Ikea, revisited

Remember that time I was in line at Ikea? I saw someone I knew with her two young kids and I couldn’t bring myself to say hello- her with her two living, breathing children; me with only the memory of my dead one.

I saw her again.  At our local walk to remember.  I was there to remember my Mabel.  She was there to remember her first child, born still.

Oh, the stories untold.


Parenting a dead child

On Wednesday I went to see Mabel. It was July 15, exactly seventeen months after she died. In the first year after her death I would visit her grave every week- almost always on the weekend, bearing flowers as a gift. Some days, especially early on I would spend a fair amount of time there. I started reading her a book. I’d sit and journal when the weather was nice. I’d always say the same things “I love you, I miss you, I wish you were here” and sing the lines of the wook well known in our community “I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

Going once a week was both a comfort and a stress. I had to see my baby-gave me a sense of purpose especially on those long empty weekends, let me feel like I was mothering her in a way. Though I’d sometimes feel stress if I had a full weekend and had to figure out time to visit and time to pick up flowers. Mostly though, it was a comforting routine.

I told myself that once her first birthday came around, I’d give myself a break- go when felt like it. I’m a creature of habit, though, with high expectations of myself so I also silently promised I’d go at least once a month. I’d go on the 15th bearing my usual flowers. And I do. The script is still same. The same emotions bubble up, a bit fuzzier around the edges, but still there.

I have mixed feelings on my routine. I love going and if it’s been a while I start to feel a gnawing- some anxiety even- an emptiness I have to fill with a visit. I seem overall satisfied with the once a month schedule. But at the same time I feel guilty. I should want to go more. I shouldn’t have to have a schedule, a day to remind me to visit. Honestly, I think about visiting a lot. The cemetery is five minutes from my house- a quick detour on the way home from work or errands. Yet, I don’t visit as often as I think of visiting. In the past few months my life got very busy and full- at times very stressful. An extra visit to the cemetery felt like one more thing to add on to a packed schedule. And I didn’t want to rush the visits- I wanted to give her time, be genuine with her.

At times I feel like a bad mom. I mentally gave myself permission to not visit weekly to help me with stress, but in some ways it also gave me stress. I know that the number of visits doesn’t not validate my mom status or quantify my love and grief for her- but its complicated. It’s hard parenting a dead child and still remain in the world of the living.

How often do you “visit” your child? Has that changed over time?

Mother’s Day, take two

A long overdue post, but one still on my mind.

This Mother’s Day was different- gentler perhaps. I won’t deny that the growing life inside me has helped ease it, but truthfully, this Mother’s Day was still all about Mabel in my mind. She is the only child I have born, the one that has concretely, if not silently, made me a mother. Time too has eased the pain. Last year, Mother’s Day was still so fresh, less than three months after Mabel’s death, I wanted the freedom to sit and sulk all day. I was so afraid it would hurt. And last year it did hurt, but there was also a lot of beauty in it. I received a lot of love from so many people that the build up to the day was worse than the actual day itself.

This year, perhaps because of such a surprisingly good day last year, there was less build up. I panicked a bit thinking that no one would quite remember, but also knew it wouldn’t be as bad as if they hadn’t remembered the first year. My standing as a mother was no longer debatable in my mind. I think I was worried that Chris would forget.

Hah! I woke to him calling my name. At first I was a little annoyed- why was he waking me up on a day to sleep in? “What?” I croaked groggily, not hiding my grumpiness. I rolled over to see that he placed a tray next to me- breakfast in bed!



And later he surprised me with an even better gift- he hired our wedding photographer to come take photos during our shower the next week, with a quick sneak away maternity photo shoot.

