If you know me, you’ve likely heard me complain about technology. I am not tech savvy and I don’t love social media, though I’ve recently realized how important these tools are and I’m trying my best to adapt to the times.
It is through the wonders of social media (thank goodness I keep trying!) that I connected with fellow loss mama and perinatal mental health advocate, Chelsey Schnell. Chelsey is a mother and advocate making huge changes to help destigmatize perinatal mental health, trauma, grief, and loss. She uses her own story to help normalize these experiences, and even started an amazing non-profit organization called Evermore Blooms, to help facilitate her mission.
Evermore Blooms sends gorgeous bouquets to women who have experienced a miscarriage (up to 20 gestational weeks), with a special card and handmade, wooden flower. These bouquets help to remind women that their baby is and will always be remembered, yearned for, and loved (present tense), because the wooden flowers last as long as a mother’s love lasts—forever. Her organization is completely donation based, so all flowers delivered to moms in need are free. She has partners throughout the US and is rapidly growing, as our society has become a little better at recognizing the lack of support for loss mamas, and mothers in general, though we still have a very long way to go.
This post is for anyone who is impacted by baby loss, which is everyone, because we all know someone (perhaps, even yourself) who is impacted by the devastatingly profound loss of a child. Join us in our shared mission of increasing perinatal mental health conversations and awareness—there are women and families who need our support, and it’s on us to do more and better. A great place to start is by reading Chelsey’s story—a story about love, loss, and hope; a story about motherhood.
It was a Thursday. I went to the bathroom before leaving work. When I wiped, I saw just a tinge of pink—I gasped, audibly. I never saw pink with my first pregnancy. What did this mean? Dr. Google gave me comforting articles of hope, “It’s just implantation bleeding, this can be totally normal.” I exhaled in relief.
I woke up the next day and went to the bathroom; dark brown blood covered the toilet paper. Dr. Google said brown blood is old blood. We’re ok—this can still be normal, but I called my actual doctor to make an appointment for Monday to check on the baby, just to be sure.
Saturday, I sat on the toilet as blood poured out of my womb. Fresh blood, bright red. This can’t be normal—a baby can’t survive this kind of bleeding.
I carried on with my day and attended my son’s swimming lessons with my husband. I looked around and saw three pregnant women, bellies visibly full of life. I sat down and felt the warm slosh of blood in the pad of my underwear. I said to my husband, “Why does there have to be so many pregnant women here?” He tried to comfort me, “You’re one of them”.
Monday, February 9, 2015. I wiped and saw a small, gray blob; it was my baby.
The sweetest little seahorse shape, curled into itself. Bigger on top—the beginnings of a brain. A slightly darker middle where organs were already forming. Subtle dark spots on either side, where eyes would have been. Would they be hazel like mine, or blue like daddy’s? A delicate curve for what would have been a spine. The pregnancy apps simply show a cartoonish arrangement of cells. But in real life, my tiny baby was an intricate orchestration of miraculous formation.
My husband and I went to dinner a few days after our baby left my womb. We got settled in our booth and the waitress approached the table with a friendly smile and a swollen belly, cradling a baby that had to be at least six months along. I looked at my husband after she left to get our drinks and said nothing with my voice, but everything with my eyes. He looked back at me and said, “I’m sorry.”
Three months after my baby died, I went to a meeting at work. There were muffins on the table from the girl I shared an office space with. Not just any muffins—celebration muffins. She was pregnant, with a due date the same week as what mine would have been. I glanced across the table to my friend and didn’t say a word; my eyes continued to speak for me. She gave me a gentle, comforting nod of strength to get through the rest of the meeting. I ate my muffin while choking back tears. As soon as the meeting ended, I swiftly retreated to a quiet bathroom stall and sobbed in agony.
Fast forward to 2016 with only a few weeks to go until we meet our Rainbow Baby. I walked into Target with a pep in my step, feeling so joyful and carefree, enjoying my day with my built-in buddy keeping me company.
And there she was, the lady in Target.
She stared at my belly for a short, yet painfully long amount of time. When she realized she’d been looking too long, her gaze darted to the side, and then back to me, and our eyes met.
Her eyes—oh her eyes. They were eyes welled up with tears, full of longing, despair, and hopelessness. I knew those eyes, for they were my own a few months prior.
As quickly as she met my gaze, she broke it, speeding up her steps to pass me in an attempt to escape the moment.
I finished my shopping, got into my car, and sobbed. I sobbed for me and I sobbed for her—the lady in Target. I prayed for her and wanted to hug her. All I could think was, if you only knew my story.
Friend, have you ever been the lady in Target? Maybe you were her once before, maybe you are her right now. At the sight of a pregnant belly, have you felt sad? Jealous? Annoyed? Angry? Heartbroken? I know I have. If you have too, know that your feelings are valid and normal.
Allowing and working through every single feeling is a huge part of overcoming pain, trauma, and loss. I also want to lovingly encourage you to consider this that may also help you heal: what’s her story?
Hopefully it’s not like yours, but perhaps reminding yourself that it very well could be may bring you some peace. I want you to know, you are allowed to grieve what you lost, AND you’re allowed to feel joy at the sight of a life growing in another womb. Joy for another does not negate your own longing. (And P.S.—If you’re engulfed in sorrow right now, you’re also allowed to not feel ANY joy yet).
In July of 2017 I walked into Target to buy pads. I had just lost our fourth child, my second miscarriage. I saw a woman with a beautiful, round belly. Our eyes met and my stomach sank.
I was the lady in Target.
I took a deep breath, smiled at her, and said to myself…
I don’t know her story. Maybe it looks a lot like mine.
Connect with Chelsey on her social media to learn more about her story, organization, and for general perinatal mental health awareness and advocacy.
For perinatal mental health resources, please click here.