Christmas is About a Baby

christmas-star-77979-m As I look back over the Christmas Holiday that just passed, there was another story of grief and loss; a baby that was never born. The grand daughter of a good friend experienced a miscarriage that was followed with three months of physical complications and pain. Her emotional saga finally came to a close with a final procedure that took place the week before Christmas. It has been a very difficult time for the family.

I thought about how many times I have seen and heard about stories just like this one in my many years of supporting families who are dealing with the grief and loss of miscarriage. The “regularity” in which it seems to happen is striking and disheartening. It could become easy to focus on this very sad reality. But then I think about all of the new babies that I have welcomed into the world this year, and years gone by, with gifts and showers and notes of congratulations.

Just like anything else, we can choose to see the tragedy the world can bring, or the hope we all long for. During the Christmas Season we tend to turn our thoughts to the joy and peace we’d like to have all year long- not just while we attend festive parties, eat our goodies and tear open gifts with family and friends.

When the tree is taken down and the gifts have all been put away the spirit and joy of Christmas can disappear as well. It can be tough to hold on throughout the year- especially if we are dealing with grief and pain. Unless we remember that Christmas is about a baby- a baby that was born to bring us a peace and hope that does not fade when the decorations are put away. Want to know more about this baby? Would you like to know a peace that does not get packed away in attic each year? Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

May you find and keep the Christmas spirit throughout 2015 and beyond.

Dad Raises Money for SIDS with World Record Light Display

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Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

If you are looking for some Christmas cheer that comes in spite of a personal tragedy- this is it! A Dad in Australia is raising money for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) awareness and support for families affected by the unthinkable and unexplained deaths of their babies. He was inspired to take action after his own one-month old died of SIDS in 2002.

How? By using his World Record Christmas light display! He’s already raised more than $200,000 for SIDS for Kids, an Australian organization that supports awareness and support for grieving families.

See more photos and read more of this inspiring story!

Should I Go? Help for the Holidays

holiday chestnutsHolidays and special events are normally a time of joy and celebration, however they can become a painful reminder of your loss. Seeing family members, making decisions, and attending the holiday activities you usually enjoy can take on a different outlook after the loss of a child.

If you begin feeling sadness during the holidays or a special occasion, think about why you are feeling that way; process those feelings and accept them.  It is a perfectly normal reaction to your grief. Taking this step ahead of time may help you to avoid some uncomfortable moments in public.
Should I Go?
Ask yourself if you are ready to attend family gatherings or parties. This will give you the opportunity to let someone know your decision in advance. Knowing that you would have planned to share your new baby at these celebrations could make them difficult and even tearful for you. Give yourself the option to gracefully bow out of the activity. Asking yourself these questions before a special event may help:
  • Can I handle this? Is this something I would enjoy? If so, it could be a good way to lift your spirits.
  • What does my spouse think? Will it cause problems if I do not attend?
  • Would the holiday or special event be the same if I don’t attend? Deciding not to attend a Christmas play will not take away from the holiday season; however deciding not to attend Thanksgiving dinner will certainly change the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thinking through these questions ahead of time can help you arrive at a decision that is right for you, and one that will not negatively impact your spouse or your family.
The above is an excerpt from the book Hope is Like the Sun.

HELP Get Stillbirth & SIDS Bill Passed in Congress!

SIDS & Stillbirth BillThere is a bill being considered in Congress called the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act. The bill promotes awareness and data collection that can help to provide more information, protocols, and prevention of Stillbirth and SIDS. Read more about the bill.

Contact your Senator to ask him or her to support this critical, no-cost bill! Information and simple steps to contact your Senator can be found here. There are visits to the Hill being scheduled for November 13th. If you are interested in participating, please email laura@firstcandle.org for more information.

Get involved to help this vital effort to save babies and help families!

 

Saying it Loudly: I Had a Miscarriage

miscarriage-Article

Lettering in photo by Anne Robin Calligraphy.

I saw this article today, published to commemorate October 15th, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I hope you find it as moving as I did. Raise your voices, light a candle and share your stories today #IHadAMiscarriage.

 

 

Two years ago I had a miscarriage. This life-threatening, heart cracking experience eclipsed everything that had come before. It was a foggy mid-October afternoon muddled by spots of bewildering blood and foreboding cramping. I was in labor, at home, alone. But how was I to know this when just hours earlier we had seen a strong heartbeat, and all had looked peaceful in utero?

