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Swell Hearts

When the Heart Breaks: Part I

When the Heart Breaks: Part I

It's been a year since we launched our Swell Forever Facebook page and fittingly, it happened to be October.

We celebrate the lives we've lost through miscarriage and infancy during Pregnancy + Infant Loss Awareness Month  

We also seek to provide encouragement to families who have lived through such a difficult reality. Having been personally touched by the unique and complex grief of miscarriage, loss has forever impacted my life.

On the upside, it has also opened up doors to incredibly brave and beautiful people who have fought their way through the hardest days of their lives to find hope and joy again. And they want you to know...you will find it.

Out of my broken heart has come a shared sense of understanding with other parents who have gone through similar experiences. Their friendship and camaraderie has been a true gift. 

One tangible way my experience has impacted Swell Forever is the creation of Forever Birds, our hand blown glass hummingbird ornaments that come with a personalized message and the anthem of the hummingbird wishing peace, strength, and resilience.

Since launching, I have shipped many of these beauties out to moms and dads who are missing heavenly babes and need to know that their grief is real to those who love them. While Forever Birds can be sent for any reason, including celebration, the idea for them was born out of the love I have for my little birds (all three of them) that flew the nest far too early.

I cannot tell you how important it is to recognize someone's grief, especially when it comes to a child or unborn baby. If you have not experienced it, you may think it is just a blip on the radar screen, something that you simply get over or heal from in due time. I can assure you that is not the case for miscarriage and especially not the loss of a young baby or child. And, loss is never a "relief."

Since everyone handles grief in many different ways, I have collaborated with an amazing group of courageous and strong parents who want to help shed light on what they have gone through by losing a child and also what you might consider doing should you (and you will) find yourself as a potential support to a family suffering such heartbreak. 

It is estimated that about 30-40% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and approximately 28,000 little babes do not live to see their first birthdays. Help us raise awareness so that no one grieves alone or in silence. You can help us do this by sharing this collaborative effort with others so that they will have the benefit of knowing just how to help.

Over the course of this month, it is my utmost hope that we CELEBRATE the lives that while incredibly missed, brought so much joy to those who love them. I want to thank each and every brave soul that contributed to this post. Your courage and desire to share astounds me. I will be a better friend because of you.

And thank you all for reading because simply caring is the first step to loving a grieving friend.

The month of October was designated in 1988, by President Reagan as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, but it includes the loss of all children due to losses such as miscarriage, stillbirths, SIDS, infant loss and other causes.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day is October 15th. At  7 pm on October 15th everyone is asked to light a candle for one hour, so there is a continuous wave of light around the world to raise awareness for these children. We hope you join Swell Forever on this night for a virtual celebration and candle lighting for these families.

Carla

Carla's Blog

Owen Michael

February 12, 2012 – July 12 2012

I am a mother of 6.  Unfortunately, I can only physically mother 3 of my children because 3 of them live in heaven. 

I remember the first time, back in June 2006, when I first peed on a stick and got the PREGNANT reading.  My husband was out of town and I remember texting him a picture of the test.  We were shocked, excited and blissfully hopeful for our future family. 

This all came crashing down when I started to miscarry at 13 weeks pregnant, the day before we were supposed to have our first ultrasound.  I was whisked away to the emergency room for an emergency D&C because they couldn't stop the bleeding.  I remember the ultrasound tech doing her first ultrasound of my first baby and confirming our loss and praying and crying with us as our world came shattering down. 

Little did I know my world would continue to be shattered, but also blessed in so many ways.  My second pregnancy also ended in miscarriage but this time at 7 weeks.  Test after test confirmed there was nothing wrong with me and I was told we would succeed in having a family and not to stress about it.

We were blessed with our first live birth in November 2007. A healthy 9+ lb son.  We were doubly blessed two years later when we welcomed our second son in December 2009.

Our hearts felt full again and the pain of the first two miscarriages started to subside. I was told during my first miscarriage that I would never get over the loss but I would get through it. That was proving correct. My heart was not healed but I felt so much love with my family of four and the two boys I was raising.