The gift might seem all about the baby I’m currently carrying, but it was all about Mabel, really. When we learned she had Down Syndrome, I was stricken by the fear that I would lose her through miscarriage or stillbirth, a 12-20% chance. I was terrified that photos of me pregnant would cause me pain later on. The fear deepened when we learned of her likely life limiting birth defects. I rarely let myself in front of a camera. It wasn’t until I had her and then lost her, that I realized how much I valued the few photos that showed my belly pregnant with Mabel. Those photos were part of the proof that she existed. That she was here. So a maternity photo shoot- something I might have thought was too cheesy for my liking otherwise- was actually the most thoughtful gift and tribute to Mabel. That man, my husband. ❤

I spent the day a bit like any other- happy to have a free day to clean, run errands and get my life together. An important part of the day was visiting Mabel- that little sweet thing that gave the day meaning. When we arrived at her tombstone, I was surprised to see that someone had planted some flowers for her.

Mabel's flowers

Mabel’s flowers

Oddly, I think it was a random act of kindness. There were some freshly planted flowers of the same variety and color along a grave one row up.

The grave with the same flowers

The grave with the same flowers

Unless someone I know takes claim for such a lovely deed, I envision the caregiver of that other adorned grave, looking over at Mabel’s stone, reading her name, her solitary date and seeing the engraving of her tiny footprints and deciding that she too needed a little special gift on that day. Maybe they even thought of the mother of that baby and how hard Mother’s Day must be for any woman who has had to bury her child.

How was this Mother’s Day for you?


Sunday Synopsis

Listening to the screams of a bereaved mother–  We are not always easy to be with in our grief.  Our sorrow is uncomfortable.  Our moans of sadness are hard to hear.  But it is our right.

My right to be a mother- an honest mom speaks out.   Postpartum depression after miscarriage is real.

Annie Lennox: Son’s death Changed my Life.  We don’t often hear of celebrities who have experienced babyloss, so I am struck when I hear of one.  As sad as I am to hear there are more of us in the club, I am thankful that those with star power can speak out and bring more of a face, more attention to babyloss.

TTC After Loss: The Negatives: Whew! this one is right on if you’ve ever tried to conceive after loss.  The hope that comes with the idea of another baby (not a replacement one, as we all know) can seem so uplifting.  But we have to remember that with trying to conceive comes disappointment for some or many.  Trying to conceive after babyloss can be miserable.  miserable.

The unique grief of mothers without living children.  I found this article so accurate.  I especially appreciate the part about a rainbow not making it better- that not everyone gets a rainbow.  We need more help and support learning how to cope without or despite a rainbow.

What it means to hold space-Who holds space for you?

A grieving mom’s request A Short, concise, well written article, which sums up some of my requests.  How about you? (thanks to LosingBennyBear for sharing!)


Gracious in Grief

I am not gracious.

There is an ideal bereaved mother image I have in my mind- she is gracious through her grief. Yes, she is sad and angry, but her feelings are directed in productive ways. Her anger is anger at the world in general, that circumstance would let her baby die. She is not angry at other people for having babies after her, for getting pregnant easily, for being joyful instead of scared in their own pregnancies. She is sad, but her sadness is pretty- the kind that makes people want to wrap their arms around her for comfort, not avoid because they don’t know what to do with such ugly sorrow. She understands how hard it is for others to understand babyloss and so gives them leeway when they do avoid. She is easy to forgive, understanding in others reactions and expressive of her grief in socially acceptable ways. She holds other babies easily, not thinking of how they remind her of her dead daughter. She can be genuinely happy for others in their family announcements, rather than cringing, cursing the world and letting her deep jealousy show. She is able to separate her loss from others gains- she does not see the face of her dead baby in those born around the same time as hers, she is able to return to work, full fledged caring for other women in their joys, while she suffers her sadness at home. She is like that bible verse, recited at weddings “She is patient, she is kind. She does not envy…” She is gracious in her grief.

I am not gracious.

Do you ever wish you could grieve differently?


Do you have kids

“Do you have kids?”

I’ve been ready for this question. As a midwife, who chitchats a lot during exams, I’ve been on the receiving end of the questions many times. I remembered being pregnant and thinking how excited I was to finally be able to say yes! Obviously there were many things I was excited about, but having the experience of pregnancy, of birth and of raising kids gave me yet another thing I could relate to my patients about.

