How to show support to a child loss survivor

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I’d like to preface this post by touching on 2 separate but very important points.

First, I was somewhat reluctant to broach this topic. Although I’m a repeat loss mom and I’ve lived through child loss a number of times my opinions on the topic are my own and they are very much shaped by my political, religious and spiritual beliefs. As a result, what I perceive as supportive may not be comforting to everyone and vice versa. So, please, when reading this keep in mind that there is not a one size fits all approach to supporting families facing loss – it really really really depends on the person and their unique belief system.

Second, within this post you’ll find examples of things that were said to me over the years. I do not believe for one second that any of these statements were said with any malicious intent yet they were painful and hurtful to me while I grieved and so I will explain how they were perceived by me. I doubt (I’d like to believe anyway) that hurtful, malicious and ill meaning things would ever be said intentionally to a grieving family and as a result please do not be offended if you’ve ever uttered these words yourself. I do not for one minute believe that anyone means to be anything but supportive in these situations – sometimes though,  words can be perceived far differently than they were intended.

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Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: I’m sorry for your loss. At least, you know you can get pregnant.

This statement was repeated to me more times than I can count and every time I heard it my heart would break open again. The thing is, getting pregnant doesn’t guarantee a baby. In my case getting pregnant wasn’t the hard part (until that became a problem too) – staying pregnant was. The odds were not in my favor and I was very open about my issues so attempting to comfort me by reminding me that I was fertile served only to remind me that my body was very efficient at ending pregnancies.

The at least part is also important to mention. There really isn’t any “at least” when talking about loss. “At least you lost this pregnancy early”, “at least you weren’t full term”, “at least you’re still young”. All these statements are loaded and quite hurtful – there is never an at least.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: Take comfort in knowing it was God’s plan.

This is a very controversial one. I was raised between the worlds of orthodoxy and Catholicism. Having one parent from each faith meant that although they held very different beliefs they each believed that God was our creator. I was never (still am not) very religious but I do believe in God and as a consequence I struggled with my own belief system a lot over the last few years. I was angry and questioned why God would punish me in such a horrible way? Why would He bless me through conception only to take my precious babies away? As a result, when family and friends tried to comfort me with statements about it being God’s plan I was often quite angry because it was hard to understand why I was chosen to suffer this way while others were not.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: It’s for the best! Clearly there must have been something terribly wrong with the baby.

Often times pregnancies end for no known reason. In my case my losses were caused by structural issue within my uterus. My condition is actually considered a müllerian defect which I was born with so my 3 losses had everything to do with me and not the babies. Having said that, a child lost to issues like mine or to chromosomal anomalies is still a a lost child.  I cannot speak for those parents who’ve lost children to genetic issues but this statement is so incredibly difficult to digest. Even IF there would have been something terribly wrong with any of my babies, losing them would still never be okay.

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Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: I know how you feel. I lost my dog who was like a child to me.

Pets are members of the family aren’t they? We’ve got a total of 3 cats and a dog co-habitating with us here at TTBH and although I love my furbabies dearly losing a child is simply not the same thing. I don’t for a second believe that a statement like this is made with the intention of comparing the losses. Instead, I feel like it’s an attempt to find a common ground by sharing grief. Yet, every time this was said to me (and yes it was said more than once) I couldn’t help but wince – losing a child is just not the same as losing a pet. Period.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: You’ll have another baby and it’ll make the pain go away.

At some points on my journey when I was deep in depression facing more bad news than good I naively thought there might be a little truth to this statement. Sadly, having Margs has actually amplified my grief for my lost babies. As I watch her grow I catch myself questioning what the other babies would have been like. Would they have similar personalities? Enjoy the same things? Look similar? Each baby is unique, loved and special and as a result having another child does not fill the void left by a lost baby.

Do Say: I’m sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: Everything happens for a reason.

What possible reason could justify so much heartache? Why are some families blessed with children while others are fighting to bring one into the world? I never quite understood the meaning behind this statement and unfortunately it’s probably the most common one I’ve heard over the last 5 or so years. There is no justifiable reason to make loss okay. Losing a baby is never okay. Never.

