Thursday, 31 December 2015

A New Year

In the early days of losing Annalee, all I wanted was for this year to be over- to just make it to the end. This was the worst year of our lives.

It's funny how time gives you perspective. Now, on the last day of 2015, I'm a bit sad to see the year end. In some ways, it was the best year of our lives. Close friends got married, we traveled, we had our first baby. Among the excruciating heartbreak and sadness, there was so much joy. It feels good to be in a place where we can focus on the positives.

We're not the same people we were a year ago. We're broken, but stronger and filled with more love than ever before.

Happy New Year 

6 Months

Six months was really tough- like, month one kinda tough. I'm not sure if it was because it was so close to Christmas or if the idea of half a year going by already was just too overwhelming. I also think 6 months is such a great age for babies. They're doing so much by then- it's hard to think about all of the milestones we're missing with Annalee.

Eric and I had a little mini Christmas for her. Friends and family got her presents- a grizzly bear adopted in her name, a book, a star named after her. I think the thing that makes us happiest is that people still think of Annalee. They remember her birthdays, they think of her when they hear music and they keep her in their hearts. Those are the things that keep our little girl's spirit alive and that's all we can ever ask for.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

5 Months

We took a little extra care of ourselves on the 20th. We went for a nice lunch and a couples massage- which is quickly becoming a favorite thing. After that we went and picked out a few Christmas ornaments for Annalee.

We picked up a fluffy sheep for the year she was born and this robin. After we lost Annalee, a big robin kept appearing in our yard. If I was in the kitchen, it would sit on the back fence so I could see her; if I was on the front porch, she'd sit on the railing and keep me company. When Eric and I went to buy a bench for the backyard for Annalee, we were halfheartedly looking at birdbaths when a great big robin landed in one and started bathing itself. I had never seen a bird bathe before and both of us were killing ourselves laughing. We both knew it was our baby making her presence known.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Back to Work

I've been back at work for a month now and it has been a really nice distraction. The first few weeks were hard. Really hard. There was a lot of crying in the bathroom and going home mid-panic attack, but things have started to normalize now. It feels good to focus on something else for hours at a time each day. That's not to say that I don't think of Annalee all the time, but there's a little less dwelling on the heartbreak- at least until I crawl into bed and my mind quiets for a moment and then goes immediately back to being sad and confused and entirely overwhelmed.

Eric and my experiences going back to work were very different. Eric went back three weeks after we lost Annalee, so naturally, it was still very front of mind for him and his colleagues. He works in a smaller office than I do which I think contributed to the difference as well. People came into his office and wanted to talk to him about Annalee and what happened. He would come home and tell me how much he got to talk about her, so when I went back, I expected the same thing. There was a lot less of that for me. Aside from my close friends, one person has asked about Annalee. This is not to say that people haven't been amazing. I've been welcomed back with such open arms and everyone has been so kind. It just wasn't what I was expecting (I'm starting to sense a theme here).

In the same breath, as much as I wanted people to acknowledge her photo in my office and talk to me about her, I also actively avoided situations where I might have to talk about our experience. I've skipped social events and large meetings; there may have been an instance where I faked being on the phone just to get out of talking about anything.

It would seem that even five months out, I have no idea what I want. Things that might help us one day, seem like a burden the next. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Capture Your Grief- Day 21, 23, 25.

Day 25- Earth Remembrance.

Eric and I decided not to have a funeral for Annalee. She brought so much joy to our lives and we wanted her to be remembered that way, so we threw her a party. Close family and friends gathered in our backyard to celebrate our little girl.

We planted a sweetheart mayday tree for her and added a little bench with the words 'stay and keep Annalee company.' I can't wait to sit out there in the spring when the tree is full of pink blossoms.

Day 23- Love Letter.

To every single person that has called, texted, e mailed, dropped off food, sent flowers, written cards, commented on social media, read this blog, talked about Annalee, thought about Annalee, thought about us and our families: we love you and we thank you.

