Teddy Bear Tins

November 15, 2011


I thought I'd start this post with an explanation of why it's been three months since I last posted, but then I realized that the explanation might as well make up the body of my post, since it's something I've been meaning to touch upon...

This blog is where I like to capture those bits and pieces of my babyloss-Auntie experience that I think can help other people who find themselves in similar situations. Whether someone has lost their own child, or has family or friends experiencing such a loss, I feel like we can all benefit from our shared perspective. In "real life" outside the blogosphere, babyloss remains a taboo subject, and the resulting isolation is in my opinion a major barrier to healing when it is needed most.

But I do have to admit that I am sensitive to the fact that many visiting this site may be early in their grief journeys, when our perspective is consumed with all of the pain of the loss. So I try to limit my posts to those experiences that are quite specific to my life as a babyloss-Auntie. The result, I think, is that readers here see only a compartmentalized version of what my life has become since my incredible nephew marked it so indelibly. Today, nearly three years since Aiden's death and birth, I find him so inextricably linked to my everyday life that it's hard to find little snippets to bring here that don't tread too far outside the realm of grief.

So that's why you haven't heard from me here in a while. I am still here. It's just that I'm having difficulty finding the right words to pass on to this audience.

But in the meantime, regardless of the amount of text on the front page of my blog here, the actual Teddy Bear Tins effort continues to grow and amaze me. I am so thankful for the peace it brings. :)

August 22, 2011

Fear & Trust

Ever since I first became pregnant with my son, and especially since he was born, I have carried this fear with me. I know it's only August but at the end of every year I try to think back to what the main themes were and I hate to say it, but I feel like fear is one for me this year. I am just so afraid of something bad happening to my son, more specifically it's like I'm constantly afraid that he's suddenly going to die. Aiden died, babies die. I know, I've seen it myself. So who's to say that it couldn't happen to Jack? Every little stuffy nose, every trip to daycare, is somehow a risk for death.

My logical mind says this is ridiculous. And I think that to a degree most new parents experience it as well. But I can't help but feel that my experience has played a bit different of a part in how I process daily life with my little one. More "innocent" mothers seem to carry on with their lives ignorant of all the risks and possible bad outcomes, and I find myself wishing I could be more like them. I struggle daily to shake the fear and trust a bit more that good things are wanted for me and for Jack. I don't want this fear to become a wedge in my life. But it's just so hard to trust.

There is a song by Newsboys on Christian Radio lately that repeats the verse "You give and take away" as a bit of an anthem. I can't stand it, and just for that verse. I know there is biblical precedent, and I know I'm interpreting this in a rather narrow-minded manner, but for me it smacks of God being an Indian-giver. I don't want Him to take Jack away, just like I didn't want Him to take Aiden away. I've experienced enough of the "take away" thank you very much!

I think you get the idea of the circular path my thoughts have been taking lately. I want to shake the fear, I don't like the burden it brings, but to get rid of it I know I have to trust, and in my perspective my trust has already been seriously betrayed.

I seem to turn a blind eye to the "giving" side of the equation, and the fact that I have been given this incredible gift. Every morning when I cuddle my son, pretending to hide from my husband who takes Jack off to daycare, I'm amazed at just how much I have. Every moment is precious. That is one lesson I'm not likely to forget. I wonder how much more fraught this path must be for parents who have lost their own children, and who later welcome rainbow babies.

Maybe some of this is about building a stronger trust than I had before, one day, after the struggle has had more time to do its work. For now it is a constant challenge.

In two weeks my brother is flying east and will be meeting Jack for the very first time. How precious that time will be, I can't wait. While he's here I'm hoping to talk to him about an idea I've had about holding a Memorial Service for Aiden. I've read about other families who have a service on anniversaries or even just on a special occasion. We had a small ceremony for Aiden the week that he passed, but it was such a blur. Carrying Aiden's memory is something that brings me a lot of peace. I know that many people not directly in our circle don't understand that, and still see babyloss as a taboo subject, but some of these Memorial Services seem so beautiful and they're really a thing of support and remembrance. How wonderful that would be to add to our memory books. Definitely better than dwelling in fear.

