Saturday, December 10, 2016

Gage

Trisomy 18 run dedication

The air was chilly and crisp throughout the woods, trees standing stoically and wisely.  Upon my exit, sun bathed the meadows and warmed the landscape.  My eyes adjusted to the brightness and suddenly everything seemed to come to life.  Animals were scurrying in the warmth and joy of the sun, as were many passersby on the trail. 

Going into this dedication run, I was sure I would take Gage’s picture in the woods.  How I love the woods – the trees are so strong and comforting, especially as the weather cools.  However, I was drawn to the bright sun and smooth bridges that connect the miles of meadows surrounding the forest.  As I placed Gage’s rock on the bridge that overlooked the meadow and woods, a perfect heart shadow was cast on his rock.  It was an overwhelmingly beautiful symbol that he and his family are forever encircled in love. 

Baby Gage, who had Trisomy 18, lived outside the womb for 17 days.  He was not only encased by love throughout the entirety of his life, but he will remain swattled in love for all of eternity.  Love from his family, love from Mother Nature, and love from the entire universe.  Running with baby Gage tightly in my heart today was a true gift and a reminder that love connects us all.  As we navigate our journey after loss, we are surrounded by a community of love.  As bereaved parents, our love for those living and those passed, never ends. 

I thank Gage’s mom, who wants to do as many “somethings” in honor of her son as she can, for sharing her and Gage's story with me.  As I step forward today, I hold her and baby Gage tightly in my heart, inspired by their gift of love.

Trisomy 18 run dedication

About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Gratitude Run - Nora

This run dedication is part of a gratitude run series to thank other bereaved parents for the help 
and community they have provided me in the days and months after Quinn’s stillbirth.  
I owe the goodness, kindness, and hope that currently exists in my heart to them.

Stillbirth run dedication

I was broken.  Shattered, actually.  Unable to get out of bed.  Most of my days were spent heaving – the deep, debilitating cry that floods you after the death of a baby.  When the heaving subsided for only a few moments each day, I would stare lifelessly into space.  Sometimes, on a really good day, I managed to pick up my phone and surf the internet.  Little did I know that the site I came across would change the trajectory of my life as a bereaved parent. 

Lindsey Henke’s website, Stillborn and Still Breathing, validated my grief and showed me that hope was possible after the stillbirth of a child.  Unsure of how to get on the path toward hope, I started reading her blog from the very beginning.  Every. Single. Word.  I shared it with my sister and we would often talk about the posts. 

It was easy to feel connected to Lindsey because she was so open and honest about her grieving.  I was also inspired by the relationship she fostered with her daughter Nora and her awareness of love and connection that Nora’s life and death brought to her life. 

It was my honor to dedicate my run to sweet baby Nora, who is now a big sister times two!  Lindsey shares that Nora was stillborn at 40 weeks and 4 days from a normal bacterial infection in her body.  Lindsey beautifully and eloquently writes about Nora’s story - from a piece called "Nora's Day" - on her blog:

And then it happened.  She was delivered.  There was no sound.  No crying, screaming, or movement.  But she was here, all 8lbs and 5oz of her.  They laid her on my chest.  Again, another moment when time stood still.  She was beautiful.  She had dark brown hair, long lush eye lashes, soft chubby checks, a small button nose, and big luscious lips.  Oh, how I loved her lips.  She was perfect.  She felt perfect as I held her on my chest and in my arms, and in that moment, I was proud.  I had that indescribable feeling every mother talks about when their baby is born.  It was the worst and best moment of my life.  I had gotten to meet my child.  The child that I had so lovingly cared for and we had prepared for these last 9 months. She was breathtaking. That moment was breathtaking, not just for my joy and unconditional love I felt for her, but also for knowing that this moment was all I would have with her.  For that tiny millisecond I had forgotten the horrifying truth and lived in that moment of happiness of seeing my daughter for the first, and what would be my last, time.  It was unbelievably breathtaking.     

She was born dead.  Stillborn.  But I was still proud. 