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A few tips for showing support to grieving parents:

  • Just say “I’m sorry”. That’s truly the only thing you can say.
  • Don’t burden yourself with trying to make the parents feel better. You simply can’t. Acknowledging the loss and the grief is enough. You can’t fix this – only time can heal.
  • Grieve with mom and dad. Fathers are often forgotten when it comes to pregnancy loss. They grieve too.
  • Offer to help if you can. Cook a meal, drop off groceries offer to babysit older children. Every lit bit helps and is so so appreciated.
  • Give the family time. Child loss is incredibly difficult and it takes time to find a new normal. Your friend or family member will likely never be the same but will eventually find a new sense of normal. Be patient – they are battling and living one of the most traumatic experiences life can offer.

 

 

 

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What surprised me most about being a stay at home mom

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When Margs was born I felt like it was the first time I could really breathe in a long long time. I spent my whole pregnancy holding my breath and crossing my fingers for just one more day, one more week and one more month. By some miracle my cerclage kept me pregnant and we welcomed a 40 week (!!!!!!!) miracle into the world on her due date.

I spent so much time focused on getting her here that I never considered what being a stay at home parent would be like- I didn’t care really, my only focus was getting that precious baby here alive.

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15 months later I’m reflecting on being a stay at home mom and I’m realizing that I don’t necessarily love it all of the time. I wish I did, but, I just don’t. Actually, there are days that I’m angry and resentful and frustrated and tired of it.

I feel horrible even writing these things because I’m a rainbow mom. A rainbow mom shouldn’t ever complain about anything parenting related because well, she’s a rainbow mom. I’ve struggled, I’ve faced repeat loss, I’ve had my heart broken in ways that only other loss mums understand and yet there are days that I struggle with being at home with this little girl I prayed and pleaded with the universe to have.

Some days I resent that my husband can head out into the “real” world and socialize with people and have adult conversation. Some days I resent that he gets a mental break from the constant attention, stimulation and energy Margs demands. Then, I snap myself back to reality and realize that he likely resents me for being home with her and getting the privilege to experience all those moments that he misses while he’s away.

Being home with a young child is difficult. Meeting her needs, caring for her, playing with her and watching over her are not the hard parts. The hard parts include the feelings of isolation, the loss of my identity outside of being “mom” and giving up my career (albeit temporarily).

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Some days I feel like I’m not “Jenny” anymore. I’ve become this version of myself that doesn’t know what do outside of caring for a baby. I’ve lost drive, passion and desire – things that fueled my life in very powerful ways before. Sadly, I’ve given up nearly all my favorite pastimes because quite honestly I’m just so tired that I don’t have the mental energy to devote myself to doing anything consistently. I used to love to read, exercise, knit and take photos – all things I’ve basically abandoned because the passion just isn’t there anymore.

In someways, I’ve lost myself to motherhood.

Life has become routinely robotic – Margs wakes – she gets fed, entertained and put down for a nap. Afternoon are the same. Evenings are the same. My days essentially look like carbon copies of each other.

I sometimes deal with an intense desire to go back to work. I was happy in my classroom. I loved what I did. I loved watching young minds analyze, interpret and question and sometimes I’m frustrated by the fact that I’ve given up so much. That sounds so incredibly selfish doesn’t it?

Having Margs was such a blessing. A blessing that I felt required me to give up my identity, lifestyle and career to cherish. We agreed early on that I’d stay home with her. Partly for financial reasons (childcare is expensive) and partly because we’re loss parents who maybe on some level feel like we have to do this to thank the universe for blessing us with such a precious gift.

On days where I’m feeling especially weighed down by it all I feel guilty. So so guilty. I should love this. I should love being home with her and love the opportunity to watch her grow. I should love these things because getting her here meant losing 5 other babies.

I hate that my perceptions of motherhood are tainted by so much grief and loss. I hate that I often second guess my own needs because somehow I’ve convinced myself that it’s not okay to be not okay and that to truly appreciate my gift I must love every inch of motherhood.

Motherhood is just hard. Staying home makes it even harder.

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I’m slowly working on being gentle with myself and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel this way sometimes.  I’m working on somehow finding an intersection between the analytic, spontaneous Jenny who I used to be and the run of the mill mom I often feel I’ve become.

Does parenting somehow alter who we are? Does it change us in ways that can sometimes make us feel unfulfilled?


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My tiny piece of internet real estate

Aaaand another week starts. Happy Monday folks! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

When I started this blog just over 2 months ago I wasn’t really sure if it would be something I’d stick to long-term. I know that I felt like I needed a place to write and that I wanted to connect with other like-minded individuals but above and beyond that I had no idea where my blogging journey would take me and whether it would even be something I’d enjoy doing.

