I shift expecations to embrace a different kind of yearly celebration for the twins. I open my heart and my soul to embrace the love and joy of their brother’s life, knowing the interconnectedness that exists between them all. I move forward gently and with internal grace that my feelings are okay – that I can love them all completely, totally, un-abandoningly, without taking anything from the other.
I redefine myself as a mother. And will probably do so again, and again, and again.
People who parent after loss are heroes. Some already had children that they continue to care for and others go onto have children after their loss. Either way, I look at the bravery it takes to put one foot in front of the other, to love with your whole heart even when it is broken, and to be completely vulnerable again.
Children make us vulnerable in ways I couldn’t understand before going through the process of pregnancy … and loss … and pregnancy again. They stretch our human capacity for love to its limits, showing you what it truly means to love someone so much more than yourself. Someone who is their own person and will (hopefully) go on to live their own lives full of adventure and people. Or, as is my case and many others in the perinatal loss community, someone who wholly and completely steals your heart but whose life is out of your hands.
The utter vulnerability of it all can be terrifying. And yet, this is the human experience. Love and community and heartache and repair and repeat, repeat, repeat. Any loss mother I have talked to has told me the same thing, “I would do it again just to be able to love him/her.” I think that speaks to the power of the love over the loss' crippling pain.
Tomorrow I will be 25 weeks along with our son. He’s been kicking more noticeably lately. Swishing around alive, completely alive. We’ve had two growth scans so far to check on his progress and he remains on the big side (97th percentile!), which is a blessing in case he comes early. Each day that passes at this point adds an additional 3% survival rate. I celebrate him daily. I take moments throughout the day to really focus intention on my gratitude and joy about his life.
And now, as we pass more milestones of survival chances, the idea that I will get to parent him, actually parent him, becomes more and more a possible reality.
It’s this reality that has me looking around at all those parenting after loss. At the way they handle the biggest job in the world even when they’ve already lived the biggest fear in the job.
I was speaking with a mother who very recently lost her son midtrimester about how she was coming a long in these first months. Everything is jumbled and messy for her – when to take time to grieve, how to take care of her other daughters, how to move forward or not move forward. The familiarity of her grief is potent to me. But she also said that when her daughter is scared, she reminds her that her brother can help her be brave because she gets to do all the things he didn’t do. He will be there for them. He has not disappeared. He will be a reminder of grace and strength and bravery. Her ability to seamlessly blend this into conversation with her girls impresses me beyond end.
Another dear friend of mine lost a son midtrimester a year before our loss. She now has a second young son. Every time I see him he fills the room with joy. He is immeasurably joyous and adored. He shows the face of a child that comfortably knows his parents love him. And yet, my friend still yearns for her first son. She still wonders daily what it would be like to have them both. Each time she puts an outfit that she had purchased for him on her living son she tells him it is a hand me down from his brother. I love this. I know that one day she will run out of hand me downs, but the conversation will have been started. In a small way, the boys will be allowed to be siblings regardless of the distance between them.
I find these simple acts heroic. In the face of the greatest grief, with courage and humility and love, they continue forward. And not by replacing or forgetting or denying but by integrating and allowing space for their children and still feeling both sides of joy and pain.
I'm still thinking of ways to tell our son about his brother and sister. I’m still working through how to describe his mom’s ability to be completely in love with him and completely yearning for them. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that he will not live as the youngest of three but an only child or the oldest (possibly). I’m still picking up the broken pieces of my heart so they don’t fall into his lap.
I can’t wait to meet him. Part of me believes that when I do, I’ll know better how to be the parent he needs. When I see his face, I’ll know how to do these things too. Because I will be their mother and his, and he will need different things from me. And I’ll use every bit of me to be the best for the three of them.
This is not the story I imagined for us. But this is our story.
*For those still struggling with infertility or are early in their pregnancy/infant/child loss journey, please know that this post contains information about a new pregnancy and ultrasound pictures.
Today is a very important day for us, a milestone day. Six weeks ago we announced to our Facebook tribe of friends, family and colleagues that we are expecting a son this year. In a few short sentences we tried to express that this little boy was the remaining embryo from the IVF that gave us our twins. The announcement came one day before he reached the same gestation that we lost them … unplanned but significant I suppose.
It’s significant because this little boy is being carried after a loss - a major, life-altering, still aching loss. And while we don’t identify with the term ‘rainbow baby,’ because he was created with the twins before they were gone, it is the current cultural term to describe a pregnancy after loss – a rainbow pregnancy.
I’ve written a few posts to try to describe pregnancy after loss, each one rambling longer than the next, before I realized I don’t know how to describe it just yet. There is a powerful colliding of emotions, a squishing of contradictory feelings that ruminate daily in my heart. I’m sorting it out. Living it now. That’s why I haven’t posted in several months. I’ll save the ramblings to sort through later.