Day 21- Sacred Space.

It might seem a bit silly, but our sacred space is our living room. That couch has never seen so much activity! We've told Annalee's story so many times in here, we've cried so many tears and watched so many bad movies. This room is where we've healed.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


An unexpected side effect of my grief has been a sometimes overwhelming sense of anxiety. I've suffered from mild cases of it in the past, but nothing like this.

It started to manifest early on as hypochondria. I was convinced that because there were no obvious reasons for Annalee's passing, it had to be something wrong with me or Eric. It was a sign that one of us was unhealthy and wouldn't be able to raise our baby. Every little mark, ache and hormonal ailment spelled some sort of serious health issue. Only after multiple healthy lab tests did that fear began to wain.

Crowds also became an issue. I've never been a big fan, but the difference now is that it mostly applies to crowds who know what we've been through. Even a large gathering of friends can sometimes feel panic inducing. I'm going back to work tomorrow and this is my biggest hesitancy. I love my job and I work with amazing people, but I'm nervous to venture past my floor. The funny thing is that I've seen plenty of my coworkers and they've all be so gracious. I know that I'm making of a big deal out of nothing, but that doesn't stop the 2am heart pounding night sweats.

Like pretty much everything else- it's a band aid that I just have to rip off.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Capture Your Grief- Day 15. Wave of Light.

Last night, after lighting a candle for Annalee, we went to the Calgary Tower for dinner. Neither of us had been up there in years. It was fun to look over the city and point out different landmarks. Afterwards, we got to see the tower lit up pink and blue for pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. It's funny how had this not happened, we would've had absolutely no idea why they chose those colors, but instead we joined so many other parents mourning their little ones. It was an emotional night, but it was heartwarming to see everyone's candles lit and know that we're not alone in our grief.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Capture Your Grief- Day 10 & 11

Day 11- Glow in the Woods

'When orbs appear in a particular location, it's also a sign that angels are hovering nearby...'

We see you, Annalee :)

Day 10- Words

Capture Your Grief- Day 7. Memory.

There was a moment, right after Annalee was born, when they put her on my chest and for a split second I forgot what was really happening and only felt pure joy. It didn't last long, but it's my greatest memory.

I still remember what her skin felt like, how she smelled and that curly hair!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Capture Your Grief- Day 3 & 4

Day 4. Dark + Light

Eric and I decided pretty early on to keep Annalee's room intact. It felt like such a welcoming space. We'd go in on our own and sit in the rocking chair and talk to her- it was a sad place, but also one filled with love. Since then, I've changed out a couple of the pictures and put a few of her stuffed animals away. Now I use it most often to do yoga- I light candles and turn on the fun lights that we bought for her and I try to find some peace.

Day 3. In Honour

It turns out that October is also breast cancer awareness month which is kind of a funny coincidence. I lost my grandma to breast cancer 17 years ago. She was such a force in all of our lives. She was so kind and so funny and she had satin bedding which, as a kid, was the be all end all. When I'd stay at her house, she'd let me snuggle up in her bed and we'd watch All My Children.
I'm not a religious person, but I do believe in spiritual guides and my grandma has always been mine.
When we first lost Annalee, I found myself furious with her. How could someone who had watched over me for so long let this happen? But that anger very quickly turned into reassurance. Annalee had someone to welcome her and to hold her. Now, I'm lucky enough to have both of them with me.

Today I honour both of my angels.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Capture You Grief-Day 2. Intention.

My intention is to be gentle with myself. 

I healed physically so quickly after Annalee that I sometimes forget that I gave birth only 14 weeks ago. There's a frustration that comes with not being able to jump back into a normal workout routine immediately after something so traumatic. I wanted so badly to have some normalcy and some form of release, that it was tough to not get back to spin three weeks later. That a hike that would normally be easy, was challenging. That your body is so different now than it was before- that even if you've lost the baby weight, things are wider and weirder than before.

