Capture Your Grief – Empathy

Wikipedia says Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. 

What an impossible task when talking about infant loss. . . . that seems too much to ask. I would never want people to feel what I feel. Well at least not all of it, this journey has made my heart grow and I now experience love on a whole new level, so that my friends I would want you to feel but never the deep longing for things to be different, the heart crushing moments or a trigger that sneaks up and takes my breath away. 

I remember years prior to my loss I heard about another wonderful woman who had a similar experience to mine. My heart broke for her, I imagined what it possibly could be like but I did not have the capacity to truly be 100% empathetic for an experience of this gravity. How could I? This is the unimaginable. Without a doubt her experience shook me, it made me realize how unfair life can be and recognized the gravity of her loss, but there was just no way by that definition I could have been fully empathetic. 

What this journey has taught me is we can never judge. We can offer love, we can meet people where they are at but we will never fully understand what it is like for that individual in regards to all or any of life’s challenges. I have had the blessing to share space and hearts with many Moms who have experienced a loss. Every single one of us have a different story, every one of us feel different emotions, experience different experiences, we all have different support networks and a million other factors that make our journey so unique. We all have common threads, most feel similar things or share similar thoughts but that doesn’t mean we are the same so this leaves no room for judgement. After realizing this and being a part of the club, how could I ever expect someone who has never even remotely walked a path like this to feel what I feel. Is it even fair to expect them to try? 

I do know that our story moves people. I know when I share my heart it is met with love from so many. I know that people are inherently good and trying to understand how one is feeling as an amazing act of love and community. I don’t expect people to empathize as defined above, but I am always hopeful people will leave out judgement, offer love as we navigate this journey that has no road map. 

There is no way to “fix” this. The only way for us to survive is with an open loving heart. We appreciate when those around us can embrace the beautiful moments, hold space for the moments the look really messy and understand that this isn’t a journey that is smooth and runs in one direction. We are climbing mountains, falling in pits, tripping over road bumps and sometimes we are moving backwards. We are always moving but not always in an expected direction. We are okay; will are going to be okay today, tomorrow and always. We are blessed with the capacity to feel it all, the hardest moments as well as the most beautiful heart bursting moments. We were made for this journey and as hard as it is our love is stronger. 

Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t imagine how we feel. There is no expectation for you to do so. Give hugs, offer love, say a prayer, or show support in any way that is authentic to you but don’t feel like you need for even a second to imagine yourself in my shoes. They are pretty muddy and uncomfortable at times so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Capture Your Grief – The Unspoken

When you are pregnant with a baby that is going to die many things are left unspoken. There are many reasons why I left things unspoken and why others did too.

I often left things unspoken for the benefit of others. Whether it be the old lady or cashier in the grocery store or an acquaintance I passed by, I didn’t want to burdened them with a reality such as mine. What a great way to ruin someone’s wonderful day, by telling them about what looks like a healthy pregnancy is going to end in death. Not talking about it was also at times a gift, I could mentally slip into feeling all what I would have felt had things been different. The excitement of 3 boys under 3 years of age, talking and thinking about how busy I would have been. It also left me feeling like a bit of a liar at times.

Then there was the prenatal yoga class that I attended every Friday. Only the instructor and a good friend knew my baby wouldn’t be coming home with me. I even attended our last class knowing he was currently in heart failure. We all talked about our pregnancies, and the details but I always left out the fact mine wouldn’t end like theirs. I did this for me and for them. My reality for other pregnant Moms could be emotionally triggering and for me I did it because the end wasn’t important while I was there, it was me connecting with my baby doing something I did for my other two babies and something he deserved.

When a baby is diagnosed with a condition that is not compatible with life the medical field is often in a hurry to end the pregnancy. There are a long list of circumstances when this is the best option but in our case it wasn’t. I wasn’t in danger and my baby wasn’t in pain. After meeting with a high risk OB it seemed like I had two options and only one he would have chosen. The first was to terminate my pregnancy (which would be giving birth but to a smaller baby) or continue on with the pregnancy but it would be stressful and anxiety ridden. The option he didn’t present and left unspoken is the option to carry the baby as long as you can, fill the baby with love, embrace every moment you have together and come to peace with the fact your time together is short and your baby will die. I wasn’t full of anxiety, I was filled with love and the day he was born I felt peace. The truth is everyone makes different choices for different reasons. All options should be given. Ending a pregnancy doesn’t equal less pain, doesn’t make it easier and doesn’t lessen the grief. Holding your lifeless baby and saying goodbye changes who you are regardless when the baby is born.

