For 25% off bulk orders, or for an autographed copy of the book, contact the author via FB: Journaling Away Mommy's Grief. Books are also available on line from Centering Corporation (www.centering.org).


October 2016: National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month


 
Friends, I have no new wisdom to share-only that I am happy this month recognizes both baby loss and pregnancy loss. I have experienced both. Miscarriages are so sad, lonely and exhausting, and in some situations, are absolutely devastating. I know many people who have experienced a miscarriage and hide it in their hearts.  Here is a secret from my heart that I have never shared: I named my miscarriage baby “May” because she was due May 4th. Years later I observed this lovely name belong to someone while reading The Secret Life of Bees in the form of the character, May.   I often thought about the fact that “my May” could have shared a May 8th birthday with me. This month I decided that though my book and blog focus on stillbirth and infant loss, I would like to honor those who have had a miscarriage by re-printing my first ever publication; a journal entry about my miscarriage. It was published in a beautiful anthology of essays and poems titled: Our Stories of Miscarriage. I am thinking of all of your losses and all of your babies and all of you on your grieving journeys as you honor those losses this month. Don’t forget to light candles and join together in our wave of light on October 15th: www.october15th.com .  XO

Putting Together My baby Album: Journal Entry: 1993: excerpted from Our Stories of Miscarriage: Healing with Words, Fairview Press, edited by Rachel Faldet and Karen Fitton.

 I go to the store to buy photo albums to put my dusty pictures in. I am trying to be neater now so this is necessary. It’s $5.97 for the big blue albums, $2.97 for baby picture albums. Why am I looking at these baby albums? I don’t have a baby. My arm reaches out and I take hold of the small, white album with a curly-haired cherub riding a light blue rocking horse on the cover. I must have it. My hands caress the album, lifting each plastic picture cover-fifty of them.  Each time I tenderly turn, I see a snapshot of what our baby would have looked like.

 My hands move down to my stomach, so flat, so skinny.  Everyone is jealous of my thin body, my energy, my youthfulness,
“You’re so young and you have your whole life ahead of you.”
“I think it is much more difficult for older women to go through.”
“You two have plenty of time. Just wait three months and try again.”
“Oh well, it happens to everybody. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

I would have been almost five months pregnant by now. As my hand circling, rubs my stomach, I wonder what it would have felt like to have a voluptuous, purposeful body with a small life growing inside of me.
In my right arm I hold the baby album naturally like a new mother holding her newborn for the first time. In my left I hold a three pack of soap. We are out of soap.

 At home I pick out all the pictures of babies. They are not my babies, but babies I love: my brother’s two children, my four girlfriends’ children, my youngest four cousins, and my husband’s cousin’s daughter.

 After organizing the angels in my album, I look through it again and again. Twenty blank pages are left waiting, like my blank stomach, like my empty heart.
 


Robin, pictured here with her husband and children, while pregnant with Margaret.



"Margaret was a surprise baby. She would have been sixteen months younger than her brother and thirty-seven months younger than her sister. My husband and I decided that we would call them the three musketeers because they were all so close in age, but our third musketeer never got to try out her sword."

Book Reviews

Any parent who has lost a child will find this book unflinchingly honest in its pain, but hopeful in its promise of a new beginning. Robin Lentz Worgan pulls you fully into her experience while always encouraging you to personalize it for your own understanding and healing. The writing is clear, fluid and powerful. It is carefully organized so that you can follow along chapter by chapter or move forward and backward as needed. The excerpts she includes from other authors are evocative and fitting. Robin shares what she has learned and instructs and inspires you to write your own journey through grief and loss.

-Trudy Jellema Schulze, High School and College Writing Teacher

Robin has shared her personal experience and offers helpful suggestions in dealing with the early days after loss as well as coping and behavioral strategies for the difficult months and years to follow. These journal excerpts and thought-provoking commentaries are extremely supportive to the newly bereaved family. The recommended, reflective exercise promote healing and encourage parents to prepare a concrete plan for facing difficult holidays and anniversaries-- the time of acute remembrances. This is an excellent book for those suffering from perinatal loss. I will most certainly offer it to my bereaved parents' support group.