I find I have to remind myself to be kind to every aspect of my being- body, mind and heart. It's ok to be busy and distracted, but when I've done too much, accept the fact that spending an entire day on the couch binge-watching Netflix might just be the right thing to do. It's ok that some days I don't want to cry, but when I need to, give myself permission to really let it all out. Everything I feel is ok. There is no wrong way to get through this. 

Most importantly, to remember to be grateful for my body. This ol' thing carried and nourished a beautiful baby for almost 39 weeks and then did everything it should've had I brought that baby home. 

Our bodies are amazing things and they deserve kindness.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Capture You Grief- Day 1. Sunrise.

Eric is not a morning person. I'm kind of a 9am morning person. Neither of us are 'up to see the sunrise' people. However, when I was deciding what photo to post, I realized that this one was taken just after sunrise on June 21st.

Annalee was born at 10:31pm and we were bound and determined to spend every single second with her. For the first few hours, we were still so high on adrenaline (and me on morphine) that it was no problem, but once that wore off, we were exhausted in every possible way. I really struggled with whether or not we should sleep. I didn't want to waste any of the precious time we had with her, but labor and heartbreak are tiring (to say the least) and we couldn't stay up any longer. So with Eric on one side and Annalee on the other, we slept.

Our incredible night nurse spent that time taking hundreds of photos of Annalee for us. She had props and the whole nine yards. She did all of this knowing that there was a professional photographer coming in the morning. We are forever indebted to her. Because of her, we've never once felt like we should've taken more photos.

The day we entered the hospital was rainy and gloomy. The day we left was sunny and beautiful and I imagine the sunrise was probably stunning.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month/Capture Your Grief

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month- something I never even knew existed until three months ago. I saw a neat thing on Instagram called Capture Your Grief where those who have lost a child reflect on 31 different topics each day of the month. I wasn't sure if I wanted to participate because there are some days where I don't want to grieve- I just want to make it through the day, but October is going to be a crazy month for us. I think it'll be good for me to spend some time each day reflecting on our journey and perhaps dealing with some unhealed wounds.

If you know of anyone else who has lost a baby (and based on our experience, it seems like everyone knows someone), there are a couple of good things happening in Calgary this month. On October 15th, the Calgary tower will be lit up in blue and pink to honor all of those babies lost. On October 18th, there's a Healing the Mother's Heart yoga workshop at the beautiful Junction 9 Yoga Studio.

Also, if you do know someone who has been through this- no matter how long ago- this month is a good reason to check in with them and send them some extra love :)

Monday, 21 September 2015

3 Months

We celebrated Annalee's 3 month birthday yesterday. It was a beautiful day for a picnic out at Forget-Me-Not Pond in Kananaskis. As expected, the day was full of sadness, but we managed to have a lot of laughs too. We could feel Annalee around us all day- the leaves blowing like confetti and the little grasshopper that sat on Eric's knee and watched us have lunch. We know you're with us, sweet girl.

There are days when it feels like things might be getting easier, but then the heartbreak returns and the grief hits like a ton of bricks. Even though we have more good days than bad, we're always on the brink of tears. This is not at all what our lives were supposed to be like and it's hard not to be angry about that. I'm sure there are lessons to be learned in all of this, but I would've rather gone a lifetime without knowing them if it meant having our Annalee here.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Keep on Living...

Eric's birthday was less than two weeks after Annalee was born and for the first time in a long time we went out and celebrated with friends (he's usually not much of a birthday guy). Shortly after that, we went out for Stampede, we went for drinks with friends, we went to different events around the city. I knew we couldn't stay cooped up at home, but every so often I'd feel really weird about the fact that we were out doing normal things. I'd run into people we know and wonder if they thought that maybe we weren't sad enough. When I told this to a close friend of mine she shared something that someone had told her:

'Just keep living until you feel alive again.'

