It was seemingly a routine pregnancy, then in October 2017 at 14 weeks gestation we lost our daughter. The time since this devastating news has been anything but normal, and changed how we define our lives, parent our children and take care of each other.
It was natural to struggle with the unknowns, guilt, sadness, the whirlwind of emotions through a very challenging time. We decided to be open about our journey which includes speaking of her time here with us, that also meant giving her the name that was meant for her – Mabel Grace. We continue to deal with the sadness and pain of Mabel’s loss, but talking about her as well with other families who have had similar losses has provided great comfort.
Without the rain there would never be rainbows
As we grieved this inconceivable loss, I reached out to H.E.A.R.T.S pregnancy and baby loss support program. I was fortunate enough to speak with the founder of the program, Cheryl who provided an easy ear to talk to. Without judgement or bias she listened and provided great support. I joined their Facebook group and sat in on a few online support meetings. Reading other grieving mother’s words somehow started to make me feel heard, even though I never wrote a thing. At the April meeting, I finally got the courage up to talk about Mabel, and how her due date of April 29th was approaching. The other mom’s let me know they have a special name for this date, called an ‘angelversary’. Hearing those words and how others have had similar experiences, made my cry but knew that it was OK. Not welcoming her beautiful face into the world, getting to hold her and hear her laughs and cries was and still is the hardest thing to face every day.
When you experience an unexpected loss, one does not simply move on; as this implies leaving something behind you. Losing a child results in feelings that never go away – you carry that with you everywhere, every minute of every day. I believe you should try to carry on in keeping their memory alive which includes living life as best you can in their name. The HEARTS program provides resources to assist in the work required in carrying on in the memory of the sweet child who has left a mark on your heart.
My husband and I weren’t sure if welcoming another child was going to happen for us again. We’ve always wanted a big family, but the pain of losing Mabel left us re-evaluating everything. We were surprised to learn we’d be blessed to be expecting again - nervously awaiting another precious little girl this October.
The happiness of carrying a new life is different now. Our naïve journey of past pregnancies is now marked with milestones we didn’t get to celebrate with Mabel. This time around we celebrate them, but in a cautious way – because we aren’t blind to the things that can go wrong anymore. It feels as though you are walking in an altered timeline. Experiencing similar things but not in the right order. Losing a child turns the order of your life upside down. Making normal things seem different. Walking to the park holding hands with your little toddler and not looking down at the bump that was to be. Experiencing family events without hearing her name, and seeing your kiddos laughing and playing and knowing you will never get to see the one gone to soon as part of this earthly crew. I am madly in love with this new little lady who loves to kick and squirm all over, it’s just a different colour of excitement this time.
The Rainbow Collection
The urge to acknowledge Mabel and give back to the families that have experienced a similar loss including pregnancy after loss just kept growing for me. Hearing stories of other families that have lost babies, either thru miscarriage or still birth, I felt like I could do something to help in her name - so she would go on and her time here would be remembered in a positive and impactful way. Because I own a small Children’s clothing shop, I have the opportunity to donate proceeds from our Rainbow Collection line to the HEARTS baby loss support program. We created this collection in Mabel’s memory but also to celebrate our newest nugget on the way, as she is due in October which is Infant and pregnancy loss awareness month. Welcoming a rainbow baby has its own challenges and I hope that our little collection brings joy to the lives of those families.
I am so thankful to the HEARTS program as the support they showed me helped me navigate though a very hard time in my family’s life. Our donation will go towards supporting their Baby steps Walk to Remember in October, packages provided to bereaved families that include books, teddy bears, sibling support and other resources, as well as counselling programs offered for families expecting Rainbow babies like us.
As we count down the few short weeks before we meet baby girl, my thoughts turn to families going through the same situation, all the emotions with the anxiety and the worries that go along with it. In the end all you can do is pray and support each other for that blessed day that she arrives to become part of our little family. Grief is messy, it comes and goes without warning. But all I know is that every day I wake up thankful for my amazingly supportive husband, our children here and in Heaven and I pray every day for Mabel, as we anxiously await the birth of our 4th daughter.
If someone you know is going through or has experienced infant or pregnancy loss I would encourage you to be there for them by offering your time, your ears, and your hugs. Listen to them speak their child’s name, talk about their grief and just be with them. I heard an explanation of empathy once and it has always stuck with me – being empathetic isn’t seeing someone stuck in a hole and saying ‘sorry your stuck in the hole’, it’s getting down in the hole with them and being there, right next to them. Often times we forget that our presence is more valuable to our loved ones and friends then any words that can be provided. Get in the hole, give them a hug and listen to them cry while offering your ears, and an open heart towards healing.
The world around you moves on, as if your life was never shattered, and all you want the world to do is say that your child mattered. AJ Clark-Coates
Originally published in July 2018