100 DAYS OF HEALING AND REMEMBRANCE
Starting on April 4th, 2017, I’m participating in the 100 Day Project. This is a free global art project, where everyone involved does something creative for 100 consecutive days.
I'm calling my part of the project "100 Days of Healing and Remembrance" and would like to hear from those of you who have been touched by infertility and/or grief through miscarriage or the loss of a baby.
For Day 1 of 100, I'll share some of what led to this idea. My newest body of work, "Art through Fertility,” reflects the stories of individuals and couples who have had these experiences. After talking with them, I set out to create a painting that expresses their journey.
This work grew from my own struggles trying to have children which began six years ago. We went through a number of IUIs, rounds of IVF, diet changes, supplements, doctor visits, tests, shots, ultrasounds, medications, blood draws and all of the other ups and downs that can come with fertility treatment. Along the way, we also endured four pregnancy losses.
Throughout that time, I felt isolated, sad, anxious, shameful and often at fault. I realized I was grieving and needed an outlet, a community, and others to lean on for support. As an artist, painting was more than a powerful source of expression for me during this time; it became a conduit to strength and healing. Once I started sharing with those close to me, then hearing from others going through the same, I had the realization that I wasn't alone.
With the stories you share, I’ll be creating one large abstract painting by adding to a canvas every day. At the end of the project, I’ll be cutting this large canvas into smaller pieces. These tiny abstract paintings will be sent to those who contributed or could use some encouragement, or both. I’ve decided to do this because we are all part of an unintentional and unfortunately large community of people who don’t talk about these experiences enough. We can find strength from sharing our stories and supporting each other. You can follow along on Instagram and search the tag #100DaysOfHealingAndRemembrance or scroll through this page to read the stories shared and to see the progression of the painting.
If you'd like to participate and share your story, please use the form below and any of the writing prompts listed. Or, feel free to write something else entirely. There are many sides to these stories and I think it’s important that we share all of them, the difficult, the tragic, the funny, the happy and the transformational sides of them. Talking about these things and removing the stigma is necessary for healing and bringing more empathy to our culture in general.
Day 2 involved cutting some canvas and adding a quick sweep of paint to what will eventually become a painting. For now, it's just a tiny bit of underpainting.
Thank you so much for sending the stories you have. Please keep sharing and sending your stories. And, if you're thinking about it but not sure where to begin, here are a few prompts:
1. What is one word that describes your experience with infertility?
2. What is one word that describes your experience with miscarriage?
3. What is one word that describes your experience with stillbirth?
4. What is one thing that has been comforting or given you strength during your experiences with infertility or loss.
5. What has grief been like for you?
6. What is your baby's name? What is your favorite memory of carrying them?
You don't have to share your story publicly if you'd rather not. You can also send me a private Instagram message or email (email@example.com). I won't attach your name to the work or what I share unless you explicitly tell me I can.
Day 3 involved a little bit more underpainting and some marks to break up all of that white canvas after hearing the story of a sweet friend, Tashia.
She gave me permission to share her words and said, “I’m being intentional about sharing my experience when there's an opportunity to connect with other women because I think the isolation is absolutely unnecessary and unhelpful!”
She explained, “The thing that breaks my heart so much is the number of us affected by fertility challenges and loss that go through the experience in total isolation, only to find out months or years after the experience that we had friends and neighbors right by our side that could have been comrades and companions through it.
I experienced a pregnancy loss between my two boys, and while I'm so grateful to have two beautiful, healthy children, the loss has never faded. My third pregnancy was so jam-packed full of fear and doubt, I honestly can't believe the happy-go-lucky result.
I teach a prenatal yoga class, and nearly every week, a story of loss threads its way into the discussion. It's my job to hold space and make class a neutral, safe place to share, but I always feel the urge to curl up next to that grieving mama and ugly cry with her because those emotions never go away. I guess they shouldn't, but it's such a burden to carry.”
Day 4 was the addition a smallish, winding blue line. The words to accompany it come from a dear friend’s blog. Katie started writing publicly to, as she wrote, “deal with the raw emotions from grief” (and help others do the same) after losing her daughter, Poppy, to stillbirth. Her writing is beautiful and raw and honest and poetic.
The words that struck me yesterday came from a post she wrote last year called, “The Only Way Out is Through.” She begins by talking about her own 100 Day Challenge where she had committed to practicing yoga, meditating, and writing every day. She described a woman’s Instagram post that triggered her grief and how she was able to process the intensity that day with yoga and meditation. She ended the post by saying:
“So the life that formed within me is LOVE. Pure and simple. Poppy was love. She is love. We are love and love is all around me. And now that tears stream down my face once again today, there are tears of joy and divinity mixed in with the sadness.”
Go read the full post and then read her whole blog, her words are healing and her bravery in sharing her journey is incredibly inspiring.
Day 5: some large white brush strokes and encouragement to tell your story:
"The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you're talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated."
- Cheryl Strayed
Day 6, a couple of brushes of lavender and another reminder of support:
"I felt like I was being carried over the threshold of a sisterhood of loss. I knew I was not walking alone, and that eventually I would bob back up to the surface of the deep, because the women around me showed me what healing looks like."
- Anna White
Day 7, a new color and a new perspective from another amazing lady who has been through infertility and made the decision to not have kids.
“I’m loving following this project. I am, of course, on the other side of it. As in, I can't have kids and I've made peace with always being the really cool auntie. I love some of my friends kids like they are my own. And that's enough for me.”
When you’re in the middle of grief or infertility, it’s hard to see anything but the difficult parts and I’m a huge advocate of the act of processing those things and finding support in them, hence this project. I’m also a huge advocate for seeing the strength and beauty that can emerge from those things, also hence this project. There are many stages and many outcomes of these experiences that always stick with us, and it’s not just the darkness that stays with us, it can be the beauty too.
Day 8: today I painted for a dear friend who lost her baby this past week close to her third trimester. She has children (is an amazing mom to them) and this isn't her first loss. She's one of the strongest people I know and has accomplished inspiring things and already survived immense pain, and I know she will again, but I also know she could use a lot of reassurance and hope right now.
"Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert
Day 9 was the addition of some warm orange. I painted it after reading an Instagram post I came across today made by Zabie Yamasaki. I found her last year on Instagram when I was processing my own experiences with loss. She lost her sweet little boy, Grayson, at 25 1/2 weeks last year and has been sharing her story and celebrating his memory with many of her posts. Zabie and I have never met in person but the beauty, energy and strength of her words have been a comfort to me and I know to many others.
Alongside a picture of wildflowers, she wrote,
"A beautiful tribute to healing and honoring grief in the mountains of Topanga. Thank you for holding my heart Cora. We love you Grayson and Wyatt. @coralneumann 🌼 "Sometimes you need to walk through the mountains and pick wildflowers with someone who's heart has also been broken completely. You need to talk about how you wish you felt better already. About the nights you've laid awake trying to make sense of it, and - although you resist with all your might the question, 'Why me?' - the double loss/trauma you've both experienced leaves you with no other option but to wonder. 'Why me? What am I supposed to *do* with this?' About how you feel ashamed of how broken you can feel, knowing that so many others suffer infinitely more. About how alive and clear you also feel. That deep knowing that very very very few things truly matter. And those that do are absolutely everything. About how strange you must seem to your friends and loved ones at times, because this is an insane rollercoaster and although you don't wish it on anyone, you wish our culture held more space and knowing around it. About how deeply the pain strikes your heart when someone says, 'Only the good die young.' Or, 'Their work here was done.' Are we discards? Not righteous or complete enough to die? About how, above and beyond it all, you now have an intimate understanding that all souls are bound forever. The world is forever changed, new dimensions forever accessible, once you've lost the ones you were sure you could never live without." -Cora Neumann"
Day 10, some bright blue additions to the painting and a few words from Meghan, a mom of twins who started the blog "Two Came True" with her close friend, Jenn. Both survivors of infertility and moms of twins, they talk openly about both topics (and more) on their blog.
A couple of days ago, Meghan wrote on their Instagram feed, “I have had these little button mums for 4 years! I'd say they are holding up pretty well! A dear friend gave them to me one day because she knew I loved them and had been searching for them every time I was at the store. Little did she know, the day she brought them by, I had really been struggling with our infertility stuff. The small gesture of giving me this simple gift made my entire day and helped me look on the bright side when I was in such a dark place. I am constantly reminded of this simple act of kindness and my dear friend each and every time I look at these.”
It’s hard to know what to say or do when someone is going through loss or infertility and sometimes it’s the small, thoughtful actions that make the biggest impact.
