he matters

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Prime Minister Trudeau,

Just over 10 years ago, before you decided to represent the people of this country, you stood in front of our class at McGill talking about how, from a global perspective, children are the voices of our future. After, in the small classroom in the Education building, we continued the discussion. As an educator, you inspired me. As a human, you inspired me.

I write to you as a mother, Canadian and educator. An injustice has been served towards my son. I want to teach him the importance of having your voice heard and show him the value of being a citizen of this great country. As his parent, it is my responsibility to do this.

We welcomed our first child into the world on October 30th, 2014. He arrived the day after his due date, after a healthy ‘textbook’ pregnancy. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen complications during labour, he suffered a traumatic birth, irreparably damaging his brain. Days later, our newly enlarged hearts broken, we were told we would have to say goodbye to our beautiful boy, that we would have to make a decision no parents ever wants to have to make. We spent 5 days engulfed in cuddles, kisses and imparted wisdom. On November 3rd, we stood together as a family, as strong as the oak tree towering above us. We gave our son permission. We told him it was ok. Soothed by the comfort of his mother’s heartbeat, and his father’s embrace, he left his perfect little body.

A few days after the death of our son, amidst the very raw grief we were enduring, we knew we had to register his birth. We had to. We wanted, needed, the acknowledgment of his presence. We did it for him. We sat together, as new parents, answering questions with the pride that accompanied our new roles. His name that we had the honour of bestowing upon him, officially registered alongside his fellow Canadians. Owen Benjamin.

Shortly after, we received a letter in the mail. A warning that we would not be receiving a birth certificate, but instead a combined birth/death certificate. I collapsed. My heart wept. A callous, cold decision with no justifiable rationale. A letter, a decision, with the intention to belittle my son’s life. A certificate that someone decided would forever, officially, define my son’s existence as a Canadian. I wondered at what point it was decided a life mattered in this country, the duration of time someone needed to live. The injustice of this illusive timeframe causing further heartache.

Owen lived for 5 beautiful days in Vancouver. He lived, he breathed, in our arms. He felt the raindrops on his head as he took his last breaths resting on my chest. His impact, his lessons, and his spirit live on in our hearts and through the lives he has touched. He is an important member of our family.

He was born, he lived, he died. His life and value as a citizen of this country deserve recognition. An honour he is no less worthy of. Value – greatness – is not measured in time.

While we can no longer hear his voice, it still deserves to be heard. As his mother, I am helping him.

As a father, and leader of this country,  I ask that you contemplate the worth, the validity, of a life and revisit the legislation surrounding this. I ask that you recognize Owen’s birth, his life, as separate to his death. He is more than bureaucracy. He is more than a policy derived in a boardroom by individuals who have no idea how much two separate documents matter more than one. His life matters. He matters.

Owen Benjamin Edmondson, born October 30th 2014.

Thank you,

Robyn Edmondson
Mother, Canadian, Teacher

 

What’s broken can always be fixed, what’s fixed will always be broken.

Being a new Dad once again has given me a good opportunity to reflect on how I thought it would be with Owen, but having 2 kids is a different challenge. I’m still human, I get frustrated, at times I forget the bigger picture and occasionally guiltily I wish I had a few moments to myself. I would probably not have anticipated that, hoping instead that our experiences would have prepared me for a totally selfless fatherhood.

Being carried on Daddy's chest
Being carried on Daddy’s chest

The free flowing tears come less frequently now, for both myself and my wife, that certainly doesn’t negate the continued depth of the sadness, it’s just a reaction that’s slowly dissipated. We frequently smile and laugh, it’s not the same as our wedding day but that’s okay, we’re parents, our smiles were always going to be different, tinged with new knowledge and experiences. There’s less shame in being seen this way, it doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten or “moved on”, it means we’re living, as a family.

We worked hard during this pregnancy to normalize any trauma associated with Owen’s birth, this was predominantly based around the hospital he was born at. Bravely, we made the decision to deliver at the same place for his brother. With our amazingly supportive team, we progressively visited different places that held tough memories and painfully negotiated what had happened there, what stuck with us and what still hurt. It was important to us that we ensured that our history didn’t overshadow Elliott’s birth, he is entitled to his own story and we crafted that by allowing him to make his own space within our family during the pregnancy. He had his own personality during the past 9 months and while he sports some of the dashing good looks defined by his brother, he’s his own self in every way.

