My daughter meant the world to me sadly she is not here today but her spirit lives on and in her honor, I donate to keep her memory alive.
This is a season of new life. Spring is my favorite season of the year with freshly bloomed flowers spotting the green earth. Bees and butterflies dance and flutter in the breeze. I love the sound and smell of light showers falling from full clouds. Near my town, there are hills painted with bright poppies with the roadside littered with parked cars where people snap pictures of the beautiful scenery. I love this season because it reminds me of hope and a new beginning.
Over the past year, I have been slowly adapting to my new life as a bereaved mother. I’m getting used to the unfamiliar colors, sounds, and smells. Each day I embrace unique experiences. All the while, with my daughter in my heart and mind, a greater purpose for this season has risen. I never thought I could be like this. I thought my life was forever doomed for a bleak, lifeless existence.
You see, another valuable lesson has erupted from the ashes. There is a time to mourn, but there is also a time to rejoice. “But, Kaitlin, how can you rejoice after losing your daughter?!” Seems crazy, I know, but I do rejoice in my new life. I belong to a close community, yet at the same time Wendy gave me a perspective of life like I’ve never known. I have started to think for myself and take care of myself more deliberately. I have gained a better appreciation for my friends, family, and especially my husband. Yes, I see the world in different colors, and they are more vibrant than I could have imagined.
All because of Wendy. I rejoice in that.
I rejoice in new experiences every day, because I believe that suffering such incredible loss has developed me into a better version of myself. I have grown in many ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. However, rejoicing doesn’t take away the deep yearning I feel for my daughter every day. I wish she lived. I wish I could watch her grow up. I wish I knew the true color of her eyes.
It has taken me over a year to get to this place. The ability to stand amidst the charm of lovely, flowering elegance cost me crawling desperately through the dark, mournful mud. I know how hard life can be after losing a child. I know that you may feel like life will never be happy again. I know the feeling of immense loss, but it will not last forever. I promise you. It is a season, and a new season awaits. Spring will come.
Kaitlin McLaughlin is currently a grad student at Grand Canyon University, obtaining her Master’s in Education in hopes of becoming a single subject high school teacher. She’s also an Intake Specialist at a local non-profit which specializes in helping at-risk youth finish their high school education and get connected with paid work experience. After Kaitlin and her husband Ryan experienced their daughter being still born due to a neural tube defect, Kaitlin has developed a passion to help her new community of bereaved parents. They reside in Southern California with their one your old Golden Retriever. Also, they spend their time going to the beach, hanging out with friends, and exploring new eateries around their neighborhood.
I had no idea what to do. I was a first-time mom and a first-time grieving mom at the same time. I was confused, overwhelmed, and devastated. Honestly, the list can go on about everything I was feeling, but this blog would go on forever like my last one, lol. I knew every emotion possible and felt so incredibly numb at the same time, like I was separated from my being and experienced everything from a distance. Every day seemed like an eternity. The energy it took to wake up, eat, work, and make dinner was thoroughly exhausting. For the longest time I was depleted, empty, and drug myself through the motions of life.
My grieving didn’t stop there. Everything I experienced was affected by my situation. Being pregnant with a terminally diagnosed baby compelled me to avoid countless things. I didn’t look at new moms holding their babies because it made me extremely jealous. I didn’t laugh as much. I didn’t smile like I used to. I couldn’t go to family events, but when I forced myself to go, I broke down weeping in the car.
Why am I telling you this? I let myself feel it all. I didn’t push my grief aside, avoid it, or deny it. I was present and faced my reality and embraced it. As painful as it was, I’m glad I was present in my circumstance. I’m glad I shed tears, wept, and mourned. It has helped me live with my pain, rather than just pushing through it and “getting over it,” because I know a measure of my grief will never end.
I am learning to live with pain. I am adjusting myself to my new life and the new me. But this takes time. Grief is not linear. There is no “start” or “stop.” Grieving for my child is an experience that changed every fiber in my body, soul, and mind. Some things became less important and other things became more important. I gained perspective, and from there, hope was born. It took a while, but now I am excited about the future. Whatever it may be. Even if there aren’t baby’s in my future…yes even then, I am content with where this journey took me. I regret nothing.
I hope that you feel your grief, that you allow those bottled up tears to flow. It’s painful, overwhelming, lonely, and frightening. But it’s where you are right now. Take care of your grief; take care of yourself first. Because from your grief, you will gain a perspective and a hope like never before.