Day 11 made for some richer black brush strokes and a few words from Stefanie Jones, of @griefandwaiting, who has been posting about her experiences of simultaneously grieving her losses and trying to conceive. Stefanie shared a few different sides of her story and I thought they deserved their own unique posts so days 11, 12 and 13 come to you from her.
Stefanie wrote, “The one comforting thing in my experiences with miscarriage and the ensuing grief is knowing that I am becoming stronger, and at the same time more sensitive, than I ever thought possible. Most moments haven't felt this way, though. Most moments have been filled with anxiety, guilt, fear, anger, sadness, jealousy. But in the quieter moments of calm, I feel strong, even in my brokenness.”
Day 12, a few deep red additions and more words from Stefanie Jones, of @griefandwaiting, who has been posting about her experiences of simultaneously grieving her losses and trying to conceive. Stefanie shared a few different sides of her story and I thought they deserved their own unique posts so days 11, 12 and 13 come to you from her.
Stefanie wrote, “Grief has been intense. After my first miscarriage I realized I was carrying this thought around with me that maybe I didn't deserve to have a healthy pregnancy because I wasn't grieving gracefully. After my second loss, I threw that idea out, realizing that there is no right way to grief. I was grieving the only way I could, and what would it mean to grieve gracefully anyway? Now, I'm convinced that graceful grieving would be giving myself, and others, the space to be without needing to change.”
“The most challenging part of grief is the constant fear that I am broken and that my dream of motherhood may not come true. The anxious thoughts are the hardest part. In vulnerable moments, when they take over, I'm devastated to my core.”
Day 13, the addition of white lines and more words from Stefanie Jones, of @griefandwaiting, who has been posting about her experiences of simultaneously grieving her losses and trying to conceive. Stefanie shared a few different sides of her story and I thought they deserved their own unique posts so days 11, 12 and 13 come to you from her.
Stefanie wrote, “I've gotten a lot of strength from the community of women out there who are grieving losses and are on similar journeys. Even if I did not always actively interact in the discussions or comments, I read everything that I could find and found comfort that I am not alone.”
Day 14, some light orange and a reminder to let the messiness and beauty of grief happen:
"Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always."
- S.C Lourie
Day 15, some midnight blue strokes, a bit of dark blue text and some excerpts from a March 28th article in the Washington Post by Jessica Levy titled, “We tend to keep quiet about miscarriages. Here’s why that should change.”
“I noticed a pattern, and I started to change my approach. I didn’t seek out people to tell, but I didn’t hide it either. Most people weren’t sure how to react, but they all did the best they could. Some of it helped, and some of it made it worse. But all of it was real, honest and human. In a world where our most intimate feelings are summarized with emoji and sent over text messages, hearing friends flounder for words was exactly what I needed.”
“The “three-month rule” is outdated. Telling women that we should stay silent is outdated.”
“During a successful pregnancy, silence forces us to make excuses for being tired, for missing work to go to doctors’ appointments, for running to the bathroom. During an unsuccessful pregnancy, it forces us to suffer alone. In both cases, it causes us to shy away from asking for help when we need it. In a world of Facebook and Snapchat, where oversharing our frivolous news is the norm, under-sharing our more sincere news cheats us out of the connections that make life meaningful, and it cheats others out of the chance to step up and assist.”
Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
Day 17: some bright purple marks and beautiful words from @neenaearl about her baby girl. Neena wrote a few powerful aspects of her and her family’s story that she wanted to share. I’ll be posting more of her story over the next few days (days 17-21).
“My daughter's name is Indira Usha Earl. We call her Indi. She died February 5th, 2014 and was born on February 6th. She was 6lbs even and 20 inches long. She was born at 37 weeks old.
We try to honor her in many ways. We have her things and photos of her all over our home. We planted a tree in her honor and as of right now its blossoming with the most beautiful magenta blooms. We carry her ashes around our necks. Because her birthstone is amethyst will fill our home with amethysts from friends and pick out an amethyst on every trip we go on to bring her home with us. We always make sure to find some sort of rock shop or gem store to find something unique and have it with us for the trip. Every year on her birthday we pick some kind of cause and get our friends and family and even strangers involved in helping us.”
Day 18: some violet additions and more beautiful words from @neenaearl about her baby girl. Neena wrote a few powerful aspects of her and her family’s story that she wanted to share. I’ll be posting more of her story over the next few days and her writing below is continued from Day 17 (all together, you can read her story on days 17-21).
"On her first birthday we donated over 100 boxes of soft, lotioned tissues to the hospital we delivered her in because the ones they provided for us while we were there were terrible. For her second birthday we raised money to purchase 200 books and donated them to the program that volunteered to be with us while we were in the hospital. A program for bereaved parents to help them through their journey. The book was one that was given to us and helped us through our grief. And for her third birthday we raised money and donated over $2000 to scholarships for underprivileged girls in India to get an education.
I have also tried to honor her by documenting our experience and sharing it on my blog. I have tried to become an advocate to encourage mothers to recognize symptoms of intrahepatic cholestasis and also to help them be strong in understanding their instincts and following them. To help them not be afraid to confront their doctors if they're uncomfortable with the care that they're receiving. It's been difficult at times to be open and honest about it but ultimately has brought much healing to my heart and soul.
You can find my blog here" - Neena Earl
Day 19, some lavender and more words from @neenaearl about her baby girl, Indi. Neena wrote a few powerful aspects of her and her family’s story that she wanted to share. I’ll be posting more of her story over the next few days and her writing below is continued from Day 17 (all together, you can read her story on days 17-21).
What is one word that describes your experience?
“Expansion. My mind has expanded. My soul has expanded. My heart has expanded. One of the best things that comes out a trial like this is growth. We change and become more intuitive, more insightful humans. We have to otherwise we can't survive. It's how we adapt to our new lives.” - Neena Earl
Day 20, some lavender pastel marks and more words from @neenaearl about her baby girl, Indi. Neena wrote a few powerful aspects of her and her family’s story that she wanted to share. I’m posting her story over a few days. All together, you can read her story on days 17-21.
What has been comforting or given you strength during your experiences with infertility or loss?
“First it was our friends and family and even some that we didn't know from around the world lifting us and comforting us. Next it was my belief that my Heavenly Father has prepared a place for me to be reunited with Indi and that I know what was taken from me will be restored to me. I have the knowledge that I will get to raise her in the next life and I will be able to go on all the adventures that we had plan and experience all the milestones that we missed out on in this life. It won't be a place of paradise for me without those experiences. It's also been my husband. He has grieved right alongside me and supported me when I need it and I do the same for him. We've let each other walk down our own paths of grieving but always meet in the middle to support each other. My rainbow baby has also brought me incredible comfort and healing since Indi's death.” - Neena Earl
Day 21, a large peach layer and more words from @neenaearl about her baby girl, Indi. Neena wrote a few powerful aspects of her and her family’s story that she wanted to share. I’m posting her story over a few days. All together, you can read about her experience on days 17-21.
What has grief been like for you?
Just like for most people it can be a cycle. It can be like I'm drowning and I can barely muster the energy to kick to the surface to get a solid breath of air. Sometimes I allow myself to be swallowed up by the waves of grief and other times I feel numb to it.
I think this quote sums it up perfectly:
"It’s a long road and happens in tiny little steps at first. You’ll find yourself happy too, but there’s a lot of stuff you’ll have to face before that happens. At this point it’s best to just deal day to day or hour by hour and not think too much about the future. Right now your grief is this giant gaping hole with sharp edges but as you move forward in life the edges soften and other beautiful things start to grow around it. Flowers and trees of experiences. The hole never goes away, but it becomes gentler and sort of a garden in your soul, a place you can visit when you want to be near your love. at first it’s all you can do to deal with your basic needs, and that’s what your best friends are helping you with now. Soon the sadness will come in waves, and you have to hold on through the intense parts, letting them well up inside you, carry you for a bit, then subside. It’s all important stuff to feel. Don’t fight it, but don’t get carried too far.”
“Just hold on. It gets better and you’re not alone. You’re part of this messed up little club now, and the other members will come to help heal your pain with empathy and promise.”
“You are going to get through this. Even though this loss will shape who you are forever, you’ll be happy again. You will find peace."
Day 22, a few brushes of light orange and some words from Cassandra who lives in Australia. She lost her little boy to stillbirth just a little over a month ago.
"Our son's name is Reuben. He was our fourth pregnancy following 2 healthy babies and a first trimester missed miscarriage. He was going to complete our family. He was fresh hope after our previous loss. We'd met our "1 in 4" statistic and he was going be our rainbow. Until March 16th 2017 when he wasn't anymore. Reuben was born still a few days shy of 20 weeks.