So that's what we do. I feel like we've done more this summer than ever. We've made more plans and crossed things off our bucket list. I'm sure it's partly for distraction's sake, but it also feels like we're honoring Annalee by living our lives more fully. I like to think that these are the things we would've done if she were here, so we're doing them with her in our hearts.

Friday, 4 September 2015

A Quote

My Mom sends us cards every once in a while with beautiful quotes- nothing else- just a little note to keep us going. It's the best.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Funny Girl

Even though we'll never know what Annalee would've been like, we know for certain that she was funny. When she was in my belly, Eric would come home and they would have play time. Eric would tap a spot, she'd kick back and we would laugh. This would go on almost all evening. It was awesome.

Even though she's not physically with us, I know she's around and she's still making me laugh. Whenever things get overwhelming, something funny will happen. The first time I went to my chiropractor after she was born, I had to tell him what happened and started to cry. When I looked up from sobbing, I noticed that his fly was undone. I didn't say anything (because awkward!), but I couldn't help but laugh to myself.
The first time I went back to yoga, we were outside on a rooftop and it was so serene and beautiful. The teacher asked us to focus on our hearts. Mine being so incredibly broken, tears were starting to fall when all of a sudden a train went by, screeching its brakes and breaking the mood entirely. Again, I had to laugh.

These silly little things happen all the time and I love it. I know it's her way of helping her mama heal.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

One Month, Two Months

The 20th will never be the same. It's a day I equally dread and celebrate. I know as time goes on I'll stop watching the calendar, but right now I just watch and wait.

Eric and I knew her one month birthday was going to be devastating. I still get weekly e mails from Baby Centre with exciting subjects marking every milestone. I didn't want to read 'Your Baby at One Month!,' but I couldn't help myself. She'd be smiling and cooing. She would be discovering her hands and feet. All we could do is imagine what her smile would look like.

We spent the entire morning in bed crying. We hadn't done that in a long time. Sometimes it just feels so good to let yourself be sad- to not keep busy or distracted, but to really let go. Afterwards, we went for a hike to a spot Eric took me a few months after we started dating.

Her two month birthday would've been today. This time I can't bring myself to read what she would be doing. I deleted the e mail as soon as I saw it. Some of Eric's coworkers gave us a spa gift certificate, so we're going to go for massages and dinner afterwards.

In a way, I appreciate that we have this day. A day to do whatever necessary to heal and to remember to be gentle with ourselves.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Quote

'Don't ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak.'
-Wm. Paul Young, The Shack

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Guilt

I know that nothing I did contributed to Annalee's death. I know that none of this is my fault. Both of us were completely healthy, until she wasn't.

Knowing that doesn't stop those thoughts from creeping in. As my mind tries to make sense of why this happened, the what ifs tend to takeover.

Is it because I drank coffee?
Is it because I sometimes slept on my right side?
Is it because I reached up too high to get something from the cupboard?
Was it because I ate blizzards? lunch meat?

It doesn't matter how nonsensical the thought, it still requires consideration. Then, I brush it away, knowing better, until the next day when it starts all over again.

I wrote this over a week ago and I was still too scared to post it. What if it turned out it WAS something that I did?! Well, today we had our follow up doctor's appointment and she confirmed that it wasn't. The preliminary autopsy results didn't show anything. It wasn't a genetic issue, the placenta looked good, my blood work was normal and all of her organs were the right size for her age. We have to wait until closer to Christmas for the final results, but as of right now, it still looks like it was a fluke. There are pros and cons to finding out what caused it and to never knowing. No answer is a good answer, but it's reassuring to know that it wasn't something that could've been prevented.

The doctor said she was perfect. We already knew that, but now it's a medical fact :)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Anticipation vs. Reality

June 19th was the worst day of our lives. The days after that were measured in comparison. The day we let her go was the second worst, the day we had to go to the funeral home was the third, the day we picked up her ashes was the fourth. I think it helped us to get though those days- to know that it's not going to get any worse. If we made it though yesterday, we can make it through today.