This was what our FB announcement said: "We are cautiously excited to announce that we are expecting a baby boy this June! This little guy is Finnian and Maisie’s triplet, our frozen miracle of science and prayer. We are so hopeful that we get to hold this extra special baby and believe he is already carrying the spunk, spirit, and love of his brother and sister. We will take all the prayers, positive energy, or any way you might lift us up for a safe pregnancy. Come on 2017, we need a win!"
In addition to learning how to navigate the roller coaster of a rainbow pregnancy, we are in the midst of a very complicated high-risk pregnancy. For all the mamas out there who managed through high-risk pregnancies – I salute you. No, that’s not enough - I admire the hell out of you. Because a high-risk pregnancy has it’s own colliding, squished emotions that pull you outside the normal pregnancy experience and force you to quietly fight for the life your body is just supposed to know how to grow.
We have been on careful watch this pregnancy since it still incredibly unclear why our twins were born early. We knew I went into pre-term labor because I contracted and delivered, but we have no idea what exact sequence of events led us there (we have great doctors though and have been working off theories to manage the care of this pregnancy). Our first trimester was riddled with episodes of bleeding and threatened miscarriages due to a hematoma. Our second trimester began with the revelation that I have an irritable uterus that painfully and frequently has spells of pre-labor type contractions. We have been attending weekly doctors appointments and ultrasounds to check that these contractions do not cause my cervix to begin the labor process. Two weeks ago, my cervix did shorten and we wasted no time getting in to surgery and sewing it closed.
So why is today a milestone? A big, important day for us? Because today we have reached medical viability at our hospital. Some hospitals require 1-2 more weeks of gestation, but we picked the one with the most advanced NICU. We picked the one that has the knowledge, equipment and resources to take a baby born 18 weeks before their due date.
Today, if my son is born, they will try to save him. He is considered “viable” to live outside of my uterus. This moment washes over me with immense relief that collides and squishes under the weight of losing our twins so early. When they handed me our daughter, Maisie, she was alive. I stared at her heart pounding, knowing she wanted desperately to take a breath. And I searched the room for anyone to help her and they could not. They could not because she was too early to survive without me. No equipment could help her fragile lungs.
It was this moment that I recounted while I laid on the surgery table for my cervix. Numb from the waist down and exposed to a room of scrub-clad doctors and nurses, I told their story. I let the tears slide down my cheeks and puddle by my face while I begged them to please get me to viability. I tried desperately to impress that this little boy that I am carrying is more important than any other baby because of what we went through with his brother and sister. My medical professionals were fighting for me … but I needed them to know what the battle was for and why. I needed them to know that I am willing to do absolutely anything I can to get him here, and I need their help.
We are here now. 22 weeks. And the reality is, he needs a lot more time. We are still hoping and praying he makes it a lot longer. But we are also realistically preparing for what happens if he comes prematurely. Each week is a new goal. Each week increases his survival chances and decreases his risk of long-term health struggles.
Each day I feel him kick more. Each week I see him on the ultrasound, perfectly formed, happy and heart-thumping. Every time I am filled with immense joy and love for this little boy. Every time I imagine the twins reaching the same moments. It’s messy.
I’m laying on the couch with my feet in the air the majority of the day just to keep him in. Often perusing Facebook to see how my friends are tackling their careers, advocating for political change, nurturing their young families, and advancing their studies. And I put all those things on hold for myself. Because right now, feet in the air, I am fighting the hardest battle I’ve ever fought and he is so worth it. He has always been viable to me.
We are entering a new season again. The holidays are here. Everywhere. I’m trying to wrap my mind around the next couple months. Trying to figure out what survival tactics are needed, how to calm the anxiety, how to reconcile the longing feeling, how to replace the plans I had with the ones I get.
We started our stimulation medication for IVF the week after Christmas last year. I can remember leaning over to Dan after we had stuffed ourselves with a third family Christmas dinner and saying, “This could be our very last year without babies.” Those words hang in the air even now. They didn’t float away with hopeful wistfulness, they hung heavy settling into the couch waiting to be fulfilled.
I wanted twins. I wanted both embryos to take. I wanted everything that came with loving two and logistically caring for two. Twins felt like the ultimate reward – the absolute reason this had to be so hard was so that we could end up with two. The day after we saw both hearts flickering on the ultrasound screen I began planning for the holidays.
The babies were due in September so the holidays would be their first adventures. I earmarked an easy to carry play yard for Dad’s lake house at Thanksgiving, smaller portable bouncy chairs to take to Mom’s, a sturdy playpen that could double as bassinettes for overnight at Dan’s Dad’s farm. I researched ways to tandem breastfeed - how to do it in public or was it better to pump before gatherings. I decided to throw myself full-fledge into twin-momdom and put coordinating Christmas outfits and Halloween costumes on my Etsy to buy list. It was early to be planning, but I didn’t care – all my dreams were coming true.
