Thursday, March 27, 2014

Four years

It is hard to imagine we have lived without you for four years.  You were here, then you were gone.  You lived, you died, then you were born.  It was too fast.  You touched our lives in such a special way.  We held you and kissed you and we said goodbye to you.

Then we had to keep living.

This was the hard part.

It took a long time to come out of the darkness that appeared the day you were born.  You did not create this darkness.  In fact, you were the glimmer of light that led us through our days.

For so long, we didn't know how to grieve your loss.  We kept you inside our hearts and inside the walls of our house.  We did not share you, or your story.  We didn't have the words.

For so long it felt like others thought you were the bad thing that happened to us in our lives.  Few people would speak your name, or acknowledge you as our child.  Mommy is here to tell you that you were not the bad thing that happened to us.  You are our son, and we are proud of you! 

You were our miracle.  You brought us so much joy and happiness.  You lived a short life, but we know you felt our love.  We know you still do.

I do not get to see you.  But I feel you.
I do not get to hear you.  But I feel you.
I do not get to hold you.  But I feel you.

There are no trucks or superheroes in our house.  There is no little boy running around with a soccer ball or hockey stick.  There are no tiny muddy tracks through the house.  There are no sticky fingers to wipe or scraped knees to fix.  There is no little boy to take to preschool.  I do not get to parent you in the physical world.

But you are here.  You live within us.  You are the butterflies that come to visit.  You are the dragonflies at the cabin.  You are the birds soaring through the air.  You are the waves crashing against the shore and the leaves blowing in the wind.  You are the buds of flowers in the spring.  You are the feeling of warmth hugging me when I need to feel your presence.

365 days in a year times 4 years (plus 1 for leap year) is 1461 sleeps without you.  Each night I talk with you and send you my love.  Each night I long for you to be sleeping cozy in your room.  I know you are not there, and you never will be...yet you are.

You are here, and you always will be.  You are my son, and I am your mom. 

I love you my dear sweet boy, no longer a baby, but a little who should be running and jumping and causing mischief.  Wherever you are, I am holding you tight, and wishing you a happy birthday 4 year old.  We will be singing you happy birthday and eating cake with you today as we celebrate the day you were born.  To the moon and back James, we love you, we love you and we love you more.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Heartfelt Thank You, Two Ways

I am sharing a very intimate experience but one very worthy of sharing.  It is not everyday you would want or have the opportunity to say thank you to the doctor who confirmed your baby is dead. Yesterday I got to do just that and I know it helped us both.

Yesterday I had the honour of being part of a team from Still Life Canada who presented at the Perinatal Services BC Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Conference.  I wrote about it here.

After our presentation, there was time for questions and comments.  One of the first comments was from a doctor who in the work she does, has to deliver the news that babies have died and that they will be stillborn.  She thanked our team for our presentation and related it to the work she does.  She was tearful in her thanks and commented that through her work, she does cry with patients, gives them hugs and is present with them.  She said she often feels that she has failed her patients because she shares her emotions with them.  She thanked us because we had helped her see that she hadn't failed, but in fact was doing the right thing.  She thanked us for helping lift a burden she had felt and carried with her. 

I had realized earlier, prior to our presentation that this doctor was in the room.  I knew her on a very personal and private level and had already decided that I would try and talk with her after our presentation.  Her comments after our presentation gave me that much more strength to go up to her, to thank her.

When we finished, I went straight over to her.   Just as I had recognized her, she said she had recognized me, remembering the brief time we we spent together last year. 

I had driven myself to the hospital from my OB's office where we couldn't see or hear my son Zachary's heartbeat. I was meeting my husband at the hospital.  I got there first.  They knew I was coming.  They sent me over to ultrasound, letting me know that really they were already closed for the day but a doctor had agreed to do the ultrasound as there were no techs left there that afternoon.  Thank you, I said, I think.  I got to the ultrasound area and somebody sat me down at a chair to the side of the desk, told me to wait there.  In those minutes before Chris arrived I heard a few people mumbling about how they were not going to get out of work on time if these doctors kept sending people over.  I must say I felt very unwelcome.  I understand wanting to get out of work on time on a sunny Friday afternoon in June.  But really, patients don't need to hear that frustration.  Especially patients that are being sent there at that time of day for an unscheduled ultrasound.

