Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The What-Ifs

By Christine Russo

They say not to dwell on the 'what ifs' after loss. "The why me's and what ifs will eat your brain" is a quote I read and stuck to early on. But lately there's been a resurgence in me that keeps wondering..what if? It's hard not to let my mind wander lately, it's been this strong gravitational pull that I can't put my finger on.

What if we went to that anatomy scan and came out with a 'happy holidays!' Instead of total devastation?

What if we enjoyed Christmas Eve the next night with our family and the gender reveal of opening up a box with the 'it's a girl' ornament inside instead of being completely paralyzed in our bed?

What if our due date came and I had the birth I always dreamed of with my daughter instead of going in early to find no heartbeat and going through 5 days of torturous labor?

What if we took Gianna home to her very own beautiful nursery instead of waiting for her remains from the crematorium?

What if her warm, live little body cuddled with us instead of us clutching her teddy bear urn nightly?

What if she was here to play with her little brother and teach him things instead of watching over him from heaven?

Sometimes I find the what ifs to be comforting. Sometimes I imagine what life would be like with a spunky, brown haired little 16 month old girl running the show here at home. 

Would she be bossy? Would she be sweet and docile? Would she want to be a ballerina or play games with little brother? 

The possibilities are completely endless.

Do you ever have those 'what ifs' sneak into your head? How do they make you feel? Try, just for today, to surrender to those thoughts. Allow yourself, just once, to explore what should have been. 

You may smile, you may cry, let your emotions flow freely, but try not to dwell in that place for too long. We all understand the harsh reality of our circumstances, but once in a while, it's beautiful to imagine what should have been with our precious little children.
~ ~ ~

Christine Russo is a wife to an amazing, supportive husband, and a mommy to Angel Gianna Marie, and her little brother, Romeo. She carried Gianna after receiving a fatal diagnosis halfway into her pregnancy. Through the love and spirit of their special daughter, who means the world to them, they wish to help support other families who have to say goodbye to a piece of their heart.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Because I Knew You

By Kellie Soper 
I love musicals. I mean really, really love them. The first musical I ever saw was Annie. I think I was 5 or 6. I left a little upset that I didn't get to live in an orphanage and sing and dance while I did my chores. I may or may not have reenacted "It's a Hard Knocks Life" every single time I had to mop the floor - what can I say...I guess I was a little dramatic at times. ;-)

Whenever I need a little pick me up I watch Annie (the original, of course). And when I have a rare moment in the car by myself, it's almost a guarantee I will be belting out show tunes from Rent or Wicked. I always think about what my "soundtrack" would be. 

Several weeks ago, I started rising before the sun to get a bike ride in. Sounds crazy, but in the desert heat, it's the best time to go. The stillness of our city is amazing at that time. 

On my ride home, as the sun was rising, this song came on my iPod. While the song is about two friends, listening to the lyrics, I couldn't help but think of Lily and how she has changed my life

Lyrics from For Good

"I've heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you."

"It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend."

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you,
I have been changed for good."

My dear sweet Lily, thank you. Thank you for making me the person I am today.You have rewritten my story by being my daughter and I am forever grateful for that gift. You are a handprint on my heart, never far from my mind. I do believe I have been changed for the better. And because I knew you...I have been changed for good. 
~ ~ ~

Kellie Soper lives in Arizona and is wife to her amazing husband, Jason. Together they have two beautiful children, one on earth and one sweet, perfect soul in Heaven. Ted is a wild, silly, and rambunctious toddler. Their sweet Lily Frances was born sleeping on November 12, 2014. They learned at their 18 week ultrasound that Lily had a fatal neural tubal defect the doctors said was "incompatible with life." Kellie and Jason both knew Lily was not a "decision", but their precious daughter and they believe her life was of value, no matter what. She carried Lily with love for 42 weeks and 2 days. They miss her every single day, but are grateful for the honor and privilege of being her parents. You can read more about their family on Kellie's blog, Life and Love.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Truths of the Journey

By Bethany Conkel

Dear Brave Momma and Poppa,

I’m sitting here today thinking of you. I call you “brave” because I know you are walking a journey you never asked to walk – a journey you probably never even dreamed of walking – yet here you are. I imagine you might be muddling through the best you can, doing what you need to do to keep your head above water. Some days are good, other days are horrid.

Navigating this seemingly endless road is so complex. At times it can be dark, overwhelming, and gut-wrenchingly painful. Other times it can be filled with joy, pure love, and beauty. Although you are willing to move forward each day out of love for your baby, it does not change the difficulty level or the weariness that sometimes comes. Despite this, you still continue to move forward. This is why you are brave.

Each journey is unique and filled with different challenges as well as surprise blessings. And, each stage of your journey, from newly diagnosed, to carrying your baby, to saying hello and goodbye, to keeping your sweet one’s memory alive after they are gone, has its own set of highs, lows, and obstacles.