-Diane Carp, RNC with over 25 years of experience as a labor and delivery nurse and
Coordinator of "Resolve Through Sharing"

Robin Lentz Worgan Bio

Robin Lentz Worgan began her writing career by contributing an essay about the miscarriage of her first pregnancy to an anothology titled Our Stories of Miscarriage. The miscarriage and her later experience of a stillbirth account for her leadership of Our Silent Angels, an organization that offers guidance and support to women who have lost babies. She also has served as co-chair of the Children's Ministries Commission of her church. Since graduating from Ursinus College with a BA in English and earning a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Robin has taught school and contributed poems and articles to various publications. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children.

August 2016

Everyone has a holiday that raises their spirits. Mine has always been the 4th of July. I love the sparklers, the parades, the patriotism, the hot weather and the food. In our family my mother always made red eggs on the 4th of July. Red eggs are pickled eggs. I remember eating them as a little girl, salting the yolk before each bite.

The year I was pregnant with Margaret, my husband, Glenn, and I drove from our home in Pittsburgh to meet my parents at a hotel in Chambersburg to celebrate July 4th.  Living far from family with two young children and another on the way, we missed my parents a great deal so we were thrilled to be spending time with them.

When we arrived, we swam in the pool. Afterwards one and a half-year-old Martin napped, while almost three-year-old Elizabeth sat in a wet suit under blankets in my parent’s hotel room watching the original black and white Batman for the first time.   As evening came we went out to the picnic table and enjoyed potato salad, red eggs, burgers, and a cake topped with strawberries, blueberries and whip cream. The pictures from that day are some of our smiliest ones for we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby # 3.

But over a month later on August 12th, 1997, I stopped feeling my baby move. On August 13, Margaret was stillborn and my love of that 4th of July memory was clouded over. The joy from that day was sucked into a time capsule, unreachable for a long time, and for several years the 4th of July made me think of that day. It brought sadness to my heart to think such a happy memory had turned into heartbreak.

Now on every 4th of July I still think of Margaret, but time and much grief work has helped me to take that memory back out of the time capsule and remember the feeling of joy again. Since my only memory of Margaret is holding her small body after she was born, I now count that 4th of July memory as another one of my memories with her: A first and last 4th of July with her older siblings. And-slowly, over time, small but significant other pieces of that memory have come back to me.  On that day I wore a floral, black maternity bathing suit and I remember feeling Margaret move more than once while I swam with Martin. On that day I blew bubbles with Elizabeth and I watched Glenn roll down the hill with the kids.  They all giggled at the bottom as they brushed the fresh cut grass out of their hair and then we lit sparklers and danced around under the star-filled sky.

This year on the 4th of July cousins arrived in piles and swam in the bay and screeched and splashed. Winnie and I made a new black bean, avocado and fresh corn salad and we ate hamburgers and vegan cupcakes and, of course, we ate red eggs.  Red eggs will forever remind me of my grandmother, Maggie, and my daughter, Margaret, who was named after Maggie, and that brings me quite a happy feeling.

Tomorrow is Margaret’s 19th birthday.  We will wake at 5:00 am and watch the sun rise while sipping warm tea and eating buttered croissants on the beach in her honor.  We will buy sunflowers like we always do and loving thoughts of her will be our sunshine for the day.  And at night we will blow birthday kisses to the stars.  Happy 19th birthday, MargaretJ

June/July- Summer Book Recommendations: 2016


Through the years I have often written about reading as a form of mediation and healing for me so each summer I try to offer a book recommendation to my followers. This year I have two recommendations.  My first one is The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman, an Australian writer. It is a beautifully written book that has been made into a movie and will release in September. (I must admit that I saw the trailer and it looks quite good.)
This is the story of Isabel who marries Tom, a lighthouse keeper, far off the coast of Australia on the solitary island of Janus Rock.  They live alone and only receive visits for supplies twice a year and a visit home every three years. During their initial time there Isabel suffers two miscarriages and a stillbirth. 

