This post is a tad overdue but oh so special to me.
October of 1988 President Ronald Reagan declared that October would be proclaimed as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, stating:
“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
I am so grateful to live in a country that recognizes families who suffer this loss, give us a month to raise awareness and to honor our children. Along the way, October 15th was declared Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day where the Wave of Light ceremony came to origin. At 7:00 pm in all time zones, families all around the world light a candle in memory of all the precious babies that left this earth incredibly too soon.
Before I gave birth to my sleeping son, I had no idea any of this awareness existed. If you asked me, I would have thought October was strictly Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the 15th wouldn’t have held any significance to me. This is something I am not proud to admit, but we live in our own bubbles of “that will never happen to me” … until it does. All the amazing mothers and families I have met through this process, we always greet each other with the sentiment of: this is the club no one should ever be apart of, but once you are, you discover some of the world’s best people.
So on October 15th, it was the last day of our family beach vacation, a trip our son was supposed to join us on. The week was pretty brutal, I cried myself to sleep every night. Sobbing to Jon how much I missed our son and picturing where his bassinet would’ve been placed in the room at our rental. Our first night we walked along the beach and I kept thinking to myself “he should be here, swaddled in my arms.” So that last day there, we realized we were bad parents and forgot to pack our candle with us. So we headed to small grocery store on the Isle of Palms and found a fancy Airwick candle in the housewares aisle 🙂 During the day we took a picture on the beach with his swimsuit and initials in the sand, trying to feel his presence as much as possible. At dinner out that evening, there was artwork of a bumblebee hanging in the restaurant. Then we returned back to the rental, lit his candle and my parents spoke about their grandson. It was a brutiful (brutal & beautiful) day honoring our son. He wasn’t there but at the same time, he was.
When we returned home to Charlotte, we discovered through my new and sweet friend Kristin about another event. She lost her beautiful daughter Arbor in February and has created an amazing resource for families suffering this kind of loss called Arbor’s Angels. Her strength and dedication to her daughter inspires me daily. She too delivered Arbor at the same hospital that we did with Baby Boy, so she let us know about a Celebration of Life they were holding in October. On the 20th, uptown at Frazier Park, Novant hosted a Light The Luminaries event to remember our children. I was honored that my parents stayed in town for the occasion and attended with us. Kristin and my friend Amanda were in attendance as well. We created luminary bags with their names on them, and watched them shine bright as the sun began to set. A bee for our Baby Boy, a blue heart for Jon and a green heart for me with our shared birthstone color.
Then my BFF Mandie told me she wanted to do something with my friends to honor Baby Boy in October. I truly don’t deserve her, I mean who does this? Of course I teared up when she told me this, all she asked was what dates I was available and she’d take care of the rest. I don’t do well when others do for me, I always feel the need to help plan or do something, so this is always a struggle for me. I found she planned a perfect evening by reserving a private room at a restaurant for the occasion. But at the last minute I told her I was too fragile and emotional to be in public, I felt so bad. Of course she was like, no worries, I got you. She reserved the lounge in her condo building and put together a spread of food and booze for all us ladies in just a few hours.
Mandie threatened everyone with their life to “SHOW UP!”on the 25th and wow, did they ever! The evening was absolute perfection, being surrounded by the women who love and support me SO much. There were framed pictures throughout the room of our sweet Baby Boy. A spread of my favorites, like Zoe’s chicken salad and champs. We went outside and did a balloon release. One blue balloon for Baby Boy and my dear friend Molly’s son Reid. Then a pink balloon for my sweet friends, Amanda for her daughter Leighton and Meghan for her daughter Kate. My amazing friend Heather did the beautiful hand-lettering on the balloon and provided the lights that we put inside, so you could see them in the night sky. Everyone signed their name and a message to my son.
We headed outside and I barely got through my tearful message, thanking all my dear friends. Amanda released her pink balloon, and me my blue balloon.
It was quite amazing as we watched our balloons take off into the sky, and they stayed side by side one another the entire time!
