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The first time I read “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch to my children I burst into tears. For those of you that don’t know the story, it starts with a new mother who rocks her baby to sleep singing, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” She continues to sneak into her son’s room every night, even after he’s an adult living in his own house. For some it seems a little creepy, but for me it knocked the wind out of me.

The Story Behind The Story

That was even before I heard the sad story behind that famous line which repeats throughout the book. Maybe before I knew, my heart just connected to the profound gratitude and love you feel as a mother. When I found out that the author wrote the line, which started in his head as lyrics to a sad kind of lullaby to his two stillborn children, it hit my heart even harder.

When my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I knew I’d never stumble carefree into Motherhood. I knew it was going to be more like forcing myself to jump a gorge. I wanted desperately to be on the other side, in parenthood, but I knew it was going to require blind faith to overcome my fear.

Forever Babies

I was reminded of the story when I ran into an elderly man at my doctor’s office the other day. He asked me how old my baby was. I answered, “She’s two.” Then he smiled and said, “My babies are grown and retired now.” Then he told me a little about their lives. He was in his 90s and he still referred to his children as his babies. Then I flashed on that famous line and it stirred that familiar pull in my heart.

I was also reminded of my father-in-law who passed away right after my oldest daughter turned one. To his very last day, he carried my husband’s tiny hospital bracelet in his wallet. I also flashed to my grandmother crying at my father’s wake. As much pain as I felt at that moment, I knew her pain was greater. I lost a father, but she lost a son.

It wasn’t till years later, that I would understand that losing a child is probably the worst pain you can go through. “I Love You Forever,” was born from that same pain.

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The Anniversary of 9-11

I’m not sure what stirred all of this in me lately, but all of these feelings came to a head on the fifteenth anniversary of September 11th. Every person lost in the attacks was someone’s baby.

I’ll always remember 9-11 as the day we, as a nation, lost our innocence. We could no longer take our safety and our lives for guaranteed. We all lost a piece of ourselves that day.

I was talking to friends the other day and it’s amazing how we all remember exactly where we were when we heard the terrible news. To all those who lost loved ones on that terrible day we grieve with you. Each and every one of the nearly 3,000 men and women whose lives were cut short were someone’s babies.

For all the moms and dads who lost their children in the attacks on September 11, 2001, we’ll remember them with you and we’ll hold our own children a little bit tighter. As long as we’re living, our babies they’ll be.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

 

 

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Why would I want to talk about something that happened ten years ago? Having a miscarriage haunts you. Out of the blue you sometimes get the urge to cry when you look at your children. Even though I’m in the business of writing about my experiences, I also write about things I know people have a hard time talking about.

Ten years ago, I wish more people had been talking about miscarriage. Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so utterly alone. The subject of miscarriage was one tiny section in the back of my pregnancy books. It seemed like any woman who had experienced a miscarriage, kept her heartbreak to herself. It felt like there was some mysterious superstition like if you talked about it, you might jinx someone else’s pregnancy.

Never having heard anyone talk about miscarriage ten years ago made me think it could never happen to me. And then when it did, it made it nearly impossible to say the words out loud for a very long time. So here’s what I wish someone had told me about miscarriage.

1. It’s NOT Your Fault – I was a newlywed and I stumbled into pregnancy carefree. I was so happy to be pregnant. When I saw those first tiny drops of blood, I thought it was weird, but panic didn’t set in right away.Then I cried my way through an entire night while I begged my body to stop.

By the time my doctor called me with my test results, I already knew what he was going to tell me. The best thing he said was that there was nothing I did to cause it. Sometimes it just happens. It was pretty awful to have no control over my body. If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, know first and foremost – It’s NOT your fault.

2. You Are Still A Mother – The worst part of having an early miscarriage was the minimizing way some people talked about my loss. Some even said I was lucky it happened early on. NEVER ever say this to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage at any stage in her pregnancy. I didn’t feel lucky that I didn’t have more time to bond with my baby. I felt utterly broken by it.