“The labor was quick as it was early, and Tom watched helpless as a baby-it was unmistakably a baby, his baby- emerged from Isabel’s body. It was bloody and small: a mocking scale of the infant they had been so long waiting for drowned in a wash of blood and tissue and mess from the woman so unprepared for its arrival… no heavier than a bag of sugar...it made no movement, uttered no sound. He held it in his hands torn between wonder and horror, not knowing what he was supposed to do or feel… “A little boy,” was all Tom could think to say. (Page 90)
Soon after this stillbirth, a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a healthy baby girl. Isabel and Tom, in their combined and desperate grief, decide to keep the baby, but Tom is haunted by this choice.   Like many grieving men, he wants to help heal his wife first and then worry about his own grief so he allows her to keep the child.  After bonding has occurred between them and this child that they name Lucy, Lucy’s real mother re-enters the picture. The story is both an aching portrayal of maternal and paternal desire and grief and an artistic, informative  look at the important,  yet lonely  and tedious job of a  being a light house keeper at that time.  It is for these reasons that during this difficult Father’s Day season, I recommend this book to both moms and dads of loss and it will appeal to the general adult audience as well.

My second recommendation is to read Mine. Mine is the debut novel written by MY OWN SISTER, KATIE CRAWFORD!  It is the story of two sisters who endure the loss of a stillborn sister and later another significant loss. Both losses follow them throughout their intertwined lives.
“When Daddy did come out, he was ashen, his handsome boasting face transformed. He told them all to sit at the table and bow their heads. The good Lord took her. She is in heaven now with the other angels.”   (Page 3, Mine)

I know when composting life stories for this book, my sister, Katie, felt the loss of Margaret and other deep losses in our family as well.  Those seeds of sadness and many other seeds sprouted towards this eloquent, heart wrenching, page turner of a novel. Read the reviews for yourself and purchase it at: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=mine+katie+Crawford

Happy summer and let me know via facebook or email how you liked each book. xo

May Blogpost 2016

 
“Grief is silent, painful, unpredictable, but always there: in the mirror; in the dresser; in the wildflowers, in the sky; on Elizabeth and Martin’s faces; in Glenn’s eyes…always there.” Page 88 of my book, Journaling Away Mommy’s Grief

I remember after losing Margaret that I felt like she was always there.  I just could not grasp her.  She was in my every thought. I remember observing illusions of her on the beach, slapping myself as I ran towards a mirage of a crawling baby with brown hair.   I so wanted to see her, hold her, feel her body breathe- at night when I put her brother to bed, my mind played tricks as if I was holding her body in my arms as well.  My blanketed bundle grew lighter than his 18 pounds when I shut my eyes and rocked in the rocker.   During that time my raw mommy grief was an extreme mixture of both love and pain. The pain I felt was so great in both a physical and emotional sense that at times I wished not to think of her, but at the same time I so enjoyed thinking of her.  I constantly worried that if I stopped thinking of her every second I would forget her or forget what she looked like and I also worried that if I was not in pain then I did not love her enough.  We mothers, all mothers, hold such immense love for our children.  Even as Margaret was gone, in heaven, I worried about the amount of time I spent with her because I missed her more than I could articulate or handle.

 Almost 19 years later, I still miss her. No, I don’t feel it in my bones or in between my eyes or in the depth of my gut like I did those first several years.  Now it feels more like a soft chorus from a song, always playing through my body at a low volume. My sister-in-law, Jen, a mama who lost her oldest son, Joseph, (my beloved nephew) at age 2 recently asked me about my writing because she is a writer too. She wondered about writing “beyond Joseph” and asked about writing “beyond Margaret.”  I pondered and replied, “Oh, I no longer write about Margaret all the time. I usually find that I subconsciously add her during my first draft of a piece but then I edit the part about her out after I realize what my essay is trying to do.”
Jen and I had this discussion a few months ago. Now it becomes May, and my body, as it does every spring, begins to yearn for Margaret when I see our cherry tree bloom, when I see the daffodils blow in the wind, when I see ferns pushing out of the ground, when I see robins perched in my yard. These new beginnings always make me yearn for her, the “new” baby I never got to watch grow.  Soon it will be Mother’s Day, a time I think of all my babies. I sit at my desk and take out my latest writing pieces and re-read them, and I realize what I told Jen is false: Margaret is still always there. Though she is no longer the pain in my husband’s eyes or the look on my children’s faces, she will always be the new beginnings of spring and she is still often found in my writing.  I write nonfiction essays about my four living children but, low and behold, Margaret seems to always sneak into many of my pieces in a perfect small way. She just plots herself there fighting for my attention as I write about her siblings. On May 12th I will have a piece published by Brain, Child (  www.brainchildmag.com) on their website.  Margaret has a small, yet significant role in that piece and, in another piece I just sent out about roadtrips, she is found right in the beginning for she is a part of each story. She always will be. To all mothers on Mother’s Day who have lost a baby: that baby is forever part of your story. He/she made you the mother you are today whether you are a mother with children here on earth or not. This Mother’s Day I think of all mothers of loss and I think of deceased dandelions that line my yard with their million of seeds blowing in the wind. Our babies are like those seeds; breathing life from their non life, from their home in the clouds. Bless them all and bless all mothers of loss.

