Life before trauma.

Drawing by Author / Illustrator of “The People you May See”

I wish I could go back to 5 years ago, this very moment.

Before my life completely changed, before I knew what it was like to have your heart torn from your chest, before I knew that grief could hurt every ounce of your being, before the trauma and the PTSD.

Before I lost my second son.

5 years ago, I went to bed not knowing the next day I would wake up and experience the worst day of my life.

On February 18, 2016 I had called my doctor because I was 32 weeks pregnant & had felt decreased movement. The office sent me right to Holy Family Hospital to get checked out. I met a wonderful nurse, Linda who was trying to find his heartbeat on the monitor in the triage room at Labor & Delivery. With no such luck, she walked me down the hall to maternal fetal medicine, where the ultra sound machine was. By myself, staring at the ceiling she said “I am so sorry, there is no heartbeat.”

I’ve thought about this exact moment every day for 1,825 days. The day my life was turned upside down.

I try to think back to who I used to be. How fortunate I was, yet so naive. How I could laugh and be genuinely happy and not feel guilty for it. Before I experienced my first Mother’s Day without both of my kids. Before I hung an empty stocking. Before I signed his name to our Christmas cards and wondered what people would think? Before I had to pick out a burial plot or a headstone at 26. Before I became the “girl who lost a baby”

I often imagine how my life would be with all 4 of my children here with us. Would I be driving a mini van, running between karate & soccer & t-ball? Would I even survive 3 Strydom boys? Would Charlotte be just like Cohen? That boy is a beast!

Some people try to say maybe it happened for a reason or maybe for the best? ….but there is NO REASON. There is NO reason why I was given a sweet baby boy to grow in my body for 32 weeks just to be told we could no longer have him. That I would need to labor this baby, to meet him, hold him, LOVE him, but not take him home. NONE.

BUT…… I also wonder- if we had him, would I have gotten pregnant with the twins? Would I have Cohen?

The thoughts crush me.

From February 19th on, we decided we would need to be better and not bitter. Not only for ourselves, but for Lucas. Let me tell you, If not for that sweet child of mine, I am not sure I would be here today. I certainly never would have gotten out of bed – ever again. That boy gave me the strength to get up everyday.

While tomorrow is SO hard to celebrate the birth of my baby, I am going to try like hell and here’s why.

Because his life mattered, no matter how short it was.

Without this experience, I would not have become a Now I lay me down to sleep photographer. I would not be apart of the New Hampshire TEARS Foundation. I would not have met some of the most amazing mamas & families. I would not be able to help other women with their grief. Some of the best friendships I have, have been built on the grief we share.  We’re apart of the ugly shoe club.

Ugly Shoe Club – Author unknown

“I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable Shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes. To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in the world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have wear the shoes so long that days will go by before they think of how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of the shoes I am a stronger women.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.”

 I don’t write these blogs for attention or sympathy, because honestly – I don’t need either. I write these blogs for the women who struggle with stillbirth, infant loss, miscarriages. The women who send me e-mails thanking me for being so transparent. I write these for you.

I can never take these shoes off, but you bet your ass I am going to try to use my experience to help anyone I can with them.

Caleb Michael Strydom, I love and miss you (& your sister) more than anything in this world. Happy Birthday Baby.