This Gave Me Chills!

When I tell my story to others, People often tell me they get chills. The things I’ve experienced are incredible! I’ve been very blessed. At times, I have quite honestly felt as though my life, as I’m living it, is a movie. When so many things happen, one thing after another, it’s quite astonishing. Nothing ceases to amaze me, and I am forever grateful for the many MANY gifts the Universe keeps giving me. (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!)

After her sudden death, Bella sent me many signs to let me know she was still with me. She then made a very undeniable appearance in her baby sister’s ultrasound photo. After Aria’s birth, I would often look at Aria and see Bella. Was it my mind playing tricks on me? Perhaps.. I had very mixed feelings about it at the time.

I do talk to Aria about Bella every once in a while, casually mentioning her. I do want her to eventually know her sister, as much as she possibly can. Last summer, she and I watched some home movies of Bella for the first (and so far only) time. 

I’m in the process of backing up and organizing my home videos. I came across something last night that I have experienced many times, but last night as I watched the video again, 2 years after recording it, it felt different somehow. Aria has said this many times before, and this is that one time I accidentally caught it in video. Make what you will of it. 

This is my story. I’ve lived it, am living it, and will continue to live it. It’s not so often that I experience this… but in all honesty, for the first time in a long time, THIS gave me chills!!!!

7th Birthday in Heaven

Child loss is devastating. It is undoubtably the most pain I have ever, and will ever, experience in my life. It’s something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. It breaks you. Changes you. Over time, it molds you as you grieve to become someone your old self doesn’t recognize. It’s a continuous cycle of gathering up the pieces of your shattered soul only to have a storm come through and tear the pieces from your arms. Over. And over. And over again.

This is the reality of child loss, although there is hope in the darkness. The space between the storms begins to grow and, for the most part, they weaken in strength. The mess the storm leaves becomes easier to clean up. Your soul remains shattered, but all a grieving parent can do is make an effort to focus on the beauty that is born from the brokenness.

The beauty in grief are the love and the lessons. Looking for positive elements is one of the most helpful factors to healing. My grief has taught me many lessons and I hold on to the these valuable gifts.

This month we celebrated what would have been Bella’s 7th Birthday. Just because she is no longer in a physical body does not mean she is not here. Her presence was felt strongly as we celebrated her essence and I trust she appreciated the cake and all the love sent her way. This year, I spent Bella’s Birthday reflecting on all she has taught me.

My daughter’s death has taught me how to be grateful for the difficult times I endured with her, such as when she had colic and I was struggling to cope. 9+ hours of screaming every day was horrendous, but I am now grateful for those many endless days she spent in my arms. This is also where she slept for the first 15 months of her life. It wasn’t always easy, but it was where she felt safe and I am comforted knowing I was able to provide her this security.

My daughter has taught me the value of a moment and the treasure of a memory. She has shown me that nothing is permanent, and that there is something to be happy about every day! We would look for the happy moments in every day, and on darker days when those moments were less obvious, we would be happy on purpose to create a moment to  be captured in a photograph. I have hundreds of these mementos, all of which are priceless treasures.

Then there are the hard lessons, which I will continue to learn as they resurface from time to time. I have had to learn to accept what happened to my daughter, to forgive myself for being a less than perfect parent, and to let go of what will never be. I’m not certain I will ever fully recover from this, and I am learning to accept this.

I was given the opportunity to create such an incredible life and nurture her every day she lived in her physical body. Every moment I had with her is one I will cherish until the end of time.

Grief changes you. It’s inevitable, but you get to decide HOW it changes you. You do this by choosing where you focus your energy and what you give your attention to.

7 years ago, I gave birth to a little girl who I held in my arms for 19 months and will continue to hold in my heart for the rest of my life. This magnificent soul changed every aspect of me. I continue to learn how to be her mother, just as Hudson and Aria continue to learn how to be her sister. Even if that means blowing out her Birthday candles for her.

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Happy Birthday Bella. We love you more than life. XO

Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven Sweet Angel

I woke up this morning and it wasn’t just an ordinary day. Your sister has a cough, which always makes me anxious. She woke up coughing and I looked over at her in your old bed and told her to come cuddle with mommy. “Okay,” she said, then threw her stuffed baby shark, her choocho (soother), and rainbow blanket on the bed, then waited for me to gently pull her up. I hugged her tight and said: “Today is a special day. It’s Bella’s Birthday. Can you say Happy Birthday Bella!?” She whispered softly: “Happy Birthday Bella!” Then she pointed the painting of Bella on the wall. “Oh no. Mommy, what happened? What happened??”