   



 

Christmas: 2015


CHRISTMAS CARDS: That is all I need to say to give rise to a range of emotions from people who have lost children or suffered miscarriages or are still hoping to have a family. I have always loved sending and receiving Christmas cards. I remember Christmas of 1996, propping two-year-old Elizabeth and six-month-old Martin next to each other for a photo. The only way I could get Martin, who could barely sit up, to look at the camera was to allow him to suck on a candy cane. Snap! Elizabeth had on a black velvet dress and he had on a red flannel shirt.  I sent copies of this photo out in my Christmas card that year naively thinking that my adorable photo of my children would be greeting those I love with a mutually cheerful connection. Then, that summer I lost Margaret and that “Joy” or "Have a happy new year” didn’t make much sense anymore, and sending a picture without Margaret seemed terribly wrong and sad.
Recently an acquaintance at work asked to give my book to a friend’s daughter who had lost her baby. “If you think it would help at all,” she heaved. “They-this couple is not doing well.  Do you know that they are sending out Christmas cards with a picture of themselves with the dead baby! Can you believe this? I am so upset! That is wrong, Robin!”
I met her disillusioned and angry eyes and tried to explain. “Well, they are parents now. This baby made them parents; made them a mom and dad, but they cannot show this baby off to the world because she has died. Having this baby die truly broke their hearts and no one else will understand their love for this baby. You see, our human hearts cannot fathom how painful the loss of a baby is so outsiders who look in at a couple who lose their baby want them to behave like they are moving on and want them to act like they are feeling better, but right now that couple is mourning and they are not going to feel better soon and they will never feel the same again. You must respect that there is not a right way for them to grieve so however they decide to demonstrate their grief and love for this baby should be accepted because no one knows exactly what it feels like to be them right now.”

When I lost Margaret, I no longer felt I could send out a happy Christmas picture of my older two sucking candy canes or splashing in the leaves because Margaret was missing. I did not know what to do. I too, like this couple wanted people to know that Margaret would always be a part of our family and would always be on my mind.
Excerpt from my book: 12/1997
This year I dread the holiday. I want to wish everyone well, but I also want to acknowledge the loss of and the love for our daughter….I decide I do want to buy Christmas cards… My stomach twists in pain and my eyes fill with tears as every card I read makes me think of Margaret so I leave and drive around. Later, I come back and settle on one with an angel… I decide that since we cannot show off our special baby girl, Margaret, that we will place a star on each card as a symbol of her place in our family and to let everyone know how much we miss her.”

Each couple and person dealing with loss of a baby will come up with a way to deal with their loss that feels respectful to them. Whatever their choice may be, whether it is boycotting Christmas cards, starting a new tradition, coming up with a symbol as I did , writing a poem or yes, sending a picture of a baby that died, I only wish for healing and peace this holiday season and new year to all of these families of loss. xo
National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day


Excerpt from Journaling Away Mommy's Grief, page 34

A Letter to My Baby 10/9/97

..."You with you perfect round nose and long fingers,
You would have been born last week, a few days ago, maybe even yesterday.
You would have been in my arms feeling the newness of the outside world.
You would have been listening to the quacking of the ducks, the pitter-patter of your siblings,
You would have felt my arms holding you tightly against my breasts that would have
been filled with mother's milk for you to drink, to nurture you, to sustain life.
BUT your life is already over. Your heart stopped beating over a month ago....