Kaitlin McLaughlin lives in Southern California with her husband Ryan. They welcomed their daughter Wendy into the world on November 12, 2017 but was born still due to her fatal condition. When Kaitlin was 15 weeks pregnant, doctors diagnosed Wendy with Anencephaly, a rare neural tube defect. From then on, they lived with the grief, pain, and joy of becoming parents to an angel. Since then, Kaitlin grew a passion for reaching out to others who have experienced newborn loss. She is the creator and writer for www.wendyforever.com hoping to provide support to other bereaved parents. She also works at a non-profit that provides an education and job training program for young adults. Ryan and Kaitlin love doing everything together, including spending time with their one year old Golden Retriever Leona.
As the holidays have passed, I feel like I can finally breathe again. A fresh new year, wondering where it will take me this time. However, after losing my first baby girl I reflect on my journey and where it has brought me. Who I have become and where it will take me now. I am honored to share my story with you this coming year. I want to share about the baby that changed my life. I’m going to be real with you, reveal the nightmare I had to live through, the dreams I was forced to let go, and the daily hardships I have to overcome. But, also, the grace that saved me, the love that held me, and the wisdom that grew me.
My name is Kaitlin, and I am a bereaved mother. My daughter was stillborn November 12, 2017. Deep down in my soul I know that my daughter’s story will touch countless people, far beyond the number of her days. This blog is about my experience as a bereaved parent, what I went through, the realities I was forced to adapt to, the pain through it all, and the joys of being a parent. Possibly, reading about my family’s experiences will bring hope or a measure of healing to your heart. Allow me to share with you the story of our sweet baby girl named, Wendy.
My husband and I received the news that we were expecting on February 19, 2017. We were so incredibly excited. Immediately, we started dreaming about how our lives would change forever. We dreamed of seeing our child learn to walk, talk, and grow in front of our very eyes. I was so excited to experience the feeling of holding our newborn in my arms, the sweet smell and softness of her skin, and the warmth of her presence. I started to plan the baby’s room and dream of how I would decorate it. I even bought this awesome diaper bag from Amazon, anticipating the day when I would use it. Yet, that diaper bag still has the tags, never used.
In May of 2017, we had our routine 15-week ultrasound. However, our blissful and dream-like reality quickly went up in flames. We heard our doctor’s crushing words, “Your baby does not have a skull.” How could this be? How is that possible? What does that mean? Our dreams – gone. Our baby’s future – gone. Everything – gone. Our hopeful world burned to the ground and collapsed into dust. I felt so helpless, powerless, hopeless, hurt, and so incredibly broken and defeated. Our baby wasn’t going to make it. Being informed that our baby was “not compatible with life” was a living nightmare from which we would not wake up from.
Our baby girl was diagnosed with a rare, neural tube defeat called Anencephaly. Her diagnosis prohibited her skull and brain to fully form. Thus, she would not survive outside the womb. We sat in an office, eyes swollen, chins quivering, and hearts completely broken. We were given two pieces of paper. One was information about termination. The other was about Forever Footprints. We got home and sat in silence, staring at those two pieces of paper knowing our baby’s life would be determined by either one. Forced to make a choice, I couldn’t help but focus on our precious baby. I thought, “I am her mother, and my husband, her father. Just because she isn’t what we expected, doesn’t mean we can give up on her. How could we? How can I give up on my baby now when she needs me the most? We need to love her now more than ever.”
Today, here I am, a member of Forever Footprints, the organization that supported my daughter’s life without fail. We chose to continue our pregnancy to 41 weeks and 4 days and delivered our beautiful Wendy. She was so perfect, so pure, so beautiful. She had silky, dark hair, creamy white, alabaster skin, and long beautiful eyelashes. Wendy was perfect in every way. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. She is constantly on my mind, and my heart yearns for her.
I am incredibly thankful for the time we had with Wendy. We purposed to create many, beautiful memories with her while she was tucked away in my womb. We took Wendy to the beach, a baseball game, read many books to her, and watched our favorite shows together. I miss those days, but my daughter changed my life forever. I am not who I used to be, as my old self has passed away. The new Kaitlin developed a passion to reach out to other hurting parents. My Wendy opened my eyes to a need. And, I want to tell you that I love you, understand you, and your baby is precious in every way. I hope as the year goes on, our story will give you hope and healing and reveal to you my understanding heart. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog about my Wendy. Stay tuned for February’s reflections, as well.