When I think back to that day my mind first goes to the moment we found out his heart had stopped beating. Maybe because it's the most terrified I've ever been. Maybe because that's the time in my life where there'll always be a "before" and an "after". My doctor and a midwife were unable to find his heartbeat on a doppler, so I was sent for an emergency scan.
As soon as the sonographer put the wand to my stomach, I knew our nightmare was about to be confirmed. Our much loved, much wanted baby boy's body was still and so was his heart. Minutes, or maybe it was only seconds, passed and nobody said anything. My eyes darted between the screen and the sonographer's face, desperate. Desperate to see movement on the screen or relief flood her eyes. But neither came and still nobody said anything. My mind ran wild and I was terrified. Terrified to ask if there was a heartbeat. Terrified to hear the answer. Terrified for it to become our reality. But still nobody said anything. So, already knowing the answer, I broke the silence and asked the question...
"Is there a heartbeat?"...
"No, there isn't".
And just like that, the ground beneath me opened up, and I started falling.
The process of birthing my beautiful boy seemed unnecessarily cruel. I thought I'd be an expert when it came to giving birth. I had done it naturally twice before plus been through a miscarriage at home but in that moment I felt completely inexperienced. Nothing felt natural. My heart and mind knew how to birth life into the world. They had no idea how to give birth to death. My body knew though. Drawing on past experiences and a little bit of medical intervention, my body betrayed my heart, embraced the contractions and at 10:46pm on 16th March 2017, it birthed our son 'Reuben Hayes Creedy' silently into the world.
The days that have followed have been nothing short of complete turmoil. Nothing in my life to date could have possibly prepared me for grieving my baby who I'd never get to take home. The pain is excruciating and when a wave of grief hits, I am left gasping for breath. When it's calm, I'm terrified for the next wave. I never realised how much fear comes with grief and I am still trying to find the balance between remembering him and letting him go.
Initially it was the loneliness that hit me the hardest. I felt like a foreigner wandering aimlessly in a strange country. I couldn't speak the language, I didn't understand the culture, and I couldn't find home. It was dark and scary and no one could help me. How could they? They couldn't speak my language either. They didn't understand. But since then I've found others like me. Some I think are still wandering aimlessly in the dark - their grief is as raw as mine. Others however have made new homes for themselves in this foreign land. It's not like their previous home. There are pieces missing and cracks in the foundations. But they have embraced it just the same and those cracks have allowed light to pour back into their life. Their light provides me comfort. I'm not alone. There are others on this journey. And eventually, light will return to my life too." - Cassandra
Day 23 and the addition of some black, ink-y lines. I’ve been listening to a lot of interviews this week with Sheryl Sandberg around her new book, “Option B.” It’s inspiring and rare to hear a leader speak so openly about their very personal experiences with grief. It’s also so needed for more compassion and empathy around a topic that is still somewhat taboo. In this particular interview with NPR, she offers some helpful words on what to do when someone is grieving:
“I used to say, when someone was going through something hard, "Is there anything I can do?" And I meant it, I meant it kindly. But the problem is ... that kind of shifts the burden to the person you're offering the help to to figure out what they need. And when I was on the other side of that question, I didn't know how to answer it…Rather than offer to do something, it's often better to do anything. Just do something specific. My wonderful friends ... tragically lost a son and they spent many months in a hospital before that. And one of his friends texted him and said, "What do you not want on a burger?" Not, "Do you want dinner?" Another friend texted and said, "I'm in the lobby of your hospital for an hour for a hug whether you come down or not." Just show up.”
Day 24 of #100DaysofHealingAndRemembrance some brushes of green and a repost from Melissa Hartwig, co-creator of the Whole30. If you’re going through infertility, you’ve probably been given a whole lot of food restrictions, which can be extra stressful and shame-inducing on top of everything else.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of food in regards to our overall health, and there’s plenty of research to back that up. But, I’ve done two Whole30s and, while I felt great during and after both, they were not a “cure” for my infertility. For a lot of people, diet changes are helpful, and for others, there’s so much more going on.
Which is why Melissa’s post yesterday to her 178K followers on Instagram was so important. She realized they were implying the Whole30 could cure infertility and that her communication around it needed to evolve. I admire that she’s choosing to publicly admit past mistakes and fix them. Thank you for posting this and helping to build awareness around food and infertility, @Melissa_Hartwig
“RE: Infertility Awareness Week, and some necessary follow-up. Yesterday, the director of public relations at @resolveorg generously gave me some phone-time to discuss infertility sensitivity and etiquette. You know how much I hate the telephone. That tells you how important this is to me. Things I learned in my research and during our call:
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. When speaking about infertility, it must be respected as a disease, not a “struggle.” Treat it as sensitively as you’d treat the subject of cancer.
Infertility isn’t always about hormones being out of balance or inflammatory conditions (like PCOS or endometriosis) preventing pregnancy. There are conditions (like physical blockages of tubes) that nothing but surgical intervention can resolve.
One in eight couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Look around. One in eight.
Of those facing infertility, almost one in three have unexplained infertility. After exams and lab work and all the tests in the world… doctors still don’t know why they cannot conceive. This is heartbreaking.
What we will do as a team going forward, in light of this research:
@Whole30 and @whole30hmhb will respect infertility as a disease.
We will position the Whole30 as potentially beneficial for general preconception health only.
We will make appropriate, sensitive, but strong disclaimers as to the potential impact of any dietary intervention on fertility.
We will never, ever say or share ANYTHING about the Whole30 and infertility that could ever be interpreted as “it’s your fault.”
We will ALWAYS encourage you to speak with your health care provider before starting any new dietary or lifestyle intervention. This is critically important if you have been trying to conceive (having unprotected sex) for more than 12 months - or 6 months if you’re over 35 years of age - or if you have had more than one miscarriage.
On behalf of the Whole30 team, we thank you for your ongoing support of our efforts to learn, and thank Andy at @resolveorg for your time. Visit Resolve.org to educate yourself, get help, or find support.” -Melissa
Day 25, some faint blue lines and an excerpt from an article in the New Yorker, "When Things Go Missing"
"It is breathtaking, the extinguishing of consciousness. Yet that loss, too—our own ultimate unbeing—is dwarfed by the grander scheme. When we are experiencing it, loss often feels like an anomaly, a disruption in the usual order of things. In fact, though, it is the usual order of things. Entropy, mortality, extinction: the entire plan of the universe consists of losing, and life amounts to a reverse savings account in which we are eventually robbed of everything. Our dreams and plans and jobs and knees and backs and memories, the childhood friend, the husband of fifty years, the father of forever, the keys to the house, the keys to the car, the keys to the kingdom, the kingdom itself: sooner or later, all of it drifts into the Valley of Lost Things.
There’s precious little solace for this, and zero redress; we will lose everything we love in the end. But why should that matter so much? By definition, we do not live in the end: we live all along the way. The smitten lovers who marvel every day at the miracle of having met each other are right; it is *finding* that is astonishing. You meet a stranger passing through your town and know within days you will marry her. You lose your job at fifty-five and shock yourself by finding a new calling ten years later. You have a thought and find the words. You face a crisis and find your courage.
All of this is made more precious, not less, by its impermanence. No matter what goes missing, the wallet or the father, the lessons are the same. Disappearance reminds us to notice, transience to cherish, fragility to defend. Loss is a kind of external conscience, urging us to make better use of our finite days."
Day 26, some new reds and a few words from an interview from cupofjo.com with a couple who started a hilarious podcast about their experiences with IVF.
"When they started doing IVF last year, Matt Mira and Doree Shafrir were open with friends and colleagues about their quest to become parents. To their surprise, scores of people started sharing their own infertility experiences. “Women and men were coming out of the woodwork,” Doree says. “I realized, wow, so many of us are going through this, but there’s such a stigma around IVF, we never talk about it.” They started a funny, addictive podcast, Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure, which quickly climbed the ranks on iTunes. Here’s their story, and what they’ve learned after undergoing three rounds of IVF."
What’s been the most surprising part of this whole process?
Doree: How good it feels to be open about it. It wasn’t my initial instinct to be open, but once I was I felt so much better. In terms of the podcast, I will say this: I’ve been a writer for big publications my whole career and nothing I’ve ever written has gotten this level of response. Every day, we hear from so many people who just want to unburden themselves. They’re not even expecting a reply. These conversations have been very powerful — the most powerful part of my IVF journey so far.
Doree: There were a lot of places for women to commiserate online about IVF, but not that many co-ed spaces. I think that’s what makes it unique. This is gay couples, straight couples, single people from all over. It’s fascinating to see what everyone is going through."