On this day when I join all other moms of loss I was struck by an article I read about a woman who donated her breast milk after losing her baby. I am always learning new ways to heal and help others and I had never heard of this before, but it is a brilliant idea.
I remember, after losing Margaret, sitting in the bath tub with breasts like pineapples, so full of milk, tears dripping on my knees, and having no baby to feed. I felt this was beyond cruel, and my body desperately wanted to feed a baby. I think being able to donate my milk would have truly helped me deal with this physical reaction to birthing my stillborn baby. Bravo to Amy, her babies and the babies she fed in 5 states and 3 countries! Read on to see how you can support her work.
http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1098629

August 2015: Happy 18th Birthday Margaret!


 
It is a year of milestones in our family: Elizabeth turned 21 a week ago, Martin begins college in a few days, Lila turns 13 in two weeks and, of course, Margaret would turn 18 today.  July 28 was also another milestone for us. It was our 25th wedding anniversary! We got dressed up, went out to dinner and toasted our quarter of a century together.  After a course of oysters and gazpacho, I presented Glenn with an anniversary card, inside, a list of some of my favorite “happy” moments in our marriage. I had to begin with our wedding because it was a truly a great party.  I listed small moments like sitting on our stoop in the evenings when we lived in Pittsburgh with Elizabeth and Martin, and even smaller moments like watching Glenn shave each morning and reading the newspaper together. Of course, as you would expect, I also listed big moments like the birth of each of our children... not all of them. The birth of Elizabeth, Martin, Winnie and Lila were truly some of the most joyful moments of our marriage, but as I wrote out those names on my list, automatically wanting to include the birth of Margaret, I realized with renewed pain, that I could not. The birth of Margaret was and will always be a sad and devastating day for Glenn and me.  Through the years I have come to be truly grateful for her birth because it taught us lessons about loss and love.  Although we have come to enjoy and celebrate her birthday, and August 13th 1997, will always be marked as an extremely special day, it will never be remembered as a day of joy.

Margaret’s birth and silent, short life in this world taught us that love has no bounds and that eternal love surpasses the boundary of death.  On that sweltering summer night of her birth when my husband cried on my shoulder and said over and over again, “We lost her…we lost her,” our love for Margaret was strong and 18 years later our love for her has only grown more powerful.  I now have the wisdom to know that death does not change or decrease a parent’s love; it only increases it each day.

So I think to myself, my baby girl would be 18 today. Her brother, Martin, much to our chagrin, got a tattoo on his 18th birthday-thank God I don’t have to worry about that with her. Her older sister, Elizabeth, went to London for a semester just a few weeks after turning 18-I worried for 5 months! Luckily, I don’t have to do that with Margaret! As I continue to ponder what I don’t have to worry about, I realize that just as I wrote about many small moments that I love in our marriage to Glenn, I am continually sad that I don’t have any  small or large moments with Margaret.  Martin repeated Kindergarten so I have always had in my head that he and Margaret would possibly have graduated high school this year together. Where would she go to college? What would be her passions and interests as she embarked on young adulthood? Would she be tall because I thought each of my girls would be tall and they are all short! I have the answers to none of these questions.  I  have made up fantasies , no real memories but, even i f I have no memories through the years,  one thing Glenn and I always have  is our grandiose, ever eclipsing love for our daughter, Margaret Minehart Worgan.  

The thought of you, Margaret, in our lives and all you have given us without even being here these past 18 years brings us great joy, a different kind of joy that only other parents of loss can understand.

On this day, may you have a milestone celebration in heaven.  We will celebrate here as well. Usually it is a special breakfast, but since it is your 18th birthday, we are having a special dinner tonight.  After dinner the girls will sing some songs for you and I hope you hear them.  Happy 18th birthday dear Margaret-And remember, no tattoos!

Summer Reading: 2015


 
Mum says, “The happiest day of my life was the day I held that little baby”…Adrian dies before he can talk…I am eight when mum tells me about Adrian. I understand through the power of her emotions, her tears, the way she is dissolving like soap left in the bath too long that this has been the greatest tragedy of our lives. It is my tragedy, too, even though I was not born when it happened.