While holding Nora in my heart, it came as no surprise that I encountered so much light and beauty on my run.  On one of my favorite legs of the trail, beautiful and plentiful wildflowers started to bloom.  Upon seeing the white, purple and yellow colors enriching the landscape, I knew this would be the spot to take Nora’s picture.  Before I knew it, a lady bug was crawling up her leaf, like a little hello from sweet Nora herself.  So much life and activity buzzed from the community of bees, dragonflies, and butterflies that surrounded me, curious about their visitor and anxious to say hello to Nora. 


Upon leaving the meadow and entering the park that leads me home, I looked up at the sky and saw a cloud that resembled a heart.  Another reminder from Nora and her mom that love always surrounds us.  To experience this enchantment with Nora, or perhaps more accurately, because of Nora, was a true gift. 

Heart cloud

I’m lucky and grateful to have come across Lindsey’s blog during a time I wasn’t sure the sun would ever rise again.  With her help, however, I found the strength to face the days ahead and not only look for the light, but appreciate it.  She doesn’t know it, but I cried and wailed with her and when I was ready, cheered with her too.  She is a beautiful soul who showed me life is not over in the shadow of stillbirth.  There is a road ahead and she helped me find it. 

Lindsey now runs a very successful Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) website and is a featured contributor in many other publications.  I wish her love and strength as she continues to mother Nora and her two rainbow babies. 

Stillbirth run dedication



About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ryan

Miscarriage ectopic pregnancy run dedication

I knew this day would come and I am delighted I could hold Ryan closely in my heart to experience it.  During my morning run dedicated to Ryan, nature’s landscape was painted full of birds.  The most birds I have seen this season, of every color.  Birds that were bright yellow.  Vibrant red.  Glowing blue.  Shiny black.  Woodpeckers whose drumming echoed overhead.  The birds’ welcoming songs were so compelling that I took off my headphones and relished in their beautiful symphony.  In fact, while I was taking Ryan’s below dedication picture, a bird gently joined us on the neighboring branch.  I was delighted and practically moved to tears. 

Miscarriage ectopic pregnancy run dedication

As if the assembly of birds wasn’t magical enough, I was struck by the sight of a mama deer with three baby fawns in the field upon exiting the trail.  They were sitting there, totally undisturbed and peacefully symbolizing Sarah’s three babies that she holds in her heart.  

Why experience such enchantment on Ryan’s run in particular?  The only answer: Ryan’s magic. 

To endure a loss and relinquish the hope of trying for another child takes incredible strength.  In Sarah’s case, however, it doesn’t end here.  With a heart that is full of undeniable love, she shares her story: 

Our decision to try for a third child was not taken lightly. We have two beautiful daughters and wondered if another child was the right or responsible thing to do....and yet, we both felt pulled to have another baby. My first pregnancy in this attempt looked like a miscarriage. But something wasn't right. It turned out that it was an ectopic. I had to take methotrexate and monitor my hormone levels. A week later, it ruptured and I went into emergency surgery. This experience was not only heart-breaking but also very traumatic. I am still dealing with the anxiety and trauma it caused.

About 6 months later, we tried again. When we found out we were pregnant, we went for an ultrasound as soon as possible. We saw a heartbeat and were relieved the baby was in the right spot. Two weeks later, we were crushed to learn there was no heartbeat at a follow up ultrasound. I waited two weeks and had a miscarriage at my home at 10 weeks. It was a three day birth event. I was consumed by grief.

Two months later, I was pregnant again and had a very early miscarriage. The fall out to my body, my mental health, and my family, of the roller coaster of losses has been huge. And after a while, I knew I needed to grieve not just an embryo but the baby I had been dreaming of for two years. I feel very connected to a boy. An energetic, impulsive, curious and playful boy. We decided to name him Ryan. I feel very connected to him. He plays me our song, sends me rainbows and is as much a part of our family as my two living daughters. Whenever something curious happens around our house, my youngest often says "I bet that's Ryan's magic."

