Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Please don't tell me that you "hope things are getting back to normal."  I know that you mean well and I'm sure that you say this simply because you aren't sure what else to say.  Believe me, I wish things could be normal.  I wish that I was rocking my five week old son to sleep right now instead of typing about coping with life after his death. But the reality is this:  Our lives will never be "normal" again.

We are functioning and we are working on finding a new routine for our family.  We are finding ways to cope with our grief and ways to brace ourselves for the days when the pain becomes overwhelming.  We work to find ways for the girls to remember their little brother while trying to make sure that his death doesn't scare them. 

These things are part of what has become "normal" for us now...but when you tell us that you "hope things are getting back to normal," you have no idea what that means.  There will always be a part of us that is missing and there will always be a scar in our hearts for the son we didn't get to keep.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't want things to "go back to normal."  That would be like acting that Aaron never existed.  He did.  It would be like saying that he isn't loved as much as our other children.  He is.  It would be like pretending that he hasn't changed our lives in a profound way.  He has.

We don't need the pain to go away or the tears to stop.  There is no shame in either of those things, but it would be nice for the pain to ease and the tears to lessen.  It's okay to be hurt and it's okay to need to cry; the ache and the tears will be with us for the rest of our lives.  But that doesn't mean that we can't be joyful or that we can't celebrate the blessings we are given.  We don't need to "return to normal" to feel happy; our "new normal" simply means making room for the grief alongside the joy. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One Month

I had every intention of writing something special for Aaron's "one-month birthday" today, but words are failing me tonight and tears have taken their place.

So I will simply say "My sweet baby boy, I miss you more than mere words will ever be able to say.  We may never know why you weren't ours to keep, but please know that you've kept a piece of our hearts with you.  You will always live within us and one day, we will hold you again in our arms."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Grief's Background Music

I know I feel like writing tonight, but I'm not sure I'm going to have much success in figuring out what exactly I want to say.  I am such a mess of emotions tonight that I'm not sure anything is going to come out right.  But, that's never stopped me before. :)

Today, we have been celebrating Abby's second birthday.  Tomorrow will mark one month since we first held Aaron in our arms.  This weekend, we are having Abby's party with family and friends.  Tonight, all I can do is cry.

I know that each of the little milestones that you would normally associate with having a baby will be difficult - each new month, each birthday.  So I have been expecting a struggle as his one month "angelversary" came up.  I guess I wasn't expecting how quickly it would sneak up and surprise me.

Honestly, if you had asked me a week ago about how we were doing I really could have said that we were doing pretty well and actually meant it.  I know that part of that is because we do truly believe that Aaron is at rest and we have been so very comforted by the love, prayers and overwhelming support we have received.  Part of it is because we have been staying busy and don't have a lot of time to lay under the covers and mope.  And part of it is a tiny bit of avoidance I think...I don't mean that we avoid thinking or talking about Aaron because his name is heard multiple times every single day in our house.  But I do think that we make a pretty conscious effort to keep the grief at bay most of the time because if we let it all in at once, we would simply be drowning in it.  It's almost like our minds know that it is too much to handle all at once, so we work at balancing a "normal" life while still processing little bits of our grief at a time.

Right now, that means the balance has tipped a bit in grief's favor and we're struggling a little.  We are so excited to celebrate Abby's birthday and it is such an incredible blessing to be able to watch her with icing all over her face because she dove headfirst into her cupcake.  But it is impossible not to feel the sadness of knowing that our son will never get those moments with us.  It is impossible not to think about the fact that I gave birth to her brother a month ago and there will be no baby for friends and family to pass around at her party this weekend.  It is impossible not to get overwhelmed a little bit when the reality of his absence presents itself so firmly in front of me.

For me, letting the grief in bit by bit is the only way that I will make it through each day.  I am always aware of the fact that I miss him, but most of the time it is more like a constant background music.  Then there are days where it becomes this blaring cacophony that I can't step away from until it has decided to quiet down on its own; there is no volume button.  I do believe that those deafening moments will probably lessen in frequency, and hopefully in volume, as time goes on, but right now it's so loud that it's all I can hear.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Aaron's Angel Arms

The bracelet that started it all - Chris's bracelet with the Saint Michael medallion.