Until they didn’t. Until we lost them. There are days even now, seven months later that I still remember with absolute clarity the exact moment each little body was handed to me. I can remember my body labor-worn and bleeding crashing against a bed to be handed the most delicate humans I’d ever seen. There are moments where I can still see my daughter’s heart beating and I cry out – why couldn’t we save her!
This year for Halloween, I put up our decorations, I oohed and awwed at people’s baby costume pictures on Facebook, I emotionally prepared to smile at each person that came by … until I just couldn’t. Moments before the doorbell rang with trick or treaters I turned all the lights out and wept. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I gave up on Halloween and decided to try harder for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Yesterday, I swapped out my fall decorations for Christmas ones. It’s a week early but I wanted to get it done. I moved things around from last year. But it still feels the same. Nothing feels externally changed – everything is proceeding like normal. Because we never had a Christmas with them. We never had a Thanksgiving or Halloween. So the worst part of this year is that everything is the same as always.
I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this. While everyone is posting articles and queries about how to get through the holidays post political upset, I’m just trying to figure out how to hold it together when asked what I’m most thankful for. I’m just trying to practice my happy face. I’m wondering what to do if I start crying when we hand out presents. I'm staring at the only ornament that indicates that they were here.
In the grief world we talk a lot to people about how to create new traditions to survive holidays after the loss of a loved one. We talk about ways to keep their memories alive during the season. We talk about the right to choose whether or not you want to celebrate at all. I remember all of that being incredible helpful after we lost my sister and Dan’s mom. But losing babies is different.
They were going to be the changed tradition, the new memory, the extra logistics needed. And even though the table is set the same as last year and the tree has the same number of presents as before … it feels incomplete, not enough, heartbreakingly missing something.
I started writing in this blog to suss out my own experiences after losing our twins. To examine the grief at arm’s length and share it with anyone who needed to hear it – anyone who needed to borrow my words to describe their experience, or understand the experience of someone else they loved. After we passed the due date the writing seemed to wane. Each time I sat down I had nothing new to say except it still hurts. It feels really awful. I miss them so much my innards quake. And even with moments of hope and love scattered here and there the words I would’ve written the last couple months wouldn’t have healed either of us.
But today I wanted to remind us that the holidays are about family. At least in my world they always have been. We never discuss politics at our holiday gatherings but apparently many families do – I’d encourage you to put it aside. Put it aside and remember who might be missing someone.
The holidays are hard for many people anyways. This year is gut-wrenchingly the hardest for me yet. I tell our story above because I will still look normal on the outside. This season I will decorate and celebrate with family, because that is all I have. That is all most of us have.
But honestly ... if someone just gives me a hug and says they wish my babies were here too I might just explode in gratitude.
Hello friends, I took a hiatus from writing last month but have received several recent encouragements to get started back.
We traveled at the beginning of September and then took the rest of the month to settle into our new reality – which is actually a non-changed reality - A reality in which we do not have to figure out how to juggle two newborns and all their needs. Our house is still quiet. That’s the thing about infant loss or pregnancy loss. On the outside your life seems unchanged, but you were planning for major changes. And when they don’t come … you just feel lost. Lost and sad and quiet and kinda lacking purpose.
There is an old Patty Griffin song that I used to play on repeat: Making Pies. The song has a sweet somberish sound with an undertone of bravery. The lyrics tell a story of a woman making pies instead of caving into her grief (at least that’s how interpreted it). My favorite line “You could cry or die or just make pies all day. I’m making pies.” Oh Patty, me too.
I have actually, literally, started making pies. I'm staying at home during the day and often baking a pie. I’m fortunate enough that my husband is able to take care of our living needs – so I’m “breaking” from school and work. The advice to take a step back from social work while I try to recover makes absolute sense. My work and study require my heart to be strong, it requires me to put my pain on hold so that I can hold someone else’s pain. (Side note: Hug a social worker if you can. There is not shortage of self that they are giving in their work.)
I can’t give that right now. Some days I want to – I miss working. I miss helping others. I’m bored a lot of the time. I actually cannot remember a time in my life where I haven’t worked, volunteered, or gone to school in some time consuming combination. But, I’m forcing myself to recover, to gently glue the pieces of my heart back together so it can hold. I’m also working on gluing those pieces together so we can hopefully open our hearts again. In the process I think I can learn to be better in my work …
Also, I think I am becoming a better human. Loss does that. It breaks us and forms us and builds us. Strange, but true. I wouldn’t pick it though. But unfortunately, I can’t unpick it now.
The truth is, I still cry a lot. I spent a lot of life being strong. I spent a lot of the last decade and a half standing up to the pain of loss. I spent a lot of hours being bigger than my grief. But losing my babies … it was just cratering in a way that I can barely put words to. I feel so incredibly broken inside. But also, I feel full. Broken and full. Love does that – makes us bigger.