Finally Chris arrived.  Soon after, the doctor who would be doing our ultrasound came to get us.  She was kind and caring from the moment we met her.  She walked us down the hall.  Of all the ultrasound rooms at that hospital, we were taken to the same room where just weeks before another doctor had done a detailed ultrasound and told us everything with Zachary was perfect.  I looked at Chris, he at me, and we entered the room.  This doctor showed us true compassion.  She told us everything she was doing and said that she would tell us right away what she discovered.  It was clear from the start that Zachary was no longer alive.  She explained that she could stop the ultrasound or could do a few more things on the ultrasound that could possibly help in determining why Zach had died, it was our choice.  She was so respectful and checked with us if we wanted our monitor turned off.  This doctor gave me a long heartfelt hug.  She was there in the room with us, a part of the devastating reality of the end of Zach's life. She cried with us, she told us she was so sorry that our beautiful baby had died and she sat with us.  She stayed with us for the right amount of time, and then left us to ourselves, to take the time we needed at that moment. And when we were "ready" to return to the assessment room, she again hugged us and gave us her condolences. That was our brief moment with this doctor.  Even at one of the worst moments of our lives, we appreciated her so very much. She is one of only a handful of medical providers that we've encountered who truly provided the kind of bereavement care and support we needed.  I did not know if I would ever have the chance to thank her in person.

Yesterday I had the chance.  I went to her, and the first thing we did was hug.  We recalled the time in the ultrasound room.  She thanked me for our presentation and I thanked her for the care she provided when we really needed it.  She thanked me again, and said that because of our presentation, and because of sharing with her what it meant to me for her to have shared our time together so genuinely, she will continue to provide that kind of care to her patients. 

I have lived through the kind of news she has to deliver regularly, twice.  It takes a special kind of person, who has to share these moments regularly, to keep it human, and keep it genuine.  I am so thankful for this doctor, and the work she does.  I'm also thankful that she learned yesterday, that the kind of care she provides is the kind of care every parent deserves from every provider.  She will no longer have to question whether sharing emotion with her patients is something she should do.  I feel good that I was a part of helping relieve some of her burden yesterday. 

I feel so grateful for having had the opportunity to thank this doctor from the bottom of my heart for the care she provided to us in our time of need.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Today last year

And here we go again.  Another year. This particular year starts on January 31st for me.

Today last year was truly an incredible day. Today last year we found out we were expecting.

I didn't quite believe it at first. I was so used to taking pregnancy tests and them being negative that it was just routine for me to take the test and not pay attention to the results because inevitably it would have only one line. That morning I took the test and then jumped in the shower. I went about my morning routine so we could get out of the house on time.  Just before heading downstairs I looked at the test, braving myself for another disappointment. However when I looked there was not only one line, there were two. What?  I actually grabbed the package to read the instructions I had read too many times but I thought maybe two lines meant something other than pregnant.   Nope, that's what it meant.  My husband already had left for work and was going to be occupied all day so he couldn't look at it.  I called a girlfriend and asked if we could meet. I needed her to read it and make sure I wasn't just seeing things.  I also took it with me to an appointment.  Yup I was right.   I was pregnant.

One may think that it was a completely joyous day. It wasn't. It couldn't be.   It will never be for a mom who has already said hello and goodbye to her child in the same day. When you have walked the path of having a stillborn baby, a new pregnancy does not make you simply forget what happened to your much loved and cherished baby that died. Emotions run through you. Fear sets in. Belief that what happened before will happen again.

Today last year I was joyful.  I was hopeful. I was scared. I was shocked.  I was terrified. I was not excited. My husband was and he had to be for both of us. We were pregnant and we were having another baby, our third child, our rainbow.

That same day, I received other news. I had been through a long two month recruitment process for a new job that I had really wanted.  I said to my husband that afternoon, "just watch how this day unfolds, I'm going to get a job offer today."  He laughed, we both laughed.   Twenty minutes later the phone rang and I was indeed offered the position I had hoped for.

So there it was. One day, two huge life changes.

It didn't take me long to know what I had to do about the job offer.  I had been so ready to start a new chapter in my career. But I couldn't say yes.   The job was with a new employer, a full time position and required travel, especially in the first six months of employment. I could not take that on. I needed the stability of my current role which I'd been doing for six years, it was part time and I knew I would have flexibility with all the extra doctor's appointments I would be having with this pregnancy. I had to say no for my baby.  My fears told me that if I took a new job and if it was stressful and something went wrong with my baby that I would never forgive myself for putting my career over my child. My children come first.  So, within the next few days, I declined the job offer.

Today last year.   Here comes another year of reliving last year.  Reliving Zachary's too short life.  I have already done this once before, the today last year after James' stillbirth.   I still have days in my mind from back in 2010, I guess that's today four years ago.

I know some people say not to look backwards, not to go there.   Move forward they say.   I am and I do everyday. I know it is January 31, 2014.  I know I cannot dwell. But here's the thing, I don't believe I am dwelling on anything.

I remember days and events from years past in my living daughter's life. I have eight years of theses memories. It is perfectly acceptable for me to bring up these memories and talk about them and share them. No one ever says I am dwelling in the past when I share her history.