We were blessed yet again with the birth of our third son, Owen, in February 2012.  "Wow, three boys huh" people would say. I would respond with "Yes, three boys, isn't it great!" Our house was chaotic to say the least but there was so much love and joy.  Owen was the sunshine of our lives.  So happy. So healthy. So perfect. 

Our family was complete.

All until I put him to sleep on the eve of his 5 month birthday.  Unfortunately God had other plans for Owen for he was never to wake again.  Even though we followed all the "safe sleeping practices" and put him to sleep in his crib with nothing but a few pacifiers, Owen passed away peacefully in his sleep less than an hour after I put him to bed.

The days since Owen died have been a darkness I don't wish on anyone but I hope that during this month of October, my story will raise awareness to the fact that there is this club that NO ONE wants to or should be a part of.  The club where parents struggle and cringe every time someone asks you how many kids you have.

This club is filled with some of the most loving, thoughtful and beautiful parents and siblings I have ever met.  What has helped me the most in the months and years since we lost Owen is this club.  If you find yourself an unfortunate member of this club, SEEK OUT OTHER CLUB MEMBERS NOW! 

They will be your rock for the rest of your life!  I found these groups online, on Facebook, through my pediatrician, through my church and through a wonderful organization called Good Grief. 

Good Grief helps CHILDREN who have suffered the loss of a parent or sibling connect with other children.  Not only did my husband and I lose our son, our older sons lost their brother.  They were old enough to remember Owen and still talk about him daily, over 2 years later.  This organization helped them SEEK OUT other children in this club of kids that have suffered unimaginable loss.

I am never too busy to answer the phone, a text or an email from a new or old friend that has suffered the loss of a child, so anyone suffering, please reach out. 

We will not walk this dark road alone and I have faith, that one day, my family of eight will all be together as one. 

Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life.

Excerpts from My Letter to A Grieving Friend

Baby Gabe

This time of year always makes it fresh. I remember being very sad on Halloween as the loss was very new and we lived on a street that was crowded with kids. It was a poignant time in my life emotionally watching all the kids on a beautiful, crisp fall night and wondering what it would have been like to take Gabe trick or treating. I really miss him tonight. Life does go on and things get busy and new things do develop that help you not be so focused on what is not there anymore.-

I feel back to normal, but a piece of my heart is always different.

We went to the Garth Brooks concert and he sang The Dance. It is super cliche but the song really hit home for me. I could have missed the pain but I would have had to miss the dance. I won't lie, living with four years of "failing" at my pregnancies and not knowing if I would ever be a mom to a biological child was very hard. It got particularly hard last winter. A lot of people never know what that fear and sadness is like. They never question whether being a biological mom is an experience they get to have or not. They just assume.

I've carried a sense of longing for a baby I never got to meet since the age of 26. I will carry that for the rest of my life.

However, getting a chance to feel the love of a mother and cherish something so special, even if it only lasted for a trimester, was incredible. I have those sweet memories of picking things out for him, going places, laying on the front porch with morning sickness and reading books to get through, beautiful late summer walks thinking about his arrival into our life... I really do have joy thinking about him.

I could wish all the pain and heartache that losses and doubt brought into my life away, but they shaped me. They made my heart sensitive to others. They made me more creative.

Loss made me a more beautiful version of the girl I was.

It makes me catch myself when I think about complaining about the basic frustrations and stresses of parenthood. It made me rethink my career and where I wanted to be. It made me start a company about emotions and sharing them, even when it is hard. I encourage you to love yourself, love that baby, and let yourself evolve and grow into the person that will be more beautiful than even before. You will be a mom. You will feel clarity as to how you will become a mom. You will always miss this baby and that is OK and NORMAL!

Let this baby be an inspiration in your life and take you places you did not dare to dream you could go.

Baby Gabe made me a mama and I have never been the same. I really don't want to be though.  I love Isla more and more because I know how precious and rare she is. Somehow God is in the details. Tell him you want Him to show you His love and faithfulness and I feel certain he will. And one day, when you bring home that little one that was meant to be yours, you will realize what it took to bring you together.

Weyant

Baby Hadley & Baby Harper

I still pause every time we tell someone that my wife is pregnant and they ask,

“Is this your first?”

