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Our Story.

The Year Following Losing Leaf, Putting One Foot in Front of Another...

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

The first year was TOUGH. It was not a pretty sight. So. Much. Crying. So much arguing. Such a concerned little 2-year-old. I feel shame creep in as I think about Cord seeing me cry all the time that first few months. We sat in the yuck... It was so darn hard. I jokingly wished I had a way to zone out or escape the situation, but I had this little family and a 2-year-old to be present for. I think others had a hard time with us being IN the really hard part too. It's

uncomfortable, right? We want to fix people or rush them to look at the bright side. But THIS is where the healing happens. So, the next time you're tempted to point out the rainbow on

the horizon to someone grieving, PAUSE and take a peak inward and ask yourself why their pain makes you so uncomfortable.

Those souls are being brave by sitting in the mud puddle in the middle of the storm. You could go sit with them, bring an umbrella if you'd like, but just to sit with them. Or splash water around. Or cry with them. Or just lay a hand on their shoulder. Or just let them be...

They might talk to you about their pain or how they feel, which might help, but it's also not going to fix them. Nothing you do is REALLY going to fix them. They have to find their way through the maze by themselves. We can help hold them together while they're falling apart by praying for them, being present, checking in, bringing food, watching their kiddos, cleaning their house, etc. If you feel comfortable, commend them for and encourage them to grieve. Tell them it's ok to grieve, you don't mind, and you're ok being a witness to their grief and story. It WILL get easier. And if they come to a place where they can lift their head to face the rainbow, take the opportunity and be with them there too. Maybe offer to do something to get the minds off their reality. That might be a quick little fun thing to do, whatever they have the capacity for: shopping, a walk, a movie, golf, etc. It might be a lovely reprieve from being surrounded by their grief all day. They might appreciate not talking about the situation, just pretending for a moment that their life if normal. And don't be surprised if they step back into their grief afterwards. They will be able to tolerate more and more of those moments as time passes.

1 month later

The first month was a lot of staying home. I was happy to have meals delivered, be able to be a recluse, nap, and cry in the privacy of my own home. The one-month anniversary, December 12, was tough. Still so raw, it felt like so much time had passed, and I was helpless in preventing the days from ticking by. Was Leaf becoming a memory? My heart ached, physically. I was uplifted by Cord and his sweet antics. It helped balance the incredible grief we felt. Tears constantly lived under my eyes, streaming down at a moment's notice. My postpartum body annoyed me, and part of me hated that I had to "lose all the baby weight". My body reminded me that I DID have a baby, and that I do not anymore. I didn't even have a baby to hold as an "excuse" for my postpartum body. It all felt so wrong and awkward at the same time.

*Side note

An older woman from the church asked to come visit me. I knew many people at the church, but I didn't have a relationship with this woman. In retrospect, I wish I'd gracefully declined. Having someone over that I didn't know intimately, when I was in such a delicate state, didn't feel very good. I cried a lot and because we didn't know each other, it was just awkward. I saw the good intention, but the reality was that it made my private, introvert self

very uncomfortable afterwards. If you're a momma, maybe consider the ways you allow certain people to support you. For some mommas, this may not have bothered them. If you're a church or caring person desiring to help, maybe consider how your presence will make the grieving person feel. If you're not very close, maybe consider "helping" by bringing some food or something else a little less intimate.

I thought it might be a good idea to go stay with a relative, just for a week. I felt I needed to be "taken care of". I met with a dear friend from childhood that had just had her baby. She had been so incredibly supportive during our recent journey. She involved our hometown church we'd gone to. Her support was so touching. And that day, both of us postpartum, her

with her baby, me without mine, sat together. I shared, she listened, we cried, and it was such a sweet time. The relative I was there staying with, was NOT nurturing or what I needed. In retrospect, I shouldn't have gone to stay with her. She's doesn't usually think about my needs I'm not sure why I sought refuge in her. If I were to do that again, I'd think through that decision a little more thoroughly. Maybe I was just trying to escape grieving, or avoid people in town, or my own thoughts when I was home crying... Or maybe I was wishing for a close nurturing figure to take care of me during such a vulnerable and desperate time.