In the healing space, I’m practicing holding both things: love and pain. It’s true of all loss though isn’t it? We learn to hold the weight of our love and our pain. We practice over and over until we are recovered. I don’t expect to fully recover until this life is over, but recovery is a lifelong thing any way. At least that’s what I would tell a client … so I’m gently telling myself. Every day, every step, a little closer. The bravery is in letting both things exist (love and pain) without feeling like you have to get rid of either to be healing.
So in the meantime, I’m making pies. It takes time, concentration, and I feel good about the outcome. When I need an hour or so to escape – I’m putting my hands in the dough, stirring the raspberrys or apples or cream or peanut butter (for Dad), or pecans (for Mom) and appreciating the ability to make something.
I didn’t cook or bake much before we lost the babies. So I’m learning this as I go. It’s new. It’s yummy. My husband loves it. I’ve picked up a couple other hobbies/self care activities too, but this is his favorite.
“I could cry or die or just make pies all day. I’m making pies.”
I’m interested to hear what new thing you began after your loss? Did you make something? Create something? Or start doing something different? Change an exercise routine? Please share … maybe it will inspire another griever with something that they could try while learning to live this new life after loss. Feel free to post a comment here or on the blog Facebook page: Facebook.com/lossandlife
As the days of August draw in, I am ever more aware of the cracking in my heart. The aching has not subsided but is actually throbbing more and more as we approach the period when my pregnancy should’ve concluded, when my babies should’ve been born, when life should’ve been right. Yesterday, I would’ve been 34 weeks pregnant and my twins would be born some time between now and September 7th - in an ideal world that is. But they were not, will not, are not going to be. It continues to hurt more.
My husband and I are leaving for vacation next week – dog and house sitter are set. We will be gone through the bulk of our “due” weeks (twins shift a pregnancy from due day to a range of days). I’m going to take a blogging hiatus during this time since my energy is lacking. I may return with more blogs, perhaps a slightly shifted focus off the intensely personal and more on grief knowledge. Maybe not, maybe I will be even more introspectively sharing. We will see what happens after we get through these next few weeks.
I have always told my clients that it is important to follow what heals them. I'm taking some healing space. I'm exercising. I'm journaling. I'm crying. I'm laughing. I'm creating memorials. I'm being kind, gentle, and understanding towards myself (as much as I can remember to be). This next season is for healing ... not healing away the broken heart, because it will always be there, but finding a way to live in the joy of having loved, and continuing to love, my children so much. I love Finnian and Maisie so much.
It is still incredibly unhelpful for people to tell me they imagine us having other kids. The insensitivity and invalidation of thinking that will somehow erase the longing for the two we already have stings every time someone makes the suggestion. It will always be more helpful for people to tell me that they remember my twins and to ask me about them, than for people to tell me they just know I'll have another baby.
You would never tell someone whose mother had died:
“Maybe you’ll get a new mom soon,”
“I heard a wonderful story about someone who had a rainbow mom after their loss,”
“I dreamed you were hugging your new mom and you were so happy.”
"Once your new mom is here you will feel happy again."
"A new mom will make things better."
It would be weird. It would be as though you assumed their mother was replaceable with any other mother. It would be as though you thought having a living mother would stop the griever from missing the mother that they already had.
That said, for those who are deeply troubled by the idea that we will somehow stop our journey to raise living children: we intend to try for more children, probably sooner rather than later. We are greatly aware of the challenges that lie in this. We know that there are many variables to consider and many challenges to face. But we are hopeful.
We will consider any future children siblings of Finnian and Maisie. Our heart will expand to love them just as it would have if their brother and sister were alive to greet them. We would never have taken some love away from Finnian and Maisie to spread to the other kids – we would just grow more love.
While love and grief are totally intertwined, one does not erase the other. I am open to opening my heart to more love, because I believe it has the capacity to hold both intense love and intense grief simultaneously. I am open to more love, even if I am terrified of more grief.
Thank you to all who have been reading along the journey. It will always be a goal of mine to connect with other's grieving, whether here on this blog or in whatever next career step I take. The most helpful thing for me to remember is that while it won't ever be okay, I am not alone. You are not alone. Living is in the connecting.
I slipped into a numbness pattern this week – a lack of motivation, wish the days were over, kind of dragging. I’ve admittedly done a lot of napping. I know this is a phase of grief. I’m coming down, or up, from something. I can’t put my finger on it or name it just yet. This post is a little less clean ... more a compilation of thoughts, revelations, loose experiences from my notes over the many weeks since my twins died.