Hadley and Harper, you are our firsts. Thank you both for being our little angels watching over us, and thank you for watching over your little brother as he grows and gets ready for the world. I’m sure that a big reason it has gone smoothly is because of the two of you. I know that someday I will get to see you again and be so proud of the beautiful women you’ve become. Until then, know that your mom and I love you and miss you so much.

Love, Dad

My mother's best advice to me still holds true: "this too shall pass." But that doesn't mean you forget about the loss. 

It just means that as time goes on, you figure out how to not be upset 24/7. There's not a day that goes by that we don't think about our little girls, but we also try to enjoy life and keep their spirit alive in everything we do.  We also planted a lemon and lime tree in our backyard last year.  It's something that we can nurture and have grow over time, just like our girls would have.

That's been a great thing for us to focus our energy on. I think it's important to know that everyone grieves in different ways and there is literally nothing you are "supposed to do."  You just make your decisions and do the best you can with it.  No one should fault you for how you handle loss. Ever.

Hadley and Harper’s Baby Brother Nolan Born September 16, 2014

Sabrina

Avé Hope

May 15, 2013 – October 7, 2013 (SIDS)

I don’t know how much advice I have for someone going through this as I have only been without my sweet Avé for almost a year now, but I do know that my faith is carrying me each day that I will someday see her again. You will be sad, you will be angry, you will be jealous of others for what they have and you no longer do, you will judge others, you will struggle to find reasons for living, you will lash out, and more than ever you will cry when you think you have no tears left.

But, you will also smile again, laugh again, and find joy again.

With that said, you will never forget and honestly, you won’t want to. I find my tears every day connect me to Avé in a way only another mom going through this could understand as it is in those moments that it is me and her and I can do what moms do best, love their children.

Through my tears, I am loving her and missing her. 

Melinda

Baby R

June 2014

I miscarried on Father's Day. The significance of the day still haunts my thoughts as I morbidly replay lyrics in Alanis Morrisette's song Ironic. I also cringe at the verb, to miscarry. It sounds as though I failed at my one job to carry the pregnancy. In football terms, I fumbled. I had it in my hands one moment.

Then the next, dropped it. In reality, I feel like my budding motherhood was stolen from me. It was ripped away by a cheat who wasn't playing fair. But I don't have a life referee that can blow the whistle and set things right. There's no recovering that particular ball. No having that particular baby. It's lost forever. Miscarried into the great unknown, far away from the mother who loves him. 

It's enough to make you question the baby's existence, your own existence, God's existence - the existence of anything good and right in the world. It's easy enough to say that it's common, but in the game of statistics, you always hope that you're in the super majority of mothers carrying to term. Instead, I'm coming to terms with an empty womb and a world of grief. I grieve for my child, lost so early. I grieve for myself and the dashed plans. I grieve for the family life that I want so desperately and cannot have.

I grieve for the lost hope of a carefree and blissful future pregnancy.

 

And yet, I have a tiny seedling of hope that the larger arc of my life still includes motherhood. I was a mom for 8 beautiful weeks.

I am a mom.
-
.
 

Allison

Allison's Blog

-

Baby Blueberry

Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot,
seek the path that demands your whole being.
Leave that which is not, but appears to be,
seek that which is, but is not apparent.
~ Rumi
-

"Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot." 

My knot is pregnancy. It was such a horrible experience for me and I am so scared to do it again.  The time is approaching for us to try again and I am so frightened of it.  "Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot."  I have to do it again, I will have a positive experience and I will have fun.  My knot is the negativity I apply to the experience I had.  It will be different next time.  "Seek the path that demands your whole being."  It will take all of me to do this again.

So, here we go.  I've decided to wait another month until our home repairs are done and school is almost out so it looks like I will have to face my fears soon.  And, after my visit with the OB and this yoga class, I am less afraid now.  I am still scared as hell, don't get me wrong, but a peace has come over me.  I can do this, it will be fun, and it is not a disease.  "Leave that which is not, but appears to be.  Seek that which is, but is not apparent."  

I CAN DO THIS AGAIN.

Allison and Baby Sister Lemon

Bad things happen to good people.