Your baby sister has said a few strange things about you lately. She used to say that the pictures of you were her, but recently she started calling you “Poossa.” This is our nickname for Aria, but he strange thing is when she refers to herself, she calls herself Aria. When I ask her where Bella is, she will point to one of the 2 canvases of you on the wall, but will say Poossa, as if she’s correcting me. “There Poossa!” Of course, we have never referred to you as Poossa.

About a week ago, she started saying “Oh No!” when she points to your photos. Yesterday, when I picked her up from Daycare I asked if we would go home and see Daddy and she said “yes. See Maui?” I replied “yes, we will see Maui too.” Aria then looked at me and said “and Poossa? Go see Poossa?” I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I asked if she meant Bella and she excitedly said, “Okay!”

Aria has always been bright for her age. But I can’t wrap my head around how a 2.5 year old understands that you were a real person and something happened to you. More than that, I have no idea how to respond to her when she asks me what happened to you! How do you explain “death” to a 2 year old? I was honest and told her you are in Heaven, but of course she has no idea what that means.

You would have been 6 years old today, but you will remain 19 months old forever in my heart. As time passes, these difficult days get easier as my grief transforms. When a difficult day is approaching, something minor and completely unrelated to you will break me and I’ll cry so hard that I can’t breathe. This is my way of releasing my human emotions, which is inevitable, and makes these difficult days easier to get through. It’s also my way of letting go, as I no longer want sadness to dominate and leave me unable to cope through these milestones I am forced to get through without you.

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“…And then there was you!” – November 14, 2012

For every year that passes between your birth and the present moment, I let go a little bit more.

In letting go, I choose acceptance.

In letting go, I choose to keep putting one foot in front of the other with my head held high so I can see the beauty before me.

In letting go, I choose this life I was meant to live and decide to make the most of every day.

In letting go, I choose not to let your absence drown me in sorrow, but instead keep looking for your presence everywhere I look.

I’m sad and I miss you, but I am no longer grieving for you. Thank you for the blessings and the lessons. Thank you for always being at my side. And thank you for helping me let go.

Today, I ask for your guidance in how to respond to your baby sister. Someday she will be old enough to tell her all about you. Maybe she’s ready for that now, but what if I’m not!? I feel you in her. Maybe that’s why I don’t miss you as much as I once did. But Aria isn’t you and will never replace you, and you will always hold a special place in our family.

Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven my sweet Angel. I love you more than life!

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#StayStrong❤

We Made History This Week!!!

I was recently approached by the editor of the Canadian Medical Journal of Sonography who asked to include my story, The Ultrasound Miracle in the journal. This is the first time in the history of the journal that they included a story from a patient. So here it is, my miracle, on the cover of the journal! And here is my story, officially in print in a medical journal which will be read by sonographers all over the country! It was a pretty incredible feeling to see my sonogram photo (or as I see it, a photo of my two daughters) on the cover of a medical journal. It’s pretty amazing that my story will reach the medical community in this way. I hope my story touches many more people and opens them up to a new reality where love never dies.

Journal cover and article © 2018 Canadian Journal of Medical Sonography

Bella’s 5th Birthday in Heaven

It’s morning and I wake up to the sound of my alarm. I fight through sleep and open my eyes and my first thought is you. It’s your birthday today; you would be 5 years old. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like if you were still here. I see myself jump out of bed and run into your bedroom excited to wake you up. I sing as I enter your room. “Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday sweet Bella…Happy Birthday to you.”

Tears fill my eyes and as I open them, the tears run down my check as reality slams me down and steals the wind from my lungs. I’m paralyzed and struggle to breathe. My mother’s words fill my ears: “This cant be happening!” Yes, it happened and this is real life.

I close my eyes again and return to my safe place where death isn’t real and You are fully alive. Your vibrancy fills my lungs with air as a smile sweeps across my face.

Your dirty-blond hair falls mid-back, is straight and full of body. Your eyes are the same, old and wise. Your face hasn’t changed much, just a few years older. You dance as I sing to you, twirling round and round. You giggle and grin and are so happy, so alive! You are so excited that it’s your birthday and thrive on the extra love I give you on this special day. I want to make sure you know just how special this day is to me, how very much you mean to me.

The alarm sounds again and you vanish as I cling to the memory of what I just witnessed. I’m instantly reminded that I won’t be singing to you again this year.

My chest is heavy and I refuse to get out of bed. Today is one of those days that I allow myself to not be okay.

I look at the photos of your birth and try to relive the moments captured. I desperately want to return to that day, to give birth to you once more. The pain of your 9 lbs 3.5oz body passing through me is nothing compared to this pain of having to live in a world without you. I would relive the day of your birth over and over again until the end of time just to have one more moment with you.

*****

I decided I needed to get out of bed tonight day because our puppy needed the go to the vet. A special friend showed up and spent the day with me; it was nice not to be alone. The day ended with cake, balloons, and a small gathering in our living room. Signs surrounded me today reminding me that she is never far away.