*I might recommend being cautious with whom you seek out intimate time with in the early days. I was probably not being honest with myself, and in the end, it did not serve me well. Aside from the lovely time with my very dear friend, I wish I'd stayed home and rested.

A letter I imagine Leaf would write to us.

"Mommy & Daddy, I LOVE heaven! I love all the nice people, and I LOVE Jesus. I’m sad that you are sad right now. It makes me want to hug you. Time will pass quickly, and we will all get to hang out and play together soon. I can’t wait to play with Cord! Mom, I had a great time in your belly, listening to you talk all the time. I miss hearing your voice and being inside your warm belly. I loved seeing you guys after I was born. I think I would’ve liked staying with you guys longer, but it’s really not a long time till we see each other all the time, every day, all day, with lots of hugging and lots of kissing and lots of tickling! Mommy, please don’t be sad. I love you and am right here with you any time you need to think about me. Daddy, I love you so much. I loved listening to your voice all the time. You’ll always be my daddy, and I can’t wait for you to tickle me like I hear you tickle Cord all the time. Cord, I’m so glad you came to see me before I had to go live with Jesus. Thanks for being so sweet with me & holding my hands. You are such a great big brother. Sorry I had to leave before we really got to play much, but I’ll always be your little sister! When you get to Heaven, we can play ALL the time."

2 month later...

As I re-entered socializing, or being in town, the grocery store, the post office, etc., I started realizing that everyone was acutely aware of our situation and that felt very vulnerable to me. Everywhere we went we were consoled, hugged, and patted on the back. Smiles of empathy... everywhere. I know everyone had the best of intentions, but also being a fairly private family, this felt very uncomfortable. Their hearts were wanting to help, full of love and concern, but it felt a little bit like vulnerability hangover for me. Had we shared too much? The reality is that everyone was reading our GoFundMe blog. Several different people that we didn't even know were telling us how everyone in the office would read the blog and cry together, with each update, and how they'd check daily to see if there was a new post. It felt like our story had impacted many more than we'd even realized. Our small town was amazing at loving on us and holding us together, but now they all knew our most intimate tender spots.

Journal entry Just before Christmas

"I was at a Christmas party the other day, and there were 5 of us moms sitting around, and everyone was discussing their little ones, birth stories, etc. I was participating without regard, and it felt good to be “normal” about our birth. It was a GREAT birth, and moms love to tell their birth stories. I chimed in and related with another woman about how Leaf came really fast there at the end. The woman said she thought the same thing when she read my “updates”. I felt cut-off. Because I wrote those blog “updates”, everyone already knew my story… On a few occasions I’ve felt robbed of being able to share something about our experience. Why does this bother me? "

We started to feel this tug to "be getting better" or something, partially from ourselves, but also for others. Like an impatience for the grief process. Maybe others were curious how long this recovery period would take, or maybe we made them uncomfortable. So, we went skiing that winter... a lot. We taught Cord how to ski, and we made this a "fun thing" we could post on social media as a bit of a shield, to show all that we were in fact OK. It seemed to make others more comfortable and made us appear to be doing better. Yes, it probably had some health benefits, being out in the sun and exercising. And then we were able to go home and grieve in privacy. It was an interesting time. These activities also gave us something else to talk about, other than losing Leaf.

* Side note

I share my pitfalls and imperfections because I'd love to help encourage other mommas. I do wish we'd been more comfortable in the grief process, more graceful in the process. What we did wasn't wrong, and we navigated as well as we thought we could, however, if I were to do it again, I'd get off social media and not answer calls/texts if it didn't serve me and the family well. I'd try to not care as much what I thought other people needed our journey to look like.

3 months later

For some reason three months felt like a deeper grief. Brian kept himself busy with house projects. We also adored our time with Cord. He really was one of our bright and shining stars in the middle of this storm. I'm so grateful God gave him to us first, so we had him to cling to and also to brighten our day. That seems weird that a toddler was the one helping us, but he totally did. We kept chasing the grief and putting ourselves out there to heal. We'd come up or air when we needed, but journaling helped, and just facing the pain when the waves came.

