Earlier this year, after losing Henry at 38.5 weeks gestation, I connected with the inspirational Amelia Barnes (@ameliakyoga on instagram). She lost her son Landon last summer during birth, and she has so openly & gracefully shared her journey with her instagram community since then. I’ve drawn so much strength from Amelia’s sharing of her story and that helped me to share my own. So when she announced that she’d be hosting a healing retreat for angel moms in Canada I knew I HAD to go. It’s been almost a week since I returned from the retreat and I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of the incredible things that happened.
I’m still not sure I can rehash the week in detail; it has settled deep in my heart and in my bones and I’m holding it so tightly there that I almost don’t want to share such an intimate experience. A few people have asked me though what I got out of it – Am I healed? No; Henry’s loss will always be painful and I’ll always miss him. But I feel so much more at peace now and I am certainly in a different place now in my healing journey. The yoga was a huge part of that – working through our grief in both mind and body helped to release so much tension and emotional baggage, rebalance, and build trust and love in myself again. The best part of all though was connecting with our children. Being able to speak openly about our children with the love & pride that any mother has for her child, with nothing but acceptance on the receiving end was incredible. Truly a gift when in our normal lives we spend so much time worrying about the awkwardness and discomfort that other people feel when we talk about our own child. To share them openly with each other not only helped us bond, but also enabled us to be with our children again.
More to come here and on my IG soon, but for now suffice to say it was healing, it was inspiring, and it was utterly beautiful. Here is a small glimpse of my week of healing…
Photo credit to Laura Barr & Tiffany Casper-Breininger of Queen B Project
Exciting news guys – after years of holding back, I finally decided to go for it and start my interior decorating business. Something about losing a loved one makes you know longer give a hoot if you’re “ready” or if everyone’s going to like you. Now I know that we’re all on our own journeys and you only get to live your dream if you are willing to go for it and work hard at it, day by day. And I am…so that’s how my business, Laura Barr Interiors, was finally born. Please go check out my website, and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in my services. I offer full design services, staging and interior photography to Connecticut and the tri-state area, as well as very reasonably priced e-design, too, for those of you who are not local .
Along Came Ollie will continue to be a place where I share my personal journey, so please stick around for more. And thanks for all the continued support & love, xoxo
My life since December has been full of second-firsts, meaning doing things for the first time since my loss. And since it’s been really hard to get back into the things I love doing, these ‘second-firsts’ feel like actual firsts. So, it was quite appropriate that my ‘first’ design project this year would be a do-over…
Last year, you may recall, we sold our house in Connecticut and bought a home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. It didn’t quite work out and we moved back after a few months so I never got to finish decorating. Well, fast forward a year, we’ve decided to keep the house and turn it into an income property/vacation rental. This meant, we got to spend the whole month of April in Florida and I decorated my heart out! A very fun and therapeutic project, indeed.
The house is a traditional brick, center staircase colonial, so I wanted the design to be casual coastal to give it a Floridian feel. Though we’re not totally finished (still have lots to do one all the bedrooms), I am especially thrilled with how the family room turned out – I only wish I could get my hands on the pictures of it when we bought it (yikes!) to show you the before & after. In any case, we had a budget of $10,000 for the ENTIRE house (excluding a few beds, a dining table & chairs, and a couch for the formal living room which we brought with us) and we were able to pretty much stick to it. Most of the things you see are from Target, World Market, HomeGoods, and Ashley Furniture.
And the kicker is, now that its complete, I want to live down there again!! I kid, I kid – as my hubby knows, until he we can live there as a family full-time (meaning he’s not working in NYC 4-5 days a week) we’ll be staying put up north. But in the mean time, it’s a pretty dreamy vacation home.
It’s been so long since I’ve had the strength to write anything here, but things are finally looking up. The last three months were pretty horrible; some of the worst days of my life. After all, they say losing a child is one of the hardest experiences a human can endure. But as hard as it’s been, only three months later, something has clicked inside of me and I’m really feeling so much better. Maybe it was getting away on vacation that gave me knew perspective, maybe it’s the coming of Spring, but more likely I think it’s really, truly accepting what has happened and choosing to make the most of it. I’m reading a new book, Yoga Girl, by my favorite yogi, Rachel Brathen. In it she perfectly sums up what I’ve been through: “I’ve learned that sometimes the mind does what it has to keep us alive. Massive trauma is simply too much for our hearts to handle, so the mind shuts down to protect us. Time passes and we forget. But the difficulties we experience shape us, and our spiritual journey begins the day we come to terms with our past.” I literally felt like I shut down for awhile – I was overtaken with a crippling anxiety and I think that was my mind’s way of protecting myself from the pain my heart was experiencing. I’m still sad (part of me always will be), but I now accept that Henry is never coming back and I am determined to live better for him.