Grief is messy, unclean, non-linear. Grief is different every day, hour, minute. Grief doesn’t just look sad, angry, shocked, bargaining, or accepting. Grief encompasses every emotion. Grief buries itself into all parts of your life. Grief strokes each moment that you live without them.
Grief is dreaming in too many colors or no color at all - dreaming with fear and reliving death, or dreaming with visits and hopefulness.
Grief is opening your eyes, staring at the ceiling or the wall and remembering what your life really is. Grief is rolling over and trying to sleep for another few minutes, another hour.
Grief is everyday negotiating whether or not to nurse your own broken heart or to honor their memory by living.
Grief is mascara stains on your pillow. Grief is letting more tears fall then you knew you could produce. Grief is puffy eye sockets, red-rimmed and bulging.
Grief is running out of tears. Grief is dry numbness when you explain what happened.
Grief is having a different kind of day every day, all while doing the same things over and over. Grief makes the minutes feel long but the days seem short.
Grief is recognizing the exact shape of your physical existence.
Grief is feeling fuzzy brained, struggling to converse, forgetfulness absence from the moment. Grief is painful awareness of silence.
Grief is forcing a smile. It’s listening to yourself talk to people from some inner echo-ey hole, detached. Grief is struggling to listen well to others.
Grief is experiencing moments of truly being alive and then turning around to see a mirror that reflects someone other than you. Grief is realizing your reflection is forever changed.
Grief is realizing that your heart held more love than you imagined. Grief is feeling the borders of your heart as it expands and breaks.
Grief is needing someone, anyone, to agree that things will never be okay. It’s needing people to just tell you that you are not alone, that they are with you, that it’s okay that you will never really be okay.
Grief is knowing that, no not everything happens for a reason, no something better will not come of this, and no I don’t have an option to not “be strong.”
Grief is knowing that even if life is beautiful, even if you use your pain for some greater good, that it would have been just as beautiful (or more so) if they had lived. Grief is accepting that fact and still choosing to live kindly and bravely and with honor for them.
Grief is rehearsing a new way of living until it becomes familiar enough to cover your scars.
Grief is knowing that time is divided, your identity is divided, your self is divided into before and after they died. And not just because time moves forward, grief doesn't care about time, but because you can clearly outline the eras of your life based on their existence and their absence.
Grief is loving with every ounce of your being, despite separation. Loving is living - loving is the whole point of living. Grief is still living. It’s just messy living.
Feel free to comment – to add what grief is like for you or what 'grief revelation' you have had. Every experience is unique and the only way we can get closer to understanding the expansiveness of life after loss is to talk to each other about it.
As the weeks of summer have passed with the aching slowness of a heat wave, not a lot has changed since we lost our babies. I’m giving myself healing space – I’ve taken a hiatus from my coursework and stepped back from providing therapy. Writing here is healing. Being completely, utterly, bold-faced honest about each week is healing. But the healing is building only minutely. For every second that I feel confidently up is another second that I am devastatingly down.
This week has felt largely emotional. I think for multiple reasons the waves of grief have crashed over me and I have felt the weight of it in my bones. I spent weeks laughing and forcing myself into life’s moments; weeks choosing to show the joy my sweet twins should be known for, instead of the pain caused by their absence. This is still my goal, to live in a way that proves their light … but this week my pain, my heartache, my longing has filled every pore of my body. My eyes have been leaking non-stop. The salty tears fall around the corners of my down turned mouth. My contacts are so blurred with salt deposits that the world looks as foggy as it feels. But I accept this – crying is as much a part of my humanity as laughing is.
Today marks 16 weeks since my sweet babies left this earth. It also marks 16 weeks since they entered the earth. Baby loss is a unique loss because it intertwines the experience of new life so closely with the experience of death. I think all losses have component of realizing the importance of life – the delicate balance of your heartache with what your heart loves. Grief will always be a balance of pain and honoring their life by living ours. Baby loss just intensifies this notion because pregnancy is full of new life promises, full of planning and dreams and growing life.
Losing my infants has made me hyper aware of how deeply a heart can love. Becoming a mother changed me. My heart expanded in ways I did not know were fathomable. I am learning how to understand that and also comprehend the intense pain of having it taken away as soon as it arrived. The depth of my grief is slowly chasing down the depth of my love. But I will always love them more than I am pained by their loss. That feels like an absolute truth.
Tomorrow will be the doubling point of the length of my pregnancy. I find it difficult to breathe when I think about this. Their existence was short ‘in the scheme of things.’ In the big picture of life, we were only given the joy of them for mere moments. But I’ve learned something about love … it doesn’t care. Love doesn’t care how long you have known someone. Love doesn’t create depth based on familiarity alone. The kind of love you feel for your child - when you look down at their tiny nose, their little feet, their precious fingers wrapped around the tip of yours - the love you feel then is shaped by so much awe that it sends roots immediately down through your core. Finnian and Maisie are deeply rooted in my soul. I feel so much love I could burst.