4 months later

As the spring started to peak out of the winter, we got outside a bit more, Brian the most eager to get some fishing in. Our little family started to perk up a little, contemplating the idea of wanting another kiddo, feeling the fear/anxiety of losing another, contending with the broken belief that "every pregnancy equals a child that enters your family". I remember also, needing to control something, and decided to control my weight. It made me very uncomfortable to be in my postpartum body without a baby. I felt like I had zero excuse to be postpartum, so I lost a lot of weight very quickly, in my opinion, and I would not recommend that.

*Side not ladies

If I were to sit next to my early postpartum self, I'd hug her and nurture her heart. I understand where she was at, and also, losing weight early postpartum probably just caused more stress. I wish I'd been more graceful with myself and loved my body for the beautiful job it had just done. Maybe I was frustrated with my body... At moments, I was so eager to "move past" all this, I believed that if I didn't look postpartum anymore, then I just wouldn't be. And I believed everyone would stop feeling sorry for me. Maybe that sounds sad. It probably was sad. The things we do in the midst of grieving and uncertainty. Silver lining? Now I know a few more questions to ask or things to talk about with a mom that's just lost her baby...

Journal entry

"Will I feel hopeful when/if we get pregnant again? Now that pregnancy doesn’t always equal a precious baby, what DOES pregnancy mean? Will I be able to stand in pregnancy and love being pregnant again? Will I be ambivalent? We may want more children, but do I want to be pregnant again? I absolutely LOVE being pregnant though… and breastfeeding.

I LONG to have a baby to hold. The emptiness I feel in my arms... and my chest burns… It just burns and longs to be filled by the baby we had. It’s the most desperate feeling I’ve ever had. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt."

5 months later

Spring time. We went to the hot springs A LOT, and struggled to find a sense of normalcy and direction. Since I wasn't pregnant, I tried to figure out whether to go back to work. I didn't feel ready to go back into a nursing job but felt ok waiting tables at a restaurant a couple nights a week. It got me out of the house, and was a tolerable time away from Cord without impeding on Brian's work week too much. I remember still very much identifying with the story that we'd just lost a baby though, and those around me, some new faces, didn't know what to say to that, so it did still feel awkward.

9 month later

I noticed a big shift in myself. I want to say the rawness was wearing off. I also want to say there was a new wave coming over me. There were notes of anger and ambivalence. Also, a passion and clarity. I continued to feel close to our baby in heaven. I didn't fear death

because I knew if I died, I'd at least be able to be near her in all her glory. Maybe this sounds depressive. Maybe it partially was. As a mom though, it had a purity to it, a simple desire to be with my baby, a little part me. How could we be on this challenging planet with a part of us in heaven? The string that attaches all mommas to their babies reminded me that there is more beyond our time on this planet. Once we realize that there's so much more past our time here on earth, how does that make us function in everyday life? It shifted my perspective, to live more intentionally. This crazy time on earth is just a vapor, and time with our family whole again in heaven is eternal.

Don’t misunderstand me, what we do here on earth matters. If anything, this is what became more clear. What if our goals in life were constantly compared to God’s goals for us? Time on earth, and especially in the U.S. is easily wasted with busy-ness, silly pursuits and distractions. So many things pulling us in unworthy directions. What's the real reason we're here on earth? What would life look like if we lived our lives solely for God and causes worthy in His eyes? How could I help further His kingdom & His glory moving forward? And what exactly is the big deal with dying? We all will die. And I think what's on the other side is a lot less crazy than where we are. And to be honest, I want what’s on the other side of this time on earth (heaven, God, and my other baby). I found myself thinking more and more about our time in heaven, and it made me not care as much about what other people think. What exactly are we called to do, and what should we put our energy into? Adoption? Housing others? Giving all our money away? Love the unlovable? Relationships? Forgiving? We are NOT called to have a comfortable life. Or an easy one. Or a nice one. We are called to live our life for God, give Him the glory, trust in him always, etc.