My memories of my sons will not disappear because they are dead. They will not disappear because they died before they were born. I have memories and just as with my daughter, when a certain day or date comes up, my memories appear. I welcome these thoughts.

I will enjoy many "today last year" thoughts of Zachary over the next six months. These are the days he lived. These are the days where I first heard his heartbeat, saw him inside of me, felt him flutter and move, had him wave at me during a ultrasound, had the maternal fetal medicine doctor tell me he was perfect, he was healthy and perfect. I will also have the unthinkable today last year memories.   The ones where he wasn't moving where we found out he died, our afternoon of June 14 and the labour and birth of my perfect little boy on June 15. I will remember holding him in my arms and having his sister meet him and hold him. I will remember the following six months, and how life changed forever for us again.

It will be a year of today last year moments. These are the moments of my sons' life.  My son Zachary lived and these are the memories I have of him.  I have loved him from before he was conceived, but today last year I fell in love with him. The day I found out he was living inside me, he was my child and the choices I made that day were because I loved him. I still love him. I will forever love him.

Today last year. It is a day we will remember always.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


I've never really been a halloween person, not even as a kid.  It was never my favourite "holiday".  Then I became a mom.  That changes everything.  For my daughter's first few years, we had so much fun picking out her costume and dressing her up.  We would decorate and take her trick-or-treating.  We reminisced at dinner tonight about all her costumes over the years.  She's been a ladybug, a pink dragon, elmo, strawberry shortcake, and then there were her princess years, two as Sleeping Beauty and another as Belle.  Last year she went a bit scary and was a vampiress and tonight she was a "kind" witch.  She loved talking about all her costumes and hearing stories of her first years of trick-or-treating.  I was having a fun time, remembering with her.  She even asked about what my costumes were as a kid.  I started to list a few, and then I started remembering what I was one year, and what my sister and brother wore that same year.  All of a sudden I was overwhelmed.  I went into the bathroom to try to pull myself together.  I was overcome with sadness.  Tonight, my daughter should be sharing with her brothers.  I envision James would probably have wanted to be Batman or some other superhero at three and a half and Zachary, I would have found a cute little pumpkin costume to put him into.  Trick-or-treating shouldn't have been as easy as it was tonight.  I should have been pushing a buggy, and chasing after a three year old who was chasing after his big sister.  These days meant for children, they are hard for babyloss families.  We enjoy the moments, but at times they are difficult and overwhelming.  I accept that this is the way it is.  I just wish it wasn't so...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Awareness Walk, Sunday October 13

Today we will walk.  We will walk in memory of our two precious sons/brothers/grandsons, James and Zachary and for all babies who have died too soon.  Stillbirth and infant death is real, and it affects so many families.  It is a silent traumatic grief that families have to live with.  Grieving mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and extended family and friends should not have to live in silence and should not have to walk through their grief alone.  There are others, too many others that are living without their precious children.  Grief support and bereavement services for this type of child death are hard to find.  Three years ago, when my son James was stillborn, I felt I was on my own.  I didn't find the support I was searching for.  This year, after the stillbirth of my son Zachary, I have found support.  Just over a year ago, a non-profit organization called Still Life Canada formed here in Vancouver.  I am so thankful for the community of support it provides.  Today, Still Life Canada will hold its Second Annual Awareness Walk.  The purpose of the walk is to come together in mutual support to celebrate and remember our babies and connect with other families affected by stillbirth and neonatal death.  Please click here to find all the details.

As part of the Awareness Walk, Still Life Canada asks you to consider bringing a new pair of children's shoes to donate in memory of a child who was stillborn or died after birth.  On Saturday I went shopping to find shoes to donate in memory of James and Zachary.  I wanted to donate shoes that I would have purchased for my sons, if they were here with us today.  It was a difficult trip to the shoe store because when buying shoes for Marissa, I always have her with me so she is there to try them on.  James and Zachary were there with me, but I kept wandering back and forth between sizes, wondering, moreso for James, what size would he be wearing today.  We finally decided on a pair of rainboots for James.  He would be three and a half, and most certainly jumping in puddles through the winter.  Marissa loved the Spiderman ones for James, and was so excited to have picked them out for her brother.  For Zachary, she picked a little pair of runners, with Elmo on them.  It was a moment where she got to be a big sister.  I loved seeing the thoughtfulness she put into picking the perfect shoes for her brothers. 

We are all looking forward to the walk.  It is important to connect with other babyloss families, to celebrate and remember their babies and ours, together.

Rainboots to be donated in memory of James

Baby shoes to be donated in memory of Zachary

                                                  A glimpse of what should be.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Today...I was supposed to hear you cry for the first time.
I never heard you cry.

Today...I was supposed to hold you in my arms for the first time.
I held you in my arms for the first time and the last time, on the same day.