I hadn’t told many people, but the few who knew didn’t have any personal experience and couldn’t help me navigate my feelings. To the world, nothing had changed and I wasn’t a mother because my belly wouldn’t be getting bigger and I’d never hold my child, but from the moment I saw those two lines on the test, I became a mother. Sometimes a child isn’t born into the world, but they are born in our hearts.

3. You Lost A Baby – If it’s just a pregnancy you lost, it sounds like you lost your car keys. No big deal, right? You’ll find them eventually. That’s how some people talk about miscarriage. But when you experience a miscarriage, you know that what you lost was a baby. You lost the possibility, the hope, and the joy of seeing your child.

4. It Can Cast A Shadow On Future Pregnancies – From the moment the doctor gave us the go-ahead to try again I was full steam ahead. But the foreboding never left. The first time I heard my child’s heartbeat during each of my subsequent pregnancies I cried. The ultrasound tech gave me a quizzical look when I teared up, seeing my little peanut on the screen for the first time and said, “This is your third?”

Perhaps by the third child, some women would feel confident, expecting to see this little life in there right where it belongs. But that first miscarriage cast a shadow of doubt over each pregnancy that came after. I took NOTHING for granted. I NEVER forgot that the very first time I went for an ultrasound, the tech wouldn’t even show me the screen.

5. You Realize How Miraculous Life Is – Maybe you had one miscarriage like me, or perhaps you’ve had many, but if you’re lucky enough to get to hold your living child one day, you know what a miracle it is that any of us are even here. We’re trained to expect pregnancy to end in a healthy baby, but that’s just not always the case. While it was heartbreaking at the time, losing my first baby gave me a profound gratitude for the three living children I’ve been blessed with.

6. Grief Isn’t Quantifiable – When I told my aunt about my miscarriage, she told me that at least it wasn’t as bad as my grandmother’s loss who lost two children in infancy. I get it- the need to quantify pain. Maybe it’s meant to help someone by putting it in perspective, but perspective is subjective.

I felt sorrow that I didn’t even know if my child was a boy or girl and never got to hold him/her or see their sweet little face. Let’s not get into loss quantifying conversations with each other. The only thing universal about grief is that we all feel it and nobody knows the depths of pain in our hearts except us.

7. You CAN Say It Out Loud – I avoided calling a good friend because I couldn’t say the words out loud. Just weeks before, I had happy news and the thought of saying, “I lost my baby” was too much to bear. The problem is that when you don’t talk about your loss, you isolate yourself from the people that could help you cope.

I’m not saying you need to announce your loss right away. I’m saying that in time, open yourself up to the idea that you are not alone in this and you can share your story. So many women have come before you. So many women can share their stories with you and provide comfort.

When we tell women not to announce their pregnancy until they are in their second trimester we are denying some women the only chance they will get to share their joy with their close friends and family. It also further isolates them while they are grieving a loss nobody knew about. Sometimes a loss comes in the second or third trimester.

What we need to do instead is shed light on the mysterious shroud of pregnancy. We need to know that sometimes miscarriage happens and we need to be supportive of each other if it does. We need to share our stories because having a baby is never guaranteed. It’s a blessing!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Warning: This Is Not Your Typical Holiday Post

It’s almost Christmas and so the blogosphere is jam packed with posts about presents, trees, charity, the holiday spirit and all that. Since I don’t have the Martha Stewart gene I’m not even going to attempt a post about the perfect Christmas.  Instead I want to talk about something that most people don’t want to talk about because it doesn’t belong on some snowy Christmas card. The holidays can bring profound sorrow out, coaxing it from the corners of our hearts. All the talk about more, leads to feelings of less. All the family gatherings seem to remind us of empty chairs. If you’ve never lost someone, you can probably skip this post. This one is for all my fellow closet Christmas criers.