I think the courage and strength that it takes to try to conceive after loss is all too often overlooked.  Sarah in particular has endured far too many losses for one lifetime yet inspires women who know this journey by getting back up and putting one foot in front of the other and being an incredible mother.  My heart deeply goes out to Sarah, her family, and to the babies they hold tightly in their hearts.  

Miscarriage ectopic pregnancy run dedication

About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first 
Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Olive

Child loss run dedication

After what felt like weeks of clouds and rain on the East Coast, my run was met with much needed sunshine and it made my heart sing that I could dedicate this delightfully bright and vibrant run to Olive.  Aside from the glorious and healing sunshine, what struck me most about Olive’s run were the new scents that filled the air.  I smelled several flowers before I even saw them, which is one of the many gifts of spring.  One scent in particular stopped me in my tracks.  I ran through the sweet, captivating fragrance, turned around, and located the flower.  These little trumpet-flowers were producing the most wonderfully intoxicating and concentrated smell on the trail.  I was in awe that such a small thing could produce such a wondrous effect.  I was so honored to be holding Olive in my heart when experiencing this collision of the senses. 
Trumpet flower - run dedication

Olive’s mother Lindsey lovingly writes about her daughter and their tragic experience with velamentous cord insertion:

Olive was born full-term on September 16th, 2015.  After a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy I went into labor naturally but the trauma of labor and delivery was too much for my sweet girl.  What we didn't know was I had an undetected velamentous cord insertion which isn't normally an issue but the intensity of labor can cut off oxygen to the placenta which is what happened to Olive and she had too much brain damage.  She lived for a week in the NICU as we tried interventions and we were able to bring her home for 24 hours on hospice where she passed away peacefully in our arms.  Losing our perfect, 8 lb. 12 oz baby girl rocked our world.  Olive has an older sister, Lucy (3.5 years) and we have since had a baby boy, Peter (6 months).  Olive is in our lives every day and we love and miss her dearly.  Lucy and Peter will never forget their special sister.

My heart is broken by Olive’s story…yet another baby who should have lived.  I am touched by the fierce love that Lindsey has for all her children: the ones she can hold in her arms, and for Olive, who is dearly held in her heart.

I thought of not only Olive when I took the below dedication picture, but also of her beautiful mother, Lindsey, who is a fellow runner.  As a runner, seeing the beauty and challenge of the path that lies ahead is powerful, at least for me.  Especially after experiencing a devastating loss, the trail symbolizes the journey ahead.  Sometimes the trail has light, or shadows, or rain, or hills, or mountains.  But as runners, no matter what lies ahead, we tackle the journey by taking one step at a time.  Sometimes there is no end in sight, but we dedicate ourselves to the trail and persevere forward, much like we do in our journey after loss. 

Child loss run dedication

About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day Run Dedication

Stillborn run dedication

Mother’s Day marks the one-year anniversary of my Run to Heal project.  I have been so honored to accompany many loving parents on their journey toward healing after child loss by dedicating a run to their baby who is gone too soon.  It was this day one year ago when I called out for help as I approached my first Mother’s Day as a bereaved parent.  I asked people to dedicate a workout to Quinn and I received an overwhelming response that truly lifted my spirit.  I decided to carry forward this spirit of love and remembrance, and dedicate runs to other babies who have died.

As I wearily approached my second Mother’s Day as a bereaved parent, I was worried and stressed.  How could I face everyone’s happy families who got to see, touch, and hold all their children?  How would I manage my feelings of jealously for their wholeness that I face nearly every day? 

On this Mother’s Day, I dug deep to make it meaningful for me.  Instead of projecting my hurt on other people, I focused on being present with my family – which exists in life and death.  There was nothing more I wanted than to have a low key day with my living daughter and hang out by my deceased daughter’s memorial tree.  So that’s what we did.  It really warmed my heart to see Riley playing on the playground next to Quinn’s tree.  It is the one place I can go where both my daughters can (almost) be together.  Next, Josh installed the memorial plaque to Quinn’s tree, which made my heart sing.  There is something very healing about having public recognition of her name and life. 

