On being strong…

Everybody keeps telling me that I am strong. I don’t feel it, especially right now. When somebody tells me that, I can’t help but feel like an imposter. It’s not me, I’m not strong.

I just don’t see any other option other than getting out of bed every day, and trying to be productive. It’s a part of the way I was raised. Sometimes I would feel sick in the mornings before school. I’d say, “Mohhhm, I’m sick.” I’d make sure to sound really pathetic, too. Mom never skipped a beat. She’d say, “Erin, you have to get up. Get up and ready and you’ll start feeling better.” Along the lines of the saying, “Get up, dress up, show up, never give up.”

Most of the time I would feel better, because I would stop marinating in those icky sick feelings. I’d get up and life would be a distraction from those bleh feelings. I try to do that now, too, and most of the time it works… Sometimes I find myself wallowing in self-pity though, and I have to stop it. I have to remind myself – get up, dress up, show up, never give up.

I don’t feel strong, especially right now. Why especially right now?

It’s the holiday season – everything is merry and bright.

We are too, when we watch Mon Cœur (MC) experience the season. This year it’s been a lot of fun watching her help decorate the Christmas tree, sing along with songs, and dance to the music. She jingles the bell ornaments on the tree, demands Frosty the Snowman to play on the radio, and picks Christmas vinyls to pop in. She has helped send Christmas cards out, decorate cookies, and wrap gifts. Seeing the joy and happiness in her eyes makes my heart swell.

And then, flick of a switch, I remember what should be. I go to get the Christmas tree out of the closet and I see the swing, broken down into pieces, the one we had set up in the corner in anticipation of Millie’s homecoming. Or I see a child that is about the age Millie would be – seven months this December. And here begins the slide. I have to grab hold of something, someone, some thought and try to pull myself out. I try to be grateful for what I have. Sometimes I catch myself, and sometimes I slide.

I am finally realizing how little control I have.

I am a Type A, “I’ve got a plan and solution for everything” person. I like being in control, and I can’t stand to not have power over what I am doing. That’s why the stillbirth continues to rock me so much- we were totally prepared for everything except for what really happened. Not only did we lose our daughter, I realized I had no control. Even so, I sometimes still find myself focusing on the what if’s and how I think I could have controlled it. But it’s done. There’s no changing history. All we can do is look forward to another pregnancy and a different, happier outcome.

Even in the wake of realizing what was happening, we were mentally planning another pregnancy. We knew we would try again, we wanted to bounce back and not let this get us down.

Now that we are, I am playing a monthly numbers game – entering data and making sure that we are taking every opportunity. Despite these efforts, we are unable to control our destiny. Every month I wonder…will we or won’t we be? And even though we’ve only just started, I feel this despair every month when I realize that we were unsuccessful.

My body (and heart and mind) continue to be in flux.

Although I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, my body is not the same shape it once was. I haven’t made a large effort either. Since we are trying again, it doesn’t make too much sense to me to work on toning up.

I continue to look down at my belly and it reminds me of about the 15-18 week one I once had. It’s strange to feel almost a shame for the shape that my current body holds. When I was pregnant with MC and Millie, and even post pregnancy with MC, I felt a pride and beauty in this same shape. I had accomplished something. Now I see it and I am reminded of failure.

I know that as soon as I stop trying to be in control, I’ll stop stressing, and then everything will fall into place. It’s easier said than done, though. All around me life continues to move on, and sometimes I can’t help but feel that I am stuck in neutral.

As life goes on, those who had births around the same time I delivered Millie, their babies are turning six, seven, eight months old now. I see pictures each month of them with a new numerical sticker or I get the chance to visit with and hold them. I can’t help but wonder what Millie would look like now, what milestones she would be accomplishing, or the foods she would be trying and how she would react to them.

We have friends and family who are expecting again. I am happy for them all, and despite my joy for them, it is difficult to outwardly express that joy. Or to express that joy without feeling a little sadness for our situation. I know the anticipation and happiness that we felt up until the last moment. I know the joy of people’s voices when we talked about what was to come, and the happiness in their voices when they answered their phones before I gave the bad news.

In writing all of this out, I’ve been able to sort some thoughts and come up with the following mantra: You do you. Don’t compare – just do your best. Be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. If I continue to remember this and to be grateful for what I have, perhaps I can bring my stress level down and perhaps move out of neutral.

I’ll leave you with the quote below, which I always had displayed in my classroom and which I carry in my heart.

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.

–Phil Jackson

In the end, I’ve realized: I am strong thanks to my team. I am so blessed by my team that keeps me going. I am surrounded by the strength of many which gives me the courage and tenacity to face each new day.

What makes you strong?