The best part of the day was hearing my family sing “Happy Birthday” Bella! Having only celebrated one birthday on earth, we have only sang it to her once before… until tonight. I’ve been reading about how other parents get through their child’s birthday after loss and was surprised at how many of them actually sign to their child in heaven. My friend brought a candle for Bella’s cake, so we sang. And it felt wonderful! I hope Bella was dancing in heaven today, with the angels, under the rainbows.

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#StayStrong❤️

 

19 Months and Two Weeks

Losing Bella was the moment my life was forever changed. My life is now split in two; there is my life before loss and life after Bella. This mark she’s left on my life often shows up in other places and triggers my grief, but the reminders also fill me with love. It’s bittersweet.

19 months and two weeks. That’s how long I had with Bella. And now it’s also how long I’ve had with Aria.

As much as Bella and Aria are two separate people… As much as it’s unfair to compare them to one another… As hard as I try to not think about these things, I can’t help but be reminded of Bella through Aria.

Up until yesterday, I’ve been able to compare Aria with her sister at the same age. I don’t do it to rate them, but it’s interesting to see how each child is unique.

At 19 and a half months old, Bella was my little firecracker. She liked to play with cars and loved to wear her tutu. She didn’t like to sleep and spent nights in my bed with me. She loved her brother and her puppy so much. She was persistent and strong-willed. Bella only spoke a few words but her gross motor skills were very advanced for her age. She was a happy, healthy, active little girl who loved to climb and get into anything she could.

Aria is very much like her sister. She is plays with cars and loves her tutu too. She doesn’t like to sleep and spends most nights in bed with her father and I. She’s such a happy little girl, more laid back than her sister was. Her speech is very advanced and she is incredibly smart. She knows the alphabet and the sound each letter makes, can count to 10, animal sounds, shapes, numbers, etc. She blows me away every day with how fast she’s learning and just how much she knows.

Aria has been reminding me of Bella a lot lately. It’s not so much that she looks like her, although there is definitely some resemblance. It’s her mannerisms. It’s the facial expressions she makes. The sound of her laugh. Or cry. The way she walks. The way she moves her head. I often get a glimpse of Bella when I look at her. Sometimes I have a hard time telling them apart in photos. I love seeing Bella in her baby sister.

But now I fear this will disappear as time passes and Aria ages. I’m scared to lose that glimpse of my angel that I see in her rainbow sister.

These reminders always fill me with love. These glimpses are like magic to my day. It’s like Bella is saying hello.

I couldn’t help but think about Bella yesterday morning. As Aria put her arms around me and said “Hi!” I couldn’t help but think back to 19 months and 2 weeks with Bella and where we were.

On the kitchen floor doing CPR.

In the ambulance.

In the hospital.

Saying goodbye.

Leaving the hospital without her.

Shattered and numb.

This morning, as Aria hugged me, I inhaled her sweet scent and whispered to her. “I love you baby. I’m so happy you’re here.”

And in that moment, I realized that things have changed once again. She has now been alive longer than her sister. She will continue to grow and learn and will reach many milestones that her sister never had the chance to. And with every milestone achieved, I will now always wonder what it would have been like for Bella. Because this is what loss-parents do… We wonder. Constantly!

This breaks my heart.

It shatters me once again and brings back the grief, fresh and raw.

I will always wonder… and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay to feel sad and heartbroken. It’s okay to miss her.

Nothing can change what happened to Bella. But life continues after loss. We continue to grow, experience, and evolve. A part of me will always be missing.

And I have to be okay with that.

#StayStrong❤️

One Good Deed is All It Takes

Like a boomerang, you know it’s going to come back eventually. I can no longer predict when it will return; I feel like I’m throwing blindly. On my way to work this morning, I had a brief visit from grief. The lady in front of me in the drive through couldn’t have possibly known that I was fighting to hold it together. Two tears managed to escape. I took a deep breath and tried to ground myself. Work is not a place to bring grief. I got to the window and the cashier told me my coffee was paid for by the woman ahead of me. I didn’t know what to say; it caught me off guard. I did what I always hope others will do in a situation like this and handed the woman $2 and a Bella Angel card. “Please, pay it forward!”

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Please pay it forward❤️

That one small random act of kindness was enough to shift my morning. When I arrived at work, sadness lingered but it didn’t remain. I’m in the process of transitioning back to work full-time after a year on maternity leave and it has not been an easy process. I’m struggling with being away from my daughter. I miss her, deeply. This intense longing for her is not a feeling I am familiar with as I didn’t experience this in the past.

