Happy 4th Birthday in Heaven

It takes months to build pillars of strength to hold me up, but a moment is all it takes for it to crumble. I’m exhausted and continue to struggle to process this past week. It was Bella’s birthday on Monday. She would have been 4 years old.

For some reason, the day before always seems to be harder for me. I’m not sure if it’s the anticipation or if it’s my way of making the actual day a bit easier. I tend to underestimate how difficult anniversaries are. I expect it to get easier as time passes, but it doesn’t. The reality of child loss is that life gets in the way of your grief and you do begin to live again. But anniversaries bring grief back. Raw grief. With grief comes pain. The type of pain that makes you wish you weren’t alive. It grabs me by the throat and won’t let me breathe. Every. Single. Time.

I can’t imagine what life would be like if Bella were here. So much has changed since she left, many changes were a result of her leaving. The questions don’t stop flowing but there are no answers to these burning thoughts. It’s energy wasted, yet it seems uncontrollable on days like this.

On days like her birthday, I revert to living breath by breath and count down the minutes until the day is over. I’m at a place now that not every day is difficult. I have wonderful days filled with love and laughter. I think and speak about Bella every single day, but on ordinary days, these thoughts and words are not overpowered by pain. On days like her birthday or the anniversary of her passing, not a moment passes that I don’t think of her. I can’t NOT think of her. The day is spent remembering what is missing. On a day such as the anniversary of you child’s birth, how can you think of anything other than the pain of living without them. The thought is inconceivable to any parent…yet this is my reality.

I now understand that twice a year, on June 28th and November 14th, I am allowed to take these days off. I am giving myself permission to be absent from life and allowing myself to step into my grief. I will do whatever I need to do in order to get through these days, regardless of what that looks like (as long as I am not causing anyone else pain). I am learning that on these two days every year, nothing will help me escape the tragedy of losing my baby girl. On these days, I give myself permission to break, crumble, cry, and scream. I allow myself to be angry and sad. I give myself permission to express these feelings. On these days, I am giving myself the gift of the day to myself, to allow grief to run its course.

Every year for Bella’s birthday, I ask my friends and family to help spread love and kindness to honour Bella’s memory with Bella Angel Cards. This year, I raffled off a prize to encourage people to scatter kindness. At first I was disappointed by the lack of involvement, but the few people that participated REALLY understood the meaning. Making people smile feels wonderful and can become addicting. One person had 20 entries and there were 48 entries in total. The winner was drawn randomly although all the storied touched my heart. It was hearing about these random acts of kindness that helped me get through a very difficult day.

After a quiet supper, I invited my parents and Nonna to come over for cake. A birthday wouldn’t be a birthday without cake! Hudson spontaneously sang Happy Birthday to Bella as I brought the cake into the living room. It was beautiful and put a huge smile on my face. I am grateful he is growing up remembering his sister. It’s important that he never forget her. It’s important that we all remember Bella. This is how she lives on.❤️👼🏼

#HappyBirthdayinHeaven #Grief #RawGrief #BirthdayGrief #AnniversaryGrief #ChildLoss #StayStrong❤️

Darkness After The Rainbow

At the follow-up visit, she asked me how I was coping with what happened as it was a rather traumatic experience. I replied, “it wasn’t ideal but Aria is fine and I’m still here. It could have been much worse. After what I’ve been through, everything else seems so small in comparison.” Child loss changes your perspective on everything.
The weeks before Aria’s birth, I was feeling pressure to make sure my family members could be with us when she was born. You can’t fully plan for events like this and we had a series of backup plans, but nothing worked out as we hoped. My middle sister was visiting for a week, but I was still pregnant when she left. My grandmother wanted to be there, which I was so excited about, but she decided not to come at the last minute (which I was very thankful for in hindsight). My oldest sister and my niece live close to us and were on their way to the hospital while I was in labour. Once labour started, things progressed very quickly. They walked in 4 minutes after Aria made her grand entrance. Thankfully I have Aria’s arrival on video and our entire family got to see our baby’s birth.