It’s been proven that being grateful helps cultivate happiness. I have tried to continue being grateful and although I will mention my gratitude for things here and there, with the onset of the holiday season it has been difficult to keep positive all day, every day. Sometimes it’s hard to remember one thing that makes my heart sing, that makes me happy or thankful in a day. And I know that’s on me, because there are plenty of things that happen in a day, I’m just not taking the time to express my thanks and happiness.

Everything that I had planned- Christmas photo cards with our family, Millie’s first Christmas, decorating the tree as a family of four- none of these are happening as planned. This time last year we were sharing the good news of Millie. Now we are navigating our first holiday without her.

We decorated the tree the other night and while we kept a smile for MC, Chouchou and I both expressed our sorrow for what is not. MC caught us in a teary conversation at one point, to which she promptly sat in Choucou’s lap, touched her hand to his cheek and in all seriousness and caring said, “You not feel well? You miss Millie?”

Chouchou and I have discussed our feelings about grief at the holiday season. He doesn’t want to be melancholy every Christmas season. I agree. But, I told him, this is our first holiday season since our stillbirth, and we have to allow ourselves the space and time to grieve. We just have to watch ourselves and not allow it to consume us.

Sometimes I feel like it does, like I get stuck in this cycle and can’t find the exit sign…I miss Millie and that makes me sad, and then I get incredibly upset that there are things in this world that I am simply not in control of. I have to learn to let it go, and that is extremely hard for me to do.

We took our Christmas photo yesterday morning and for the love of mistletoe, I couldn’t get all of us to smile at the same time. Well, genuinely smile. Chouchou and I went back and forth whether to write a letter or not and then how to sign it. We finally decided to just sign it with our family name and no letter.

For all of those things that make me feel helpless, sad, and upset, there are many things for which to be grateful:

  • Unseasonably warm days
  • Changes of pace
  • Family – for their love, patience, and honesty
  • Friends – for their love and patience
  • Christmas cards from near and far reminding us we are loved
  • Texts from those near and far who are thinking of us at this time of year

Mono No Aware

As I have been sharing out my blog and inviting others in, I am continually learning – about myself, about others, and about different views of life in different cultures. For this I am so grateful.

I have to thank my cousin for his always insightful thoughts as he created a link for me between my bittersweet feelings of seeing a butterfly to the Japanese concept of Mono No Aware. And now, I am passing this concept on to you…

Mono No Aware is closely linked to the cherry blossoms which have a short blooming period annually. Despite knowing that the cherry blossoms will bloom and only last for a very short period of time, the Japanese delight and are joyous in experiencing this beauty.

Image credit: Pixels.com

Mono no aware is one of those phrases which can not simply be translated. It’s essentially a “sensitivity to ephemera” – understanding that what is now will not always be and appreciating the beauty and happiness of the now. I am still working to understand the fullness of this concept, so as I continue this post, I will be sharing quotes from articles I’ve read. Quotes that are most poignant and touching to me.

Mono-no aware: the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last.


I find it fitting that I am sharing this thought at the same time that the last leaves are falling, and a new season is soon arriving. I haven’t taken the time to appreciate these fleeting moments since going back to work, but just Monday, I caught a beautiful sunrise, one that lasted only moments before changing again and sweeping us to the start of a new day.

Monday’s sunrise

The crescent moon winked at me in the sky, and there was a lone star shining bright for me. The landscape was black as warm oranges and yellows rose in the horizon, pushing the darkness up and away and opening the curtains to a clear blue sky.

Mon Cœur and I also recently enjoyed an afternoon walk down our road, and as we walked, the wind was tickling the last of the leaves from their summer homes, and they were tumbling and swirling to the ground. We’ve enjoyed the changing colors all throughout fall and these last leaves are giving way for winter’s landscape of bare trees for the next few months.

Sunday’s walk

Unknowingly, I had already bought into the notion of Mono No Aware in a few different ways. For the first year of MC’s life, we took a picture every month to document her growth. I don’t even recognize the newborn and infant that she was…Babies are born to grow and grow, and what was just days or months ago will have changed and become unrecognizable.

Monthly picture taking strategies changed once MC became mobile!

And as we’ve been building the garden and seeing more butterflies than ever, I smile, knowing Millie is with us. It isn’t a happy smile, it is a melancholy smile. Throughout my pregnancy, I enjoyed reading bedtime books to MC, while knowing that Millie was hearing them, too. I delighted in Millie’s movements I felt and shared them with MC and Chouchou. I loved watching my growing belly and hearing her heartbeat at each prenatal appointment. None of these fond memories replace the sadness and emptiness we continue to feel in Millie’s physical absence, although it gives a respite.

this melancholy is suffused with a quiet rejoicing in the fact that we had the chance to witness the beauty of life at all, however fleetingly.