Some friendships have gone, new ones have flourished, those that are lost aren’t mourned, we still feel like “that family” in the eyes of many, likely a result of feeling the need to tenderly defend our position on how we parent Owen. We know that going forward this will be a continual struggle for us, especially as we begin to embrace having a physical child to parent, while ensuring our family is understood in its unusual make-up. We negotiate “Is he your first?”s with a varying tactics provided by hours of counselling, never dishonouring Owen but sometimes protecting our hearts.

We honour Owen in everything we do, rarely does a moment go by when he isn’t remembered, thought about and loved. However, sometimes in the distractions of having a newborn physically present, he isn’t front of mind, and the guilt takes hold, grappling with the bittersweet moment of soothing those beautiful cries or seeing a flitting glance of progression towards a developmental milestone. The onset of tears regularly burn the backs of our eyes as we see Elliott grow and react, usually swiftly taken away by a special moment and the reassurance of knowing that there’s a beautiful brotherly bond being built there.

There’s an additional 8lb 3oz (going on 10lb) weight on my shoulders, and in my arms, these days and it’s a truly beautiful one, constantly reminding me; that life is amazing, time together precious and that there’ll always be a deeply adored older brother in this unique family.

(Article title from Jens Lekman — Your Arms Around Me)

mama bear

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The mail arrives. With it, our first Christmas card of the year.

Robyn, Mark and Extended Family;

Ouch. Needless to say, after a quick scan for some mention of Owen, this card went directly into the recycling. It clearly wasn’t intended for our family. If it was, it would have included all of us. The kind gesture of sending the card was completely overshadowed by the failure to acknowledge our entire family. An exclusion that caused hurt, even if this was not the intention. The card was out of sight, but its omission not out of mind.

In steps Mama Bear. The protector. The inherent need to guard my young. Back up. Claws out. Combine this with the teacher in me, and you have a lethal combination. Thankfully, I write.

Our counsellor tells us that we need to let go of trying to educate those who do not understand. That I need to focus less of my energy on people who will not absorb it, but instead let it pass through. I struggle with this. I hear the meaning in people’s words and feel the need to defend. To clarify. I know it is sapping my energy but I cannot let it go. My little boy deserves to be acknowledged and honoured. I fail to understand why their needs should prevail over those of my son.

I have become hyper-vigilant about words and actions, both of my own and of those around me. Carefully listening, reading and watching for anything that may in some way fail to include our little boy, misrepresenting his importance and continued presence in our lives. I feel the need to assert his importance in all situations. Little reminders that he is with us. Subtly correcting tense. Aiming to impart some understanding, with the hope that next time, my heart might be spared. Words mean so much. Actions too. There is so much meaning embedded in what is left unsaid, but can still be heard. In what is left undone, but can still be seen. The heart is vulnerable. It can see and hear clearly. I know that I need to protect it.

I get it. Other people see the world through their own set of experiences. They just do not know. They do not mean to cause harm. They think they are saying the right things, using the right words – expressing tidbits of sentiment they have heard throughout their lives. They are piecing together words from what they know so far. They know from what they have experienced. They are trying. They are learning, too. I get it. I really do. But, they just do not understand. I want them to understand.

I want them to see how important Owen is to our family. I want them to know that he will always be present tense – that he will always be. I want them to acknowledge and see us as a family. I want them to look a photo of a physical two, and see all of us. I want them to know that we do everything for our family as any family would – that we still experience together. I want them to learn that it is ok to talk to us about our son, and to continue to do so. I want them to know that Owen does not make us sad. I want them to know that he matters, and will matter, to our family forever, not just in the few months surrounding his birth. I want them to know that there do not need to be solutions, that they do not need to ‘fix’ anything, that we are beautiful the way we are. I want them to know that we are not scary, that we are more than tragedy. I want them to know how remembering a birthday, or including Owen on a Christmas card matters. I do not want them to know how we feel, but I want them to know these things.

I just want them to know.

of breath and a grief captured.