The water birth exceeded my expectations, although I was only in the pool for 8 minutes before Aria was born. The water didn’t make the contractions less painful but I was able to relax between them, which allowed me to be fully present. (I highly recommend a water birth!) Shortly after Aria was born, I was helped out of the pool onto the bed, the exact place where I gave birth to Bella. Suddenly, it seemed as though I was reliving the past.
My family stood off to the side, Aria in her daddy’s arms, and I knew by the looks on their faces that something was wrong. I’ve seen these looks before, right after Bella was born, but I knew it was worse this time. The bleeding started and my placenta wasn’t coming out. My mind began to get foggy and I don’t remember the details very well. I know there was a lot of blood. My placenta needed to come out before they could give me medication to stop the bleeding.

After many failed attempts to push the placenta out, our midwife realized it was stuck. A part of it would not detach from my uterus. I remember her talking about sedating me so she could manually extract it, or giving me medication for pain, but I didn’t want to be medicated. Our midwife decided to see what I could tolerate. She was inside of me up to her elbow and I have no idea how I managed to allow her to do that without being medicated, but she was able to pull the placenta out. Apparently I have an incredibly high pain tolerance.

Once the placenta was out, I was given a lot of medication to stop the bleeding, but I was scared when I kept feeling large gushes of blood pour out of me. My blood pressure dropped to 50/32 and I could feel myself fading; my sight was cloudy, the room was spinning and felt nauseous. I feared that if the cloud took over that I would die, so I fought hard to not float away. This was when I asked Bella for help. Our midwife kept working my uterus (with her hands over my abdomen) and finally the bleeding was slowing down. My blood pressure slowly started to rise. I was safe.
I was told that I shouldn’t have remained conscious when my blood pressure was so low. I was mentally prepared for the probability of needing a blood transfusion. I lost 2 litres of blood and the transfusion would help me recover faster. When my bloodwork came back the next day, my hemoglobin was incredibly only down to 88. I didn’t need the blood transfusion!

It took me a while to get back on my feet after Aria was born and I was on bed rest for 2 weeks. I also hemorrhaged after Bella was born, but it wasn’t nearly as severe. We had discussed the possibility of a hemorrhage when we reviewed my birth plan, but I never expected it to happen again. I am thankful we left for the hospital when we did. If it weren’t for the snow storm, I would have insisted on staying home longer. Chances are we would have left for the hospital when my sister and niece did as that was when my contractions were getting stronger and were real contractions (labour had started). I can’t help but wonder if we would have made it to the hospital on time.

A few weeks before Aria was born, I reminded myself that it doesn’t matter what our intentions are when the Universe has other plans. At times, we need to learn to let go and trust that everything happens for a reason and that all will work out the way it is meant to. Our ideal is rarely our reality and to accept this is to be resilient. I accept this experience as my reality. I choose to #StayStrong❤️

I would like to thank our incredible midwives for the level of care they provided. I felt safe in their care. They were quick and efficient and I couldn’t have been in better hands. Thank you!!!

Birth of a Rainbow Princess

The birthing process is truly miraculous. It’s empowering to bring life into the world; many women feel that after they give birth, they are capable of doing anything! Birth is beautiful and is an experience meant to be treasured.

I was fortunate to have three incredible and unique birthing experiences. After Bella’s “perfect birth,” my hopes for Aria’s birth were pretty high. I was prepared for the unexpected but hoped for the best. My wishes were to have a natural water birth, for my family to be present, for Aria’s daddy to “catch” her, and to have photos of her grand entrance. Realistically, I was just hoping we would make it to the hospital (which is over an hour away from our home). My previous labours were 3 hours with Hudson and 2 hours with Bella, and we were anticipating the possibility that this time may be even quicker.

We weren’t expecting to make it to my due date, but at 3 days overdue, I was beyond ready to meet our rainbow princess! I knew labour was approaching but I was hoping to remain at home until the following morning. Plans changed once my water broke since a snow storm was on the way and we really didn’t want to have this baby in the car. We decided to leave for the hospital and wait things out there. Road closures and terrible driving conditions proved we made the right decision; it was one long drive.