There was fear because I’m really an open book (too much so sometimes) and I worried about oversharing. There was apprehension because I’m really just a run of the mill stay at home mom with nothing extraordinary or exciting to share since most days are fairly predictable and mundane. Yet, every time I open my dashboard to write a new post I feel myself drawn to writing about our debt-repayment journey, our struggles to bring Margs into the world, saving money and how living a simple and minimalist life continues to bring me happiness and reduce my anxiety.

If you’re subscribed to my blog – thank you. If you take the time to comment, like and email me – thank you. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough but please know that I read every email, every comment and am beyond grateful for every like and subscription here on This Tiny Blue House.

I reached 1000 followers on Friday and I’m still in disbelief because I never imagined anyone would really want to read what this stay at home mum had to say. I’m beyond grateful that each and every one of you has given me prime real estate in your reader and take the time to read my posts! Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

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My 2 month blog anniversary is literally a nano-second in the great big world of blogging. Some bloggers have years, even decades under their belt and my tiny little piece of blogging real estate is still very much in its pre-infancy.

As my blog grows a little and starts to take shape, I’m beginning to realize that I really enjoy sharing my ideas with you fine folks. I enjoy reading other blogs, commenting and building a sense of community in this vast space we call the internets.

But what I couldn’t figure out these last couple of months was what compelled me to blog in the first place; what pushed me to register This Tiny Blue House on that fateful day in November? So, today I want to share the 5 reasons I’ve discovered fuel my desire to share my life with you lovely people.

1. I want to give my loss history a voice. I hope to share the message that although devastating a happy life after child loss is possible. I’ve grown a ton emotionally since we first lost our twins and I know that I want to spread awareness about baby loss. Lost pregnancies happen more often than we’d like to acknowledge and I’m hoping that other loss moms who find their way here will see that after the raw devastation subsides a little – putting the pieces back together is possible. It just takes time to adopt a “new normal”.

2. I want to share my imperfect experiences with motherhood. I’m still figuring out this parenting thing. Raising Margs is proving to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I’d like to continue blogging transparently about how difficult it is to parent a child when you suffer from anxiety. I’d like to continue sharing my struggles with my parenting decisions and choices. I’ll never claim to have all the parenting answers because I just don’t. I’m figuring out this motherhood thing as I go and trying to be the best version of myself I can throughout the process.

3. I want to talk about how we live a frugal lifestyle and how we manage our day to day life on less than 1000$ per month. I’ve already discussed how we’ve gotten ourselves out of  hefty credit card debt but haven’t really touched on how we spend our money on a monthly basis. I’d love to show you fine folks that it is possible to live well, eat well and enjoy life on a 1000$ a month budget. We’re by no means experts but we’ve found a way to save money and live what we consider a relatively comfortable lifestyle for about 1000$ per month. I look forward to sharing more about that part of our lives with you.

4. I want to discuss how simplicity has changed our lives. We were once the “worst” type of consumers, living a life of gross gross excess. Scaling back our spending to pay off our debt taught us so many valuable lessons about what truly makes us happy. I’d love to share how we overcame the need to “keep up with the Joneses” and accept that we’re the happiest versions of ourselves when we have less stuff.

5. I want to give you a peak into the life of our run of the mill imperfect family, living on a lower-middle class income. I’d love to share my experiences with marriage (Mer and I argue), finances (we still worry about money), parenting (I’m just terrible at it some days) and cooking (I make a few good go-to meals on a budget). In a nutshell, I’d like to share our very ordinary life with you without creating the illusion that we’ve got it all together which we just don’t – probably never will.

So thank you thank you thank you for reading, communicating and exchanging ideas with me. I look forward to continuing on this journey and I hope that you decide to come along!

If you’d like to keep in touch outside the blog feel free to follow me on twitter, instagram & pinterest.

Why do you blog? I’d love to hear what pushed you to create your blog and why you keep at it!

Double rainbow

It’s been a long and anxious week.

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I’ve really been struggling and it’s apparent in basically everything I do. I have far less energy and so everything around me suffers: the house isn’t tidy, Margs watched more t.v than usual because my thoughts have been elsewhere and I’ve been struggling to really live in the moment.

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Can we get personal for a minute?

I’m anxious and completely overwhelmed because despite my history, I think I might want to try and have another baby.

Until very recently, I was adamant that Margs would be an only child because of the hardships we’ve faced, the complexity of my pregnancy and the consuming fear that comes from being pregnant with an incompetent cervix.