The last few weeks have also been a learning curve. Trauma affects the brain and my memory is not the same as it was post-loss. I changed careers when I was 2 months pregnant with Aria. I worked at my new job for 6 short months before taking a leave of absence in anticipation of my daughter’s birth. I am now trying to remember all the details required of me at this new job I barely had a chance to learn. To say it’s been stressful is an understatement. I can say that I love what I do and am surrounded by wonderful people which makes the process much easier. For this, I am grateful!

Since my return to work, I have been more mindful about the energy I put into the Universe, whether it’s through random deeds, increased patience, or simply a shift in attitude. I have been making a conscious effort to make a minimum of one positive exchange with the Universe every day. I call it my “one good deed.” What I have noticed is interesting and quite beautiful.

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Bella Angel Card

When my day starts off on a lower vibe, these exchanges have completely shifted the course of my day. Some “deeds” have taken a lot of energy from me. Some of these “deeds” have simply been “being in the right place at the right time.” Other “deeds” have lifted me up and brightened my day (hopefully along with brightening someone else’s day too). I have also made “selfish” acts of kindness, where I do something nice for someone else to prevent negativity from finding me, and to my surprise, it actually worked!!!! After 3 rough days at work, I bought the person behind me in the drive-through their coffee. This was “selfish” because it was effortless and I did it to feel good. I had an amazing day, so it worked!!! I hope I made someone else’s morning that day too.

These “deeds” have also come back to me. This week, I checked Bella’s email account and there was an email from the Calgary Food Bank. A friend had made a generous donation in memory of Bella’s and although this took place in December, I just found it now. My son received a Bella Angel card in the mail this week along with a $20 donation towards his karate Board Breaking challenge.

I truly believe that everything eventually comes full circle. It’s only a matter of time before what you put out comes back to you. The good, the bad, the love and kindness, but also the darkness. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what you’re exporting.

Thank you to the mystery woman from this morning. I appreciate your gesture. I went back through that same drive-through to get a snack later today. The woman who gave me my food told me the card was passed on, and the recipient began crying when she was given the Angel Card. I don’t know who this person is or why she cried, but I hope this made their day a little bit brighter.

It Comes… And It Goes… And The Circle Of Grief Continues

All is calm. Happiness fills my heart and gratitude radiates from within. The first few months with our rainbow baby were a bit challenging, but not for the reasons I had anticipated. I expected it to be much more difficult emotionally and was concerned about my ability to bond with Aria. I am relived that my concerns were not validated.

Aria is much like her angel sister and was very fussy when she first entered this world. This was quickly followed by difficulties with sleep, which are ongoing. Bella had severe colic and I was unable to figure out what caused her to scream for 9+ hours every day for the first three and a half months. Her entire life, she was a very restless sleeper, didn’t like to nap, and the only place she would sleep was in my arms. I often feel as though I am reliving life with Bella all over again.

I vowed to enjoy every moment with Aria, even the not-so-pleasant times. It’s very difficult to enjoy the moments of screaming. The expectations I set resulted in too much pressure which left me disappointed in myself. I collapsed with guilt and battled through grief to discover these expectations were suffocating me. I was preventing my own happiness. I had to experience a severe wave of grief in order to understand my emotions, which took a lot of effort and energy. I am thankful that I have the ability to see things for what they are when I take a step back. I am also grateful for my amazing fiancée who remains at my side holding my hand at all times. He has been incredibly supportive and understands me even when I don’t understand myself.

I have accepted that I won’t enjoy every moment with Aria. I now see that you can be grateful for a moment even when you don’t enjoy it. This is where I am today. I am thankful for Aria and appreciate her, but I am not loving this sleep deprived state that has become my norm. I also didn’t enjoy trying to soothe a screaming baby for the majority of the day for the first few weeks of her life. And I accept with how I feel about it because it’s real!

Lessons from Bella continue to positively affect me. I am a better person because of her, and a better mother. I am much more calm and patient with Aria than I was with my other children, which is partly because I am more centred and grounded, but also because of the appreciation I have for Aria. She fills my broken heart with pure love and joy!
Life isn’t always about enjoyment. Sometimes it’s about survival. And that’s okay!
❤️

Struggles of a New Mother

Long days suck. Especially after long nights. I’m exhausted and irritable. I’m emotional and frustrated. These days seem to drag on forever. I let her sleep in my arms because that’s where she’s happy, so that’s where she will stay. Judge me if you wish but it doesn’t change a thing. Some babies are fussier than others and sometimes we do what we need to in order to get by. Some days we have to look a little harder for the enjoyable moments. All you have to do is open your eyes a little bit wider and hopefully you will find a smile. I’m grateful for these difficult days because not every mother has the chance to hear her baby cry or be up with her child through the night. I love her so much and I’m thankful she is here. Not every day will be easy but she is definitely worth it!!!! ❤️

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!!!

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