We arrived close to midnight, settled in and tried to get some rest. I couldn’t sleep as my contractions were getting stronger. I wasn’t in active labour yet but I woke Tom up because I didn’t want to be alone. I knew that things would likely progress very quickly. I wasn’t sure when to call my midwife or tell my family to make their way, still hoping baby would wait until morning. My contractions quickly went from 8 minutes apart to 4 minutes, and I could feel baby moving down inside of me. Just after 3:00 am, my sister and niece decided to leave (they were also over an hour away) and I called our midwife to come. I sent a text to my mom at 3:19 am that read “I think I might be in labour.” My contractions suddenly went from 4 minutes to 2 minutes apart and it wasn’t long before I was no longer able to track them. I could feel my bones in my pelvis cracking and moving apart. Baby was coming and it was happening fast! I was relieved that everyone was on their way.

Our midwife arrived 30 minutes later; she could see that I was in active labour and she worked quickly to get the pool set up. Tom was filling it with water by 4:00 am. Because I hemorrhaged after Bella’s delivery, we decided that I would have an IV lock put in incase there were any complications, which was done while the pool was filling.

At 4:10 am, I got in the pool. I was fully dilated and was told I could start pushing right away. Baby was coming but I wasn’t ready because my family still hadn’t arrived. I tried to hold baby in and kept asking Tom where they were but they weren’t responding to his messages. I couldn’t wait any longer and told Tom to “grab the good camera and record it.”

He was figuring out how to record video with my camera, something he had never done, when Aria came. At 4:18 am, in one big push, Aria came flying out of me! It shocked us all as it was so quick and unexpected. Thankfully, Tom was taking a “test” video and successfully recorded it.

Our midwife caught Aria and she began crying. She was passed to me immediately and as soon as I held her, time stood still. “She’s so beautiful!” I fell in love instantly. Our rainbow is here, finally! And she is absolutely perfect!

❤️

Introducing Our Rainbow🌈

Our Rainbow Has Arrived!🌈Introducing Aria Isabella Armstrong 

Born March 25 at 4:21 am 

7 lbs 15 oz, 21″ long

She came during a snow storm and made a quick grand entrance that took us all by surprise. Our hearts are so full of love! ❤️ Baby Aria is doing well but I’m struggling with some complications and am on bed rest. I was planning a more heartfelt post than this to make the announcement but I don’t have the energy for it just yet and wanted to let the world know she arrived. It’s time to take care of me now but I’ll share more when I am able to.

I Remember…

As I lay here, tears roll down my cheeks. I can’t help but think of Bella tonight. My heart aches for her. I remember being 40 weeks pregnant with Bella and feeling exhausted and uncomfortable. I feel that way again, but this time I have the memories of what it was like the last time and can’t help but remember. It is so incredibly painful…
Laying in bed with Hudson tonight, he asked when Baby Carl was going to come. I told him I wasn’t sure, but hope she decides to come soon. We talked about what she will be like. He said he hopes she doesn’t like to eat peanuts and peanut butter. I told him she will only drink milk for the first 6 months. He asked about introducing foods to her and wondered how we got Bella to eat all that. I reminded him how much Bella loved food. She was so easy to feed, not like Hudson was. Then he said he was a bad boy… I said to him “No, hunny, you were a good boy. You have always been a very good boy!” These conversations are so precious.
She would be three years old. I would have bought her a doll, a baby of her own to take care of. She would love to rub and kiss my belly just as much as her brother does. She would love talking to her baby sister and would be so anxious to meet her!
Bella is here with us but I am not able to share this human experience with her. I hold on to to all that I do have and we continue to talk about her every single day. She will always be an important part of our family.
Hudson is very excited to be a big brother again. He has never stopped being one and I remind him of this. He told me he would be very sad is Baby Carl died too. I told him that wasn’t going to happen, then I hugged him and cried. I felt like I was lying to him because now I understand that anything can happen at any time without warning. A six year old shouldn’t have to worry about these things. But he does. And I will always be here to comfort him. I know Bella is comforting him too. 
As we wait for our family to become complete, I hold Bella in my heart and thank her for choosing me to be her mommy. I ask her to let her baby sister know we are ready to meet her. I thank her for continuing to let her light shine on us. 
As I wait, I remind myself to cherish every moment because we don’t get these moments back! 
I close my eyes. As the tears roll down my face, I take a deep breath and fill myself with gratitude.