13006591_1749308178633901_7777245436269149073_nI spent a couple hours the other night rocking someone else’s crying baby to sleep. It’s something I do fairly regularly now as part of a new job. Sweet baby smell, aching arms, and that heavy sleeping baby weight in my arms.

On the same day I also looked at pictures of a friend who had taken her teenage son to visit colleges over spring break. She talked about how proud she is of him and how she is preparing herself to let him go off into the world on his own.

Both situations made me want to lay my head down and weep.

Most of the time these days, I handle being around kids or watching other women mother pretty well. There’s always a slight pinch in my heart, but generally speaking it doesn’t rip and tear the way it once did. I’m so used to that pinch now, I barely register it. For the most part, I’ve embraced the fact that I don’t have my children here to nurture and know in this physical world. I have made my peace with being a mother without living children.

Except Mother’s Day is approaching again. Mother’s Day and Christmas are the two holidays when my heart bleeds fresh. I can’t help but feel bombarded with images and reminders of what I didn’t have, don’t have, and will never have – a baby to love and nurture, a child to raise, a teenager to see grow into independence.

Already, I’m seeing ads and commercials, cards filling up the aisles in stores, displays for Mother’s Day gifts popping up everywhere. For most of the last 13 years, my dearest wish this time of year was to be somehow get lost on some deserted island away from all technology, people, and heartbreaking reminders that I will never be a “real” mother in the eyes of the world.

I wanted to disappear and be invisible in the same way that my motherhood has been invisible and disregarded all these years.

However, this year, despite the fresh bruises on my heart from reminder of what I don’t have, I decided I wanted to reclaim Mother’s Day. The world may never see my motherhood or find it as valid and valuable as those mothers with living children, but I wanted to acknowledge it and the motherhood of others like me without their children to hold.

And so Share Your Mother Heart was born.

A 10-day journey created specifically for mothers without any living children to honor, acknowledge, and share their experience of motherhood. To bring us together to talk about our experiences of motherhood, pregnancy, and more – to share the experiences that too often others don’t wish to hear about because our babies have died.

This Mother’s Day let us come together and acknowledge each other. Let’s share our stories and honor each other as the mothers that we are. As invisible as our motherhood might seem to the world around us, we are still mothers. Let’s see each other.

Join us and share your mother heart.

Also, treat yourself for Mother’s Day (or gift another mother like you) with the Invisible Mothers: When Loves Doesn’t Die book! Order here to snag $5 off!

YANA book coverDear Beautiful Mother,

I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet baby. I know that the pain and grief and numbness and confusion you are feeling now seem unbearable and massive. Babies aren’t supposed to die. Yet here you are. Here we both are, for I like you, had to say goodbye far far far too soon.

I know there are no words I can say to fix this or take away your pain. I can’t wake you up from this terrible nightmare. I can’t fill your empty and aching arms. I can’t bring back your precious baby.

But I can say this: You did nothing wrong. You loved your baby and cared for them as fiercely and fully as any mother – and you are a mother, now and always. If anything in this world could overcome death, it would be the deep and powerful love of a parent for their child. You are the fiercest of warrior mamas, carrying love and grief in your very bones through life without your precious child.

You are not alone. There are many of us who are walking this journey of loss. When you are ready, we are here waiting to wrap you in love. We can’t bring them back to you any more than we could have brought our own babies back. We can, however, speak their name with you, remember their lives, honor your deep mother love, and stand with you as we hold each other up.

Big Hugs + So Much Love,

Emily
Mama to Grace and Lily

It’s here! You Are Not Alone: Love Letters from Loss Mom to Loss Mom is now available in print and ebook format!! A special book for grieving mamas from other grieving mamas who get it. You are not alone – we are with you. 

raindrops-3I don’t talk much about how much I miss my daughters or my grief for their loss outside of the grief and baby loss communities I am involved in.

I tell myself I’m protecting my family and friends from my pain and my grief.