 The day before Aaron's funeral, we still didn't have something special for Chris to wear in Aaron's memory.  I had a beautiful pearl bracelet from Eden's Wings and we had made tiny pearl bracelets with little heart charms for each of the girls to wear "for Baby Aaron."  We had been looking online for a few days (since we had been staying up pretty much all night anyway, we had time for that) trying to find something manly that we could it turns out, there just isn't a lot out there that is geared toward the Dads who have suffered the loss of a little one. 

I don't honestly remember how the idea of paracord bracelets came up, but we bought a package of royal blue paracord  and sent Chris to a Catholic bookstore about thirty minutes away for a Saint Michael medallion (or ten, as it turned out).  That night, with a little help from Professor Google, I sat on the couch and made Chris a bracelet specifically in memory of the son we would be laying to rest the next day. 

As a few days passed, it became obvious to me that making bracelets for other families was something tangible I could do...not just to honor Aaron's memory, but to provide something to other fathers who wanted something in memory of their own little ones.  Even though I knew how much Chris liked his bracelet, I wasn't sure it was even something that other Dads would want so I threw the idea out to one of the baby loss groups I'm a part of...and the response was loud and clear:  "Do it!"

So...nine days after I first made Chris's bracelet, "Aaron's Angel Arms" became 'Facebook official.'  Since then, I have been absolutely amazed at all that has happened. I would have never dreamed that I would be given the opportunity to connect with so many amazing people in such a short time.

We created a blog page to complement the Facebook page and give us a little different forum for sharing.  (And thanks to a very talented sister-in-law, we even have an online order form that makes my life a whole lot easier!)  :)  You can view it at 

In these first two weeks, I have sent out 17 bracelets and received orders for over 20 more.  I have talked with other parents from all over the country who are willing to share their own stories of loss and allow me to share Aaron with them by providing a small reminder of our angels.  (As I asked how much shipping would cost to the UK, the woman at the post office even remarked today "Well, you've got 'em just going everywhere don't you?")

I have received offers from several who wanted to help purchase supplies, surprise their husbands, sponsor bracelets for others who couldn't afford them, or purchase a bracelet for a friend and from one who is even creating something special for us in memory of Aaron. 

The bracelet I made tonight for all three of my babies - Tori, Abby and Aaron.
Even though it has been only two weeks, I have already found so much healing in this project.  And although I truly wish that there was absolutely no need for any of us who make things in memory of Angel Babies,  I am truly humbled and honored to get to share in the stories of so many remarkable little babies, siblings, mothers and fathers. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013


It's been a few days since I have had the urge to write about anything...things have really been pretty much what you'd expect and I just haven't taken the time to say anything about it.  We've also been keeping ourselves fairly busy with the girls, repainting the kitchen, trying to undo the disaster that our house became in the last three weeks, contemplating some life changes, and working on the memorial project that I decided to start (more on that coming soon).  Today, though, I need this.

I have known since we first received Aaron's diagnosis back in October that our lives would never be quite the same again.  I knew that, for the rest of our lives, there would always be someone missing from our family and that, no matter how we heal, we will always be aware of the son that isn't with us.  I knew there would be good days, neutral days, bad days and really bad days. 

What I wasn't really prepared for (although I had been warned by plenty of other moms) is how unexpectedly something would trigger a breakdown.  It was kind of a given that it would probably be difficult to see other babies for a while and I have seen plenty of them in the three weeks since Aaron's birth.  They do catch my attention and I find myself looking at them a little longer than I used to.  I am acutely aware of the sadness in my heart, but most of the time I just say a little prayer for their health and go on with my day.

Last weekend, we went to the library with the girls and saw a mom about our age with two little girls who looked to be about 6 and 4 and a little boy who was probably 2...exactly the age spread that ours would have been.  It caught my eye and I paused for a few minutes while I just watched them all head out to the parking holding hands.  Mercifully, I was busy putting on Tori's coat and she distracted me almost immediately.  Today, however, was a completely different story.  While I was checking out our books, a mom came in with a baby carrier on her arm and  two little girls who were probably the same age as Abby and Tori.  Then I hear her say to the younger one, "Come on Abby, let's go over here."

I just lost it.  Standing in the middle of the public library with tears just streaming down my face as I'm trying to hurry up and finish scanning our books so we can get out of there as quickly as possible before I start actively sobbing.  Despite frantically trying to wipe away the tears before the girls noticed, I hear Tori ask loudly from the boat where she has been busily steering away from imaginary marine obstacles "Mommy, why are you crying??" Crap.