When we learned Mabel’s kidneys weren’t working, making her fluid low and affecting her lung development, we were told she might die. I remember asking my midwife, “What do I say if she dies and someone asks me if I have kids???” I couldn’t imagine a more distressing question, but here I am living it. I had one hairdresser and one patient ask me so far. I’ve actually been surprised I don’t get asked more, but I attribute that to the sign I put up about Mabel for patients to read. My responses so far have been “None living,”  which didn’t feel good, nor did it get a good response and “I had a daughter,” which felt okay and got a much better response.

So when I was asked this hallmark question again, I was ready to try a different answer, one inspired by what another bereaved mom uses in these kind of situations.

“I had a daughter but she died shortly after birth.”


The tone in the room changed. The patient was pregnant and not dealing well with the physical discomforts of the third trimester. When I met her the last visit, I suggested she reframe her thoughts on pregnancy because she had three more months to go and, no, I would not induce her 27 weeks because she was tired. I also had to let her know that by not doing her diabetes screening, she was risking the life of her child. “If you have gestational diabetes and we don’t know it and your sugars are uncontrolled, you could have a stillbirth.” I was exasperated already with what I perceived as her lack of gratitude.

And when we broached the topic of the diabetes test again, which she still hadn’t done, she changed the subject and asked me about kids.

In my head when talking about the diabetes test, I wanted to scream “you don’t know how lucky you are! You don’t understand how precious that life inside of you is! Why would you risk it just because you heard the glucola tastes gross??” But I didn’t. I calmly explained to her the repercussions of refusing the test. And when she asked about my kids, she got more than she was intending. It took all my effort to not say “Listen, my baby died and I would have done anything to keep her safe. Can’t you please just do the test so I can just know that your baby won’t die because you had undiagnosed gestational diabetes?” But I didn’t

I simply said, “I did my diabetes test.” I looked at her with raised eyebrows, my facing telling her that I would only ask her to do what I have done myself.

I’m hoping she does her glucose test. If Mabel can help her see the light, then I’m glad she was brought into conversation. I know this woman has her own struggles, I just wish the glucose test wasn’t one of them.

What’s your response to this question?  What kind of reactions have you gotten?


Another baby’s funeral

When I entered the church I was hit with the scent of my childhood Sunday mornings. The familiar incense, only found in catholic churches, surrounded me. It was a small building, about twelve rows of wooden benches lined each side of a center aisle leading to a marble altar placed centrally on the pulpit. I slipped into a pew a few rows from the back, nearest the exit so that I could escape easily if I needed to. The last time I had been in a church was for a friend’s wedding; this time I was surrounded by strangers, dressed in dark and demure clothing, appropriate for a memorial mass for a baby.

photo 1 (18)

I was worried about how I would feel going to the service. Would I cry? I thought as I drove to the church. Would I seem emotionless and heartless? I found those original thoughts laughable as tears stung my eyes, the moment the first note of the organ music began. Now I worried I would seem overly dramatic as the tears continued to flow, before any words were even said. I’m not a quiet crier, with a snotty nose that needs constant blowing. I paced my breathing trying to keep my emotion discreet, telling myself I could always step out to the foyer if I needed to.

I pictured myself grabbing my purse and finding refuge in the entryway. The woman who had greeted me on the way in would look up and ask what was wrong. I would apologize for my theatrics, saying how I too had lost a baby and this was simply bringing up too much emotion.

I did not escape to the foyer. Instead I looked up and saw a few rows ahead of me a woman, about fifteen years my senior, holding a tissue to her face. She was crying almost as hard as I was. Seeing this woman unabashedly letting her tears flow reminded me that I was at a funeral! It’s okay to be sad! A baby died! Having a partner in overt sadness gave me the strength I needed to be present through the rest of the mass. I’m unsure who this woman was- I imagined her as an aunt, maybe one without kids of her own, who treated the bereaved mom like she was her own child. Or perhaps she was simply someone who felt deeply, had a particularly strong sense of empathy. She did me a favor that day: her tears gave me permission to shed my own openly.

