Forever in Our Hearts – Remembering Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

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infant lossAs the cool air blows in, I bid adieu to the summer, the season that I said hello and farewell, all in the same night, to my twin boys, Gavin and Chase. I feel closest to my boys when the weather is warm when I can sit in their garden and be amongst the white butterflies and blue hydrangeas, but I honor them every single day of the year, especially in October.

Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, observed in October, aims to remember all of the babies gone too soon, recognize the grief parents endure, and bring some comfort to aching hearts and awareness and resources to the community. 

I know firsthand the pain of losing a child. I know it twofold. I have experienced the horror of feeling a child take their last breath, knowing there is nothing you can do to save them, saying goodbye to the life you imagined, and joining a club you never wanted to be a part of. This club of loss parents, grieving together, supporting one another, remembering and celebrating the fact that your child was here and does matter, is sometimes all I have to cling to. 

You see, when you lose a child, it is beyond isolating. The world around you continues moving, and yet, you are stuck, motionless, unable to understand how you must go on living without a piece of your heart.

There are the select few in your life that will stop their lives to grieve with you, hold your hand, but most will feel lost in trying to figure out what to say, what to do.

As a mother of angels, all I can ask is that my children are remembered and mentioned.

Maybe not every day, but often enough that I know they left a mark on your life. Speaking their names will not remind me that they died; I am reminded of that every single day. It will remind me that they lived, even if only for a few short hours.  

When parents lose a child, it is the parents that feel the most pain. It can be difficult for a friend or family member to fathom the gut-wrenching hurt, but there are ways to offer love and support. In my darkest days, it was the friend that came to my house with dinner, knowing I probably wouldn’t eat it, and just sat with me. She didn’t talk about current events or what happened to her at work; she just sat. Sometimes she rubbed my head, she offered to put in my laundry, but just feeling less alone was all I needed.

Another dear friend donated two trees for us to plant in memory of our boys. A gesture that meant everything, knowing she wanted to honor our children with us. Planting those trees was incredibly peaceful and healing. Most of my family did not ask what I needed. They wanted me back to who I was before my children died. As hard as I tried to explain my grief, they could not accept that I would never be that person again. This friend accepted it. I distanced myself from the ones who could not, and unfortunately, loss does that.

So what can you do for someone who has experienced every parent’s worst nightmare? It’s simple, just be there. Take their lead. Don’t assume you know what they need. Ask.

Is it a dinner for their children or spouse, so they do not have to think about cooking? Can you watch their children for a few hours so they can rest or take care of themselves or even just cry? Does it mean understanding why they may not want to see you or your new baby? Can you plant a tree or some flowers in their baby’s memory? It may be helping to arrange a memorial service or funeral for their baby when it is too painful for them to do. Maybe donating to a cause close to their heart, such as the March of Dimes or stillbirth research would be special…sometimes a gesture as small as lighting a candle or writing their baby’s name in the sand and sending them a picture is all it takes to show your support. 

In fact, on October 15th at 7:00 p.m., there is a wave of light for all of the babies in Heaven. As loss parents, we ask that you light a candle to remember our angels with us.

I participate in this every year, and it fills my soul when I receive pictures of candles glowing in memory of my children. I don’t receive many, but there are the select few who never forget. 

I will never forget the boys that made me a mother. They are rooted deep in my soul, and although my grief is still so big, my love is even bigger over four years later. When I look up at the stars, I know they are the brightest ones, shining their light upon me. When the sun rises each morning and paints the sky, I know they are greeting the day with me. They are in the blooming flowers, the crisp and peaceful white snow, the breeze that blows the fallen leaves. They are with me through every season of life, blessing me in ways I never thought possible. 

I have chosen to take my pain and turn it into something beautiful. I did not choose this life. No parent does. But we, as survivors, can still laugh, smile, find joy. We can cry and be angry and scream, and that is all ok. Please remember our children with us, for although they may be gone from our sight, they are never gone from our hearts. 

Donation Resources: Consider donating to one of the below organizations in the name(s) of an angel baby:

March of Dimes: An organization that focuses on the health of mother and baby to prevent birth defects, premature birth, and infant loss. Donating funds research to prevent premature birth provides families with assistance in paying NICU bills and helps mothers receive proper prenatal care to prevent pregnancy and infant loss.

Tiny Miracles Foundation: This foundation aids premature babies, and donations such as tiny hand-knit hats, booties, preemie clothes, and diapers go to babies spending time in the NICU. Tiny Miracles provides support for families with babies in the NICU as well as bereavement services. 

Faith’s Lodge: This beautiful serene lodge in Minnesota provides families with comfort after a loss, giving them a safe place to grieve, find strength, and renewed hope. Donating to this amazing cause allows families to attend at a very low cost, allowing them to take some time to reflect and be with others who know their pain.

Molly Bears: This organization provides families with teddy bears that match their child’s weight. These bears provide comfort to aching arms and can be customized with a baby’s name as well. Many times the bears are sent free of charge to grieving parents, so donations are needed. Donating in the name of an angel or sending a family one of these bears is a beautiful gesture. Ours are in all of our family pictures and travel with us on vacation, as well as sleep in our daughter’s bed each night. 

Remembrance candles and care packages:

Laurelbox: This beautiful company curates gift boxes for grieving hearts. Givers can send teacups, seeds to plant, beautiful tea towels, jewelry, wind chimes, even birthday cake candles for lighting on an angel’s birthday. I know the owner of this shop, and she is the most beautiful soul, helping hurting mamas find some comfort. Their products are gorgeous and so thoughtful. They also allow you to customize a gift message, and if you don’t know what to say, they will help; they’ve been there. 

Candles: Etsy has so many lovely choices for custom memory candles. We have one that we light often. This would be a perfect thoughtful gift to send a family in memory of their baby, as they could light it on October 15th.

Remembrance project:

Carly Marie Dudley-Capture Your Grief Project: “Capture Your Grief” is a worldwide community project designed to help bereaved parents mindfully document their grief experience and discover other ways, perspectives, and ideas on healing after the death of a baby or child of any age or gestation. While this project is mainly for bereaved parents, anyone who has been touched by such a loss is welcome to join in.” Please visit her website to learn more about the project. She also offers gorgeous remembrance art. 

Forever Loved Wall: Westchester County Mom would like to help you visually mark those little lives. If you’d like to add your baby to the wall we have on our site; we would be honored to remember them with you. These babies will be forever loved and never forgotten.

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Janine is a stay at home mom of four, two on earth and twins in Heaven. She grew up in Stratford, CT and now lives in Port Chester, NY. After graduating from culinary school in 2010, she went on to be an executive pastry chef, a cake designer, then a corporate sous chef in NYC. Janine started her journey to becoming a Mom following her 2012 wedding. After struggles with infertility, she and her husband turned to IVF and were blessed with identical twins. Her twin boys grew wings on 6/26/14, after being born severely premature. Overcoming the darkness of infant loss and finding a new normal were very trying. Janine and her husband welcomed a rainbow baby in August of 2015, who’s name means “pure light.” Their daughter brought so much joy and light back into their world. In November of 2017, their second rainbow and miracle, a boy, was born. Janine works very diligently, as a mother of angels, to make sure her boys are always remembered. She is a facilitator for Hope After Loss, a support group in CT for grieving parents, and honors her boys every day in special ways. Janine loves to do yoga, cook for her family (homemade baby food and all), drink wine, and is always up for a cup of coffee. She is also in the beginning phase of co-authoring a baby cookbook with a dear childhood friend, and creates custom cakes and cupcakes for special occasions. Her sweet creations can be seen on her website www.neaniecakes.com.