Trying to placate her with "It's okay sweetie, Mommy's fine." is pretty much a lost cause, so I had to take her aside and explain to her what was going on.  I let her know that Mommy saw another baby and it made me sad because I still miss Baby Aaron and wish he was here with us.  We went through the usual routine of explaining how it's okay to be sad and to cry when we need to.  She was fine with that answer and dropped it after that. 

I, on the other hand, find myself crying again as I write about it.  I assume today's encounter was so much more difficult than last weekend because it is much easier to imagine myself with the baby that is supposed to be in my arms rather than the toddler that I won't be chasing in two years.  I know this won't be the last time something floods in and reminds me so painfully of the little man that we are missing, but that means it also won't be the last time that I thank God for the opportunity that I had to hold him in my arms, even if only for a little while.  It also won't be the last time that I am reminded of the opportunities that I have every day to hold the girls, help them remember their baby brother, and let them know how much they are all loved.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


One of the things that Chris and I have said quite a few times in these last few weeks is how surreal pretty much everything seems right now.  We are trying to fit our own feelings of grief and loss in with a world that hasn't even paused since our son died.  It's been kind of hard to explain exactly what that feels like, but it kind of hit me while I was sitting at the computer tonight...

I was listening to Ke$ha on YouTube, talking with a coworker on Facebook, thinking about how I need to finally start to file our taxes, trying to determine a schedule for when I return to work next week, finishing up a bracelet for a family who lost their baby to a placental abruption after 38 weeks of a perfectly healthy pregnancy, contemplating changes to make to our new online order form, and pondering the sketches of our son's headstone that the monument company emailed to me tonight.

With all of that happening at once, it's no wonder anxiety has been an issue lately...but even more than that, when I paused to realize just how many things I had in the air all at the same time, it dawned on me that it was a pretty good example of what our lives have been like recently. 

We are trying to make sure that we aren't running from all of the emotions that are totally normal right now, but at the same time, staying busy and distracted is another way of coping...when I know that letting all of those emotions come to the surface would be totally overwhelming, it's easier for me to refocus on something else and let the grief come in little bits and pieces tucked in with all of the other things that help occupy my mind.

I'm not saying it's the best way and it certainly isn't the only way, but it seems to be what's working for us right now.  Those overwhelming moments still happen and I'll still sit in the middle of the floor to cry with no apparent trigger...but at least that isn't the only thing I'm managing to accomplish.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trying to Find Some Light

I mentioned last night that things have been rough lately and that is still true.  Today (since it is already after 1:00am) marks two weeks since Aaron was born and one week since we laid him to rest.  It seems like it's taken this long for the initial shock to wear off and for things to settle down enough for the enormity of all that has been happening to really sink in for me.  Chris and I have had a lot of heart-to-hearts and are doing our best to stay on top of all of these emotions and struggles, but these are some of the worst days we've had since getting our diagnosis in October. 

Although it would be hard to explain to anyone exactly why things suddenly took such a difficult turn, in talking with other mommas who have been through this I have found that the two-week mark seems to be a universally difficult one for lots of us.  Like I said above, this seems to be the point where there is no longer quite so much that needs our attention and everything really has the opportunity to sink in. 

Although things are dark and difficult and painful right now, I find myself more thankful than ever for the love and support of my husband.  We are blessed with a marriage in which there is no topic too scary or too intense; I know that he is available to hear whatever I am saying and he knows that the same is true when he needs to talk.  I can not even imagine how much more difficult this journey would be if we didn't have that "safe place" where we could be honest about how we truly feel.

I am also so thankful for the online forums in which I have found support from other mothers who have dealt with anencephaly, stillbirth and carrying to term.  Not only do those groups offer the anonymity of the internet, but you are also instantly connected with thousands of others who are in all stages of their own journeys.  It gives me the opportunity to share our experiences with those who have just received a poor diagnosis or are maybe just preparing to deliver, but also allows me to talk with mothers who delivered several months ago to see that life really does start to get a little easier again and to let me know that everything I've been feeling really is totally normal. 

I am, of course, still grateful for the continued love, prayers and support from our families and friends too.  Although there hasn't been much that we have been able to ask of them, we know they all stand at the ready if only we could find something they could do.  They have all done all that they can right now to help us and just knowing that they are there for us to call on is a comfort.