The Perfect Storm

It should be no big secret that Christmas is an incredibly difficult time for many people and I’m no exception. I always think of grief as a storm in the ocean, the tide may go out, but it always comes back in and Christmas, my friends, is the perfect storm. It’s a time when there is so much focus on family and the loss of each of my loved ones seems to build upon each other to create the most insurmountable of waves.

The Club Nobody Wants To Join

When I first tried to explain it to my husband, I told him losing a parent was like joining a club that none of the members wanted to belong to. I told him he just wouldn’t understand and that was fine because I didn’t want him to. Fast-forward many years and I stood by his side while he lost his mom and then a few years later his dad and two years ago he held my hand when I lost my mom. There has been so much loss for a couple in their 30s including our first child that I never got to meet.  If you’re a member of the club you already get it. You’ve heard that shriek of grief that somehow reaches out from your soul and sounds foreign even though you’re pretty sure you’re the one making it. I just want you to know that while the world parades it’s holiday joy, I’ll be joining you in the solitude to bare my soul and remember each amazing human being that has passed from my life.

Leaning On Family & Faith

I know that despite the sorrow that is bound to overtake me this season, I am profoundly lucky. I have loved and been loved so well. Some people never get that. I don’t have the words to make grief fade because it doesn’t, the space between waves just gets wider. All I know is that I have to fight the urge to isolate from my friends and family. My husband and children give me the strength I need to get through another wave, another storm. I lean on my faith and it helps me see eternity not the punishment I used to think was – the time away from my lost loved ones. It helps me see that good bye is not forever, but just for now.

Keep Treading

I think the thing to remember during the Christmas Cry is that the wave, though big, is temporary so if you feel like you’re drowning in sorrow just keep treading water and reach out for help. Check out Hudson Valley Parent’s article, “Tears and Tinsel” to learn ways to cope with grief while honoring your lost loved one. I’m going to add three of my own tips:

1. Get In The Picture – Yes, you heard right. So I’m as guilty as every other mom who tends to stand behind the camera instead of in front of it. The day of me feeling good enough to get in the spot light is probably never going to dawn, but in the mean time I owe it to my kids to get in all the great holiday shots with them. Why? Because these pictures are how they will remember me when I’m gone. Do you want your kids to remember a trip or a visit to Santa but not that you were there with them? The best way to honor your loved ones is to give your kids more memories of you. I think the thing we’re most afraid of when we lose someone is that we will forget things about them that we loved. Photos help keep memories alive in our minds so while we can’t go back and take more of our loved ones, we can honor them by making more memories for our future generations. We are the living extensions of those who’ve come before us.

2. Explore Your Ancestry – I think it would be cool to learn more about where you came from and I think family trees and histories are a great thing to pass on to your children. I’m so glad I got to interview my grandmother for an article I wrote in college on women and work. I got to hear about her life as a young woman, mother and the amazing superhero I know she was. I’m thankful to know things about her that happened before even my father was born. If you have older generations still living, I highly recommend interviewing them and collecting as much information you can about their history as well as other family members. Ancestry.com is worth a try as well, though I’ll admit I’ve never used it. Feel free to share your experiences with it here.

3. Remember What Irritated You – This one is going to sound crazy, but hear me out. When I was going through my mom’s clothes and jewelry after she passed, my step-sister and I started sharing stories about some of the crazy things my mom has done. Thinking about that time she tried to back off an on-ramp on the highway or how she’d get crazy before company was coming and go on a cleaning spree and start vacuuming at one in the morning, they made me laugh at a time I thought even smiling was impossible. Not only does it remind you that they were human beings with flaws, not icons on a pedestal, but finding the humor and love in all the things that drove you crazy about them reminds you that life is messy and flawed and it’s ok to laugh at your lack of control sometimes. I often come up with musings I call Erinisms and here’s this week’s: Family is not comprised of people who revel in your greatness. It’s comprised of people who celebrate your flaws.

So I hope you find healing this holiday season even amidst your grief. If you find it during a late night secret Christmas Cry, don’t worry you’re in good company.

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