Now 10 months later I often find myself leaving something else unspoken. “How many children do you have” I respond with “2 boys”. No one wants to hear in passing you have 3 but one is dead. Yet every time I say it my heart is crushed for Teddy. He is my third son. I have 3 boys. We are a travelling family of 4, but in my heart the 5th is always with us.

The list of things left unspoken is vast. There are reasons for this on both sides. To be honest, I am okay with some of it left unspoken. I do wish one day speaking about the death of a baby or child isn’t uncomfortable, it is met with empathy rather than an awkward silence and people not sure how to respond. If it is talked about more often it will become more natural. Babies die, children die, and adults die. It is just life. It is hard but a reality. The length of life doesn’t define quality, or the impact that individual has on all those who are left behind. Theo had great purpose and didn’t need years to achieve it. He lived, he died, he matters and will forever be loved.

Capture Your Grief- Support Circles 

In my experience support comes in many forms. I have family, I have friends, I have my Sisters-in-Loss, I have acquaintances, I have strangers, and I have professional help. Each having a place they own on this journey with me. The support from each is different but all equally valuable.

I have a circle who are very good at providing and helping with basic needs, such as food delivered to my door, flowers, thoughtful gifts, beautiful cards and letters or emails.

I have a circle who send messages to ensure I know how deeply I am loved and in particular a dear friend from out of town who religiously sent a text everyday letting me know how loved I was during the early months when days were so hard. I am not sure she will ever know how much of a gift that was. It was a lifeline in those early days.

I have a very small circle that are willing with coffee/tea and a treat in hand to walk through my door and listen to me when it is hard, when things get messy. They can hold space as I cry and feel my heart hurting without getting uncomfortable. They listen, sometimes offer advice but mostly give permission to feel what I am feeling and agree how badly this all sucks.

I have those in my life who aren’t comfortable with any of it and would prefer my old self to return. Or those who think enough is enough we are approaching 10 months in a few days and they are done with asking or talking about it.

I have a circle of online support. Those who I don’t see in person but are always willing to extend love, prayers and encouragement.

The circle of Sisters-in-loss I have are by far some of the most loving, and emotionally giving, kickass women I have ever had the privilege to share space with. My heart is forever grateful to have these woman in my life. To be able to have another Mom who feels what I feel and for them to have space in their heart that is also broken to love me through my journey is a gift from above. These women are heroes.

I have created a circle of professional help that without it my journey would be a mess I am sure. The circle includes my dearest friend and Reiki Master, a Shaman, a Grief Counsellor, our Minister, and newly added personal trainer. Becoming more physically active has really helped recently.

The one man circle I would be lost without is my husband Ryan. He is the foundation of this journey. He is my rock. I have never received love in my life as fiercely as I have since this journey began. He has been so determined that nothing will break our marriage. His commitment to me and our family is something that I believe is so rare in this day and age. My heart is safe in his hands, and he is my protector against all. Our love runs deep. It is something that isn’t easy to articulate but what I know without a shadow of a doubt is it is a gift from God. We both know we were meant for each other and we were destined for this journey. Together nothing feels impossible.

What I have come to learned is that each person no matter what circle they are in deserves a spot in this journey. It is no coincidence that you (yes you reading this), whoever you may be, you were intended to also have a role. No matter how far removed or up close and uncomfortable (or not) it may be, you too were intended to be a part of Teddy’s legacy and journey of love. This isn’t all about me. He called everyone in to learn about a deeper love. To challenge you to choose love especially when it is hard to make that choice.

I have come to love many people for the role they play and I will be forever grateful. This journey can’t be a one man show. It is one of community, one that relies on help, love and support from all, in all different forms.

So thank you for being in one or many of my circles. Thank you for being open to come along for this wild ride and opening your hearts to choosing love even if it was only once.

Capture Your Grief – What it Felt Like. 

Without hope it felt impossible. We were given a sliver of hope he possibly could make it to full term and be a candidate for surgery. That sliver allowed us the ability to be present with our reality. It allowed me to love fearlessly and unconditionally.

The day the doctors told us our dear Teddy had no hope for life outside my womb felt like we were hit by a tsunami. Our world was destroyed and left in emotional shambles. We knew our only hope of surviving this storm would be by holding onto hope and focusing 100% on love. Love was our driving force. There was no room for anger, blame or even fear. Our time together was going to be short and this precious boy deserved to feel a lifetime of love in a few short months.