When we returned back inside, Mandie surprised me that she purchased a cement stepping stone kit for us to craft for Baby Boy. Everyone joined in, carefully placing some mosaic glass pieces around his name. Jonathan and I just completed some landscaping in our backyard this fall, and set aside space for a memory garden for our son. We were gifted two magnolia trees shortly after his passing, one from our sweet neighbors – The Scafes & The Williams and also from our friends in Raleigh – The Wests. So we ordered a blue bench with the memory plaque on it, and have planted the magnolia trees on either side. Now we have this stepping stone to complete our beautiful memory garden.
I want to personally thank each and every woman who made that night so special:
Mandie – I’m just going to thank her for everything for the rest of my life. For her thinking of this idea, for making it a priority, for planning and orchestrating it all. Your thoughtfulness of all the details: the pictures, balloons, the stone, food – again, EVERYTHING! For rallying all these women together to show up for me. For making the last minute arrangements. For loving me and my son and supporting us endlessly.
Tiffany – I know you had a helping hand with the food and such. For being my loyal best friend for over 11 years now. For texting me EVERYDAY, and I mean literally every dang day since Baby Boy passed. You a truly one of a kind, the most loving and selfless gal I know.
Heather – You put your planner skills to use and I know you helped Mandie with all the details. You made that balloon release happen girl! For the gorgeous flowers that put such a huge smile on my face. Our friendship is new, but you are gem I hope to have in my life for a very long time.
Molly – I know we never wanted to meet each other. Thank you for stalking me on Facebook and reaching out with no hesitation. The night I met you at Cantina, I took my first real deep breath since Baby Boy died. You shared your heart with me and the story of your sweet son Reid. I feel beyond fortunate you have met you, because girl, you get me.
Amanda – We weren’t supposed to be more than friendly acquaintances from your visits to the cakery. I know we say all the time that we hate the reason we became closer than that. But I’m thankful everyday for our new found friendship. Our talks are so healing, I love your humor and unapologetic realness. Leighton, and now Riley are lucky to have you as their mama.
Kristin – I can’t even begin to describe your warmth, but I feel it all the time. Your loving words and constant support bring so much comfort. The bee necklace you gifted me is always close to my heart.
Erin – Our coffee dates are my favorite. You have such an open and loving heart. You’ve gone through a lot girl, so your understanding brings so much healing. Thanks for always reaching out and making me laugh.
Jessica – Your thoughtfulness amazes me. You always have the perfectly picked out gift and a fun story to go along with it. Thank you for your extremely generous donation to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep in Baby Boy’s honor and for the beautiful jewelry you gifted as well.
Yasmine – The best next door neighbor I could ever have … and that’s not just because you’re a therapist! You know grief first hand, so your compassion radiates beyond measure. Your grandmother’s bee pin that you gifted me, I’m still in awe of and hold it so dear.
Cara – Mandie and I’s joke, is that someone as pretty as you cannot be that sweet … but you are. You SO are! Thank you for never being afraid to speak my son’s name. For your listening ear and loving spirit. Our night crafting brought so much healing in a dark time.
Alice – First, thank you for baking the bomb pumpkin cupcakes that night 🙂 I miss our days at the bakery. I feel so lucky to have gotten know you the over the years and now call you a friend.
Allison – Your extended visits to the bakery are some of my fondest memories. You bring so much comic relief wherever you go. You aren’t afraid to speak your mind or show your heart, something I admire greatly.
Shauna – You were the icing on the emotional cake that evening. Gifting me your Glennon tickets, I couldn’t believe it! Thank you for driving me home that night too. Your tender spirit is one of a kind.
Sara – Thank you for always thinking of me. When I see your personal messages on Instagram of inspiring words, it brings a smile to my face. Your timing is impeccable, they always come on a low day when I need it more than ever. I appreciate you introducing me to your friend Margaret at Glennon. To share tears and the knowing look with a mother who has been in my shoes, was beyond special.
Meghan (not pictured) – Given you had like zero childcare, you still SHOWED UP! Thank you for that, for acknowledging your need to do so, just to give me hug and leave. You are strength. Your determination of honoring Kate with the creation of the Cottie & Cake Fund, inspires so many. Thank you for all your support, from one loss mom to another.
THANK YOU ALL, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!