In the afternoon I circled back to the milestone of this Mother’s Day and dedicated a run to not only my stillborn daughter Quinn, but to my living daughter Riley.  It was a day to remember and honor the fact that I am a mother to Quinn in death as much as I’m a mother to Riley in life.  

In the glorious sunshine, I took my full heart of love for Quinn and Riley onto the trail.  I made an early stop to take their picture together on Quinn’s tree in the park then continued on the trail that led me to the dense forest then open fields.  I delighted in the new blooms, which brought new scents on the trail.  To be able to revel in the wonder of nature while holding my daughters tightly in my heart is a true gift.

Although Mother’s Day will always be different than I had once dreamed, this year marked a little healing and a reminder to let love and light into my life.   

Stillborn memorial tree

About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first 
Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ellie

Stillbirth run dedication

What a difference a couple weeks makes.  I feel like it was just yesterday I was running through fields that were gray and lifeless.  And now…the color!  The beauty!  I was honored to dedicate yesterday’s run to baby Ellie.  The scent of flowers – which has been missing during so many dreary months of winter – danced through the air and the color of blooms popped from the landscape.  It was a treasure to hold Ellie tightly in my heart to experience the bold evidence of spring that has finally emerged. 

Sweet baby Ellie was stillborn in July of 2014 and her mom, Melanie, lovingly writes about their story:

My daughter, Eleanor (Ellie), was stillborn on July 25th, 2014, two days after my due date. We arrived at the hospital the day after our due date, only to find out that there was no heartbeat. After 14 hours of labor, our sweet, beautiful, perfect, 8-lb daughter Ellie was born silently into this world. They say it was due to a cord accident. There's not a minute that goes by that we don't miss her and long for her presence, and I know you feel the same way about your sweet Quinn. Thank you for this beautiful gift, in honoring Ellie with us.

I am so inspired by Melanie’s compassion and her desire to help and comfort others.  She writes that she is part of a community of loss sisters that works with nurses, doctors, therapists, and other loss moms, to connect with and mentor newly bereaved parents.  She writes, “In all of our grief, the emotion that hits me the strongest when I meet another loss mom is the overwhelming amount of love - for our babies, and for each other.”

This intense love that connects bereaved parents is eloquently depicted in a quote Melanie shares from the book, Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation by Mirabai Starr:

"Even as I rocked on my knees, howling, I detected soft breathing behind the roaring. I leaned in, listened. It was the murmuring of ten million mothers, backward and forward in time and right now, who had lost children. They were lifting me, holding me. They had woven a net of their broken hearts, and they were keeping me safe there. I realized one day I would take my rightful place as a link in this web, and I would hold my sister-mothers when their children died. For now, my only task was to grieve and be cradled in their love."

The child-loss community is a community that none of us ever wanted or asked to be a part of.  We would certainly trade absolutely anything to disassociate from it.  However, when a bereaved mother falls into the darkness of child-loss, there is a community of passionate, loving, loss-sisters waiting.  They engulf her in their care, thoughts, and help her stand up again and take her first step.  Even in the deep, dark moments of loneliness, let’s remember the loss sisters that have walked this road before us, and now, with us. 

Stillbirth run dedication


About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first 
Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Monday, April 25, 2016

Nicholas

My heart breaks when I hear of another mother who has joined the baby loss community.  It is not a community any of us wanted or asked to be a part of.

My neighbor informed me of the stillbirth of her colleague's baby, Nicholas.  I wish I knew her story to tell, but I do not.  In honor of baby Nicholas, I dedicated a run yesterday to him:

Stillbirth run dedication - Nicholas

Dear bereaved mom,

As one bereaved mother to another, let me say, my heart is holding you tight.  I’m sorry you know loss in this way and I am sending love and healing your way.  I have so many wishes for you – the biggest one being I wish more than anything you could have brought Nicholas home in your arms instead of in your heart.  I wish you strength and courage as you face the journey ahead.

I dedicated a run to Nicholas this past weekend on Sunday April 24, 2016.  I ran through the beautiful trails in Mercer Meadows, carrying Nicholas’ memory tightly in my heart.  It was the most beautiful, crisp spring day, and it was truly my honor to run for Nicholas.  I was so struck by these bright yellow flowers and loved how they were adding so much color and light to the field.