It has been a month since I last posted. I would talk about time, but its passing is something I still struggle with. I am always writing (and re-writing) in my head, trying to make sense and order of the thoughts that continue to cycle through my entire being. Still desperately looking for answers. For understanding. For something.

November has served as an emotional detox from October – a month I had built narratives for how it would go, yet, as with everything along this journey, it still managed to floor me. The month seemed to consume us, taking hold of all of our emotions (the happy, the sad, the everything), presenting them to us in any order it saw fit. It was not easy, but we let it. We needed to.

October is infant loss awareness month, a time to formally recognize our children, the beauty they continue to shine, and the love we carry with us. It is also the month that welcomed our son into the world in 2014. There was a lot going on in our little world.

We participated in Capture Your Grief, a month-long grief project for bereaved parents. A project that touts mindful healing, reflection, and storytelling. Each day, we were encouraged to face and talk about specific elements of our family journey, some that we had been avoiding, others that we had not realized we were aching to share. It was difficult, there were many (many) tears, but it proved to be worthwhile and beneficial. It gave us another platform to introduce our beautiful little boy to the world, an honour leading up to his first birthday at the end of the month.

Back in early March, we approached our local council to have October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, formally recognized in our town with the lighting of a local landmark and a sign with words of support. Weary and broken-hearted, we made our first venture into our town to honour our son and attend the local council meeting. We sat, anxiously waiting through other local business to hear our little boy’s name. As the mayor uttered “Owen Benjamin Edmondson”, our hearts swelled with the pride that only a parent could know. In the words of a friend, and local councilman,

“… just to say that we love you guys. This is hard for so many people in our community and I’m grateful that you brought it to the table. His precious life is starting this in our community.”

The meeting ended in silence and sniffles. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

On October 15th, our family invited our little mountain community to join together for the lighting of a covered bridge in pink and blue. We planned an informal get together and candle lighting in conjunction with the wave of light travelling around the world. The response was beautiful. Messages of love and longing were written on tags to decorate the bridge. Hugs, tears and stories were shared. Hearts were joined.

October 30th, 2015. Our little boy’s first birthday. We weren’t certain how a year had already passed, but we embraced it. It was bittersweet, but we made an effort to place the focus on him (after all, it is his day). And we did. We celebrated the special little boy who made us a family. The love that poured in for Owen was heartwarming. We awoke in the morning to the excitement of beautiful gifts and cards. Treasures and new stories to share. Donations (some from complete strangers) to the Children’s Hospital in Owen’s name. 540 bricks towards a community centre in a village in Cameroon. Our first family floatplane adventure (very exciting). A weekend adventure in a tent house overlooking the Pacific, complete with exploration and wildlife sightings. Throughout the day, the messages and gestures continued to arrive celebrating our little boy. The day ended with a single candle, the family happy birthday hum, chocolate cake, a story, I love yous and goodnights. There were tears, there was yearning, but we had so many smiles (giggles, too). We made memories. For plan b, we had a beautiful day. For plan b, it was perfect.

So that was October. I am not sure where November has gone, but time and the space to breathe has been just what our hearts have needed.

Hello December.


Our Capture Your Grief project, in order from the beginning to the end of the month, copied from our Instagram feeds.

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owenswonderfulworld I echo the sentiment of many others when I say we were not awake for the sunrise this morning. Without fail, the sun has risen every day for nearly 11 months. At first, I fought it. I could not comprehend how life dared to continue, how the sun had the audacity to rise without our son in our arms. It felt like mother nature was taunting us. However, we have learned that our son, our little Owen Benjamin, is our light. Everyday, he rises with us and keeps us moving forward. As a family, we are learning to navigate the darkness, with our light always with us, there to guide the way to the next adventure. Together. “Just enough dark to see how your the light over me” – Tallest Man on Earth [clip from August 22nd/ The Orpheum/ Vancouver, BC] 

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Behind the mountains, the sun rises but we don’t necessarily see it with our eyes. This is much like our family, it may not be possible to see Owen but he lights up our lives regardless.