I didn't really know what I hoped to convey when I sat down to write tonight, because things do feel pretty awful right now and I'm just not ready to share what all of that looks like from the inside at the moment.  It was, however, nice to take the moment to reflect on all of the support we have had in the last few months and be mindful of the light that still exists at the edge of all this darkness.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Aaron's Funeral Mass

I did actually write most of this post the day after Aaron's funeral but just hadn't posted it yet.  Honestly, tonight has been one of the hardest I've had since we received the diagnosis in October so rather than try to make sense of the mess in my head right now, I decided it would be a good night to finish up this post and reflect on the peace I felt when I first wrote it. 

As I have mentioned before, Aaron's Mass was absolutely beautiful and Father John did a wonderful job of speaking directly to our hearts.  It did truly help us find a peace in laying our son to rest.  We were blessed to have so many family members and friends who were able to join us and we were touched by each person who came to help us celebrate our little guy.

I don't think it will ever be possible to forget that day, but I wanted to write it all down tonight while it was still so fresh in my mind so that I will always be able to come back and read over this.  I also wanted to share with anyone who wasn't able to be with us for his service.

Since we had chosen not to do a visitation, we were fortunate enough to have the church opened an hour and a half before Mass so that Chris and I could have some time to spend in prayer quietly with our son before we welcomed family and friends to gather with us.  Although it isn't something that is normally done, especially not in a lot of Catholic churches, it meant so very much to have that time before Mass to spend a few minutes with each person who came to celebrate Aaron's life and show their support for our family.  Father John has said several times since we first met with him that there isn't really isn't a good manual for this sort of thing and it was evident that he was truly letting God guide him in finding what would be best for us and our family.

Thankfully, we had chosen many of the readings and music selections before Aaron was born so we had plenty of time to reflect on exactly what we wanted.  As I heard the songs sung by those who love us and the words we had chosen read aloud, we knew we had chosen correctly.  Although we are heartbroken that Aaron didn't get to stay here with us, we wanted his funeral Mass to make it clear that we know he is safe where he is and we believe that one day we will see him again. 

 Funeral Liturgy Selections
 * Gathering Hymn - "We Walk By Faith"  "We Walk By Faith" YouTube
 * First Reading - Wisdom 4:7-15
 * Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 23
 * Second Reading - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
 * Gospel Reading - John 14:1-6
 * Communion Hymn - "Be Not Afraid"  "Be Not Afraid" YouTube
 * Song of Farewell - "On Eagle's Wings"  "On Eagle's Wings" YouTube

We went out to the cemetery immediately after Mass.  Chris, the girls and I all got to ride with Aaron in the limo, which was nice except that I panicked about halfway to the cemetery and thought that I had forgotten how to get there (and realized later that I definitely did not pick the shortest route).  Thankfully my dad came to the rescue and helped lead us the rest of the way (as it turns out, I knew where we were going...just had a momentary freak out).

Father John said a few final words graveside, then the girls wanted to send some balloons up to Aaron in Heaven.  Tori had chosen a blue balloon for him and Abby insisted that he wanted pink. (Abby let hers go later than the rest because she was standing on the string, but somehow it caught up to the others almost right away.)  Chris and I had white balloons for him (thank you to my younger sister for picking them up for us).  We stood with the girls until the balloons were out of sight and listened as Tori told us about what she thought Aaron would do with his balloons - she was pretty sure he was going to pop them, just for fun.

Friends and family headed back into town to meet us for the luncheon that some very kind women from church had prepared for us.  Chris and I had decided ahead of time that we wanted to stay behind until they placed Aaron's casket in the ground.  The two men were so gentle as they laid down to lower him and then stepped aside so we had a few minutes to talk with our son one more time.  Although it was muddy, Chris and I each got to place a handful of earth with him (although the mud wasn't nearly as poetic as dry dirt...the messy clunkiness seemed more appropriate for the way we felt anyway). 

Honestly, I wasn't sure how I would feel about staying to watch my son be placed in the ground.  As it turned out, my husband once again knew what he was talking about when he suggested it.  It produced a feeling of closure and finality to it all that I'm not sure I would've felt otherwise.  I know it may not be the right choice for everyone, but for us, it was certainly the right thing to do. 

