Wednesday, June 10, 2009


While living children are mentioned in this post, it addresses a topic that many bereaved parents think, wonder and worry about…having subsequent children after their loss.

This past weekend, my sister came to visit. We haven’t spent an entire weekend together in a long time, and it was really nice. Her youngest child is only 15 months old, and he is simply a ray of sunshine. And he is my sister’s rainbow baby. For those who aren’t familiar with that term, a rainbow baby is a baby who was born after a loss…a promise of hope after a terrible storm.

Two and a half years ago, my sister gave birth to a very tiny little boy who was born still. This precious little boy was conceived just before the baby who died was due, so it’s impossible to spend time with him without thinking how if not for the baby who didn’t make it, he wouldn’t be here.

Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to dealing with those feelings. My second son who will soon be 15 would not be here either if not for the last two miscarriages I had. While I was going through a very difficult pregnancy with him, the thought never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t be here if not for what I had been through. During that time, I was so focused on getting him here safe and sound that I thought of little else. But minutes after he was born, while I was holding him and gazing into his beautiful face for the very first time….it hit me. I would not have him if not for our losses because it wouldn’t have physically been possible. The last baby I had miscarried was due on Halloween, and he had been conceived nearly a month before that.

As I held him that first time, so much in love, I felt guilty. I wondered if the spirits of the babies I had miscarried thought that I no longer cared about them now that I had a new baby. I felt guilty that I had ever been so distraught over the babies I had miscarried, knowing that if not for them, THIS baby who I had come to love so fiercely wouldn’t be here. It was a vicious circle, one I traveled around and around many times in the coming months and years.

And now I travel that circle again…and so does my sister. I know she does because she has told me before that she was so sad about her baby boy who died, yet she can’t imagine not having this delightful little boy either.

I thought of something else this weekend, too. He is such a happy baby, always with a smile on his face. Happy…smiley…a true joy. He always has been. It’s almost like he knew from the beginning his mommy’s heart needed healing, and he is doing that. I look back on my own son’s babyhood, and I remember thinking the very same thing. My son who was born after my miscarriages was always happy with a huge grin on his face. I didn’t know about Share back then and had never heard of the term rainbow baby, yet I did often marvel at the ray of sunshine and hope that I was blessed with after all of the heartache and tears.

My son often asks me about the “babies that died” and if I would have had him if those babies wouldn’t have died. I used to be uncomfortable answering his questions because I never wanted him to think he wasn’t wanted or planned. I have always been open with my kids about my miscarriages, and even when he was pretty little, he asked questions. I started telling him that for some reason we don’t yet know, HE was the one who we were meant to have with us here on Earth. So far, that answer has satisfied him. I don’t know what my sister will tell her son, but she and her kids also talk openly about their baby who died, so I’m sure that someday, she will also be faced with having to explain that which is so hard to explain.

Whatever she tells him, he will know without a doubt that he is so loved. And he will know the joy and healing he brought to our whole family.

I often read on Share that so many others have these same feelings of worrying about how you can love and welcome a new baby into your heart and family when that baby would not be here if not for the death of another. And so many moms feel guilty over the feelings they have. These are not easy emotions to deal with and accept, but they are “normal.” As we all know, one baby can never replace another. But, it IS possible to love a new child without diminishing the love you have for your baby who died.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Step By Step
by Cara Tyrell

Day by day… Minute by minute… Second by second.

These are the forced mantras fed to us after loss. Just take it day by day, minute by minute, second by excruciating second.

I do not miss the truth behind these words, for no other option allows us to remain, even mildly functional as the world we once knew by rote, shatters - then redefines itself. And yet, I distinctly recall the stale feeling they left behind as I attempted to formulate a semi-appropriate reply. No words fit. Each syllabic formulation died on my tongue, just short of its mark.

That was eight years ago.

Now, I hear myself say these words to devastated parents, hoping against hope that some truly comforting meaning has been embedded in them throughout the years. You are not alone. We will get through this, together – day by day, minute by minute, second by second. And we do: in the hospital, over the phone, through emails, at monthly meetings…and still, I wished for something more; an overtly affirming over-the-top action that speaks louder than short-phrased, albeit well meaning, platitudes.

That something exists. It existed all along. I had no idea.

Share Southern Vermont hosted its first annual Walk for Hope and Remembrance in early May. It was a first on so many levels, each of them more affirming than the next.

It was our first big event, our ‘grand opening’, if you will - broadcasting to communities in need: We are here! If you need us, call. If you are hurting, email. If you can help us, call. If you wish to support us – emaill. And they did.

“Thank you!” they said, “I lost my baby 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago... I wasn’t even there for myself... I came to support my granddaughter... I feel like I can finally grieve for him/her...For the first time, I called myself, ‘his mother’. Thank you for that.”

It was the first time I had ever attended any kind of organized memorial for lost babies. I see now how truly astounding that is, for I have been doing my work. I have never apologized for Emma’s memory. I have never been silent about the three kids in our family. I have been to the therapist, kept a journal, scrapbooked, put ornaments on the tree, and celebrate my daughter’s short life in countless ways throughout the years. But never once had it crossed my mind that I could share my grieving road with others, gather with them monthly to share stories and tears, or listen to my baby’s name read with one-hundred others, and then – walk, together, towards the next phase of our grief.

I am filled with gratitude that our generation is not told to hit an eternal pause button until we ‘meet again’, to just ‘let it go’ and ‘never speak of it’. We are allowed to grieve. We know our steps don’t always have to be forward, sometimes going back is the only way to progress, but we have each other and that means everything.

Eighty four sets of feet took some big steps last month. The collective energy was nearly tangible as individuals felt their own personal shift. We grieve together: day by day, minute by minute, second by second, and now – step by step.

Did you participate in a walk this spring? What is the most recent ‘step’ you have taken?