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owenswonderfulworld A very thoughtful care package arrived from the family of Owen’s good friend in New Zealand. It was put together to comfort our hearts leading up to Owen’s 1st birthday. These gifts are so special to us. Two stones from Zach’s big brother’s collection (one from each of them), chosen specially for Owen’s garden and a plaque made with limestone from a quarry close to their hometown. The love heart is designed with ‘korus’ (inspired by the New Zealand fern frond, unfurling as it grows). It represents peace, tranquility, personal growth, positive change and awakening. All things that Owen has brought to our lives.

We are so thankful for those we have met along this journey, who have set the same intention to offer support and community to each other’s hearts. While I wish we had never met, we would not be able to do this on our own. Thank you for loving our family.

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owenswonderfulworld Our two year old neighbour recently ran in the Terry Fox run with his daycare. He ran in honour of his little buddy Owen. A friend that he will never physically meet, but is being raised to know in other, beautiful, ways. “Who are you running for?” “Oweeeennnnn!”

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.07.20 PMmarkwhistler In honour of Owen’s 11 month birthday, we adventured as a family on the @seatoskygondola today. Stunning vistas and lots of fun wildlife to chat about along the trails.

We even got to see a bear crossing the street, which is a great way to top off any day, never mind a special adventure one.

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owenswonderfulworld Yesterday, we smiled for a family photo together. I actually smiled and it didn’t feel forced. I thought of my family, and felt the corners of my lips rise. Out on an 11 month birthday adventure, I could feel Owen with us. He is in the sunshine, in our smiles, in our actions – in everything that we do. He is so very present in our family. He is everywhere, shining light into our lives. This doesn’t mean that we are ‘healed’, it means we are learning how to embrace our family as we are – beautiful, together, and full of love. We love our son so much. He made us parents. He gives us so many reasons to smile. Even through the darkness, there is light.

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owenswonderfulworld Empathy is letting someone know you care, even when you may not understand. It is sitting with a broken heart, absorbing all the sadness brings, knowing it has no bounds, understanding there is no fix. It is being there for someone when they need it most, without having to be asked. It is placing the needs of someone else before your own. It is community. It is love. It is appreciated.

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markwhistler Empathy goes both ways, which when you are in the depths of raw grief is hard to see. It’s taken this amount of time and hard work, and there are still slip ups, to know that it can’t just be expected from others, they have had their own journey, losses and suffering which need to be considered and listened to before you truly know someone. Judging others is an easy way to offload pain, to wrap up anger and cast it onto someone else but it’s a weakness and only sharing in empathy is truly being empathetic.

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owenswonderfulworld We read to Owen every night before saying goodnight. It is one of the many ways that we parent our son. One of the many ways we share our love as a family. The little guy has quite the collection of books. We have read some very exciting stories together, and will read many more.

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markwhistler Books? What books? For fathers it seems the only option is to mentally replace every reference to mother and try and absorb something that’s not written specifically with you in mind, not easy when you’re just desperately looking for any words of comfort. The bookmark is how far I got through this before the use of ‘mother’, when ‘parent’ would have sufficed, was too much.

I get that mothers and fathers grieve differently and experience loss in different ways but there are also parallels, which if addressed together would go a long way to helping a shared experience and give fathers a voice.

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owenswonderfulworld The squeeze of a mother’s toes and the tears as a daddy sees his child’s heartbeat for the first time, the pride of a mother hanging her baby’s clothing out in the sunshine, the sound of a father’s voice regaling a tale to his son (often followed by a hug, a play, or a combination of the two), the thrill of a family chasing the sunset together in Costa Rica, the happiness on a mother’s face as she eats a flight of her favourite dessert with her son, the gentle caress of the first touch, the rush of love felt the first time a mother holds her son – as he is lulled to sleep by the sound of a heartbeat he knows so well, the peaceful sight of a father having a sleep with his son. The moment shared between our family of three as Owen Benjamin opened his eyes and recognized the voices of his parents. The love. The intense love that we carry with us. So many memories that we hold onto, that we are thankful we have and took the time to make. Memories that we are continuing to create, even though they do not look how we expected. Even though they are overshadowed by ‘what should have been’ and sadness. We are trying. Our memories are precious. They are sacred. We cherish them.