As horrible as all of those days were, I think the nights before were worse. The anticipation of having to let her go, having to make arrangements, etc. was so, so tough. We were really preparing ourselves for the worst, but more often than not, and as is usually the case in life, the reality wasn't nearly as bad. Letting her go meant that we got to meet her. Picking up her ashes meant that we got to bring her home. The days we thought were going to be unbearable always seemed to have a silver lining. We couldn't see it before it happened and even though in the moment it might've been faint, it was there.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Grief Pt.1

I imagine this will be a multi-part series considering that in the past six weeks alone, grief has shown up in a variety of ways.

In the beginning the pain was so bad that my body couldn't even handle it. I would cry so hard that my brain would shut off from overload and exhaustion. I'd go from debilitating sobs to no feelings at all- just staring blankly ahead, no longer able to process anything. When it came to making plans for Annalee at the hospital and at the funeral home, I completely relied on Eric to vocalize our decisions. It was like I became a complete zombie. Bad TV and movies and time seemed to be the only way to get through it. Never in my life did I think I would enjoy Godzilla, but I'm still grateful for that thing (is it a dinosaur? A lizard? Who cares.).

As time has gone on, the grief has become more manageable. Something I've noticed throughout this journey are the different ways that people mourn. When my parents came after Annalee was born my Dad was so eager to help us get stuff done. He and Eric were cleaning up our backyard for Annalee's celebration, we were making trips to the garden centre, Home Depot, etc. and I realized that my Dad is a doer. I think I might be a bit like that too. We like a good project as a means of distraction.

The other surprising thing has been what triggers the heartache. I thought I'd never be able to see babies again, that I'd break down at the next Pampers commercial I saw. I thought I'd never want to go in her room, that I'd keep the door closed forever. That hasn't been the case. It's weird, less obvious things. Going hiking and thinking that the backpack should've been a baby carrier. Catching a glimpse in the mirror and remembering that I'm no longer pregnant and that all of this DID happen. When I see Dads with their kids, my heart aches for Eric. As I write this, I'm watching the house next door to us being torn down and remembering that this was the exact thing I worried about when I was pregnant- how is our baby going to nap through that construction noise?

Nowadays we keep busy and have welcomed the distractions of everyday life. Eric has gone back to work and I fill my days visiting with friends, getting stuff done around the house and trying to focus on my health. I try to recognize when I've been too busy and make sure to take a day to allow myself to do nothing. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it makes things worse. We still cry almost everyday- sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I know this heartbreak is never going to go away, but people assure me that it does get better.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

I Carry Your Heart

What to Say

One of the things we've heard the most from people is that they don't want to say anything wrong or that they just straight up don't know what to say. Let me tell you this: neither do we.

No one can make sense of the situation, so there isn't really any use trying, but I think the worst thing you can do for anyone in this situation or any other form of grief is to say nothing. We enjoy sharing Annalee's story. She was and still remains a huge part of our lives, so to not acknowledge that is more hurtful than any words. Yes, we will probably cry, but some of those tears are joyful.

Also know that a simple 'I'm thinking of you,' goes a very, very long way. It may not seem like it, but trust me, it does. In the early days after Annalee's loss, I pictured everyone's messages and love forming a great big bubble that surrounded and protected us. I could actually feel it around us and I still do.

Just be sincere. Ask questions. Share your feelings. Speak from the heart and nothing you say will be wrong.

Monday, 3 August 2015

A Quote

'There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.'
-Adrienne Rich

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Her Name

When Eric and I first met, one of the first things we bonded over was our love of The Band. We'd end nights out dancing to the Last Waltz and 6 years later we walked down the aisle as a married couple to Acadian Driftwood.

Annalee was not one of the names we had planned for our baby, but after going through this experience and seeing that she had a lot of my features, Eric thought we should name her after me. I was and still am so honored. There is no greater gift in the world than that.