I attempted to take things slowly but still “go about my day” as my obstetrician recommended, but I abruptly felt overcome by terrorizing anxiety. My palms became sweaty, my heart raced expeditiously and I was petrified that I might be milliseconds away from losing consciousness. Somehow, I made my way to the bathroom. I thought if I could simply empty my bladder, calm my breath and apply a cold compress to my face, I would resume normalcy.

I heard a pop. Or did I? I don’t know anymore.

As I started to urinate something else happened. Something even now I have trouble writing about without feeling an urge, almost a compulsion, to scream aloud with sheer horror. My baby slid out. She dangled from me mere centimeters from the toilet-bowl water. My window-clad house should have shattered from the pitch of my prolonged primordial howl. It didn’t. I did.

I was 16 weeks pregnant.

I fervently called my doctor and texted my closest friends and family “I HAD A MISCARRIAGE” in an effort to galvanize physical and emotional wherewithal. Somehow I had the presence of mind to know that if I didn’t, not only would my daughter die today, so could I.

I cut the umbilical cord, and immediately began to bleed. No longer part of a symbiotic union, dizzy with despair and confusion over this separation, I found a way to stay the course on the practical matters of caring for myself. My doctor talked me through what to do, stressing the need to get to her office, and quickly, with my baby in a plastic bag to send to the lab for testing.

My husband came for me immediately. I straddled a pile of towels, still hemorrhaging, as we numbly sped to her office, mute. There was no time for anesthesia and the only way to make the bleeding stop was to extract the placenta. So, there I lay, feeling the D and C machine tug out the remainder of my pregnancy. After a few inhales of smelling salts, and with nothing but some snapshots of the fetus, we returned home.

Rarely do I ruminate, but sometimes — especially around the anniversary of my loss, as my grief swirls — I wonder if she felt anything. I wonder what happened to her. Did her heart stop beating before or after she fell from my body? I like to think, though I know this is pure conjecture, that this miscarriage, though tragic, ultimately allowed me to bypass the decision I would have faced if we had learned about her chromosomal abnormality after the scheduled amniocentesis a couple of weeks later. The choice was not mine.

How do we honor our losses, and the fact that life doesn’t always make much sense?

We shouldn’t feel ashamed of our traumas, nor should we hide the consequent grief. It’s not that I necessarily feel proud of having a miscarriage, but I do feel compelled to question why it seems as if we rarely talk about pregnancy loss, though the statistics are staggering. Is it resounding cultural shame? Speckles of self-blame? Steadfast stigma? The notion that talking about “unpleasant” things is a no-no? It’s a hard topic. But if every woman who has lost a pregnancy to miscarriage or stillbirth told her story, we might at least feel less alone.

Today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Along with many others, I’ll be honoring the life-altering bereavement millions of us have faced by sharing my story on Twitter with the hashtag #IHadAMiscarriage. I hope others will join me. And tonight, in what has become a tradition on this date for many families, I will light a candle for the child I never knew and take a moment to appreciate even more deeply the children I have.

Be Brave: Grief is Not for Wimps

courage-945002-mEvery October I remember the child I lost. I didn’t lose my child at the mall, or get separated at a park. I actually didn’t “lose” my child at all…my baby died. Even all these years later, it is still difficult to say it like that. My husband and I had waited ten years to have children because I traveled frequently and I was finally settled and ready. But our “best laid plans” were about to take a horrible turn.

It was just before Halloween and I was 3 months pregnant with our first child. My two sisters had five children between them and I was finally going to join them in growing the family. I had not considered, even for a moment, that something could go wrong. But something went terribly wrong. Over the next few weeks my pregnancy unraveled and my baby, and my hope for a family, was gone. In the empty space where my baby had been was confusion, disbelief, anger, numbness and incredible pain.

Read 9 Things Never to Say to a Woman Who’s Had a Miscarriage

Fourteen years have passed. We now have two perfectly healthy, and perfectly wonderful daughters and I smile and get misty as I write these words about them. But I do still think back to the child I will never know. I wonder what my baby would have looked like and sounded like and what kind of person he or she might have been. I still wonder…but it doesn’t hurt as much now. There was a time that just typing these words would have left me sobbing. Time does heal, but it doesn’t make us forget. I do still think about my baby. Especially this time of year. But now, I can wonder and move on, as anyone who is grieving must do at some point.

If you are hurting from the pain of grief, remember that time will go by. The intense pain will pass and one day you will notice that the daggers of grief are now a dull ache. Your life will return to a new version of “normal” and you will go on. Be brave enough to remember the loss of your past and move steadily toward your future.

Be Aware: October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Unfortunately, the President had a very personal experience with infant loss during his first marriage, when his newborn baby died just 7 hours after birth.