Today...I was supposed to nurse you.
I never got to nurse you.  My milk came but you were already gone.

Today...I was supposed to be in awe of your little fingers and toes and the way you wiggle your nose.
I was in awe. I loved your fingers and toes and your nose and every inch of you.

Today...I was supposed to smile with excitement.
Excitement is not a word for me today.  I will smile.  I remember you and I smile.

Today...I was supposed to introduce you to your big sister.
She got to meet you, to hold you and to feel her place as a big sister. 

Today...I was supposed to be tired after a long nine months, and labour and delivery of you.
I am tired.  Grief is tiring.

Today...I was supposed to welcome you.
I already had to say goodbye.

I love you Zachary. 
I miss you today, always and forever.

Monday, September 16, 2013

3 Heartstrings

The UPS man came to the door.  I was not expecting anything.  No idea what was in the package.  I opened the package.  And this is what I pulled out...

It is beautiful.  My eyes swelled with tears and I let it all out.  My daughter was home from school already.  She witnessed the grief full on.  It was such a powerful moment.  I was looking at all three of my children's names together for the first time, and probably one of the only times.  I felt such sadness and such joy.  To see all three of my children's names engraved on a beautiful pendant holds such deep meaning for me.  Acknowledgement.  So many babyloss families never have their babies acknowledged. This pendant represents so much to me.

Looking further at the pendant, I saw 3 hearts, each on a string.  My emotions overflowed.  There was a note inside with the pendant:

Jaime, This is called 3 heartstrings, for those that hold onto our heart & have heard it.  Love Jodi

Heartstrings.  This has become an important term to our family in the past year.  Our daughter had developed a high sense of anxiety.  She had a fear of being alone or left alone, an intense fear of something going wrong or an occurance of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or fire and a fear of a lockdown happening at school.  The anxiety she was having was becoming more intense for her.  We tried numerous strategies of how to help her get through these anxieties, but to no avail, we could not alleviate or help her through these times.  We actually had started to enable her fears  and anxieties further by giving in to her rituals that she had created to help her cope through them.  We knew we had to do something other than what we were doing.  So, last fall, about a year ago, we found a Counselor that specializes in working with children with fears and anxiety and is also a Play Therapist.  It didn't take long and the strategies that her Counselor used started to help her.  Heartstrings was one such strategy.

She taught our daughter that even though we may not always be with her physically, we were always with her, in our hearts.  The strategy was simple:  when she began to feel alone or scared or that something bad was going to happen, she just needed to pull on her heartstrings, and by doing so, mommy and daddy would feel her pulling them, and we would pull on our heartstrings so she would feel us too.  It was a strategy that she was to use that would be like giving a virtual hug to mommy and daddy even when we weren't there.  It is a magical strategy that has worked amazingly well over the past year.  She learned many more coping strategies and we are so proud of the work she has done to help herself.  Her fears and anxieties are now under control and manageable.  Our concerns have been alleviated.  And, our family always has our heartstrings to pull on when we need to.  Sometimes Marissa asks if I felt her heartstrings during the day, and other days, I ask her.  It is part of our vocabulary.

I had never translated this over to my boys.  Never.  Not until I received this pendant.  This made me cry even more.  Of coarse!  Why hadn't I thought of it myself?!  I can pull my heartstrings when the pain of loss is so intense, so that James and Zachary can feel it and know that their mommy misses them so very much.  I can pull my heartstrings when we are having a joyous day, and I am wishing my boys were here to experience it.  If I can pull my heartstrings, and I know they will feel it, then they too can pull their heartstrings so I can feel it.  Another connection to my boys has just opened up.

Going back to the note I received with the necklace...for those that hold onto our heart & have heard it...I hadn't thought of this before.  I hadn't thought specifically that Marissa, James and Zachary have all heard my heart from the inside.  They know me from there, they have heard my heart beat and they know my heart beats for them, for each of them.  Magical, meaningful words that I will hold in my heart and my head as I move forward.

I cannot write this post without thanking the person who sent me this most treasured piece of jewellry.  This is a person whom I love very much.  She tracked the delivery of this piece and knew that I had received it.  She didn't hear from me for days.  She was worried she had offended me or angered me for sending it.  She started second guessing herself.  I simply couldn't call at first.  Each time I took the necklace and note out of the package, I wept.  It was tears of grief, tears of love and tears of joy.  I couldn't call because I knew I couldn't talk about it without breaking down.  She finally called me, as she couldn't wait to hear if I liked it.  It was to her great relief to hear of my love for the pendant.  This treasure was sent to me by my sister, Jodi.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I have pulled my heartstrings to thank you, and know that your nephews have pulled theirs too.  They are happy that you have given them another gateway to their mom.

I am grateful for my 3 heartstrings, today and always.