Day 27, some small orange lines a recent article in The Guardian written by Hadley Freeman about Ariel Levy's memoir and her experiences with fertility treatment, loss, waiting until her late 30s to have a baby, the self and societal blame that can sometimes come along with any of those things, and ultimately the hope and beauty that came out of all of it for Levy.
"The alternative way of looking at Levy’s memoir is that she is dealing with a subject that feminism has never been able to resolve: the immovable rock of fertility, butting up against female progress. Levy says she had always wanted to be a writer, “so I built my life with that as my priority”; by the time she realised she also wanted to be a mother, she was in her late 30s. She writes that she and her generation “were given the lavish gift of agency by feminism”, coupled with a middle-class, western sense of entitlement that led them to believe that “anything seemed possible if you had ingenuity, money and tenacity. But the body doesn’t play by those rules.” “Of course, this is partly about class,” she says now. “I don’t hear women who are less privileged thinking they’re entitled to everything, whenever they want it. That’s a privilege phenomenon, but it is a phenomenon. It makes me laugh when people say, ‘Why don’t you “just” do surrogacy, or “just” adopt?’ Believe me, there is no ‘just’ about them.” Surrogacy costs $100,000-$150,000 in the US, while adoption costs are on average between $20,000 and $45,000 (costs in the UK are much lower). After the money Levy spent on IVF (“A lot. A lot, a lot, a lot”), those options are less possible than ever.
Doomy warnings that women need to stop shillyshallying and sprog up are published in the Daily Mail every day. They are far less common from prominent feminist writers..."
Day 28, some sweeps of yellow and wise words from teacher, author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson:
"Sometimes the purpose of a day is to merely feel our sadness, knowing that as we do, we allow whole layers of grief, like old skin cells to drop off us"
~ Marianne Williamson
Day 29: some wide peach lines and a few words about the balance of strength and letting go...
These are the tests of the sea:
The third wave is for courage,
The sixth wave is for perseverance,
The ninth wave if for surrender.
~ Lunaea Wetherstone
Day 30! I have some catching up to do on sharing what has been submitted and the progress of the painting. I will be posting a few stories per day over the next couple of days to get back on track.
If you're compelled, please use the form above to submit your own story or pass this page link along a friend who could use some love and support.
Day 31: a few new brushes of green, and a quote about choosing hope:
"Hope is a renewable option: If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” — Anonymous
Day 32: a few darker orange hints and some words from Melyssa Glunz in a 2015 Huffpost article on struggling with infertility then getting her rainbow baby:
“It’s gutwrenching, exhausting, hard on a marriage, and very, very long. It’s also extremely rewarding when you find out it worked; the elation you feel is like nothing I could explain.” — Melyssa Glunz
Day 33 and a reminder to take a day to just take care of yourself every now and then. If you can’t take a whole day, at the very least, take a few hours a week to just BE.
There’s something strange about American culture, how we power through life in general, but especially through exceptionally hard things. We think we need to be strong and not show any of our so-called weaknesses. So, instead, we fall apart or get sick, which forces us to slow down anyway. While grit and hard work can be great things, they’re not sustainable without some actual rest.
Grief and/or infertility are emotionally and physically exhausting. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself the chance to heal and recover with a few days of rest. Your journey through them will be softer for it. Your body and mind need it. Those who love you need you to do it. So, if you aren’t giving yourself permission, here’s a bit of permission from me and, quite poetically, from Maya Angelou:
"Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us." - Maya Angelou
Day 34: some larger blocks of color added and an excerpt from Tierney Sneeringer’a U.S. News & World Report article, “Surviving My Digital-Age Miscarriage”
“While grieving, I was – and still am – bombarded by ads for baby formula and other infant products that were always delivered with template notes congratulating me on my pregnancy – dubbed an “exciting” life stage. Clearly I hadn’t read the fine print closely enough, because the apps had apparently shared my email address with their sponsors.”
Thankfully, someone is working on this issue that Tierney wrote about. @postpardon / postpardon.co, in their own words, "was started as a way to help women opt-out of unwanted direct mail that served as an intrusive reminder of their loss. If you’re a loss mom who is still receiving formula samples and coupons with messages like “you’re almost there!”, register with our service that serves as a one-click unsubscribe for loss moms.”
Day 35: adding a new, larger pink layer and some words from Tara Tearnan, who works as a sonographer, about her experiences with infertility, cancer, loss, grief, and three rainbow babies.
“The phrase I hear most often about being a sonographer, "you must love your job getting to see all those babies!" I heard this again one day being prepped for a D&C by my RN and I couldn't help but respond with "until you scan your own dead baby and find yourself here for surgery". It is soul shattering. One in three to four miscarry in the 1st trimester.
I have been blessed with three kids after cancer and infertility. I have lost two pregnancies and a twin of our third child. Each time I lost one I relived that loss around their due date. That emptiness my arms felt, that longing to have known those little people and knowing that I will always be their mom still causes ache. But I relate more to other moms struggling. I'm better at my job and cry with patients in their moment of despair.
We named our 3rd child two first names Indie-jane in honor of her twin.”
⁃ Tara Tearnan
Day 36: I added some text to the painting, which was inspired by Jessica Zucker, Ph.D. and her Instagram feed @ihadamiscarriage. She is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and writer specializing in women's reproductive and maternal mental health.
I came across the Instagram hashtag campaign #ihadamiscarriage during this project and have been inspired by content Dr. Zucker has been sharing to help de-stigmatize pregnancy and infant loss, and to spread hope.
From her site: “Jessica specialized in this field long before experiencing a 16-week miscarriage. She launched the #IHadAMiscarriage hashtag campaign with her first New York Times piece in 2014 and has written over a dozen essays about the pain and the politics of loss. She has a background in public health and worked internationally for several years and incorporates this into her writing/work.
In 2015, Dr. Zucker created a line of pregnancy loss cards with the aim of filling a gaping hole in the cultural conversation and in the marketplace surrounding pregnancy loss. Approximately 20% of pregnancies end in loss. Jessica hopes these messages help acknowledge pregnancy/baby loss in a meaningful way - honoring the subsequent feelings and puncturing the cultural silence. Jessica's goal with this collection is to help people have the tools to connect after loss - providing the antidote to "I just don't know what to say". (read more here)
Day 37: the addition of large white text to the painting and some writing shared by Tanya Underwood via her blog (The Sky And Back) about her heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful path through infertility, loss and a healthy pregnancy:
The Things She Carried
[inspired by Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried]
She carried 758 needles, 170 suppositories of the vaginal variety, and hundreds of blood draws—she was told she had good veins, like that was some kind of prize to win. She was weirdly proud of her awesome veins, because in this game of carrying and dropping, losing and winning, there’s not much else to be proud of.
She carried 63 ultrasounds, some of them a routine check for follicles, some looking in vain for beating hearts, some checking to make sure “the products of conception” no longer existed inside of her.
She carried names of drugs she could barely pronounce—Menopur, Follistim, Ovidrel, Ganirelix, Intralipids, Lovenox, Prednisone.
She carried four IUIs, three IVFs, 66 follicles, 33 eggs and 20 embryos. Some of these embryos were placed back inside of her, and some never grew beyond a handful of cells. All were loved.
She carried lesions on her ovaries, cervix, uterus and bladder. She carried a blood clotting disorder called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. She carried overactive natural killer cells, which weren’t really killing much except teeny-tiny embryos too little to fight forthemselves.
She carried one laparoscopy attempt. One actual laparoscopy. Three egg retrievals. Two transfers. Two D & Cs.
She carried 1,938 miles of travel—from the house to the fertility clinic; from the clinic to work; from Philadelphia to Manhattan for surgery; from Philadelphia to Woodbury to visit what she hoped would be a miracle doctor; from Philadelphia to Woodstock to spend the day with a fertility visionary. She carried $726 in parking garage fees, and even one parking garage accident.
She carried Please Gods and plea bargains. She carried what-ifs and what-will-I-do-nows.
She carried special diets—no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no air.
She carried the love of a good man, but she carried it clumsily and sometimes carelessly. She lashed out. She yelled. “Why can’t you carry any of this for me?” she wanted to know. There was no good answer to that question—he knew it and she knew it, and at the end of the day she was lucky to still be holding his heart.
She carried the memory of lost babies—three at last count. First was Gabriel. She lost him on the bathroom floor at work, and by the time she got to the hospital she was so bloody it looked like she was starring in a Carrie remake. Then there was Anna, who was confirmed genetically normal and therefore should have lived, but didn’t. Anna, who said au revoir to the world on Christmas day, but who would never open a single present. Finally, there was Baby B, a loss too new to even get a name.