Amidst this big shift, and maybe feeling a little stir crazy, we needed to get out of town and not be "the family that lost their baby". Maybe it was a desperate attempt at reprieve from our grief. Either way, we decided a change of scenery was in order. We went to Alaska to visit several friends and family. They all welcomed us with open arms & loved on us in big ways. Reconnections were made that would change our hearts forever. People are amazing... we were so loved on.

Journal entry

"I saw a mom kneeling down to talk to and hug her little girl that was maybe 3 years old. I wanted a baby girl too… I wanted to braid her hair and dress her in cute things. I wanted to be friends when she grew up. I wanted to teach her to love herself just the way she was, and to think outside the box. I wanted her to have a great daddy like every girl need and so few get. I wanted a precious baby girl. My baby girl had brown wavy hair and "

October 2, 2015

5-year wedding anniversary

We spent our anniversary camping outside Creede, just the 3 of us. How I love this little trio. They were so strong. I'm so proud of them. Small pieces of peace were starting to find their way into our hearts and days. Being out in nature always help lift our spirits, so we camped a lot this fall. We hadn't gotten pregnant and felt like we still wanted more kiddos even though it might be hard and painful. Personally, still feeling lost, and without direction. I decided to apply to a Masters program to further my nursing degree and become an advanced practice nurse, specializing in midwifery. That should help, right?

1 year later

All the different feelings, in one huge pot of soup. Much to be thankful and happy for, alongside the grief for a little one we lost. Being past the worst and realizing the marathon of an emotional year we'd walked through.

  • So sad to be so far away, in time, from our baby (thought at the time, different perspective now)

  • Thankful that the pain was not as raw as it once was

  • Proud of ourselves for sitting in the mud puddles all year to get where we were

  • Proud of us for looking some scary monsters in the face. We did that till we couldn't anymore, then we went and did something fun. But we kept going back and facing the hard stuff.

  • Thankful Brain and I were still together. Not always pretty, but we came through it together.

  • A sweet seed of hope grew over the course of the year, that we could get through it; it was extremely hard, but endurable.

  • We discovered we did want another kiddo. We found out around this time that we were pregnant again...

  • I got into the APRN-Midwifery program I'd applied to. I thought school was my answer to moving on and claiming my identity again (more on this in another post).

The actual day of Leaf's 1 year anniversary/birthday was a heartache. It was also beautiful. I was told that it's the big ones, the 1-month, 6-month, 1-year, 5-year, etc, that loom, and are a bit harder to swallow. So just knowing that helped me brace myself and plan accordingly. It did feel like a stomach punch, but we also walked into the day and made an intentional plan. We drove up to Denver the day before and stayed for several days.

*Side note. I have to mention, as a seed of hope for you mommas reading this. 8 years later, this is no longer our experience on Leaf's birthday. There might be some sadness, but it's mostly a beautiful celebration for our family, to celebrate Leaf as an integral part of our life and growth. In my experience, the years do get easier, maybe more-so if you keep doing the big work of grieving (whatever that looks like for you) and leaning into the painful moments when they surface, maybe even embracing them and cancelling plans to sit with them.

We went to my sister's house for Leaf's 1st birthday, the same place we stayed when we were pregnant with Leaf. We did all the things we did the year before, intentionally retracing our steps. We walked the same river we'd walked many times, spent time with family, and reflected on the year we'd come through. It felt like we were eerily looking at an older version of ourselves. The story etched in history, with such clarity we'd never forget. We were a different little family now though, arguably a better one, after having walked through a very challenging year. The day was a little melancholy, but our new selves were not in the same devastated place as we once were. We tried to remember Leaf well. When we felt waves of love and gratitude come over us we felt them fully. When the sadness swallowed us, we sat and cried for that time.

Next up...

The rainbow baby... not sure I love that term, but it represents the idea that there's hope after a loss. In that, I will embrace it! Having another baby might seem like it fixes all the pain of losing one, but it doesn't. I'll elaborate more on this as well address the thoughts and feelings of being pregnant after a loss.

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