Celebrating and Surviving Milestones

From the moment I first held that pregnancy test in my hand, my heart was filled with dreams for my son’s childhood–one that I hoped would be filled with love, laughter, and plenty of family traditions. I envisioned the milestones to come: his first birthday, his first day of school, his high school graduation. My dreams were shattered into a million pieces when our precious firstborn baby was born prematurely and succumbed to a fatal genetic condition at just 93-minutes old. The milestones that I once looked forward to with such joy and excitement were now anticipated with such deep sorrow. Three years later and my heart aches each time kindergarten enrollment begins, and I often find myself blinking back tears as I count down the years until Ethan’s class will start school.

The loss of a baby has a way of changing a simple date on the calendar into a point in time that feels so significant and so heavy with a wide spectrum of emotions. How can we face the due dates, the birthdays, and the milestones that now feel so bittersweet?

As we approached Ethan’s first birthday, I reached out to my friends within the loss community for ideas of ways to spend the day and received plenty of great ideas for celebrating and surviving milestones.  

Throw a bash

One of my loss mama friends throws a birthday party for her son each year. Through the years, this tradition has been a great way to celebrate her son’s life with friends both new and old. Some party ideas include a butterfly release, cake and icecream, showing a slideshow, and/or selecting a theme that reminds you of your baby.

Give back

Several of my sisters-in-loss commemorate special dates each year by lending a helping hand in their baby’s honor. There are plenty of ways to do this, such as volunteering at a local charity, hosting a Random Act of Kindness day, donating memory boxes through Forever Footprints, or making a contribution to an organization that has had a positive impact in their life (at Forever Footprints, you can personalize a fundraising page with your families story to make it more personal). Here are some suggestions for ways to give back

Take time to reflect

Whether you prefer to have a quiet day or one filled with plenty of activity, don’t forget to carve out some time for yourself. Go to the cemetery, look through photos and special mementos, take a walk, and/or listen to songs that remind you of your baby. Turn off your phone if you need to. Give yourself the freedom to feel whatever emotions you are met with–whether the day makes you smile, cry, or both.

In my experience, there is no one-size-fits all approach to celebrating and surviving milestones. Free yourself of any pressure to face the day in a particular way. In the first year after Ethan died, I felt pressure to celebrate milestones with grand gestures–I wanted to show the world just how much I loved him. Yet at the same time, I craved a day to myself. It took me some time to accept the fact that, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with grand gestures, Ethan didn’t need that from me. My love for him was undeniable and he was at perfect peace regardless of whether I threw a big party or spent the day alone. That first year, my husband and I each took the day off work, visited the cemetery, ate dinner at Del Taco (I couldn’t get enough Del Taco during my pregnancy with Ethan), and shared a small smash cake at home. We needed a quiet day together that year. However, by the time Ethan’s second birthday arrived we wanted to get out and be around lots of people. What we have needed has changed year to year, and even day to day, and it may be the same for you. Give yourself permission to celebrate each milestone in the way that is best for your family.

And remember, no matter how you choose to spend the day, your baby knows nothing but love.

Kristin HernandezKristin Hernandez lives in Southern California with her husband Chris and their rainbow baby. After struggling with unexplained infertility for several years, Kristin was thrilled when she became pregnant with Ethan. The celebration quickly turned to concern when doctors discovered Ethan had a serious heart defect and was missing a piece of his brain–likely indicative of a chromosome abnormality. Ethan was born on August 16, 2015 and spent his 93-minute life in his parents’ arms. Kristin is now a mother to one baby on earth and five babies in heaven, including four of Ethan’s younger siblings who she has never met. Despite these struggles, Kristin has resolved to embrace the life she has been given and to leave a legacy for her family.  Kristin works in communications by day, but can also be found running, camping, writing or having a conversation over a cup of coffee. She writes at www.sunlightindecember.com and is the cohost of the Through the Lens Podcast.


Main photo by David Ananda on Unsplash

Thank you to our Memory Box Volunteers

Several years ago, Forever Footprints learned that families at many Orange County hospitals did not receive memory boxes. Worse yet, we heard stories of families being sent home with their baby’s precious memories in empty milk containers, torn paper bags, or used boxes.

We immediately went into action, purchasing memory boxes and supplies. And an amazing group of volunteers has lovingly decorated more than 400 memory boxes that have gone directly to families who have had a baby die in pregnancy or infancy.

Erin, Eve, Becca, Lindsay, we are so grateful for your dedication and love to Forever Footprints and all the families we serve. Thank you for all you do.

If you would like to make a donation toward our memory box program, please visit Our Donation Website or email kvonrotz@foreverfootprints.org. We are in need of supplies to continue this program and would be so grateful for your financial support.

Memory Box

Forever Footprints Programs

3 Hearts

Support Programs

Each day, hour, and even minute, a member of your community experiences a loss of a baby. Sadly, most areas are greatly lacking the support and assistance these parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends need in dealing with their heartache. Forever Footprints is working each day to fill that gap. Through our various programs, we strive to connect these hurting families to support that will offer them understanding and aid as they navigate through the journey ahead of them.

Forever Footprints Support Groups

The Balancing Life & Loss: Parenting After Loss Group is a free support group that addresses the needs of bereaved parents who, after a tragic loss, need to continue living and parenting their surviving children.

The Coping With Loss: Helping Families With The Loss Of A Child Through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Early Infancy Group is a free support group for bereaved parents and families who have experienced the loss of a child and need a place to help process their  experience and be able to heal.

Education and Support Books Program

Our Education and Support Book Program allows us to donate books to families and hospitals. We offer several books specifically for mothers, fathers, grandparents and children or siblings.

Journey to Remember Program

The Journey to Remember Program is a perinatal comfort care program created to provide a safe and nurturing environment for families who wish to carry to term despite a life-limiting or fatal diagnosis. We provide sensitive care facilitated by a labor and delivery nurse trained in bereavement with personal experience in perinatal loss during the pregnancy, delivery, and follow up bereavement support for the years to come.

Memory Box Program

The Memory Box Program allows us to donate memory boxes to families and hospitals. The boxes are used as a home for keepsakes and photos for anyone who has experienced a pregnancy or infant loss.

Remembrance Basket Program

Our Remembrance Basket Program allows us to donate Moses baskets to funeral homes and hospitals. The baskets are used by hospitals so they have a loving way to transport these special babies with dignity and grace.  The baskets are also used for families who want to spend time with their baby and for photographs.

Sibling to Remember Program

Our Sibling to Remember Program helps big brothers and sisters trying to grasp the loss of their new baby. Through a package personalized to best fit the loss and offer age-appropriate activities and guidance, the gift is intended to assist the child/children in understanding their own grief, that of their families, and the sudden changes in their family dynamics.