She carried a persistence that even she admitted was insane. She carried advice from relatives, friends, acquaintances, the checkout lady at Target, wondering why she was doing this to herself, why she didn’t just give up. Stop this nonsense. Be happy for what you have. Halt. Cease and desist before you ruin yourself, your job, your marriage. And she did want to stop, she did. But she needed to try one last time. One more needle, one more blood draw, one more doctor. One more.
Now she carries a baby inside of her, a little girl, no bigger than a winter squash. She feels her kicks, taps and nudges, and they feel like hope. She still carries the what-ifs—so many what-ifs—but now she carries something else as well—trust. Trust that this is the soul she is meant to meet. She sings to her baby every night, hands on her belly, heart wide open as a summer sky: ‘twas grace that brought you safe thus far, and grace will lead you home.
Day 38: some splashes of pink and a few words about vulnerability from Brittany Burke, an amazing yoga teacher and person. She shared these words during her class this morning at Flow Yoga Studio in Arvada, Colorado.
Her words explained so well the path that many of us are on, the balance of surrender and strength. Whether or not you’ve shared your story through this project, or are thinking about it, or, maybe you are moving through another kind of challenge, may Brittany’s words be helpful to you too.
“When you open your heart, you become vulnerable knowing there’s a chance it may be broken, but…
The open heart sees, feels and absorbs the beauty of the world and allows us to experience love and joy.
Give love graciously and receive love gratefully.
With each breath you take, you create space around your heart; close your eyes and notice this and what enters that space.”
In addition to her talent for teaching yoga, Brittany also has a professional background in psychology and social work, and helping children and families through trauma. She’s also currently getting her doula certification. Her classes are as compassionate as they are challenging and as spiritual as they are grounded. They’re a beautiful blend of all of her experience. If you are in or near Arvada, I’d highly recommend taking one of her classes.
Day 39 of #100DaysofHealingAndRemembrance, some new texture and a story about joy, loneliness, the emotional roller coasters of loss and infertility, and the faith to keep going from Kirstie Smith of @rubysewsweet.
“On the 29th May, 2014 I was blessed with the birth of my little girl Ruby Belle. Never, in my wildest dreams did I think life would change so dramatically after deciding to try for baby number 2. I mean baby number 1 seemed so easy…right!! When we started to try again we were lucky enough to conceive straight away but unfortunately it ended in a miscarriage at 14 weeks (blighted ovum). That was a bit of a shock but everyone kept saying it happens. I guess I pushed it aside and we tried again. We were expecting again I was over the moon. Wow! This is it …or so I thought. I was 6 weeks pregnant and I woke up one night to what I thought to be severe food poisoning. It turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy. After nearly a week in hospital with suspected appendicitis I was flown by a chopper to have emergency surgery to remove my Fallopian tube and baby. I was reassured that this also just happens and I will be pregnant again soon. I still remember my Obstetrician saying I have taken your tube and your baby. How could he be so cold?? I felt so broken.
Since then it has been nearly two years, countless tests, fertility drugs, fertility specialist appointments and surgery. I have been diagnosed with secondary infertility and we will be starting IVF in July.
One word to describe my loss and infertility would be lonely. Sometimes you just can’t tell anyone how you feel simply because you can’t find the right words to help them understand.
The thing I have found that has given me strength is to be open about my journey to people. It amazing how many women are going through similar issues but it’s never really talked about. Also, reading other blogs have made my journey easier.
Grief for me has been like a never ending roller coaster. Some days you are coping quite well and other days feel the world is closing in on you.
I honour my babies by talking about being a mother of 3 children. I definitely do get some puzzled looks. My journey to get my rainbow baby is not over the journey is just a little more bumpy than I had imagined. I am going to leave with a quote which I have fallen in love with…
”What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” - Erin Hanson.
Day 40: some sweeps of gray and an excerpt from an article in Stat News written by Bob Tedeschi on finding peace after a stillbirth loss, “Helping those lost in the darkness of grief find themselves again”
“Many parents build deep emotional bonds with their unborn babies, and for a mother in particular, “it’s as physical a loss as a human can endure,” Cacciatore said.
“Her body turns into a paradox: The body is producing breast milk. It’s releasing oxytocin — the love hormone — and she has nowhere to enact that love. And socially, she’s anathema. People see she’s not pregnant anymore and it’s like, ‘Oh, you had your baby?’ Day after day after day.”
While some hospitals offer counseling services to bereaved parents, others do not. Cacciatore founded the MISS Foundation in 1996 to serve parents who experience a child’s death. Through the foundation and through her private practice, Cacciatore counsels parents to “stay with their emotions until they learn to trust themselves.”
Trust themselves with what?
“That they won’t die from the pain they’re feeling,” she said. “People [can] learn to not just tolerate but actually value their emotions, even the painful ones. Because it’s part of being human.”
Day 41, the addition of some white paint and palette knife texture and an excerpt from an April Huff Post article by Sarah Elizabeth Richards titled, “Men Struggle During Infertility And Pregnancy Loss Too”
“Men also grieve pregnancy loss and failed IVF attempts, deal with financial stress from the high cost of treatment and wrestle with feelings of failure and disappointment, especially if they’re the infertile ones.
“It’s easy for men to be forgotten or minimized in the process,” says Sharon Covington, director of psychological support services at Shady Grove Fertility in Washington D.C. “They have to insist on having a voice in doctor meetings so doctors realize they are 50 percent of the equation.”
Day 42: a few light green swirls and words from Amy Jo Selby about the loss of her son, Chandler, finding comfort in talking about him and allowing others to talk about their own pain.
“What happened to me is called a, "Second Trimester Miscarriage" but it's so much more than that.
I held my baby.
I delivered him.
On April 25th at 8:32 am heaven swept him up.
He weighed 7.8 ounces and was 8.5 inches long.
His little toes, fingers, and ears were beautiful and oh so tiny.
He rests with all of our other angels now.
And now, we're parents.
We're different than other parents.
We don't get to see our child grow and learn.
Instead we get to feel his presence in the magic that surrounds us.
It's been over a month since Chandler went to heaven.
Sometimes it feels like yesterday.
I've been searching for answers as to why this happened to our sweet baby boy and us.
The truth is that are no answers.
I have in no way accepted this and I don't know if I ever will.
"Don't get caught up in the why"
Sometimes there are no answers for why our babies are taken from us. Whether it be at the very beginning or very end of our pregnancy.
The doctors say that no answer is better than a big bad evil thing lurking in our body, but that doesn't mean it's easier to keep living without them.
I'm writing this not only for me, but for all of the people in my life that I love so dearly that have lost a baby or struggle to conceive. Everyday is a little bit harder for us and we are labeled as "strong" and "brave" because we keep everything inside so as not to make other people sad or uncomfortable. I think the biggest thing I've found comfort in is the people that allow me to speak about Chandler and I in turn allow them to speak about their pain.”
Day 43: some thin dark lines and a quote from a recent book recommended by a friend called, "Light is the New Black"
“I believe that your tragedies, your losses, your sorrows, your hurt happened for you, not to you. And I bless the thing that broke you down and cracked you open because the world needs you open.”
― Rebecca Campbell, Light Is the New Black
Day 44: a light wash and the creative expression of grief from C.S. Lewis.
He wrote the book, "A Grief Observed," while grieving the loss of his wife and described writing it as "a defense against total collapse, a safety valve," he came to recognize that "bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love."
In one of its many brutally honest pages he wrote,
"We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination."
Day 45: another wash to reveal some red and a quote from a book that came up during an inspiring conversation this morning with a dear friend who lost her first baby to stillbirth. She spoke about the profound gratitude she has for her little girl as she reflects back on her loss and embraces the pregnancy of her second baby.
"Realize that life is more than meets the eye. Life goes beyond our five senses. Be receptive to new knowledge and to new experiences."
- Brian L. Weiss, Many Lives, Many Masters
Day 46: some large brushstrokes of purple and some words from Arseli Strohecker about what she’s found through her experience with infertility and loss,
“Picking one word to describe our struggles with infertility and loss is pretty difficult. Looking back on our four year struggle lots of words come flooding to my mind. Each month, each year, each procedure, each heartache, I feel, has its own "one word." For me, everyday during that time, depending on how I felt and what was going on was a different feeling. I say this knowing most days I was sad and depressed but as each month went by the depth of those emotions got stronger and changed from sadness and depression to heartbroken and despondent. To pick one word, for me is difficult but as I type this the one word that is lit up in my mind is STRENGTH. I mean this both in the literal and figurative sense. Strength to overcome fear of needles. Strength to face each new day living in foreign land surrounded by pregnant women. Strength to deepen my relationship with God. strength to trust in His plan. Strength to find peace and comfort in knowing His timing is perfect. Strength to have a healthy and beautiful pregnancy. And strength to deliver a beautiful baby boy, whom we named Bennett.”