Many states have declared October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, but remembrance and events are seen throughout this important month.

What do this mean to you? Awareness Month is a simple way to open the door to conversations about your feelings and your baby. You may want to talk to your family, friends, your community or maybe your spouse or significant other about your child who died.

Wearing a pink and blue Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbon during October, or anytime, is a great way to increase awareness and honor your baby. You can buy a Pregnancy Loss Awareness Pin by visiting StockPins.com. The pins are well-made, inexpensive and arrive in a few business days.

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbons can be handmade with pink and blue ribbon or purchased. The pins should be worn on the left-hand side just above your heart- where your baby already lives.

We post this information each year to share this very important event.

Light a Candle: Join the Nation in Remembering Your Baby

Honoring Your BabyOn October 15, at 7:00 pm in all time zones, families around the United States will light candles in memory all of the precious babies that have been lost during pregnancy or in infancy.  Too many families grieve in silence, sometimes never coming to terms with their loss.  
We hope you will join us in this national tribute to create awareness of these tragic infant deaths and provide support to those that are suffering.

Help create a ‘wave’ of light across our nation!
Congressman Tom Latham of Iowa introduced a House Resolution supporting the Goals and Ideals of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, October 15th, and calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation encouraging the American people to honor this special day of remembrance. 
We encourage you to contact your local Congressman’s Washington DC Office and ask him or her to Co-Sponsor House Resolution # 222.  For more information, and to guide you in your efforts, please visit http://www.october15th.com.
 
See more ways to Remember Your Baby

The Last Laugh: Remembering Joan Rivers

Remembering Joan Rivers

Remembering Joan Rivers

My Mom always told me that deaths happen in three’s…as odd as that sounds, it always seems to ring true. Recently, we lost three iconic celebrities: first the tragic death of Robin Williams, then the loss of screen legend Lauren Bacall and this week, comedy and fashion diva Joan Rivers was laid to rest.

Joan’s “in your face” and candid style both electrified and offended. She hit life head on, no matter the circumstances or people involved. Her honest approach to her many plastic surgeries became fodder for some of her best humor. It seems that she applied the same direct nature to her own death. While some may find this odd or even shocking, I find it refreshing.

Since Joan found no topic to be “off limits,” it came as no surprise to me that she had left behind final wishes for her funeral. It was also no surprise that she desired a grand affair complete with Broadway tunes, fellow celebs, and laughter. And her daughter Melissa made sure she had just that, as bagpipes played her final song and a throng of fans gathered on Fifth Avenue, dressed in their best, to honor the fashion diva.

In a society where we struggle with issues of daily life, they all pale in comparison to our issues with death. Joan accepted that death would one day find her, and she had no problem leaving behind instructions for her final wishes. In fact, she wanted to be sure that her funeral was a star-studded celebration rather than a tear-filled, mournful occasion.

I can only hope that we learn a thing or two from Joan as we consider our own dates with destiny. And more importantly, that we know where we are headed when we get there.

Breaking the Silence

Robin WilliamsLast week, we lost a comedy and screen legend and my heart is still heavy. We were forced to say a sad and early goodbye to stand-up comic and movie genius, Robin Williams. The firestorm of comments that erupted following his death, apparently by his own hand, has been amazing and incredibly unsettling at the same time. While droves of Robin “fans” shared memories and condolences with his grieving family, others took the opportunity to chastise Robin (?) by leaving hurtful remarks and belittling the actor on his families social media accounts. Experts than began chiming in to state that his suicide could have been prevented.

I have watched and listened in silent horror and I can stay silent no longer.

It is painfully obvious that our society still fails to be able to frankly discuss death with compassion and without fear of the conversation. We consider ourselves to be a “modern” society and yet we struggle with dying and grief in ways our ancient ancestors did not. Our modern medicine and ideas have left us ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable event of death and dying. We still find ourselves speechless and uncomfortable during times when our grieving friends and family need us the most.

Read “Nine Things Not to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving”

As someone who has had personal experience with these painful matters, I can tell you that it is impossible to pile any more pain, grief, guilt or sorrow onto Robin’s family. You never stop asking yourself if you could have done more…you never stop second-guessing the steps you took, the words you said, the comfort and help you tried to offer. You never stop asking yourself the painful questions that will have no answers.

The only silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud is the public conversation that is now happening about mental illness and suicide. If there is one thing that could make us smile after all of this, it is only the possibility that these conversations could save just one person. Let us find ways to join the conversation to help those grieving, with broken hearts, and those struggling with the grip and pain of mental illness.