While we will never get to see Millie grow up and change I can still remember with a sad sort of joy the moments I shared with Millie while she was in the womb.

Understanding and accepting that innate uncertainty of life helps us evade the overwhelming feeling of morbidity associated with impermanence, instead highlighting our ability to enjoy life by appreciating its fleeting moments. 

Berkley Center at Georgetown University

As we have been living each day and taking it as it comes, I’ve been trying to remain open and honest with MC. I think that because I have been upfront with her about my feelings, “I’m sad,” or, “I miss Millie,” or, “There’s a butterfly, there’s Millie,” she has also embraced this mindset that is Mono No Aware. We are at peace with what reminds us of Millie, or when we see the new space that we’ve created for her in the house, or when I am looking through photos and come across one of Millie’s, MC simply says, “Millie!”

I am grateful for the small moments that make up each day and despite the fleeting moments, I cherish them for what they are. Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving, and hoping that you will take a moment to delight in all the small things that bring a smile to your face and warm your heart.

M is for…


….Moon, Mickey Mouse, Maman, Mommy…


Millie Bonheur.

Today at Mon Cœur’s (MC) daycare, they are having show and tell with the letter M.

We dressed her in a Mickey Mouse tee, and packed her Madeline doll and the M book we bought at Goodwill for Millie.

Before leaving for daycare, MC found her breakfast waffles and dug in. I couldn’t resist this picture as she was swinging her legs and eating breakfast carefree.

Happy Friday

Silence is Golden…sometimes

A big thank you to my cousin who suggested this topic:

Tell us how you would want us to respond when you tell us your story.  Do you want us to be quiet? Do you want us to sympathize? How can we respond that doesn’t cause you more grief but also allows us to sympathize and/or empathize? 

No, I don’t want you to be quiet. That would mean that you are ignoring the situation. Millie is real. What happened to us was real.

Immediately after we shared our news, we received many cards from our village of people – sharing the most heartfelt sentiments given our situation. Some were from mothers who had lived the same tragedy, others from people who wanted to share their love and grief.

As we have seen family and friends for the first time since sharing our news, we have had a range of greetings from long, silent hugs – strong hugs that say everything that words can’t or simply a hug and “I’m sorry.” Some have shown empathy by sharing their similar experience, because when else do we actually broach this heartbreaking subject of stillbirth, except when we hear of a related loss? Some who haven’t ever known such a loss still offer their love for Millie and their heartfelt grief. For me, all of these things touched me, warmed my heart, and gave me either hope or strength to keep going.

Stillbirth is an uncomfortable subject. Heart wrenching. Tragic. For those who haven’t experienced a similar tragedy, it may be hard for them to discuss. For those who have, it may be even harder. It’s unfortunate that this is a difficult subject because the truth is no matter how rare an occurrence it is, it does exist. Although, I read a recent article that says the stillbirth is more common an occurrence than SIDS and Downs Syndrome.

The one thing I expected and was sort of surprised that didn’t happen was, in our village, with all the young children who knew I was pregnant, none, absolutely none of those children mentioned Millie or asked me any questions after we came home from the hospital. Children have a sort of honesty and curiosity about them – I was ready and okay to speak with them. It was so easy for them to touch my belly and say hi to Millie when we were expecting, but in the wake of tragedy, all was silent.

Likewise, there have been adults who avoid the subject because they don’t know what to say. Let me reassure you that it happened to me and I don’t know what to say. I say what I feel and am honest with myself and others. That’s all I can do. That’s all I can ask you to do.

Let me also reassure you that if it happened to anyone in my circle of friends, I would keep quiet, not knowing what to do, feeling awkward for the silence and feeling helpless for not knowing what to do. I would tell Mon Cœur not to mention the baby to the family. Having lived this, I know that for me none of those things are helpful.

What helps me most is acknowledging Millie. People have asked me questions about her, asked to see a photo, told me that they saw something that made them think of her (typically a butterfly). I will gladly tell anyone who asks how beautiful and perfect she was, share a picture of her, or thank you for having thought of Millie.

What has helped me- keeping a picture of Millie in a prominent place, keeping cards on the mantle, and even this blog- are not necessarily any other person’s answer to a comparable loss. Please know that what I am offering here in this post are things that have helped me, and it may not apply to everyone. When researching other blogs that discuss stillbirth, I will say that all concur that talking about it is helpful.

If you have any questions or suggestions about a post, particularly with the subject of stillbirth, please email me. Part of the reason I started this blog was to express myself when no one wanted to bring up the subject, to connect to others who have experienced similar situations, and to help inform (from my personal point of view) others who may be trying to support mothers and families experiencing similar circumstances.