Pages 30-32 Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight By Alexander Fuller

 Reading has always been a good escape, a good meditative activity, a way to connect or disconnect. I like to recommend a few good reads in the summer months. Two of the most beautifully written books I have ever read are memoirs by Alexandra Fuller about her childhood in South Africa.  The first is Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and the second one is Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.  You have to read both and once you read one, you will jump to begin the other.  Fuller’s writing is clear, precise, visual and sensual.  Fuller does what only great memoirist do: She makes the depressing, even ghastly details inviting because they are juxtaposed with tight, happy, intimate details of the everyday-of the humility and imperfection, and, yes, tragedies of one of her main characters, her mother.  I recommend this book to my fellow moms of loss because her parents actually lose three babies. We readers waltz with her mother the whole way almost losing our footing as she almost loses hers, but doesn’t. No matter what, she forges on, a minimalist, often moving and only bringing her family, her dogs and her Le Creuset pot.  So, yes, my followers will empathize with the story, cry at the sadness, and marvel at the Fullers' endurance to carry on, but all readers will love the book because Fuller describes the setting like we are there, riding in the back of the pick-up truck, sitting on the veranda drinking afternoon tea with milk or better yet, gin and tonics, walking around the farm in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), or feeling the dry sand from the Zambezi river.  After you read these books, you will have a sense of longing for Africa because just as she describes her childhood home in South Africa, telling us the good the bad and the devastating, such is life. What makes us each full of gratitude and cherish our life is the suffering as much as the happiness.
I am grateful that my baby, Margaret, connected me to all of you and your babies.  Here’s to summer reading and connecting to others via their stories.  Enjoy these books and let me know how you like them via email or FB.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis: Model for Mothers of Loss/ May 2015


Twenty-one years is significant because it symbolically represents the amount of time we have with our children before they are on their own. My oldest daughter, on the brink of turning 21, causes me to think this anniversary of Jackie Kennedy's death is a poignant one for she had no years with her stillborn baby.
           Today, May 19th, marks the 21st anniversary of the death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Throughout the world, Jackie Kennedy is a famous woman.  But few recall a baby girl named Arabella who was stillborn on August 23, 1956. It was Arabella who made Jackie a mother. Many may look up to Jackie for her grace, beauty and poise during difficult times, however, my looking up to her and remembering her on this anniversary is quite a different form of admiration.

Jackie died the year my first daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Already we shared something in common because at that point I had suffered a miscarriage and so had she.   After giving birth to a daughter and son just like Jackie had, my third child, Margaret Minehart Worgan, was stillborn on August 13, 1997.

Forty-one years before this, Jackie began her family.  After having Caroline and then JFK Junior, Jackie gave birth to Patrick on August 9th, 1963 only to give him over to the heavens two days later because he suffered from Respiratory Distress Syndrome.  Today many people know about her devastating loss of Patrick, but what many may not know is that before she had Caroline, Jackie lost her first child, a daughter, who, had she lived, would have been named Arabella. 

 All Jackie’s and Jack’s hopes and dreams were unrealized as they buried their small infant girl in the ground. To bear such grief in an era when one was not encouraged to go to grief counseling, where no books were written on the subject except those pertaining to grief in general,  where one could not find online support services, and where one had to keep up a positive public persona, must have been truly difficult.  It was not until the 1980s that parents of stillborns in the USA were encouraged to name or hold their babies or to carry out a funeral service, but Jackie and Jack buried Arabella. 

After the death of Arabella, Jackie forged on out of love and necessity. She became First Lady, and birthed Caroline and JFK Junior.

Soon after she birthed Patrick he was buried next to his sister, Arabella.  It is noted in the biography, As We Remember her  by Carol Sferrazza Anthony that Jackie took some time away to grieve after Patrick but that upon her return Jack told her it was important for the White house to show a happy face.

Just a little over three months after losing Patrick, Jackie lost her husband. Still, somehow she forged on.  She went on to be a private but very present mother and grandmother as well as to create a successful career in editing.