I wish there was more I could do or say.

If you ever want to talk or cry, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Holding you in my heart,
Jessica 


~~~
About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first 
Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Deafening Silence

I was incredibly moved by a short film titled, “The Deafening Silence,” produced by the wonderful charity Abigail’s Footsteps.  The film is powerful, heart-wrenching, and an incredibly honest and accurate insight and voice to stillbirth.  Please view it here: 



There was so much that I identified with.  In particular, these jumped out:

Sean’s words, “It’s going to be OK,” echo the words my husband said, and was he ever wrong.  These words still rattle me and make me shutter.

Just as Louise experienced, hearing the other women in the hospital labor and their living babies’ cries through the walls was excruciating and haunting. 

Louise’s plea for a C-section: I made this same plea and desperation.  However, the doctors made me deliver vaginally, as did Louise.  Still to this day, delivering Quinn was the hardest thing I have ever done. 

Louise’s initial urge to not see her baby: I had this same feeling initially but she, as I did, came around and was delighted to see and care for her baby.  I had actually refused everything at first – to see her, hold her, pictures, footprints, etc.  My nurse arranged for the footprints and pictures anyway, telling me I could never get these back.  I didn’t have to look at them, but at least I would have them if I ever wanted them.  I thought it all would be too painful.  In reality, I would be living the biggest regret if I didn’t come around.  It was incredible to see and hold Quinn and these pictures and memories are the only thing I really have left of her. 

It feels comforting to have a resource that so accurately gives insight to stillbirth. 

I beg you to watch this film and share it with others to give a voice to stillbirth. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Courage of joy after loss

joy after loss

Before my stillborn and miscarriage, I was a genuinely happy and spirited person.  Smiles easily came to my face and laughter rolled off my tongue.  In fact, I have a hard time even looking at pictures of myself before loss because, well…I look so happy.  After loss, that spark to my spirit dimmed and being happy wasn’t natural.  Now that I know death and loss, my once joyous spirit has been replaced with fear and anxiety of more loss.

Since the death of my stillborn daughter Quinn, I have been on a journey to heal.  Part of this journey has been to reintroduce the emotions of joy and happiness back into my life.  Why can’t I be that happy and spirited person that I once was?  I’ve welcomed gratitude and kindness (and how grateful I am for what I do have!), but why not happiness?  Joy seems even further out of reach. 

I had an epiphany when I read the words of one of my favorite people, Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly.  She explains that joy is our most vulnerable emotion.  People are scared to feel joy because they are scared it will be taken away from them – yanked from under them like a rug.  It is common for people to rehearse grief and tragedy in their minds instead of letting themselves experience joy.  She gives the example that things may be going well in someone’s life but instead of enjoying that feeling, he or she often thinks: Oh no, I bet something terrible is about to happen. 

I think bereaved parents can especially understand how joy is vulnerable.  In fact, I think this perfectly captures my struggle to let these emotions back into my life.   The vulnerability of joy is exactly what happened to us as bereaved parents.  We made, grew, nurtured, and did everything we could to protect our child.  However, miscarriage – stillbirth – SIDS – whatever the case may be, shredded our hopes and dreams for the future. 

How are we to experience happiness and joy again?  How can we not be scared that any future happiness and joy will be ripped away from us?  It already happened once.  Or twice.  Or more. 

Brené Brown hits the nail on the head when she connects joy to vulnerability.  As a bereaved parent, letting myself experience joy is one of the most courageous things I’ve done in my healing.  Since I feel so vulnerable when experiencing joy, I don’t think I’ll ever be that spirited person that I once was, but I think there is progress to be made. 

However, as bereaved parents we can take little moments to be brave and courageous, to try to experience joy.  It is scary.  It even feels unnatural.  But, what if we were to lose all joy from our lives forever?  As bereaved parents, we know that nothing can prepare ourselves for grief and tragedy.  Nothing.  So instead of always preparing for the worst, can we honor the lives of the ones we love and lost by being courageous and experiencing joy?  Not all at once of course.  But when you find the moment, let yourself smile, and reintroduce yourself to a moment of joy.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