- Arseli Strohecker
Day 47: some grey-blue strokes to accompany a beautiful blog post from, Brooke Cates, founder of The Bloom Method. In her post, titled “Miscarriage, The ugly truth we rarely talk about,” Brooke shares her experience with her own recent loss and discusses the importance of talking about miscarriage to heal and remove the stigma and fears surrounding it.
“Here I stood in the midst of the most terrible storm, and like a buffalo, I was ready to find the strength needed and the stance required to face this dreadful storm. Knowing that real strength comes in several forms, I understood that my strength would be gained in time. The strength I’m talking about is constantly shifting, in a soft yet sturdy manner to support every step of our journey. Strength isn’t always about standing tall and being tough. Often it calls us to crumble to the ground and be rebuilt. Prepared to face all the feels to move through this painful experience.”
A three-part addition to the painting based on a podcast that launched this year called “For When You”. The podcast was started “to help you feel lighter and less alone when life gets life-y.” The host, Jessica Kenny, started it because of her love for a good story, especially those around breakdowns that lead to breakthroughs, and because, in her words, “We aren't so quick to share the breakdowns, though, are we?” She interviews a lot of inspiring people.
The three quotes that accompany Day 48’s painting are from Jessica, the host, then two women she interviewed who have dealt with grief through pregnancy and infant loss, and also infertility. Just like her other podcasts, they are real and open and talk about the many sides to each story.
"Often, we're our own worst enemies. We get in our heads and in our own ways. When life throws us a curveball, we can be extra judge-y and hard on ourselves. We get scared of all the unknown. We wonder if what we're going through is normal and if we'll be okay. (Spoiler alert: Yes, you will be.)" - Jessica Kenny, host of "For When You"
One quote from Episode 4, “For When You Fall Apart” is from an interview with Jessica’s friend Sarah who lost her little girl, Grace, just three days after she was born and went on to experience two more losses through miscarriage. Through her losses, she gave herself permission to grieve and process what she had been through, an uncommon and almost revolutionary act in American culture, which helped her move forward.
“I think as women we to tend to want everyone to be comfortable and for people to experience our pain is not comfortable so we tend to put on a happy face and pretend everything is okay” … “Well, it’s okay if you’re uncomfortable because the person going through it is *really* uncomfortable.”
The second quote is from Episode 12, “For When You Feel Overwhelmed (And Need A Beer)”, an interview with Liz who was diagnosed with both MS and infertility. She shares how she’s navigated both diagnoses and many other intense life experiences all at the same time, what has helped and what hasn’t.
“It’s not IVF anymore because the process is over…but it was worse than being diagnosed with MS in terms of stress and uncertainty and how upsetting the whole process was. The IVF process was significantly longer than the onset of my MS symptoms… the process was maybe 5 or 6 weeks and IVF was almost a year.”
Some bright green marks and a raw and honest post about the process of grieving from Nicole Martinez, who lost her twin boys at 15 weeks, almost to the day, 5 years ago.
Today is August 22nd, 2017, it has been 5 years to this day that my husband and I lost our Identical Twin (Mono Di) boys at 15 weeks. There isn't a day that goes by that I do not think, feel, or wonder what if they had actually been able to take their first breath.
My husband and I have tattoos of their feet to honor them and help us know that they are with us always and have a constant reminder of our beautiful boys.
5 years ago to this day I was in labor, and I didn't want to be... I kept asking over and over again, to make it stop, to make the reality go away that I was actually losing them just STOP. But it didn't! I was brought to labor and delivery hearing everyone around me delivering babies, while I waited to deliver mine. I sat in silence on that hospital bed. I didn't want to talk, I didn't want music or the TV on in fear of having a constant reminder of this day triggered by a show or a song. I just sat. Crying and then being angry, frustrated, then overcome with sadness, and pain, and then more crying. It was such a vicious circle, spinning over and over. I delivered the boys vaginally, over a toilet of all places, into a bucket. It was so surreal and dramatic. Because all I wanted to do was carry them longer, protect them longer, and eventually be a mom to them. I saw them laying in a pan, limp with no life... that image will forever be scarred into my soul. I came home on this day, with no babies, feeling like I was in someone else's body, but in the same breath still in mine feeling everything. My milk came in that night. Which was unexpected. No one prepares you for that. It may be written on a piece of paper somewhere but no one tells you that your body, actually thinks it has a baby in the world now and you go through all of the prepping for a baby, but with no baby.
Grief is such a tremendous feeling because you carry it everywhere, you see it everywhere, and you long for what you grieve for every minute. Time makes it less raw and painful, but it’s still there, that hole, that loss, no matter how many losses you have had.
What helped was writing this note to them, I read it every so often, and always on this day... I will share it here.
I never thought that I could feel such sorrow pain remorse and utter shame all in one breath.
To see both your foot prints on a piece of paper and not in my hand breaks my soul. I have no idea why you were taken from me before your first breath. And I honestly have no idea how to move past it.
They say when you become a mother there is a feeling no greater... there is a love no greater... there is a happiness no greater. If loving two heartbeats that had not even been able to take their first breath is any indication of how my life would have changed for the greater, makes me shed every tear left in my soul. Because I honestly could not imagine loving something more than I loved you both.
To love is something so unbelievable a life that you helped create, it is a gift that I thought could never be taken from me. But it is so hard to think that I will never love anything more than I loved you both.
And it seems so naive and stupid to say since I was never able to hold or watch you open your eyes, take a breath or even your first steps. But I did with everything that I had. Unfair does not even begin to describe what happened. The connection we had was broken and I can’t wrap my head around why. Why was this not my path, why were you not my future?
To navigate through this is going to be a treacherous road. I can feel myself slipping away from everyone. Growing cold and hard. Putting on a front to save face. Because in no way, shape, or form do I ever, ever, want my heart to break the way that it has again.
But once everyone is gone and I am alone with all my thoughts, memories, and sadness. Will I be able to cope? Will I be able to get back on track and truly believe that everything happens for a reason? Because all I want is the both of you back, growing in my belly and me looking forward to a future with you both.
Maybe I did not deserve you... maybe this is a lesson I have yet to figure out, but no matter what I miss you both with every breath that I take. The cramps remind me of you, the pain and uncomfortableness of them make me think that you are still there, growing inside of me. Soon the cramps will be gone and I will have nothing but a memory of what it felt like to have you two in my belly. And I refuse to mask the pain that is left with medicine. I want to feel every last cramp till I am supposedly healed from this birth. To feel a baby bump to watch you move and think that there are two in there will fade with each passing day. I am not ready for you to be gone. I do not think I will ever be, which scares me. They say time heals all... but I am not sure it heals the loss of a child, let alone two.
I want everything to go back to the way it was when you were growing in my belly. Everyone waiting to get to the second week in January, waiting to see what you two are supposed to look like and be. Feeling so scared and not ready to take on such an unbelievable role to feeling like I have just been given the greatest gift. I now get none of that, all of it ripped from my heart...
I wonder if I would have done something different would that have changed our fate together?
But all I know, all I still believe, is that it is so fucking unfair and I miss you with every breath I take.
Even today, I read this again 5 years later and become overwhelmed with emotion.
To be honest, I don't really know how I have "healed" from this, I don't really think I can. What I do know is that I now have two miracle babies, that I thank the universe for every day. That, I feel, is my medicine, my happy place, my everything, my ongoing comfort, and support. Life can throw you a million curveballs, but what I have finally FINALLY realized is that every day I need to be in constant check of what I am grateful for, what I have, and what this universe has given me.
Even though we had another miscarriage this past Christmas, I was stronger to handle that blow. It still hurt, I still, cried and asked: “Why, why, why?”. But, what I am realizing and who I am becoming helps me through these terrible blows.
I think that is what keeps me going, that is what pulls me out of the shadows and the darkness and into the light, is that I will never be the same as I was 5 years ago on this date, but I am not the same person I was yesterday, I take comfort in that. Meaning I can't change what happened. I can only live in gratitude, love, and abundance today and every day forward.
Today I’m marking Day 50 of the 100 Days of Healing and Remembrance Project with some new additions to the painting, awe, gratitude, and a bit of reflection.
The first 49 stories have been emotional, difficult, heartbreaking, beautiful and encouraging. But more than anything they have been brave. Brave because it’s easy to talk about the great things happening in our lives, there’s even an expectation in many cultures to do just that, but it's not so easy to share the difficulties.
I’ve been in awe of the people who’ve been willing to share their difficulties and speak their truth in the name of honoring a baby and/or the experiences that have changed them, and in the name of helping other people feel less alone. Each story in 100 Days of Healing and Remembrance is powerful.