Then, suddenly, I got this intense urge to have another baby and experience pregnancy again despite how unconventional and restrictive it was. I started to think that maybe facing all the frustration that comes from trying again, dealing with the hospitalization, the stitch placement, the bed rest and the paralyzing fear of losing another child would be worth it if there was even a tiny chance that we could be blessed with a second living child.

But how?

How would I manage? Who would help me? How would I continue to raise Margs if I couldn’t lift her or walk? Would my mother in law and mother be willing to step in and mind precious Margs while I gestate her sibling? Will we end up facing more losses? Can we handle that? Can our marriage? On and on and on.

We’re in a good place right now. We’re beyond grateful that Margs is here with us and at certain points when I remind myself of that, I decide that I do not under any circumstances want to tempt fate. Then, some maternal desire to have more children overpowers and I start thinking that maybe we should try – we’ve been through so much already, we could handle the worst case scenario even though heartbreaking.

I’m 35, Mer is 40. We’re not exactly in a situation where we can spend the next 5 years sorting this out and make a decision. Mer is on board with having more children but rightly worries about how the next pregnancy would unfold given the circumstances.

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At this point, we’ve discussed it and ultimately he’s leaving the ball in my court – talk about pressure. For the moment, I’m handling this by reminding myself of some very wise advice I was once given by another loss mom with regards to knowing when it would be the right time to try again after miscarriage

“the time is right when your fear of losing another child is outweighed by the desire to bring home a baby”.

I’m not quite there yet – fear, enormous amounts of fear and worse case scenarios continue to unfold in my head.

Mums, when did you know you were ready to try for a second child?

Rainbow mums, how did you know you were ready to face the roller coaster again?

 

 

10 things I’m grateful for on my 35th birthday

I turned 35 yesterday.

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It was a day just like any other spent loving on Margs and enjoying time with my husband. We had a few friends and their children over for dinner and ate good food and shared many laughs – what better way to spend the day.

When I was in therapy after losing  the girls my therapist helped me work through my constant need to go over the should haves and could haves. It was a process and although I’m much better about it, it does creep up on me. Especially on birthdays where my mind wanders to where I am and where I could have been instead.

She’d ask me to live in the moment – she’d ask me to make lists – she’d ask me to jot down reasons I was grateful to help me remember or acknowledge how great the present really is.

So, I figured what better way to celebrate my 35th birthday.

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10 things I’m grateful for on my 35th birthday

1. My precious baby girl. Margs has changed my life in ways I can hardly describe. She’s taught me to love in ways I never thought possible. I would love to elaborate but I can’t possibly do it justice. Words just don’t suffice.

    2. My husband Mer. Our relationship is far from perfect but it works. He’s the most patient, loyal and considerate person I’ve ever met. Above all he’s my absolute best friend. I love him to the moon and back and I am so grateful to have him in my life.

    3. My mum. She’s been my rock through the most difficult and the best of times. We’re super close and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    4. My physical health. I was warned that after prolonged bed rest I’d likely be facing physiotherapy and painful muscles and joints related to muscle wasting. I’m so grateful that although not completely back to my pre-pregnancy self I’ve avoided therapy and can function almost entirely pain free.

    5. My home. It’s small, it’s drafty and it’s far from fancy but I love it. I love that our small family has a place we love to build our memories.

    6. Good friends. We’ve made a handful of new friends since we’ve moved and we’re so grateful to have these wonderful people and their families in our lives.

    7. Living debt free. Mer and I are finally debt free (except for our mortgage and car payment). We’ve managed to pay back over 20 thousand in credit card debt and save a down payment equal to 55% of the purchase of our home in just over 7 years by living frugally and watching our money very closely.

    8. Having an amazing extended family who are as excited about watching Margs grow as we are. It’s really quite amazing to see how invested some of our aunts, uncles and cousins are in her life. I’m so grateful for the daily phone calls, emails and Facebook messages. Margs is so so loved and I am so grateful.

    9. Having access to good food. We grow a ton of our own produce in the summer and freeze it to sustain us through the winter. Eating well is so important and I’m so grateful to have access to good food all winter long.

    10. The now. I’m so grateful that the now is what it is. I love my daughter, my husband and my home. I don’t love some parts of our journey for obvious reasons but am so grateful that after all of that we’ve finally found some peace and given the opportunity to love life again.

    Now tell me, what are you grateful for today?