That’s not really true.

The truth is it’s really me I’m trying to protect. I’m afraid to show them this part of me. I’m afraid they won’t understand. I’m afraid they’ll judge me or think less of me for it. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m not spiritual enough. I am afraid they will think of me as weak.

I’m afraid of being told I should get over it.

The truth is my first thought every morning is of them. My last thought every night before I go to sleep is of them. I dream of them often and wake up crying when I realize, once again, they aren’t here and never will be.

I will never get over the absence of them in my life. They are part of me and I am part of them. Part of me will always reside with them, wherever they are beyond this physical world. Part of them will always reside here with me, unseen and unheard here in this physical world.

They are my daughters and I am missing every moment of the lives they should have lived with me.

Every birthday comes with no little girls to celebrate and watch grow another year older.
Every holiday passes with their seats empty at the table.
Every life milestone remains unachieved because there is no one here to accomplish them.
Every day I come home to an empty, quiet house.
Every wall remains bare of pictures and child-drawn art.
Every hug and every kiss never given because they are not here to give or receive them.

I don’t hate my life. I have made something beautiful and wonderful from it. I pulled my life out of the ruins of loss and crafted beauty from it.

My joy and happiness in my life don’t negate the deep and continuous longing for the children I never got to know.

The truth is my joy and my grief coexist simultaneously. They cannot be separated and one will never truly exist without the other.

My greatest joy is the life and love of my daughters.
My deepest sorrow is the death and loss of them.

Perhaps this cannot be understood unless it is lived. Many will be unable to understand. Many will likely say I should get over it and let go. I may very well be seen as less spiritual or evolved. Some may think less of me for the grief burns through my heart and flows from my eyes.

And maybe that’s ok.

I am proud to be Grace and Lily’s mother. They are the source and substance of my strength. I will long for them until the day I join them in whatever comes next. I will live my life filled with both joy and sorrow. I will live with both gratitude for their lives and grief for their deaths.

When I go to sleep tonight, my last thought will be of them.
When I awaken tomorrow, my first thought will be of them.

It will never be enough. I will always long for more.

But I will embrace it all, the joy and the sorrow, until I close my eyes and join them in whatever comes next.

Me & my girlsI have been a mother for 12 years. It is a core piece of who I am as a person and has crafted me into the strong, determined, resilient, and powerful woman I am today.

I am not, however, your typical mother.

Both of my children died before birth. Grace was born 12 years ago and I held her tiny body, silent and still, in my arms for one brief hour. Six years ago, Lily was miscarried from my body too soon to be held and cradled in my hands.

So, for 12 years I have mothered without my daughters here with me. This is what I have learned.

Love doesn’t fade

My love for my girls is still as rich and full and overflowing as it was when they lived inside me. I often hear mothers of living children say that they love their children more as they grow. I find the same holds true for me. I love my daughters more with every passing year.

I cannot see them, hold them, touch them, or hear them, but my love simply grows.

My girls gave me the opportunity to be a better person

When my girls died, I was faced with a choice. Lose myself in this all-consuming grief and pain or find a way to live again.

I can’t say I made the best choice those first few years after Grace died, but in the end, I have chosen to live. And I have chosen to allow the experience of their lives and their deaths to be an opportunity to grow as a person.

Through them, I have chosen to love more. Be more. Experience more. Forgive more. Have more compassion. Expand my perspective. Express more kindness. Be more understanding.

Their lives taught me about love. I’ve chosen to let their deaths teach me to love even more. It is a choice I can make every day.

Grace and Lily are my teachers. I choose to be their student.

In a way, I have a thousand daughters

It is an odd thing to have children that your heart knows so deeply, yet to have no real sense of them in this physical world. I felt their energy, their essence while I was pregnant. I will always remember of sense of peace and calm that came from Grace those months I carried her and the fire and restlessness that churned while pregnant with Lily. It gave me a glimpse of who they might have been, what their personalities might have been like.