Evangeline

Run dedication Evangeline
After an unusually cold spring, I was pleasantly relieved when I opened the door, holding Evangeline tightly in my heart, and warm air brushed over my face.  I left the quiet, sleeping world behind me and was met with excitedly chattering birds that welcomed me into the enchanting forest.  I ran through Mother Nature’s playground of newly budded trees and the colors of early spring.  My feet met the damp path, fresh with morning dew and my heart sang in this warmer, light air. 

This morning’s run was dedicated to sweet baby Evangeline who arrived stillborn on January 11, 2016.  Evangeline’s mother, Caitlin, writes:

“I was startled how similar your story was to mine. I arrived at the hospital 10cm on January 11th, 2016 and felt that same chaos. Evangeline was born 8 lb 9 oz and the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. No reason found. I miss her desperately. She would be two months old today and I would love for you to think of her occasionally, as I will think of Quinn, and especially on February 16th, my wedding anniversary. Big hugs.”

Caitlin reminds us how interconnected we are.  Not that it lessens the pain any, but at least for me, it is a huge comfort to connect with someone who shares a similar story.  We also share dates on the calendar - one person’s anniversary of joy may be another’s anniversary of grief.  May this be a reminder to us all of the power of sharing our story and extending our hand.  In the words of Helen Keller:

When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne, let us think of the great family of the heavy-hearted into which our grief has given us entrance, and inevitably, we will feel about us their arms, their sympathy, their understanding.
-Helen Keller

This quote says it all.  Our healing is deeply personal but we simply can’t do it alone.  We shouldn’t have to do it alone.  By reaching out to each other we can create a community of love, sympathy, and understanding, which is a powerful healer.  How my heart is warmed to be connected to Caitlin and with so many others who have unfortunately been given entrance to the heavy-hearted family. 

I will think of baby Evangeline and her loving family often, especially when I pass the tree in her photo, where at the base I have a Quinn rock, a reminder that we are all in this together.     

When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne

About run to heal:
I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first 
Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Monday, March 28, 2016

Natalie

Natalie

"An angel in the Book of Life wrote down my Baby's birth, then whispered as she closed the book, 
'Too beautiful for Earth.'" - author unknown

It was my honor to dedicate Saturday’s run to baby Natalie and her family.  As I exited the protected and shaded trail hugged with trees that showed evidence of budding new growth, I was overcome by the vibrant sun and vast blue sky.  On this crisp, early-spring afternoon, the sun warmed the chill from the air and I slowed down for a moment to feel the sun kiss my skin and revel in this gift.  Inspired by the sky’s fresh brightness, the emergence of buds on trees, and the bountiful rays of sunlight, I then propelled forward, taking Natalie with me every step of the way. 

I am so grateful Natalie brought the gifts of new spring to me – a bright, abundant, full sun dancing overhead and new buds of green enriching the previous winter’s bleak canvas.

No mother should ever have to bury her child, but the day after Leah did this unthinkable act she wrote:

“Natalia Rose was born on 9/11/13 at almost 32 weeks, 3 lbs 10 oz, healthy and breathing on her own, with a head full of dark, wavy hair and long fingers. She was born at 11:28 am via c-section, and I saw her for the first time late that evening. She was doing great and I was so happy. At 3 am I was awoken and taken to the NICU. Natalia's heartrate had suddenly dropped. I watched for 30 minutes as they tried to no avail to save my baby, treating her for shock and infection. I held her briefly and she passed away in my arms.

We found out later that fluid had accumulated around her heart and caused it to stop. It's an unlikely risk of the catheter used to feed preemie babies; such an extremely rare occurrence (one-tenth of 1% risk) that the doctor did not even consider it or treat her for it.

Yesterday we buried her in the Little Angels section of the cemetery. Please remember our sweet baby girl, who we love dearly and wanted so badly, and all babies who are gone too soon.”