And yet in a couple days I will have lived their loss longer than I lived their life.
This fact alone has convinced me of one thing:
Time does not erase the pain as much as it doesn’t not determine the amount of love we have for each other. Time is merely a marker between our last goodbye and our hopeful next hello. Time will breed familiarity with the feeling of their absence … so that we become better acquainted with living in a world without them. I’ve learned that in other losses. That’s the only “better” there might be.
Love does not care about time as much as time does not control how and if and when I feel anything, for better or worse. My love for those two humans, my love for Finnian and Maisie, is infinite. It is without the bounds of time. 16 weeks is meaningless in recounting the lifetime that I will spend loving them, even without the gift of holding them or seeing their faces light up, or attending their school functions, or watching them fall in love, or kissing the cheeks of their future children. My babies will never have those things… but I will love them with the same intensity as though we had experienced it all together.
Throughout my pregnancy I sang them the chorus from the Dixie Chick’s song, Lullaby. I’d walk around with a hand on my belly singing. When they were born, I held them in my arms and sang this song to them over and over; until I kissed their little foreheads goodbye. And we engraved this lyric on the box that holds their remains:
“How long do you wanna be loved,
is forever enough?
Cause I’m never, never giving you up. “
I am forever their mommy and they are forever mine.
Grief is big. Love is bigger.
And right now, that’s the only thing I am really, truly sure of.
We have spent the month of July surrounded by family and water. We’ve visited both my parent’s different lake houses and travelled north to play in the pool with my nieces and brother and sister-in-love. The water is refreshingly cool in this heat. The sun pushes with humid forces against our skin, the pressure mimicking the weight my heart feels most days. But the water feels light and I still float.
I have been laughing with my family. I’m mostly an extrovert by nature – I gather energy from being around others. I’ve let that energy flow through me in the moments that we have spent time with our family and friends – I laugh. I laugh hard. Sometimes I laugh so hard it appears that there is no brokenness, sometimes the laughter blasts from my lungs, past my vocal chords, and escapes in a burst of joyful sound. I have a good laugh.
I’ve also been laughing on purpose. After my sister was killed, I was afraid that my laughter meant that I was not hurting enough. Or at least that was what others might think – I know I was hurting. I’ve spent my entire adult life grieving her. At some point, I learned that laughter was actually a sign of conquering death; a sign of refusing to let the monsters win.
Since the twins have died, I’ve tried to force myself into moments of laughter. I never want their lives to be remembered as the thing that broke me … because I never want them to be remembered as anything less than wonderful. Even when it doesn’t appear to be so, my life is currently a balance of survival. I am working to express the memory of the joyfulness my twins brought to my life and I am woefully, heart-brokenly, living their absence. The waves are still ever-present, unpredictable, and difficult to describe. Every moment I am conscious of living without them. Living and being without them. Being alive, living each moment, and not having them. Every moment I am aware of this.
This weekend I was talking to my sister-in-law, also my dear friend, over coffee on our second morning visiting. Sitting at her kitchen table, she told me about recognizing my ability to laugh still. She mentioned that it was good to hear, that even when she visited for the memorial she noticed how I could get swept up and laugh with the family. She started to say, “It’s almost as if you’ve forgotten for a moment...” and then she said, “no … that’s not right … it’s as though … I’m not sure. But it’s good to hear.”
I knew what she was trying to say. It’s almost as though I am okay. But she knows the brokenness in my heart. She has sat and cried with me. She has held my hand and wept for my babies. She watched me hold them in the hospital. She has listened to me recount over and over the fears, the devastation, and the missing. She is also still grieving the loss of her mother (in addition to her niece and nephew) … so she get’s it. She knows that no amount of laughter can get her further away from missing her mom.
So we sat for a second, both knowing that there is a paradox in life after grief. Loss often makes us appreciate each moment more fully. We live each second knowing there are no guarantees. Each moment of laughter is an act of survival.
Death did not steal my laughter - it couldn’t, because living is my best representation of the joy present in loving. Death did not steal my laughter because death could not remove Finnian and Maisie from my heart. Death did not steal my laughter because death cannot separate my love from them. Death has done many things – it has kidnapped a lifetime of memories from us, it has left us bruised and aching, it has filled our nights with longing dreams and nightmares. But despite death separating our physical bodies from each other, it could never, ever take away the joy of having known them. Death cannot stop me from loving them more with every one of my own heartbeats, therefore it cannot have my laughter.
Next week I will share more about the balance … Maybe I’ll tell you about the dream Monday night that reminded me to leave room to feel the sadness. This week, however, my oldest niece has been staying with us. She travelled back for her annual visit. A good friend and colleague reminded me “Enjoy your week! Plug into her innocence and life and hug her tight!”