I listened to the familiar chants and prayers of a Catholic mass, cautiously looking around, eying those surrounding me. Up ahead was a set of three young women- college friends of the mom, I imagined. They were dressed nicely in black dresses with colorful sweaters, a combination that seemed appropriate for a dark service on a bright sunny day. Their hair was carefully arranged and makeup done nicely- their attention to their appearance made me think how much they respected and cared for the parents. The woman in the pew ahead of me had placed her purse next to her on the bench. It sat with the top open, exposing its contents. My eyes were drawn to the keys, which had a small key chain with the faded school photo of a nine year-old girl. I became fixated on that key chain photo, thinking how the bereaved mom would not have one of those for her baby, how I would not have one of those for Mabel.

I was at that service to remember the little girl who entered this world silently a few days before, but I couldn’t be there without thinking of Mabel too. Had I remained loyal to the Catholic faith, this is the kind of service we would have had for my baby. I could see the mom in the front pew and watched her emotions through the mass. I was transported back to the first days after Mabel died- the anticipation of her wake and burial, the family surrounding me at all hours, the engorged breasts announcing to the world that there had been a baby. It was hard.

The priest gave a nice sermon about death and mercy- explaining that we were not asking for mercy in the forgiveness of sins sense for the deceased, but instead we were asking for mercy for ourselves, asking for compassion as we mourned what we lost.

After the mass was over the crowd, which was sizeable for a weekday morning, slowly filed out behind the grieving family, ending in a receiving line. As I waited my turn, I watched a few women who were dressed in scrubs. The bereaved mom was a clinician in a local medical clinic and I could tell these were women who worked with her. It warmed my heart to see them present and wiping away tears. I wanted to approach them and tell them a tiny bit of my story- that I’m a provider who lost a baby too and that returning to work was hard. I wanted to tell them that I thought it was so wonderful they were here and to please, please continue to watch out for the mom. Don’t let her return to work to soon. And when she’s ready, protect her. She’ll look better than she feels. Even months out, her baby will be on her mind and she’ll face constant reminders with her patients. Don’t forget. I played these words in my mind, but never got the nerve to say something. I didn’t want to bring my story into her day. But I know that her coworkers were there for her that day and by that alone, I know they’ll be there for her later on too.

While waiting in line, a woman asked if I were a friend of the mom’s or the dad’s. I said I knew the mom. She introduced herself as the mom’s aunt and asked how I knew the mom. This was a bit awkward for me as I met the mom through this blog and to explain it felt a little clumsy.

“We’re sort of internet friends,” I said inelegantly. “I lost a baby too and I write a blog about it. We found each other that way. I’m a nurse midwife, so we’re both in the field.” My voice was shaky, betraying the nervousness I felt bringing my baby’s story into another baby’s special day.

“I’m a nurse too,” she said and noted how she knew the baby’s whole story from the beginning.   We nodded at each other, sharing the understanding that fellow nurses have.

When I finally made it to the receiving line, I met the dad, who had his daughter’s little hat tucked into his pocket, creating a very special striped accent to his dark suit. The mom and I exchanged hugs and all I could think about was her poor chest- all that hugging when milk is trying to come in. At the end of the line I spoke with her mom. My standard introduction was “Hi, I’m Meghan. I’m a new friend of the mom’s. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Her mom grabbed me by the arms and said, “Meghan? The blog Meghan?”

I smiled and nodded.

“Oh I am so glad to meet you. And I’m so sorry about your loss too. I saw the page you wrote about Clara, it was lovely.” I suggested she look at the comments because there was a whole lot of love coming to her family from all over. “I am just so happy you guys have found each other- wait, no. I mean, I’m so sorry you both lost your babies, but…”

And I interrupted her, reassuring “Yes, me too.” There should be a word for the weird sense of camaraderie the babylost have- we are so happy to have each other, but wish we never knew one another, that none of us ever gained membership to this awful and special club, that our babies had lived.

I left the church feeling strangely good. It was a weird day- it seemed too sunny and warm for a funeral mass. Perhaps I was colored by my own story, having buried Mabel in the cold snow, but it just seemed so surreal that I spent the past hour sobbing in the dim church only to leave with the bright sun warming my bare arms through the bright green leaves on the trees.

Have you been to a funeral since your lost? What was it like for you?