On this day that marks the anniversary of her death, it is important to note that various obituaries mention her son, Patrick, but I would like to add a foot note to her obit: Her first child, Arabella, was stillborn. Later, after the death of JFK, Arabella and Patrick were moved next to JFK at Arlington cemetery.  Jackie loved all of her children and modeled for all of us that it is okay to acknowledge our loss as well as to find ways to channel our grieving energy and move on like she so gracefully did.

Arabella was the one who prepared her for motherhood. Jackie felt Arabella grow and kick inside her pregnant body, and Jackie decorated a nursery; one that would remain empty after Arabella was born.   As a peer counselor, I often work with moms who lose their first child. The surreal pain of carrying a baby for months, delivering the baby with stroller, car seat and diapers ready, but then having no baby to take home from the hospital, is difficult for others to grasp or to know how to support, yet, these women are mothers, just as Jackie was the moment she birthed Arabella.

When I was born, my mother’s fourth child, she ritualistically counted my fingers and toes and then a few weeks later took me to the pediatrician. He said “Her eyes are very far apart but just enough that she will look like Jackie O.” Many who know me may think Jackie O and I share mothering, a love of good literature and poetry, and far apart eyes but what we really share is our eternal love for all of our children. All moms have a special place in their hearts for each of their children whether their child lives or dies.  Arabella opened Jackie’s mothering heart.  On this anniversary of your death, Jackie, I hope that you may heavenly hold three of your four children and look down upon Caroline.

 


 

 

October/November 2014: A Beloved Author's Loss


 Originally I had a different topic to write about for this extremely important National Infant Loss and Pregnancy month.  I had a draft written and then an event last weekend changed my mind. My youngest daughter, Lila, and I went on a mother/daughter trip to Prince Edward Island, the setting of the classic book, Anne of Green Gables written by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  It is a book that I read and loved when I was 12 and one that Lila and I read together.   There are actually 6 books about this spirited, impulsive, ambitious, lovable Anne; she is a timeless character that generation after generation of girls can relate to on many levels. Growing up, I ravenously read all 6 of the books and now Lila and I, after enjoying book number 4, made the trek to Anne’s world.
After arriving in Halifax, we drove 3 hours through hills surrounded by autumn painted trees to PEI. There we stayed in a small Inn.  The next day we went next door to where the author had lived with her grandparents and dreamed up and wrote the first book that is very autobiographical in nature.  Behind the house all the paths that the author had named and that Anne had walked along in the book, such as Lover’s Lane and The Haunted Woods, had been preserved for us to hike along. One path took us to the grave yard where the author had been buried with her husband and to where she had walked to school each day, and a third took us by variegated ferns, fir and aspen trees and by the giggling sound of the brook.

On the second day we went to the small cottage where the author had been born.  There we were told by the tour guide that Lucy Maud Montgomery had three sons and that the second son, Hugh, was stillborn!  I could not believe it. I had already admired the author and now I felt infinitely closer to her.  After that tour, we went to see a play about the characters and enjoyed lovely carriage ride along the Lake of Shining Water where the author had been married.  When we arrived back home a few days later, I immediately looked up Lucy M. and the son she lost.  His name was Hugh Alexander and he was born on August 13, 1914! That meant that he had the exact same birthday as my daughter, Margaret! Again, just as I inadvertently found Queen Anne a kindred spirit in loss, so too did I find a kindred spirit in Lucy Maud Montgomery.  So many women throughout history suffered stillbirth in silence. I am amazed that she found the voice to give him a name when that was not encouraged at that time.  Ms. Montgomery was a writer like me and she also, like me, kept a journal about her sad feelings and bouts of depression after losing her sweet baby, Hugh.

 Montgomery had a prolific prose and poetry writing career, yet after losing her own mother at the very young age of two, she always demonstrated that being a mother was the most important role in her life.   I think she would agree with all of us that whether our children are here with us or above us in heaven, that being their mother for eternity is our most sacred and proud role.
During the rest of this important month of recognizing Infant and Pregnancy Loss, I hold hands with all my kindred spirits of loss and break the silence because life and death are part of life and therefore always part of us.