I have been doing just that. We have been playing and talking. She talks about Finnian and Maisie. The first day we visited her home to pick her up I sat with her sister and her by the pool. I was showing my nieces pictures of our dogs on my phone (they love the dogs!) and when I scrolled past a picture of the babies the littlest one said, “Oh how cute! Is that one Maisie?” They had seen the pictures at our small memorial. They remembered the babies. We spent 15 or so minutes looking at other pictures. They talked about their cute toes and Finnian’s little nose. Death doesn’t scare them. They see life. Their acceptance and grace is so beautiful.
My oldest niece has mentioned the babies again several times this week and she asked me a ton of questions about Rachael while we were driving to our next fun place to visit. I don’t let my eyes well with tears in these moments. I answer all her questions with a smile so she always knows it’s okay for us to talk about them, because we love them.
Death didn’t steal my laughter, because it could not erase their life.
I sat across from a pregnant friend of mine for a small dinner and catch up. Her eyes welled with tears when mine did – our due dates are the same (her full term date and when we expected the twins).
She told me that she wanted to do more for me; That she has cried repeatedly when trying to decide whether to call or give space, that she debated sending me all the wine and chocolate and flowers in the world, that she wished she could “wrap me in bubble wrap” to protect me from any more hurt. She also told me that she has been afraid because I am a reminder of her own biggest fear – one of her children dying.
Her heart is beautiful and open. I’ve also had a similar discussion with a few of my long time best friends on different occasions. They want to do something for me but they don’t know what to do or say, and they grapple with the giant scary proposition of imagining what would happen if their child died.
This got me thinking about what exactly it is that I want or need as a griever. Truthfully, the women who have had these discussions with me have all provided the exact things I have needed (the biggest things). Here are the top three things I’ve needed as a grieving friend:
1. To be reminded that I am remembered and not alone.
When my friend tearily told me that she wished that she could do more, I responded “But you did the one thing I asked you to do – to let me know you were thinking of me. You have done so at random but with consistency since the twins died.”
Do not underestimate the power of a simple text saying, “I’m thinking of you” or “You’re on my mind, hope today is a good day” or “Thinking of your babies today.” These words can remind the griever that they are not alone even if they have isolated themselves. The thing about needing space is it only feels good if you are given the opportunity to choose it – leaving someone alone because you think they need space just creates the feeling that they are forgotten.
The griever is less likely to “reach out to you when they are ready” because they have an internal emotional meter that makes every action feel bigger and scarier before they were grieving. So reach out even if I don’t respond, or I respond with a simple “thank you”… because when the time comes that I don’t need space, or I want a dinner, I will know that you are safe to go to.
2. To feel like my loved one is known.
In the years since Rachael died, 99% of the non-family people in my life have never met her. This fact use to terrify me – “what if no one ever understands who I am because they never see this huge part of me!?” But over time, I have had multiple friends tell me that they feel like they know her through me. I talk about her. I tell stories about her. I want her to be known. Hearing that they feel as though they do makes me feel better, as though I have done my job keeping her memory alive.
The same is true of the babies … although their lives were shorter, although I am the only person who held them alive, although only our parents and sisters saw their faces – I still have so much I could tell you about them. I am so grateful for the friends who have let me repeat stories about ultrasounds and who I thought they would be. I don’t cry when I tell these stories, I laugh and smile and feel the joy of their lives again. We feel joy when we can share our loved ones and by listening and trying to know them you share that joy with us.
3. Permission to grieve as long as needed.
I know that I have talked about permission before. We live in a move- on culture. We live in a culture that believes you are not healing unless you are picking yourself up, swallowing the bad feelings, and moving on. But grief will last as long as love does.
Each death changes us in some way – an important relationship was removed from our lives, parts of our identity are entwined with our relationship to that person, and new information about how life works is being integrated into our personal framework. The best thing for the griever to do is feel all the emotions.
In my opinion, healing is the process of becoming who you are going to be now that you no longer can hold your loved one. That is hard and it takes a lifetime of negotiating new circumstances without them. Give your grieving friend permission to take as long as needed. Tell them “it’s okay if you are sad” or “it’s okay if you are mad” or “it’s okay if you are not okay.” They are going to be those things anyway, but you telling them that you are okay with it removes some of the shame or guilt of feeling like they “should” be better now.
Tip for the griever:
After reflecting on dinner with my friend, I realized that I am receiving what I need in my closest relationships for two reasons. One is the fact that my friends want to know how to console me. I believe that most of us want to “be there” for our hurting friends and family, but we often don’t know how. So instead of asking, many people try to assume the best way to meet your needs. The other reason is that I am open with what I need in my new grief.