We went back and forth coming up with names and as soon as Annalee came up, we knew that it was right. There's a line in the song 'The Weight,' that goes, 'Do me a favor, son, won't you stay and keep Annalee company.'

I still haven't worked up the courage to listen to the song, but I look forward to the day that I hear it on the radio and think of our sweet Annalee.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Story

I had a completely textbook pregnancy. For nearly 39 weeks I'd felt great, the baby was healthy and we were so excited to start this new adventure.

June 19th started like any other day. We woke up, Eric went to work, I had breakfast and a bath. Around 10:00am I noticed that I hadn't felt any movement for a while. I wasn't particularly worried as our little Lentil wasn't particularly active in the mornings, but I texted Eric to let him know that I was going to drink some cold water and lay down and that if I didn't feel anything in the next half an hour, I was going to go to the hospital to get it checked out. He left work and picked me up. I still wasn't worried- we were ten days from the due date. How could anything be wrong?

When we got to the hospital, they admitted us right away. The nurse came in and tried to find the baby's heartbeat, but couldn't. She blamed the machine, but I knew right away that something was wrong. There had never been an issue finding the heartbeat before and if she could hear mine, it probably wasn't a technical issue. She brought in another machine and still nothing. She left to get the doctor and I completely broke down. I knew in that moment that things were not good. The doctor came in and confirmed what I already knew. There was no heartbeat. Our baby had passed away.

Eric and I completely lost it. My brain couldn't handle the news. I felt like it wasn't actually happening to us. How could it? Especially this late in the game! And then the realization that this horrific experience had only just begin. I still had to give birth.

The doctor came back in and told us the next steps. They were too full to get us in that day and we'd have to go home and wait until the next morning. At first, I was outraged. How dare they send us home to sit with our poor baby still in my belly?! Looking back on it, I'm so grateful that they did. Going home gave us time to start the grieving process and say our goodbyes. It gave us time to make decisions together and come to grips with what our lives were going to look like without our new baby.

We went back the next morning and were hurried into our labour and delivery room. I have to say that from start to finish we were treated like gold. The nurses and doctors were so gracious and incredibly kind. Every single one of them became a part of our family that day and we will forever be grateful for them. I was induced at 11:30 and Annalee was born 11 hours later. The labor was intense (to say the least), but it ended up being better than I could've asked for. Because I was induced, I ended up getting an epidural- which was not part of our original birth plan (HA!). After all of our hypnobirthing classes and natural childbirth books, I was sad that I wouldn't actually feel the labor itself, but then, at 10cm, the epidural had worn of entirely. I was pressing the little button, they gave me a top up... and nothing. I could feel everything that was happening. So, I basically got to skip the painful middle part and experience everything else. It was incredible! I can't help but think that the Universe felt like it had given me enough to handle and that, perhaps, it could cut me a bit of a break.

We didn't know what we were having and our doctor was so good about giving us the same experience that any other parent's would have. She exclaimed, 'It's a girl!,' plunked her down on my chest and asked Eric if he'd like to cut the cord (which he did). Even though we knew that she wasn't going to cry and that we were going to have to leave without her, we'd never been so happy. She was beautiful! She had curly hair and big feet like her Dad and big lips like me. I couldn't get over how perfect she was. We were like every other proud parents. We spent the next 13 hours just staring at her- memorizing every single one of her little features. We gave her a bath, swaddled her and dressed her in the outfit she would've come home in. 

I thought I would never leave the hospital. We would just move into that room- I'd take the hospital bed, Eric could sleep on the couch and we'd eat egg salad sandwiches for the rest of our lives with Annalee by our sides, but at a certain point a peace just sort of washed over me and I knew it was time to say goodbye. We couldn't, in fact, stay there forever and even though she wouldn't physically be with us, we both knew that she'd always be in our hearts. And so we came home.