Sadly, as you walk this road, not only are you going to be faced with the internal struggle of navigating this ever evolving path, but you will also be met with something else unexpected – the judgment of others. This is not something that is often talked about openly or addressed. We want to think that the people around us are going to be kind, loving, and supportive. We want to believe that society is going to embrace this new journey along with us. After all, we live in a world that preaches “tolerance” and “acceptance” – yet those concepts do not always apply to the “taboo” that is our reality.

Although you will find that many will live up to the expectation of kindness and understanding that we hope for, not everyone is going to understand the love you have for your baby. People you expect to offer support may fail you. People you thought were your friends may vanish. People you love dearly may question your choices. Total strangers may say hurtful or nasty things to you out of ignorance (this is especially true if you share your journey publicly). Some people will never understand the approach you have chosen to take. Many will never be able to FULLY comprehend that you are doing your best to parent your little one during an impossible situation. Others will never grasp that you are truly making each choice out of pure love for your precious baby.

As you encounter these people, please know that during this journey, the seed of love that you have for your baby, planted deep in your heart, will grow and take root. As it does, it will provide stability and strength for you. It will create a layer of protection from the hurtful people, and keep the people who truly love you and your baby close. This seed of love is what keeps you moving forward despite the roadblocks and hurdles.

Oh, dear sweet Momma and Pappa, I want to encourage you – KEEP LOVING YOUR BABY! Keep making the choices you know are best for your little one. Stand strong in the approach you have decided to take as a family. YOU are the BEST parent this little one could possibly have. Regardless of what others say or do, know that YOU are the best advocate, voice, and protection for your little one. As hard as it is, tune out the negative people. Allow people to walk away if they are unable to understand your choices. Embrace those who are willing to show you love and support. Focus on the people who have come alongside you, and who are willing to celebrate the amazing little person you have chosen to treasure. Overlook the nasty comments when they come, and re-read the ones that are overflowing with words of blessing.

Yes, this journey is complex. No, you never asked to be here. But, since you must brave this road…continue to love your little one fiercely!

From my heart to yours,

~ ~ ~

Bethany Conkel lives in Ohio and is married to her wonderful husband, Eric. She is the mommy to two amazing children – one who is in heaven, the other here on earth. Bethany carried her precious son, Amalya Nathaniel (meaning: “work of the Lord”, “given by God”) to term after receiving the diagnosis of anencephaly when she was 11 weeks pregnant. Amalya lived for 1 hour and 20 minutes before taking hold of the Lord’s hand. After he passed, his liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated to scientific research. Bethany has since created a website about neonatal organ, tissue, and whole body donation called Purposeful Gift to help other families explore the option of donation. She is also a certified Birth and Bereavement Doula through and serves with Sufficient Grace Ministries.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Letter to the Mother, Carrying to Birth

By Jessi Snapp

Hi Momma,

I am sorry that you have found yourself here, reading this. I am familiar with the journey you now travel. I was on a similar one last year and there are some things I want you to know as you continue to venture through the unknown…

This will be the hardest, the most precious, and the most life-altering thing you do. It is beautiful and heartbreaking all in the same breath. While you never asked for this journey, embrace it, because your baby needs you just as much as you need him/her. Through what seems like an endless amount of tears and heartache, and through the hole in your heart that will never completely go away… you will be filled with love, deep appreciation, and you will find beauty in this along the way, I promise. You will experience love on a level you did not know was possible and the same could be said about the pain. Know that your baby feels every ounce of your love… In both this life and the one that comes after.

Your child’s life matters. You already know this to be true, but you may not know that the life of your baby will reach the hearts of others around you and touch them in ways you may never understand. Their impact and importance stretches far wider than you may ever see, but rest assured Momma, their life has within it so much meaning and they will never be forgotten. No matter how brief their life is.

I promise that there is a blessing in all of this. It may be incredibly hard to see it now, but it’s there and in time it will slowly be revealed, if it hasn’t already. Whether you hold your baby while he/she is still and silent, or as they draw their final breath, know you have not failed them. You are an amazing mother who has made the most selfless decision any person could possibly make. You are giving your baby a chance to live and to be loved at the expense of your now broken heart. Whether you choose natural birth, a caesarean, intense medical interventions, or comfort care, you are making the right choices for your child. Because on this journey there are no right or wrong choices. You make these decisions from the most important place, a place of love and in the end and all the days after, that is what really matters. You are making the right decisions for you, your baby, and your family. Please, don’t ever doubt that. Don’t let guilt take residence in your heart. It doesn’t belong there, because you are doing all you can do with the circumstance at hand.