This is my tip to the newly grieving or hurting person. You have so much on your plate it seems unfair to pile anything else on, but this is a simple one (even when it doesn’t feel that way). Just say, “I need you to tell me you’re thinking of me;” or “I need to talk about my loved one for a bit” or “I need to know it’s okay if I cry.” If you can just get out that one line of whatever your need might be, I have a feeling that your consoler will meet it – because they have been wanting to all along.
Today my darling babies have been gone 13 weeks. This upcoming Monday my sister has been gone for 13 years. The balance of numbers is not lost on my heart. I have not moved past counting. In part, because the progression of time carries such shock with it – the clock continues ticking, whether I watch it or not, whether I can feel it or not, whether it should stand still or not.
In all the time that my sister has been gone, we have not forgotten her. We still think about and talk about her in my family. In 13 weeks, I still mention the babies every single day to anyone who will let me.
A few weekends ago we were spending time at my Dad’s lake house. The sun was shining bright, we had all been in the water, and swigged a beer or two. A friend of his pulled a boat up next to ours and tethered to the side. I was not up for socializing with anyone new. It had only been weeks since the twins had died. My heart still sore and achy, my eyes still three seconds away from leaking, I didn’t want to talk to anyone that didn’t know. So I flipped over on my tummy and let the sun stroke my back.
My dad and youngest sister plopped on the seat across from us and talked to the lady on the adjoining boat. She was a friend of a friend so she did not really know my Dad’s story (or ours). I was laying on the seat in between letting their words fly over me.
In the typical small talk way, the woman said, “so you have just the two daughters,” to my Dad. She was about to tell us about her children, her 4 living children and her 3 grandchildren. She wanted to share about her life and all the living people.
“Actually no,” my Dad said without skipping a beat, “that is my oldest daughter, Tiffany, and she has a sister one year younger that died and is in heaven, Rachael, and this is my youngest daughter, Samantha.”
I lifted my head to look at his face. Perfectly calm and with a smile like any father introducing his children.
“Oh,” the woman said with an all too familiar uncomfortabl-ness that strangers tend to wash with when you tell them someone has died, “I am so sorry.” You could tell she wanted to fall through a hole in the boat. She had no idea what to say next.
“It’s okay,” my Dad, said with ease, “I just never want to say I have 2 daughters when I have 3.” Then he smiled and the conversation moved on.
I lifted my head and stared at him behind my sunglasses. My heart stuck in my throat, both in pride and in hope. Hope because in this whole world my biggest fear is that my children will be forgotten. That only I will ever talk about them. That if I mention them people will sink into a hole or run the other direction or I’ll be the quintessential ‘debbie downer.’
But the truth is, Finnian and Maisie are not erasable. They are imprinted on my heart, and their presence, even though brief, was still very real. And it is okay for me to let other’s know that. My parents, both my Mom and my Dad, never let Rachael be erased. She couldn’t be. And they proudly mention her name with the same bravado that they say Sam’s and mine – with never wavering, irreplaceable, un-erasable love.
IF I have more children, I will follow my Dad’s lead and there were always be a +2 to that number, and I will say “it’s okay, I never want to say we have 2 when we have 4.” (or whatever that may end up being). And even if I don’t, if by some twist of fate these are our only children – We will always have 2. And I will never say we have 0, when we really have 2.
If you are a fellow griever I hope you are encouraged too – talk about your loved one, say their name, mention they lived. We can do so with a smile. We can do so in the way we mention our living loved ones. We can change the dialogue around death – so that it isn’t the end; because it isn’t the end in our hearts. They live as long as we do … we know love lasts at least that long, and probably longer.
I won’t hide my face,
tear-stained and sticky.
I won’t cover my heart as it
bulges and breaks.
I won’t disguise the slump of my shoulders,
the lines around my eyes,
the sigh in my breathing.
I won’t pretend that I am not here
But I will
allow the corners of my mouth
to curve upward.
I’ll allow the galloping sound of a laugh
to escape through my lips.
I’ll let it run away
through the air, with it’s mane waving.
I will let your name settle on my tongue
I’ll speak about you
beyond the sadness,
with fondness and sparkle.
I’ll let my eyes brighten
and my heart soften.
I’ll keep your memory -
the picture of your spirit,
the joyful purpose of your short life.
I’ll make sure you are known -
People will recognize
that you are more than just
the sadness of your death.
You are the sparks that re-lit my hope.
You are the kiss in the wind
that reminds me to have faith.
You are the soft song cradled
in the crook of my ear
about the power of love to evade
the bounds of time or death or space.
You are mine, now and always.
By: Tiffany Kann
Hi, I'm Tiffany. I believe in the power of stories to connect us to each other. I write about life after loss and all the love, longing, and learning that comes from it. Grief is big, love is bigger. My newest stories are about motherhood (after both infertility and loss). In my experience, love doesn't get bigger than motherhood.
© Tiffany Kann and Loss & Life, 2013-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tiffany Kann and www.lossandlife.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.