Through out this time, I’ve been wishing I had a symbol to represent Henry. Something real that I can see in the world to remind me of him – some examples I’ve seen from other parents are butterflies, rainbows, dragonflies, red balloons, etc. It made me sad that I didn’t have that. And then yesterday, while browsing Pinterest, I saw a beautiful image with the bible verse, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” It suddenly came to me that I do have a symbol for Henry; Since the beginning of my pregnancy I’d been planning a nautical theme for his nursery. I bought an anchor pillow, anchor wall decals, and planned to take pictures of him with a beautiful blanket knitted by his Great Aunt Andrene with sailboats, fishes and anchors. When I found out that the anchor is the symbol for hope, it was decided. A perfect representation of my sadness and my hope for the future wrapped in to one.
The idea was further confirmed when I remembered a poem I found back in January. It had been a weird day, one in which I had heard and seen his name so many times. A man walked passed me in the mall, answered his phone and said ecstatically, “Hi, Henry!” Multiple signs and advertisements read his name. A little boy at the playground introduced himself to Oliver as Henry. And as I went to bed that night, I stumbled upon this poem in a book, written by none other than Henry Scott Holland:
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud on the horizon.
Just where the sea and the sky come to mingle with one another.
Then someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side,
And she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says.
“There, she is gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming,
And other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
“Here she comes!”
And that is dying.
And so, he is and will always be my anchor of hope, my sailor off beyond the horizon of my sight. But I know he is there and I’ll see him again someday.
I’m overwhelmed with emotions today. Anger, mostly. I’m angry that Henry’s not here. I’m angry that I don’t know why. I’m angry that I’m at this place in my life and not moving forward quicker. That I’m not still a blissfully ignorant mom of two healthy children. About this vaccine debate, and how my freedom to choose what I put in my body & my children’s body is being questioned (we do vax btw, before you judge – but more on that another time). Anxiety has been creeping in lately too, the stress and tension building up in my body to the point where I physically feel pain and then start worrying about it.
Thankfully though, I’m feeling love and hope too. Love for Oliver, Henry, and Gary. Love for the supportive people around me, especially the new community I’ve found in this journey – truly AMAZING women who have had the misfortune of walking this path before me and have chosen to share their story to help others like me (if you are a loss mama and looking for help/inspiration, you must check out @ameliakyoga and @carlymariedudley on instagram). Hope for the future. And I keep trying to remind myself that if I accomplish nothing at all today but breathe and keep Ollie safe, that is OK. This whole grief thing is truly exhausting.
The loss of Henry has been devestating, but what I didn’t realize until recently was that there have been many smaller losses as part of this huge one, all of which have required grieving in some way. Even though I most of all grieve for and miss Henry, I also grieve the loss of being a mom to a newborn again, of having a baby in my arms, of breastfeeding. I grieve the loss of a sibling for Ollie. I grieve the loss of the house we had just made an offer on (which we reneged due to not wanting to take on a financial burden right now) where I pictured my boys growing up. I grieve not seeing Gary with our new baby and being a great dad to two boys. I grieve Henry & his cousin Olivia, born on the exact same day, not growing up together and reaching milestones together. I grieve the blossoming friendships with other new moms, that have now become awkward and strained at best.
A lot of well-meaning people say, “don’t worry, you’ll have another.” While this isn’t what a bereaved parent wants to hear, they are (God willing) right – we do want another when we’re ready. But I think some people don’t fully understand why I want another because it is certainly not to replace Henry; nothing will ever replace him and I’ll always have a hole in my heart for him. He was here with us for a brief time, a time that will stay with us forever. Yet, though I know he is irreplaceable, there is still a desire, a need for another baby and a sibling for Oliver here on earth.
I love this quote I found on Babycenter about Rainbow babies (the term for babies born after a loss): “Rainbow Baby” is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.
I’ll never get over the loss of Henry. In fact, I know that if I do get pregnant this year, I’ll still be grieving even as I’m hopeful for the new life of his sibling. But I am so hopeful and excited for that newborn smell, those first coo’s, a sibling that Oliver will love and adore – a living, breathing, crying baby. A child that will be one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable, just like Henry is.