Whether you’ve shared your own story here or have read some and are not quite ready to talk about yours, my wish is that you find some comfort and hope and a supportive community through these 49 stories; a community that quite literally stretches across the world.
The people who share these experiences are not from one place, religion, set of beliefs, race, heritage, or age group. They’re from people who have had a loss recently or many years ago. They’re from people who are in the midst of their experiences with infertility or have long since been through it. They’ve come from 3 continents (and counting). Some of their stories include children or pregnancies before or after a loss. And, although the stories posted in this project come from women, many men have shared their story with me via email, private message or in conversation as well. I see so much beauty in all of these aspects. It’s further confirmation that we are all connected and that our age, gender identity, race, orientation, heritage, religion, and beliefs don’t exclude or advance your experiences with infertility or grief. Sharing these tragic experiences has the power to connect us to each other and to our own humanity. Above all, there’s no question that, particularly right now, we all have a deep need to be seen and heard in our emotional pain and grief as much as in our most celebrated and joyful moments.
Another element of this project that has struck me is the number of people who have decided not to contribute but have told me that it has helped them to hear from other people and that many of the stories have resonated with them. One friend told me she has been following the project and found some peace with her own losses through it but she hasn't contributed because she felt her experience wasn’t “as bad as many others have had it.” If you can relate to that, I respect that you may not be ready to share your experience or may not want to at all. But, if the only thing holding you back is a feeling that your story might not be as intense or feels more intense, I want to encourage you to share your own truth. There are likely others who feel similarly and could find healing in your voice and point of view. I get that and it’s completely human and normal to compare. But, when you’re in the acute and most painful moments of grief or infertility, it’s also perfectly understandable and normal to be consumed with the pain and need some support regardless of what someone else has been through. Your experience is yours and it matters.
With that, I’d love to share your story and send you a piece of the painting at the end of the project. Please share this project with anyone you think might like to contribute or could find comfort in it. Please also consider sharing the link to it if you’ve never been through pregnancy or infant loss or infertility, there’s, unfortunately, a high likelihood that someone close to you has.
And thank you to everyone who has been a part of this, through reading it, contributing or sharing. Your bravery, kindness, compassion and time spent to understand another person’s experience are not small, I think those things truly help make the world a better place.
Some green pastel marks and an open and honest story of loss, remembrance, and hope from Kristyn Szala.
"I have two babies. My son, who is about to turn 3 next week, is named Brock. My sweet angel, who would have turned three on the same day as her twin brother, I call Coco.
We struggled with two years of fertility treatments to conceive our blessings. My greatest success (giving birth) also feels like my greatest failure (my miscarriage). When an ultrasound revealed that Brock was the only surviving twin, I struggled. Everyone around me was celebrating my pregnancy and I was grieving. I was mad at everyone, mad at the world, and mad at myself for not being able to fully enjoy the gift of the one baby I was still carrying.
I was eventually able to find joy and strength and healing through Brock. I miss Coco and I think of her every single day. Brock has two swirls in his hair (cowlicks). I thought that was unusual so I looked it up once and saw an old wives tale that says it's a trait of being a twin. I kiss the top of his head every day and think of my two beautiful children.
We are now over a year into undergoing fertility treatments again and I pray that I will have the strength to do this one more time."
Bright orange line work and a few words from Karen Amundson about trust:
"TRUST... to trust in HIS timing. I work on this every day. Every day trying to be patient but still racked with worry.
I developed fibroids many years ago that grew to the point they were larger and worse off than I knew. I was so excited to start a family. My husband and I starting trying to conceive right after we were married. We didn't want to hesitate because we were older and wanted a family and knew there may be challenges due to our age.
Soon after starting, I was at my OBGYN discussing the options of the fibroids because they could complicate me conceiving or cause a miscarriage. Little did I know I was already pregnant at the time in which I thought I would just have to deal with the pain and discomfort. Excited beyond words since we had only been trying 2 months! I was about 7/8 weeks along when we went to my husband’s family for Labor Day. I knew they would suspect I was pregnant (not partaking in a glass of wine). We told them knowing it was early to do so.
It was after that weekend, the night before we left, and the day after we told them I started to bleed... I lost the baby on the way home and it was a horrible experience seeing it there in that Target toilet. It was hard on both of us and there were days I would just start crying thinking maybe that was my one chance and I lost it.
Now I was determined to seek help. I thought it was the fibroids taking the blood supply causing the loss. We were referred to the best fertility doc in the South and she decided I needed an evasive surgery to remove the masses. She cut me open C-section style and removed around 16 fibroids. Some as big as 3 inches in diameter! My uterus was literally twice the size!
The recovery was worse than I expected but she still assured me 3 months and we could start trying again. I felt that was too soon as to the trauma of my uterus. 3 months later and at my checkup she determined one of my fallopian tubes got blocked probably from scar tissue making only one side viable. This was devastating news, but we began trying and no luck.
They were going to track my cycle with blood tests and ultrasounds each month to determine when I was ovulating to give us the best shot. Then I had a 3-inch cyst on my ovary. Again devastating when they told me I should go on birth control for 6 weeks to rid it. That is the last thing you want to hear trying to conceive. After it actually worked we were back at it, tracking cycles with timed intercourse. I was ovulating but with one tube it was frustrating.
A few more months of no luck and my doc decided to put me on injections to ovulate multiple eggs along with timed intercourse. I am anxiously waiting to see if it worked and lifting my prayers up to God daily. I am scared, scared it was my one shot, scared I will lose it again but I have to have TRUST...I have to trust in HIS timing everyday as it is never wrong nor ever aligned with mine. It takes a lot of faith."
A few soft pink brush strokes and some words from Samantha Pede about loss, sharing news in the first trimester, the experiences of grief and how she's honoring her baby girl.
1.) What is one word or story that describes your experience with infertility or loss?
"My husband and I became pregnant this past June and we're so incredibly joyful about the new addition coming into our family. After weeks of joy, we saw the ultrasound and heartbeat and were beyond excited. Then four days later (9 weeks in), I had a miscarriage. I was in denial at first, but when the tissue passed there was no doubt in my mind what had just happened. We were devastated. The ultrasound the next day was heartbreaking."
2.) What has been comforting or given you strength during your experiences with infertility or loss?
"Even though we weren't 3 months yet, we shared our good news with our immediate family and a couple of close friends. So we also had to share the heartbreaking news with them. Even though it was tragic to share, it meant we didn't go through the pain alone. We had loved ones that could provide small kindnesses and help us through. That made such a difference.
We received some flowers and plants with sweet notes. We had some friends make us dinner and just sit with us and laugh and cry along with us. Having family for love and support has been a huge source of comfort. Also, my faith in God has really helped. It's helped me have more of a sense of peace and trust that He has a greater plan for us than we do for ourselves. Thinking about our baby girl in the arms of our grandparents and family that has passed before us also gives us comfort."
3.) What has grief been like for you?
"One minute I feel fine and the next minute I feel hopeless and devastated. I already loved her so much and was so excited for her arrival. I sometimes think that my little girl will come back to us, but I don't know how those things work and realize I could be lying to myself as a coping mechanism. Although I still have hope, a deep sadness has set in recently."
4.) What is your baby's name? How do you honor their memory, or how would you like to honor them?
"We thought she was a girl and were going to name her Emma. We planted a memorial rose bush. It was the most beautiful and unique rose bush we could find. I water it and look at it each day. We also painted the nursery to give it a fresh start. I want to prepare my life as much as possible for having a family so that if we are lucky enough to get pregnant again, our lives are better setup to adjust for that. Doing that feels like it's honoring our little one.
I often think about sharing my story because if it could provide any comfort, hope, or support to others that have gone through similar trials, and help take away some of the stigma behind miscarriages, then what a great gift to give to them and what a great way to honor our little girl."
Day 54, some red marks and words from Sandy Mocny who is searching for healing from her own late-term loss in her 30s. She’s doing so through sharing her own story, as well as through her niece who was able to have a baby after fighting through infertility herself.
“I am watching my niece fight with her infertility and I watched her eventual joy when she gave birth to her now 3-year-old son, all via Facebook. Miles separated us, mostly because of the fact that during the first years of her struggle she was a military wife, and now while she is struggling to add to her family miles still separate us.
I preface my story with my niece's story because she will never know just how much she has helped me with the silent mourning of the loss of my baby. I am 71 years of age now and the pain of losing a baby in the last trimester has only grown as I enter these retirement years of reflection. When I was trying to conceive there was no IVF or frozen eggs but I finally got the wonderful news of new life after 7 years of going through everything that was available at that time. That was a realization of my ultimate dream of being a mother.