Sweet Natalie lived outside the womb for just one day, from 9/11/13 to 9/12/13.  Leah adds, “Her given name is Natalia, but we call her Natalie. She should have survived. There is one-tenth of one-percent risk of cardiac tamponade (fluid buildup around the heart) anytime a preemie is given a feeding catheter. It is treatable, but the doctors were unable to detect the problem in time.”

For beautiful baby Natalie who is gone from this world far too soon, my run full of light, love, and natural beauty is dedicated to her and her beloved family.

Natalie

About run to heal:

I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first 
Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

Friday, March 25, 2016

Resilience.

Stillbirth resilience

Maybe you know it.  Hitting rock bottom.  Having your life crumble and slip away between your fingers.  Losing a piece of your future.  Having a part of you die inside.  For me, it was the stillbirth of my daughter.  I was thrown off a cliff, my fingers slipping down and further down as they tried to hold on.  I could have let go.  It would have been so easy to just let go and plummet into a dark crater where I could feed and fuel my depression and hurt.  But, for some reason my fingers held on and eventually began to lift me up a little higher and higher until I finally reached lightness. 

This is resilience.  A word that too many people intimately know – cancer patients, abuse victims, people who have experienced tragedy or near death experiences.  To be given life’s biggest blow and to be smashed, stomped on and run over again and again, and then to pick your broken self up and by some miracle of strength, GO ON.  To put one foot in front of the other.  To run.  To challenge yourself physically and fight for life when it would be so easy not to. 

I am honored to be included in Lexi Behrndt’s project called On Coming Alive and to have my story alongside so many people that I received so much courage, strength, and hope from. 

These are the faces of resiliency. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Breaking the Silence: My Miscarriage Story

Break the silence on miscarriage

Miscarriage is a lonely journey, but it doesn't have to be.  The best thing we can do to support each other is to break the silence about miscarriage and share stories.  Inspired by the Real Woman article about breaking the silence, I want to share my miscarriage story.  I would be honored to hear your miscarriage story and in turn, we can help break the silence. 
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Following the stillbirth of my daughter Quinn, the doctor recommended waiting 16 months between deliveries.  My husband and I had the month marked in our calendar…October.  This would be when hope was restored, when we could give our dreams another shot, so we thought.  We got pregnant right away and we thought “this was it.”  “This HAS to happen.”  I had eight months to think about how I would treat a new pregnancy and from the moment I saw the two pink lines on my pregnancy test in November, I began living my post-stillbirth pregnancy mantra: live this moment. 

I was proud of myself for “living the moment” and had moments where I let myself be happy and hopeful.  I daydreamed of a new summer birthday (how novel in our family!) and reveled in the idea that Riley was finally going to be a big sister to a living child!  My OB confirmed the pregnancy and even let me see the heartbeat at such an early stage. 

However, a couple weeks later during my dating scan, the ultrasound tech told me there was a problem and the doctor confirmed - I would miscarry.  I was 9 weeks pregnant.  My world crumbled and crashed all over again.  The darkness that I worked so hard to escape after my stillbirth rushed over my body and mind, leaving me in a lifeless slump.  Again. 

I asked the doctor if we could wait a week and re-scan to be sure.  During that excruciating week I clung on to the hope that a mistake was made.  After all we’ve been through, this pregnancy had to succeed.  It was not possible for a family like us who wants another baby so much to endure another loss…was it?  However, I started to miscarry the eve before my confirmation scan and as the blood began to escape my body, so did my hopes and dreams.

I was worried I would start gushing blood with little time to take action.  However, this was hardly the case.  I had warning when it was coming and the bleeding was very slow at first.  Over a couple days it got heavier – similar to a period – then heavier still.  At this point, I was a bit taken aback by how much blood there was and it was emotionally pretty tough to deal with.  During the progression, I was still at work and it was almost impossible to survive the day.

I am grateful I was off on holiday break for the second half of the miscarriage.  The bleeding was quite heavy, including passing blood clots.  Through it all I was vigorously running and exercising as I was really worried about the miscarriage not completing fully on its own.  I have a long history with running and I thought exercise would help the progression.  Not only did it help physically but it was an emotional comfort that my dear friend running was there to see me through this dark journey. 