August 2014: Letting Go


  On August 2nd my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, turned 20 years-old. It is hard to believe I have been a mother for over 20 years!  21 years ago after a sad miscarriage, my mothering journey began. Several months later, I became pregnant with and gave birth to Elizabeth.  I then went on to have my son, Martin, my heavenly baby Margaret who was stillborn and then Winnie and Lila.  Since motherhood began for me, I have had no road map as a person or as a mother. How could I have known 21 years ago that my loss of Margaret would propel me to focus on the healing of my family and of others who had lost babies?  This has been my mission for the past 17 years; one I am proud of but one I could never have predicted. Over the years I have gone from teaching full-time to tutoring to staying at home full-time which allowed me the space to write my book, Journaling Away Mommy’s Grief. Since my book came out in 2011, I have gone around to hospitals and support groups to speak, interviewed on radio shows, connected with other moms who have lost babies and have done what I can to raise awareness of the importance of supporting these parents and families as they grieve.

Now, I am turning the compass on my life map that has no course and am possibly plunging back into teaching after a long hiatus.  I have applications in to various places. As I hold my map, I marvel at myself being nervous. I have always been a risk taker and my husband will tell you that all of our living children take after me there!  Taking risks can be great but now at 47, and mothering having been my focus, I am nervous to take a risk. I have invested so much time in my children; all of them, even Margaret.  I have spent the bulk of each of my days being with and about them, but soon two will be gone and in four years another and then all of them! Thinking of Margaret actually comforts me as I go through this phase of letting go because she truly is already gone yet never has she been gone from my heart or mind. Similarly, my four others will be gone too, someday (in a much less devastating way of course), but never will they be far from my heart or text.

Today, August 13th is Margaret’s 17th birthday.  Oddly, I feel a sadness of her leaving her childhood years; a childhood she never enjoyed and I never witnessed but I imagined it, ached for it, longed for it. One more year and she will reach the milestone of 18 meaning for me that the entirety of her lost childhood is over. In a way that milestone, like the milestone of my other children leaving the home will be bittersweet. I will ALWAYS miss her and long for her and miss watching her live but after 17 years of grieving and healing, I feel a bit like I will be able to let her go. I will begin to quiet my public voice and allow her to move on like her siblings. They will all be ready to cut that cord and be on their own.   I will always be here for them if they need me; doing laundry, writing, cooking, rollerblading and looking for a job, a new place to focus my energy.

Happy Birthday Margaret! We will miss you blowing your candles out forever more. You are our princess in heaven. We all love you so much.  May you have a beautiful and sunny birthday in heaven.

Happy Mother's Day to All Moms with Babies in Heaven


May 2014
Along my lengthy journey of absolute love and loss for my daughter, I have met so, so many mothers who have suffered stillbirths, miscarriages, and neo-natal deaths.  These are women whom I would not have met had I not lost Margaret.  As soon as I meet a woman of loss we are instantly friends. We are introduced via a grandmother, a sister, a friend, my website or face book page and then usually if they live close, we meet for coffee or a walk in the woods. I am at rapt attention hearing their tragic story of loss that are also always illuminated with beautiful moments. I love hearing the names of their babies, why they received these names and breathing life back into these babies by asking questions and just hearing about each of them. I also always enjoy hearing about the many unique ways these moms and their families choose to honor their baby through rituals and special mementos. The variety of ideas amazes me.  I have heard of so many different rituals, anything from planting flowers, to running their own charity, to buying a case of wine the year the baby was born, to collecting beach glass, to creating memory boxes, to painting pictures, to various fundraisers.  The list is endless and immensely creative. Grief makes us all creative in ways we never knew were possible. We have lived through the impossible so now we know anything is possible.

These woman and their babies have touched my life so deeply that I constantly picture each of their baby’s faces surrounding my Margaret in heaven. At night with all their names and stories dancing in my head, I say prayers, and as one mom taught me, give extra kisses to my children in honor of Margaret and all these babies who have died.
 
This month of May, I send out hugs to all the moms who have come into my life because they too lost a baby and to many others out there that I do not know who are going through the tragedy of losing a baby and grieving this immense loss.   May you find peace and solace and a creative outlet for your sadness and may you speak your babies name with honor and pride always. Happy Mother’s Day to the all my soul mate moms of loss.  Mother’s Day is sad without our babies, but we can still celebrate our pride at always being their mothers.