The moment you hold your precious child in your arms is one you will cherish for a lifetime and yearn for again & again. As heartbreaking as it is to say goodbye to your much beloved and wanted child, there will be beauty in the day of their birth, even if he/she never takes a breath. It may be hard to see now, but one day you will. You didn’t ask for this sweet Momma, I know, but you will survive this even when you think you can’t. You are strong and you are brave. Even in your weakest moments when the pain consumes you and you are gasping for air. You can do this even though you were never given a choice. You have been chosen to do the unimaginable. I don’t know why you were chosen, or why I was chosen, and I am sorry that we were. But I know you can do it Momma, and you can do it with unimaginable grace and a selfless amount of love.

You will face so many unknowns on this journey and the only thing that is certain is the love you hold in your heart for your baby. You don’t know how much time you will have with him/her.

You don’t know what their birth will be like. You don’t know what it will be like to say goodbye when the time comes. You don’t know if he/she will look like mom or dad, and you may not know if you can get through any of this. You plan and try to prepare the best you possibly can given the situation, but there is only so much you can do. The truth is you may never be ready for what lies in front of you.

But know this momma…

In all of the world, there is no love like the love you have for your baby. That love will be the only thing your baby ever knows and that love will never dwindle, it will never fade, and it will never fail. This I know to be true.


A fellow carrying to term momma… now bereaved.
~ ~ ~

Jessi Snapp resides in Indiana where she is pursuing her master’s degree in social work. She is married to her wonderful husband, Karl, and she is a mother to one living child and three in Heaven. After enduring two losses to miscarriage, Jessi became pregnant with her son Silas Edison who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 at 20 weeks gestation. Silas was born and passed on August 20, 2014. Though his life was brief, he is loved for a lifetime. In Silas’ memory, Jessi turned his nursery into an art studio where she creates custom memorial art for other babies gone too soon. You can find her heart-centered work at LuminousLightStudio and on Facebook.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Fatal Diagnosis

Driving to our baby’s 20 week anatomy scan was not exciting for me. I remember telling my husband, “I just want to hear the baby’s heartbeat.” I remember being terrified to lose the baby as soon as I found out I was pregnant, so I just became fixated on just wanting to hear her heartbeat.  I had no idea there was this world of an in-between called fatal diagnosis in utero. I thought babies were either miscarried, very few were stillborn, most were born alive and healthy, or some had special needs (like down syndrome for example).

Sitting in the room as the nurse started to scan was awkward. Something was just off and the silence was deafening. She pointed out very few features of our baby and as I looked I knew something didn’t look quite right. But then again what did I know? I might have been just looking at it wrong. I saw and hear our baby’s heartbeat so everything must be ok. The nurse scanned a little more then asked us the worst question we could hear, “Did you have genetic testing done?”  I quickly told her no we didn’t. She said she needed to get the Doctor and has she left the room she said, “I’m very sorry.” I immediately started keeping upset; why was she sorry?! I remember telling my husband and praying our baby would just have special needs because we were both ok with that outcome. Special needs didn’t diminish our baby’s value.

The doctor came in and proceeded to do the ultrasound herself. After a few minutes she stopped and turned to us. I can’t remember everything she said, but I remember enough of it. “We want to give you the best baby possible.” This is my baby regardless of what’s wrong; she’s the best to me! “Even if your baby survives to birth as soon as the umbilical cord is cut your baby will die, because of her underdeveloped lungs.” So my baby isn’t worth fighting for? Isn’t worth spending time with her? “Your baby most likely has Turner Syndrome.” What’s Turner Syndrome? I had never heard of it. There must be something that can be done. Also, I can’t remember if you used the word baby or fetus. I think she might have used both. I hate the word fetus because of how it’s used.

I was in complete shock. My husband and I went to the car and I just cried. It didn’t feel real. It couldn’t be real. This can’t be happening, not to me; not to our baby. I was helpless and left with nothing. I had no idea what the next step was. I was given no resources.

My protective instincts grew enormously. I had to protect her. Terminating her was not an option.

I knew I would carry her with love.

~ ~ ~
Heather Kimble lives in the Philadelphia area. She is married to her best friend, Jason and is mommy to Hannah Sue Kimble. Hannah is her only child. Heather carried Hannah after receiving a fatal diagnosis and was told to terminate. Heather was told to terminate based on the serious risk to her own personal health. She doesn't believe in termination and chose to carry Hannah with love. Hannah passed away and was born sleeping on December 23rd, 2013. Heather and Jason treasure every moment they had with Hannah during pregnancy and after delivery. Hannah has inspired a nonprofit started by her parents to help others and to help break the silence by sharing their journey of baby loss.
Heather is the Co-Founder and President of the 501(c)(3) non-profit Hannah’s Heart and Love. Hannah’s Heart and Love was inspired by their daughter Hannah to help others and to help break the silence of baby loss.
twitter @hannahheartlove
instagram @hannahsheartnlove
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