Kaitlin McLaughlin lives in Southern California with her husband Ryan. They welcomed their daughter Wendy into the world on November 12, 2017 but was born still due to her fatal condition. When Kaitlin was 15 weeks pregnant, doctors diagnosed Wendy with Anencephaly, a rare neural tube defect. From then on, they lived with the grief, pain, and joy of becoming parents to an angel. Since then, Kaitlin grew a passion for reaching out to others who have experienced newborn loss. She is the creator and writer for www.wendyforever.com hoping to provide support to other bereaved parents. She also works at a non-profit that provides an education and job training program for young adults. Ryan and Kaitlin love doing everything together including spending time with their one year old Golden Retriever Leona.
I will never forget the first time I felt it. I was sitting in a room full of women, who were all laughing, talking, complaining about their husbands, bragging about their children. It was five months after my son Joseph had died, and I thought I could do it. I thought I could join the world again. I wanted to feel normal. But sitting in that room—with a newly formed women’s group—I never felt so alone in my entire life. The sounds all became one, like a constant buzzing. My hands started to sweat. My heart started to pound. And I ran for the door.
I ran from new friendships and I ran from my old friendships. I isolated myself from those who had children and babies. I couldn’t face my pregnant friends, because I was a reminder to them of what could go wrong. My friends’ worlds were moving forward, and my life felt as if it was standing still. I didn’t know how to be anyone’s friend.
I was different. I had held my son and watched him take his last breaths. I watched his casket being put in the ground. I had gone home to leaking breasts full of his milk, an empty nursery, and a broken heart. And my friends would never understand that.
As the months after Joseph’s death turned into years, and I sought the help of support groups and private therapy to deal with my grief, I tried to repair old friendships and begin new ones. I started to accept this was the new me. And I began to see, I didn’t have to run.
And I wasn’t alone after all. Through Forever Footprints I’ve met thousands of other women just like me. Women who have lost their child or children. Many of them have become my friends. We may not talk every day. We may not see each other for months. But I know they are there for me, and I am there for them. We are forever connected by the love of our babies.
I found I could become a friend to others that struggled with pain or loss. It doesn’t just come in the form of losing a child, but also through things like divorce or illness. I’m not always the friend people call to go out for a movie or to go on a girl’s trip, but I’m often the one they call when they are going through a difficult time.
There are still times I sit in a room and feel so different than anyone else. But I don’t run. I embrace that being a mom who has lost a child has formed me into a person who is strong, brave, resilient, and compassionate. And I tell my story, because more often than not, there someone else in that room that needs a friend.
Your best friend just called you sobbing because she lost her baby in her 10th week of pregnancy. You just got an email from your coworker, and at her 36-week checkup, she learned her baby no longer has a heartbeat. A friend you haven’t seen in a while, but who you follow on social media, just posted her 2 month old daughter passed away last night.
What do you say? What do you do?
There’s never going to be the perfect thing to say or do when you learn that someone you know has experienced pregnancy loss or infant death. But the worst thing you can do is stay silent. Here are some ideas on how you can make an impact on the life of a grieving family:
1.) If their baby was named, use their child’s name. It’s not a horrible reminder to those of us who have lost a child. It’s a beautiful memory.
2.) Don’t wait for the family to ask for help—take action. Many families are in shock after their loss. They might not know how to ask for help or want to be around others. Drop a meal on their front porch or send a care package.
3.) Remembering milestone dates is very meaningful. Send a note or even a text message on the due date, baby’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and/or holidays. Many people are afraid this will “remind” people of their loss. The reality is we never forget, and knowing others remember our child is comforting.
4.) Hold their hand. Give them a hug. And listen.
5.) Be mindful of saying things that could be hurtful to the family. Don’t say: It happened for a reason. You’ll get over it. Don’t be sad. The baby is in a better place. You can have another baby.
6.) Forever Footprints offers online fundraising pages. The pages allow friends and family to make donations in honor of the baby or babies and send words of support. Donations benefit the work Forever Footprints is doing to bring support, education and remembrance to those who have experienced the loss of their baby or babies. Click here to create a fundraising page.
7.) Grieving mothers often receive an outpouring of support during the first month. But as time goes on, that support fades. Any of the above items can be done not just following the loss, but in the months and even years that follow.
8.) Give the family resources on how they can seek help and support. For more information on how Forever Footprints can support a family, click here.
9.) Consider the siblings, father, grandparents, and other family during a loss. Everyone close to the baby or babies will be grieving. It’s important to check in on other members of the family and offer support to them, as well.
10.) Be patient. Everyone grieves differently, and grief has no timeline. Remember that the mother has lost not only her child but her dreams of mothering that child.