When the heartbeat stopped beating inside me in month seven...a bit of me died too. Induced labor and the most horrible nightmare of delivering a baby with no life and too deformed to determine the sex was more than my husband and I could bare, but we clung to the hope of another chance which never came. I was 37 at the time so the clock was ticking. Time was not my friend and the miracle never happened.
I endured family rifts all because of this. Nobody really understood and those rifts never were mended and lasted a lifetime. Sad to say.
This chance to speak out my story was never available to me back then. Now, can it mean anything to me? I don't know but I feel I had to try because as I said earlier it has become harder in these later years.”
Some orange line work, soft peach brush strokes and a few words of grief and remembrance during the holidays from A Li in Hong Kong:
“After two frustrating years of trying to get pregnant, which consisted of multiple IUIs, IVF cycles, endometriosis and removal of one ovary, I finally got pregnant, only to miscarry at 7 weeks.
I’m still dealing with the sadness of it. It’s not even been a month, and this Christmas season is going to be a challenge.
It was suggested to me, to write to the baby, to help with the grieving process. This is what I wrote:
To our baby
The one that for some inexplicable reason,
was never meant to be
Our first creation
strong enough to make it to a faint line,
Who grew enough to cause nausea and shortness of breath.
A blob with a heartbeat
Astounding us and bringing more happiness than I ever thought possible.
We were in awe when we saw you at day 5
A blastocyst bursting out of the wall
Already so alive.
For the 34 days you were inside me
I felt such endless possibilities and
Such anticipation for my body to change and grow.
I was excited for the future. So so happy.
Then I wasn’t.
The memory of seeing you pulsing with life now breaks my heart every time.
A life that could have been,
replaced by a lifeless black abyss, so still, so devoid of sound.
The absence of a heartbeat.
I’ve never known silence like that.
Silence that killed all hope and joy
now consumed by a sadness so complete and overwhelming that I am lost and drowning,
Left breathless and shocked at the cruelty of it.
At the suddenness. No explanation. No warning.
We will never know your beautiful face
The colour of your eyes, your laugh.
We will never get to know our nameless love, but we will forever wonder about you."
The holidays can be so difficult for people who are grieving. Writing to your baby is a beautiful way to process everything that comes up during this time of year.
And, if you know someone who has experienced loss recently, give them extra love and support right now. Ask how they’re doing, think of something you can do for them or just tell them that they’re not alone and that you are there to listen (and just listen), all of which can go a long way to support them during the holidays and beyond.
Everyone that has experienced the loss of a pregnancy has a story. In my experience most of us keep the intimate details close to our hearts, and the hurt hides behind our eyes.
Most people see me, but they don't know the intimate details behind my eyes. We keep the details to ourselves as if somehow it will help protect us. For me, I couldn't take the looks of pity. And, more often then not I couldn't trust myself to speak our truth without tearing up. I also couldn't handle the insensitive comments, no matter how well meaning they might have been. And so I built walls to protect myself and my husband. It became the loneliest time of my life.
Eventually, after our third loss, we starting telling select people the basics of what we were going through. People tried to support us, but largely said things that were hurtful or didn't say much at all; because what do you say to someone who has lost so many babies and will very likely never be able to have a child? Even as we started to share, we felt that the details remained our burden to bare. The heart wrenching moments of waiting weeks for a baby to slowly die while knowing my body was the reason they were dying; countless painful medical procedures; having an emergency D&C surgery; having to go to an abortion clinic to terminate a septic miscarriage in order to save my life; finding out one of our lost babies was a baby girl, watching younger siblings have babies before us; skipping family events because we couldn't hide our heartbreak well enough; seeing our friends move on in life without us; watching as others unknowingly use the name of our lost little girl and, learning to live with the knowledge that my body killed these babies. These are the moments that nearly broke me. These are also the moments that have forever shaped me as a women, as a wife, as a friend, and now as a mother.
With the heartache and sorrow becoming too great, I started writing and created myperfectbreakdown.com. Writing became my outlet. Hope became my rallying cry. Encouraging others became my saving grace. Friendships with others who truly 'get it' developed and have become my lifeline. I largely credit my blog with helping me survive in my darkest moments and continuing to help me heal.
As for where we are today, my heart and soul are still and will forever be etched with the scars of our lost babies. When the heartache of continued losses became to great, we chose to build our family through open adoption. While nothing will ever erase the heartache we went through and I would never wish our experience upon anyone, today I firmly believe I am a better mother to my 1 living child for having experienced the loss of 5 babies who never got to take their first breaths. My son will never replace the babies we lost before he was born, that is simply not his role in life. But, if nothing else, the experience of losing five babies and facing the very real possibility of not having children has made being a parent so much more special to me.
Day 57 comes from Sabrina Archuleta who lost her baby girl, JulieAnne Lynn Baca.
Sabrina and I met at the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep annual Remembrance Walk in Colorado, a beautiful event which brings parents, family members, and friends together to remember a precious baby who has died due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, neonatal or any type of pregnancy or infant loss.
What has felt most supportive to you through your grief and loss?
Listening to others and knowing I didn't do anything wrong, this happens and not just to me. Not feeling alone.
Day 58: some large sweeps of fuchsia and words from an incredibly strong woman who also happens to be a friend.
"It all started a few years ago. Once it became apparent that it wasn’t so easy to get pregnant, I started blaming myself. I had a history of autoimmune disease and figured that was part of the problem... I was very hard on myself for a long time.
By early 2017 I had become very ill and was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid. Eventually this lead to surgical removal of my entire thyroid and I was back on a healthy road to recovery. That was it, I remember thinking. That was my final road block! By fall I was back to my old self and feeling great again... but it still wasn’t happening. When we began down the path of seeing a specialist we found out there was a significant issue on my husband's side, and we were not prepared for the news we would hear. To sum it up, we were told we would never be able to get pregnant naturally, and our only option was IVF. I remember feeling like I got the wind knocked out of me and I just broke down in the doctors office.
After serious discussions and trying to navigate the financial aspect of it all, my husband and I decided to move forward with IVF. We started in February of this year and I remember feeling full of hope and wondering just how many embryos we’d end up with... 4? 6? More than 8? When all was said and done, we were in good shape and found out we ended up with 8 fully fertilized eggs, probably the best scenario I could think of! But once again, I was not at all prepared for what would happen over the course of the following 5 days. Every single fertilized egg did not make it. All 8, gone. They just stopped developing and they couldn’t explain it... The phone call came while I was at work and I remember rushing down the elevator and outside so I could breathe. I felt numb and empty... a feeling that lingered for days on end. I had been on this emotional roller coaster for months, and it just came crashing to the ground.
In the end, the doctors and embryology team advised we try again. So with that, and the endless love and support of our families, we have decided to try IVF again starting next month. I am hopeful and absolutely terrified at the same time. But this is my journey, and I will keep fighting, for as long as I can."
Day 59: A light wash over the full canvas to start to unify the painting and some words from Kristyn Szala who has experienced infertility and loss, and is now navigating another difficult chapter:
"My story was published on Day 51, but I felt like so much has happened since then that I wanted to share more of my continuing story.
Since I wrote that first submission, my husband and I did another round of IVF and ended up with two day-5 embryos. We transferred the first one and I ended up with a chemical pregnancy/early miscarriage. Losing that baby around 5 weeks.
We transferred our last remaining embryo in December and ended up with our Christmas wish. I was pregnant. We were cautious but ecstatic. As more time went on, things were progressing normally. I felt like I could breathe. This was finally really happening. Around 18 weeks I went and had a genetic blood test done since I was considered higher risk due to my age and fertility issues. When the doctor called me into his office right away to discuss the results, our worst fears were confirmed. The baby tested positive for Trisomy 18 and Klinefelter’s. I felt like my world was crumbling.
We went for more follow-up tests and each one kept delivering more issues and heartbreaking results. The doctor informed us that the baby would likely not survive outside the womb. So right now we grieve and prepare for the worst, all the while still working hard to enjoy the pregnancy and celebrate this sweet baby boy growing inside my belly.
I know that I will never be the same after this and at this moment of complete overwhelming pain and fear, I’m not sure how I will be able to get through this. I love this little guy so much. My deepest prayer is that I get a moment to meet him, to tell him just how loved he is and how honored I am to be his mother."
- Kristyn Szala
Day 60: some bright blue brushes of paint and poetic words from Anne Talhelm:
my grief weighs 15 pounds.
if i’m so tired of carrying it,
why am i so afraid to let it go?
the pain is the proof that it happened,
that it mattered,
that it still matters -
if only to me.
the pounds are the proof
that a baby existed,
if only within my body.
if only for 15 weeks.