As I said in my first post about Aaron's funeral mass, it was a chilly rainy day but it was a beautiful service.  We are so very grateful for the friends and family who were able to join us and sincerely appreciate the prayers of those who weren't able to be there. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Out of all the emotions that I have been working my way through since October, bitterness has always played just a minor role.  There have certainly been times when it has wormed itself into my thoughts along with a touch of resentment, but overall I just don't find it to be a particularly useful emotion. 

There are several people close to me who have had children recently or are expecting a new baby soon.  During the first month or so after we received our diagnosis, seeing babies or other pregnant women nearly broke my heart.  That was when the bitterness was worst...I was almost angry at them for their healthy babies or their "normal" pregnancies.  In my mind, I would ask a hundred times why our child was going to be taken from us so soon and longed to know what we had done to deserve such unthinkable heartache.  It wasn't that I ever wished to trade places with anyone else, because I wouldn't wish this sort of pain on anyone...I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that everyone else was getting these healthy, perfect babies and we would soon be planning a funeral.

Thankfully, that phase was short-lived and I can honestly say I've moved beyond it.  It is still painful, but there is no longer a bitterness or resentment to accompany the ache when I see someone else's newborn or learn of a new pregnancy. 

Although we miss Aaron and will continue to miss him every day of our lives, we are so very thankful for him.  He taught us more about life, love and faith than some people are able to share with others in a lifetime that lasts a hundred years.  He helped us find a strength within ourselves that we had no idea existed.  He showed us how important it is to cherish every day and every moment because nothing is a guarantee.  He gave us the opportunity to truly learn what "unconditional love" really means, even though we thought we already knew.   

Although he weighed just over four pounds and had the tiniest little feet I have ever seen, Aaron Michael left footprints on our hearts and in our lives that have forever changed us.    

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kind of Jumbled

The last few days have been a struggle...not that I think that's going to surprise anyone, but I've been a little surprised at way that those struggles have presented themselves.  Honestly, I initially had no real intention of posting anything tonight because I am simply not thinking clearly enough to be sure that I can write anything that makes sense.  But I got some encouraging words from one of the moms I met online recently who made it a point to tell me that my words have been helping her as she prepares for the birth of her little angel in just a few weeks.  That made me remember how difficult it was, in all of the blogs that I stalked before Aaron's birth, to find anything that other mommas had written in the days immediately after their babies left them.  I suspect the reason for that is because most of them felt exactly the way I've been feeling lately.

Of course I am sad and of course I am grieving for my son, but I am also struggling to figure out how to incorporate that into my daily life.  If Aaron had been our first child, I kind of feel like I might have just spent the last ten days curled up in bed but the fact is that Tori and Abby still need their parents.  If we sat around and cried all day, they would be terrified and probably traumatized, so we try our best to save most of our emotional moments for the evening after they've gone to sleep.  I've said before that the world hasn't stopped turning just because our baby died (though I certainly wish it could've paused for me to catch my breath) so we are left trying to figure out where we fit in a world that is still basically the same, while we will never be the same again.

Those of you who know me personally know that I really really like my "to-do" lists and my Post-It notes.  For whatever reason, I thought that last night would be a good time to sit down and start making a list of all the things that will need to be done in the near future...turns out it was actually a really stupid idea and just caused me more anxiety than I need.  I know that it is my way of making sure that things don't get forgotten, but I probably could've waited a bit to put it all on paper.  It also makes me realize that I don't actually want to do any of the important stuff that I should be working on...the only things from my to-do list that I feel like doing are the ones that are much less critical.  For example, I don't want to pay bills or look at taxes.  I don't want to wash the dishes or tackle our mountain of laundry.  I don't want to sweep the floor or unpack our hospital bags.  I want to work on the blankets I've been making.  I want to sort all of the kid clothes in the garage so I can finally take some to a consignment store.  I want to scour the internet finding stuff for Abby's birthday party.  I want to shop online for supplies for the bracelets I've started making.  I want to spend several hours Facebook-stalking and talking to the other moms I've met in the last few months. All of the things that I want to do are just busy enough to keep me distracted, but don't really require a lot of brain power. 

I am trying to be kind to myself and just try to roll with whatever doesn't send me into a long as I've got the bare minimum done right now (by that, I mean we're all bathed, fed and clothed and the bills are paid on time), I figure I'm going to try to cut myself some slack.  That's actually what we've been trying to do yesterday and today - we haven't left the house and we haven't done much besides color, read stories, bake cookies, and watch cartoons.