They don't happen for any reason and it doesn't matter what kind of life you've led before (I used to think differently).  They just happen.  Instead of looking for the good in it, because let's face it - sometimes there isn't any, look at what it's taught you or how you can come back from this situation.  I have a quote on my classroom wall about failure (from Gandhi):

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

And someone posted something similar on Facebook today (by Mary Pickford): 

"You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down but staying down."

So, get back up, dust yourself off and come out smiling on the other side.  Find your happiness.  Even if it's hard to see, find it.  And apparently, if you find it more often than not, it will be quicker to find each time something knocks you down.  So, practice gratitude tonight before you go to bed, see what it does to your mood and your day tomorrow.  Find one thing every day that you are thankful for.

The only thing I will say about today is - from this moment forward there are no more repeats.

I don't want to acknowledge today too much because instead of remembering the day we lost our blueberry, I'd like to remember his/her birthday every year as a celebration of his/her life instead. 

There will be no more moments of "I was pregnant last year when we got our tree," or "I was pregnant last year when we went for nails on Christmas Eve" or "I told my family and friends I was pregnant today and am pregnant again." 

No more repeats. Today marks a fresh start, a real one, where every day is something new, a day I am pregnant for the very first time with a 4 month old baby.  Isn't that a lovely thought?

This has been my journey of "no comparisons" but it has been hard not to compare.  But today, there really can be no more comparisons.  It's like I finally have to live it all anew, and I love it.

One day at a time. One baby at a time. One thought at a time.

Ian

{This post is from Allison’s husband, Ian.  He tells the story of the day he was out in the desert, on his tribal lands, hunting with his friend when she called him on her way to the hospital, to tell him something was wrong with their baby.}

Have you ever been in the ocean, out to where you can’t feel the bottom?  

Where you tread water and wait for the waves completely out of your element and in the hands of fate you realize earth is alive and you are the smallest guest?  If the ocean forgets to wave, you are washed into the abyss, lost forever, treading water.  The day we lost our baby was the day I learned that you don’t have to be in the water to be lost at sea.

I start carving a piece of wood, whittling out a small figure, and my mind wanders.  I traveled 8 months into the future where I held my little blueberry.  I traveled 6 years ahead where I taught our blueberry the beauties of the desert, just like my father did when I was that age.  As I carved that figure I went around the world guiding that little blueberry through all of life’s experiences. Then, the ringtone from my phone echoed through the desert.  It was my wife, she told me something was wrong and like I said ... you don’t have to be in the water to be lost at sea.

Julia

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Baby Wren

I'm a miscarriage survivor and a mom who has three beautiful children here on earth. The baby I lost in my second pregnancy has forever changed me and I still think about that child, even in the midst of parenting my three kids. I wrote a lot about my loss and the complications following, if you'd like to read more: 

My advice for anyone going through a loss? Take the time to grieve.

Get mad. Write it all out if that helps you. Find your best source of stress relief and milk it for all it's worth. Talk to anyone who understands. I met some amazing women-turned-friends through my loss on The Bump's message boards--specifically the miscarriage/loss board, the TTC after loss board, and the pregnant after loss board.

Do not let the grief swallow you whole but let it process and take your time. I found that truly the only thing that healed my broken heart was my next positive pregnancy test, but even then my loss never left me. It's a part of me now, a part of my story, a page in my book and I am not ashamed of it. I don't know how your story will unfold but know that

You are not alone in this.

On the Other Side

An all-time favorite post of mine

My heart breaks for every other woman going through the motions of life after a loss. Miscarriage is everywhere and each time I read about it, or hear about it, I feel angry that it happens so much. It's not fair. It's so sad. But life does go on. It will get better.

A year later, we are living the life with two kids that I dreamed about for so long. It's happening. It's real. SHE'S real. We're on the other side of a loss. And I'm at a loss for words to accurately reflect my gratitude. And so I simply give my sleeping baby a kiss and say a prayer of thanks.

She's worth it.

Mary Elizabeth

Excerpt from A Letter to Grieving Parents

In Honor of Baby Warren

For the full letter, click here.

“You were given the privilege of creating an eternal soul, something (and someone) that can never be diminished by how devastatingly brief his life on earth was. I trust God will draw close to you and surprise you with joy while you wait to join your precious baby when all is made new.”

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