July 8, 2011

Numbers :)

76 Teddy Bear Tins have been delivered to 2 hospitals

43 more completed tins are being picked up by the hospital in the next few days

9 volunteers currently have kits and are painting an additional 64 tins

2 more volunteers have offered their time once I have more kits available

I'm planning to add 1 more hospital in the near future, which will mean that Teddy Bear Tins are provided to hospitals in 3 different states

We're going through tins so quickly I only have 5 more blanks left before I need to place another order

...All of this adds up to an immeasurable benefit that has been provided by the many kind people who have made Teddy Bear Tins a success

Lately when I think of Aiden I often quickly think of Teddy Bear Tins as well, and it makes me smile because this little idea has become a reality. I guess in a way to me it helps because as the time passes and I feel further away from the reality of holding him in that hospital room, I have something else very tangible that is a part of his memory as well.

1 dining room that has been taken over for another purpose.... :-P

June 5, 2011

Teddy Bear Tins turns 2!

On June 5, 2009 I painted my first Teddy Bear Tin. It had been 4 and a half months since the day Aiden died and was born.

Today it is two years since that first tin. As of the end of this month more than 100 tins will have been provided to hospitals in two states, and dozens of volunteers literally all across the globe have shown their generosity by sharing of their time and talents.

I think having my own son now only makes me more aware of the physical ache that bereaved parents feel for their little ones. When I was visiting my brother halfway across the country a few weeks ago I had the chance to once again “visit” Aiden. I got to touch the box that holds his ashes. It struck me that even more than two years since he passed away, I still have the urge to want to just hold him and touch him. At my home I have a piece of cardstock that the hospital gave us with Aiden’s footprints stamped on them. Occasionally when I’m opening the safe to look for a passport or other important document, I’ll see the card and just hold it for a few minutes. Aiden’s feet touched that piece of paper, and today that’s the closest I can get to once again feeling him. I wonder if my son will ever question why his mom so fiercely insists on kissing his little hands, feet, ears, cheeks, nose AND forehead before he heads off to daycare in the morning?

Teddy Bear Tins provide not only a visual memory, but they are also something that parents and families can touch when they ache so much for their precious little ones. A foot or hand imprint to bring them some measure of peace, to give them something physical to hold on to.

This effort is extremely important, and the benefit that it provides to bereaved families is very profound. Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to support Teddy Bear Tins. What an incredible thing you have all made possible!

May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Still loving the way my mom phrased it several years ago...

"Happy Mother's Day to every woman who knows the joy of their children,
and the hope of their future children,
and who have in their hearts and memories their little angel babies."

<3 Wishing you peace and happiness today

April 17, 2011

So much more

Before my son was born, I worried about how I would find the time to continue with Teddy Bear Tins with a little one in the house. This is just not something that I'm willing to give up, it's too important. But I knew that it'd be hard to find the time to take care of the coordinating and contacting volunteers, the shipping and organizing and tracking. And then Jack came, and shortly thereafter our house that had just been prepared for sale was destroyed when that pipe burst.

So yea, the last six months have been pretty overwhelming for me. Not nearly as emotionally overwhelming as when Aiden died, but definitely physically overwhelming. It has been hard to find any extra time. Last week I actually took an hour leave from work in order to shower. Seriously! I'm exhausted.

At the same time, it seems as if many of the people I love are also pretty overwhelmed right now. My sister-in-law has had an orthopedic surgery that puts her on crutches for the next 10 weeks. And rather unexpectedly, a very close friend recently welcomed her second son into the world - and promptly found herself in the middle of his fight for life as his lungs inexplicably did not function correctly. She was told he had a 20% chance of surviving before he was given emergency surgery to put him on a special life support machine. During the first two weeks of his life she never even got to hold him. Now she and her husband have moved into temporary housing more than an hour from home in order to be near to him.

Why do I mention all this?

Because in the midst of it, during a time when I have been very much consumed with other things, there has been a quiet process at work in the background...