The day we were told his heart had begun to fail and the end was near felt heavy, our hearts cracked a little bit deeper and our love for him poured out like a waterfall. I felt desperate to ensure he had all the love he deserved and was Mothered by a Mom who loved him more than words can describe. He deserved it all.

Ten days later the end and a new beginning emerged. Theo was born. Our hearts felt peace. The room felt warm and full of love. His heart beat it’s last beat against mine and all things wrong were made right. It was as it should be. He was never intended to live long but he was intended to deliver purpose and that was accomplished.

6 hours later we said our goodbyes. My whole being broke as I handed my beloved baby over, to never feel his weight again, to never kiss his cheeks or hear him cry. He was gone and my heart was shattered as it screamed for my baby back.

For weeks after my arms physically ached to hold him one more time, my chest was heavy as if bricks were laid upon it and the world around me kept turning as mine halted.

Today the fog has lifted, my chest is lighter and the most valuable and cherished lessons have been learned. My days of feeling heavy, and stuck in the mud with fog all around aren’t over but they come less frequent and don’t stay as long. My days of wishing things were different aren’t over, maybe one day I will give up wishing, but today isn’t that day.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness – Article in Local Paper. 

October is Pregnancy and Infant loss Awareness Month. 1 in 5 pregnancies result in a miscarriage and 1 in 100 births end with a baby passing away before, at or shortly after birth. I personally have experienced both. My early loss was my first son Jack’s twin early in pregnancy in 2012. It was physically painful, extremely scary, and emotionally heartbreaking. Our second loss was December 9, 2015 when our third son Theodore was born and passed away from a Congenital Heart Defect. This loss is profound and has taken our family on a beautiful journey learning to love fearlessly and unconditionally.

Reflecting upon my early emotions from these losses I realized both times we felt alone. We didn’t openly talk about our first loss and with the loss of Theodore we choose to be open in hopes that those who walk this journey after us will find comfort knowing they aren’t alone. No two journeys of loss are the same, but there are threads that are woven in the fabric of a heart broken from the loss of a baby that are mirrored in each loss. I have found being able to speak and write openly about our journey to be therapeutic.

I often wonder why, with something so common, do we have a culture which is uncomfortable talking about miscarriages and infant loss. What I know to be true is that healing happens when the pain is acknowledged, when the name of your baby is spoken, and when you are loved through your journey no matter how messy it gets. Living your forever without your baby is hard, mothering a child you can only hold in your heart feels incredibly overwhelming and impossible at times but with the love and support of your community this can feel lighter. It can feel bearable.

The day Theodore was born and left our physical world was the day a new me was born. I have had to be gentle with myself as I struggle to figure out whom that new me really is; how to navigate the world with a broken heart that will never mend and with a void that can never be filled. I see my son missing from every moment of my life. It is impossible to see my two boys and not see the third missing. I also see him present everywhere. He has many ways to tell me how close he truly is especially at times my heart hurts the most.

Experiences like these leave you at a crossroads choosing between walking the path that allows you to form a hard shell over your shattered heart or becoming open, vulnerable, and honest. Knowing the path would be harder but so much more rewarding, we chose the latter. Our family is forever changed in most beautiful ways because we are walking this journey by choosing the route that leads us to love fearlessly.

Many couples have silently carried the loss of a baby for decades. A parent doesn’t get over a loss like this but the loss can feel lighter with time and sharing helps lighten this load. Throughout this month, share your experiences with one another. Talk about the babies we no longer can hold, use their names, and ask questions. It is time we break the silence and embrace the truth about life. Babies die. It is heartbreaking but true. There is no shame and it doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. We can comfort and lift each other up, if we can be open with the reality that this happens to many.

http://www.intelligencer.ca/2016/10/03/healing-comes-easier-when-we-discuss-our-loss

Capture Your Grief – Who Are They? 

Theodore Rutherford Williams. Also known a Theo, Teddy, and my forever baby. He is a son, a little brother, a Grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a friend. He was a boy who was loved long before he was transferred to his forever home, my womb. He spent 3 years in the freezer and 3 months of that with his brother Jack. He is a teacher of all things to do with love. He has been my biggest blessing and largest heartache. His life was short but full of purpose. Every second of heartache is worth it to have spent 3 years in my heart waiting to be transfer to my womb, the 30 weeks in my womb and the precious 22 minutes after birth. My gratitude for him choosing me as his Mother is unending. He shows me how close he is in a multitude of ways, I feel so blessed.