I have dreamt and imagined countless times over the years of what they would have looked like, what their interests would be, how their personalities would have developed, and who they would have been. I have imagined them in a thousand different ways, with a thousand different faces and bodies, changing interests and preferences.

I will always wonder of the Grace and Lily who might have lived. I will think of them and look for them all of rest of my days. I will see them in the children around me, in my dreams at night, and in the beauty of this world.

In my mind, there are a thousand possible Grace and Lily’s. Each of them loved and longed for, whoever they might have been. For me, they are not just one child, they are thousands.

Grief is an always-evolving process (and it’s not my enemy)

Initially, the weight of their loss and my grief was all consuming and indescribably devastating. When Grace died, the world, as I understood it, shattered and has never been the same.

Over time, my grief has softened and I have put the pieces of my world back together. My world will never look the same as it once did, but it is good and sweet and beautiful again. I look at the world through changed eyes. I feel with a heart that was expanded and stretched by two little babies, a heart that has been pieced back together with a love and a sorrow that have made it stronger.

Once, in those early years after Grace left this world, I was afraid of my grief. It’s power and intensity cowered me. But grief was not my enemy. Nor was death.

Grief and death are, as Grace and Lily are, my teachers. When I learned to live with them, I was able to stand again. When I allowed grief and death to become my teachers instead of my enemies, I gave myself permission to live again, wholeheartedly and fully.

I have also come to learn that grief will always be part of my life. It will appear at expected and unexpected times and probably most often when I don’t want to acknowledge it. It will ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean for its source is that of love, and love cannot die or fade away.

So, my grief will come and go throughout this life. I will allow it to teach me because, at its root, it is simply love.

They are enough

Chances are, for several reasons, I will never be the mother to a living child. At times, that knowledge aches so deeply it takes my breath. Some days, even still, I long to hold a baby of my own, to hear them laugh and cry, and to kiss their faces. I imagine how it might be to love and mother a living, breathing child of my own here in this lifetime and that imagining hurts.

And, finally, I have made my peace with being a mother without living children. I have learned to allow Grace and Lily to be enough.

They are my only children. I had them with me so very, very briefly. I miss them more than I could ever express.

But they are enough. Their time here was enough. My love is enough. My motherhood is enough. Our family is enough.

They are my Grace and my Lily. I am their mother. Always.

To all my beautiful mothers who have lost their baby or babies, this is what I want you to know:

  • You are allowed to grieve and mourn your baby, no matter the circumstances or how uncomfortable it makes others
  • You are allowed to heal in your own unique way, regardless of whatever timelines or stages others try to place on you
  • You are allowed to claim your title and role as mother
  • You are allowed to honor your baby however you choose
  • You are allowed to name your baby and count them as part of your family
  • You are allowed to say NO to baby showers, birthday parties, holidays, and more to care for your needs
  • You are allowed to let go of those who cannot or will not support you in the way you need
  • You are allowed to remember and love your baby, always.
  • You are allowed to talk about your baby, your birth story, and your pregnancy
  • You are allowed to be the new you without apology
  • You are allowed to feel however you feel and let that be ok
  • You are allowed to do, say, and be whatever you need to do, say, or be on your journey

I also want you to remember:

  • You deserve love and support for however long it takes to heal
  • You deserve recognition and acknowledgement of your motherhood
  • You deserved to be honored and celebrated as the mother you are
  • You deserve comfort and kindness from those around you
  • You deserve time and space to heal as you need to
  • You deserve to be heard and to share your experience of motherhood and love
  • You deserve to mourn the old you and your old life, without apology.
  • You deserve to learn to love the new you and your new life, without apology or guilt
  • You deserve to feel joy and peace and alive again
  • You deserve to love, always
  • You deserve to say YES to life again
  • You deserve to both miss your baby and be happy again

Beauty+Life+You

Twice monthly inspiration to find the beauty in life, in yourself, and in every situation.

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