My sister-in-law sent me a message this week to let me know that because she finds herself temporarily incapacitated she has been painting Teddy Bear Tins, already a dozen of them. I haven't had the chance to contact any volunteers myself, and here was one finding me instead! Then, I get the awesome message that my friend's little son has turned a corner for the better, and is doing so well that he will soon be transferred to a NICU closer to home. Since I will no doubt be visiting them there in the next few weeks I thought I'd send an email to the hospital... And within an hour I got the response that they have used Teddy Bear Tins and actually had been wanting to find me because they want more!

I really strongly feel that this effort is just something that I have been blessed to be a part of, but that it really is not about anything I can do on my own. Even in those weeks before my son came when I was stressing about finding the time, I knew that all I could do was let it be and be open to what I'd need to do, and it would somehow work out. I was worried, but I knew that Teddy Bear Tins was about so much more than what I could do myself. And it is.

I am just so happy to be a part of it. :)

February 16, 2011

Oh it's you grief

Two weeks ago when I was stopping by at our old house on my way home from work, I discovered that a pipe had burst during an extended power outage in the recent snow storm.

Some quick background - we bought our first home shortly after we got married in 2006. It was a cute 1950s farmhouse that needed some work, and we have been remodeling it ourselves since that time. About a year ago we unexpectedly found ourselves in the position of buying a new house (an abandoned foreclosure that was such a good deal we couldn't pass it up). So we've been working even harder since then to finish the remodel, and had 7 days prior finished touching up the little dots where we had filled wood filler over the nails after we installed the last of the trim. We were D.O.N.E! Four years of effort had resulted in a beautiful home that held lots of memories. The final inspection was literally set for the next Friday. And what perfect timing, as we were ready to move on to a life with just one home to worry about, and more time to focus on our little guy.

So the feeling in my gut when I forced my way into the kitchen - couldn't open the door because the ceiling was now in the way - was upsetting, to say the least. Today the drying process has finally been completed, and we're left with a shell of a structure. Big fat START OVER.

But the intent of this post is not to talk about this particular event. I bring it up instead because it puts some context to something I've been experiencing but couldn't quite find a way to describe.

After that night walking into the house and discovering it destroyed, I now find that I pretty commonly get a bit nervous even when I'm walking into rooms in my new house. Or opening the garage door when I get home at night. We recently finished and painted the nursery (3 months late...), and I keep feeling like it's about to be ruined somehow. I think, based on what has happened, that people can probably relate to this or at least understand where I'm coming from.

So it's with that in mind that I'd like to try to explain that I think it's sort of similar to what I often feel with Jack.

Whenever someone talks about the future with Jack, I get uncomfortable. I feel nervous, like we shouldn't be talking about it. My husband says he can't wait until Jack is toddling around the house and causing mayhem, and how fun it will be to go on vacations to his family's farm. And when he says that I just want to change the subject because I'm irrationally afraid about thinking about the future. As if it's going to somehow be ruined, and therefore it's a lie for me to think like it will work out OK.

I know that every parent worries about their child. But I can't help but think that some of this is because I have experienced very closely what it would be like to lose a child. In a very profound way, I know what a gift I hold in my arms every day.

So, to summarize, I have been getting nervous, and feeling afraid, about everything from my house to my son. And I couldn't think of how to explain all this in a way that didn't make me sound like a loonie.

Until I read a post written by a beautiful mama whom I found through the babylost network, in which she discusses lessons learned from C.S. Lewis' book A Grief Observed. In it, he writes about a restless nervousness that makes grief feel like fear.

And that's it! That is exactly what I feel! Only I hadn't put two and two together for myself that the root of this was my grief. I am grieving the loss of my house, and of course I am still grieving the loss of my nephew. Grief is what I have been feeling recently.

Funny that sometimes when we are in the thick of things, we don't even realize we are...

January 18, 2011

2 Years

...And we still miss you so much it hurts, but we love you even more Aiden. Happy Birthday little guy!

Hugs, kisses, and so much love,
Auntie Meg, Uncle Jim, and new cousin Jack