On the morning the embryo passed, I went on a hard, hard run.  For the rest of the day I didn’t have any contractions and the embryo passed that evening (without warning).  I am grateful I was in the loving care of my husband and in the comfort of my home when it occurred.  The OB advised I go to the hospital the next day, since it was a Saturday, and the ultrasound confirmed the miscarriage was complete.  I continued to bleed a week more, the whole process lasting about 3 weeks.  Through it all I was very nauseous. 

As my miscarriage happened days before Christmas, I had a particularly tough holiday.  Not only was it our first Christmas without Quinn, but I was fresh with grief. 

The miscarriage really broke me.  After my stillbirth and much healing, I got to a place where I thought it would be possible to have another living baby.  After my miscarriage, however, my hopes and dreams were again shattered and I dived back into despair.  Suddenly my world of “when’s” turned into a world of “if’s,” and this little word change makes all the difference.  My hope morphed from: “when I have another baby” to “if I ever have another baby,” and the accompanying sinking feeling.

I am not triumphed, however, and I can once again see the light and goodness in the world, and I appreciate this with full gratitude.  As such, I am dedicating my year to practicing gratitude, remembering that people are gifts, building my bond with my living child, and focusing on my family’s health and fitness.  However, the question still lingers…what is next for our family?  I have learned that true love exists as much in death as it does in life, but when is it time to embrace the completeness of my family even though it is forever incomplete? 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Quinn's Day

Although the world continues to buzz around us, today Josh and I light a candle and pause for Quinn’s day. We feel the love and listen to the silence that is our missing daughter. 

Since her death our family has been on the impossible journey of embracing incompleteness. However, seeing the sun shine a little longer each day and hearing Riley laugh a little louder reminds us there is still joy to be had. 

To my daughter who arrived and left ever so quietly, sleep peacefully. 

Our love is never ending.


Quinn stillbirth

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bereaved reflections on a new year

For some, the new year may be an exciting time, fresh with hope and possibility.  For me, and other grieving moms, it is overwhelming and quite frankly, depressing.  2015 brought me a lot of darkness and grief, which began with the stillbirth of my daughter Quinn in February and ended with a miscarriage at 9 weeks in December.  Knowing that 2016 will be another year living without Quinn and will not bring the birth of a living child has made me reflect deeply on what the new year means to me.   

Above all, I decided that this year will be a year dedicated to living in the present.  In addition to a new layer of grief, my miscarriage reignited a lot of the fears and anxieties that I was beginning to manage after the stillbirth of my daughter.  For me, living in the present is a survival skill and the only option.  My mantra to survive the day – and the new year - is: “Live the moment.”

Live the moment

My other outlooks for the year include:

Living a year of gratitude.  Despite the darkness and grief, I have so many things and people to be grateful for.  I want this to be a year of focusing on what I’m grateful and thankful for instead of focusing on what I don’t have, all while grieving in a healthy way.  Brené Brown gives me much inspiration in this department. 

Remembering that people are gifts.  We are not eternal and the people in our lives are gifts that we get to keep for a while.  It's time to cherish them.  After my losses in 2015, I have a new perspective on this too.  I am truly grateful for the wonderful people in my life and I want to live with a greater sense of this appreciation.  

Building my bond with my living child.  I am more aware now than ever that my living child is a true miracle in my life.  I want to spend the year nurturing this, building our relationship, and creating memories.  She is the light that brightens my heart and soul. 

Focusing on my health and fitness (and my family’s).  Getting strong inside and out: getting fresh air, making exercise fun for the family, and eating more whole foods and less meat. 

I am positive 2016 can be a meaningful and fulfilling year, even if it won’t include expanding my family.  It will be time to cherish this moment, be grateful for what I have, strengthen my body inside and out, and build the relationships that are meaningful to me.
2016 bereaved