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markwhistler I’ve struggled with the topic of memory. Sometimes it’s all I feel we have and they’re so numerous, choosing one to focus on is almost impossible. Many of my most vivid memories of our time spent with Owen in the hospital are dark, places I don’t go too often, it’s cruel that the crippling memories sometimes fog the beautiful ones.

But as we stood outside in the Vancouver rain, a son in his mother’s arms taking small gasps of air, a family sharing the last moments together on Earth whispering comforting words to each other, in the midst of the most heartbreak any parent could experience, perfect memories were being forged from pure love.

Something else took over that night, and from the worst possible experience now lie only positive, beautiful memories.

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owenswonderfulworld I love. I long. I wish.

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markwhistler I’m playing catch up… Again, there’s a million things on the wish list but because of the timing, this one stuck out. Our little guy getting the chance to run around on this patch of grass that his Grandad’s mowing.

I spent days and days of my childhood kicking a ball around on this corner of the garden dedicated to such things, and deeply wish Owen had the chance to do the same.

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owenswonderfulworld My family is beautiful. We do not look how we expected, but if you look with your heart, you will see us. All of us. I love my family.

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owenswonderfulworld Congratulations. A solitary word I wish we had heard or read when our son was born. The moment we were officially recognized as parents (out of the tum). Owen Benjamin, our beautiful firstborn, arrived on October 30th, 2014, bringing with him an abundance of love and joy. I will always regret not announcing his birth when he was born. In the midst of tragedy, influenced by grief, shock and immeasurable sadness, I allowed my little boy’s introduction to the world to be overshadowed by his death that followed 5 days after his birth. He deserved so much more than this. He deserved welcoming, positive words full of happiness of his arrival rather than the condolences filled with sadness and pity. I feel like he missed out on the beautiful welcome into the world that he so rightly deserved. I feel like I took this away from him and I cannot change it. As parents, we want to celebrate our son. I refuse to allow my little boy to be defined by death. He deserves so much more. He deserves it. Welcome, little one.

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markwhistler Words. Words like fuck, why, misery and anger, but also love, lucky, handsome and family.

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owenswonderfulworld In the early days of our grief, we listened to a talk by artist Robert Bateman about the value and importance of spending time in nature to nurture well-being. At the time, when we were struggling to understand existence, it is what we needed to hear – how we could possibly begin to reconnect with a world that felt so foreign. Over the past 11 months, we have spent a lot of time exploring the natural world of our backyard. Feeling the bark on the trees, breathing in the crisp mountain air, dipping fingertips (and sometimes toes) into the glacial waters, listening to the crunch of leaves and pine needles of the ground beneath, spotting and appreciating wildlife, watching the seasons change. Sitting and just taking in the glow of the woods. The beauty of it all. All time spent with our son, learning about the world around us, everyday a new adventure. Together.

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markwhistler My literal glow in the woods is my commute to and from work, when the weather and timing is just right to cast these beautiful colours into the forest it makes it impossible not to stop, think of our little boy, and smile.

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owenswonderfulworld We have spent the past 11 months adjusting to a life different to expectation, learning ways to parent our son, in spite of physical separation. It hurts, there will always be tears, but we continue to persevere, knowing there are no other options. We are learning to carry the weight of the sadness the grief has brought with the happiness that our son continues to bring to our lives. This is our ‘new normal’. A delicate balance of emotion, always leaning towards love. This is us. This is our family.

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markwhistler Normalizing grief

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owenswonderfulworld I am not sure how we walked out of the hospital that rainy night last November. How we were able to let go of our son’s beautiful body and decide it was time to go. How we gave our last kisses, our last cuddles, and were somehow ok with that. I am not ok with that. I regret leaving his body in his room on his own and just walking away. I am not sure how we left him. I regret so willingly leaving the hospital without kicking and screaming. I didn’t know what to do. I just didn’t know. I wish I could go back. I need to go back.

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owenswonderfulworld I have not been afraid to talk about my son, to expose matters of my heart. It feels good. It honours my son and the important role I carry as his mother. It matters. He matters. However, when it comes to the heart, vulnerability can be scary. To the bereaved parent, silence can be safer. They do not feel there is a space to share. They are protecting their hearts. People may misunderstand, they may say the wrong things, they may say nothing at all. People may also try, they may say the right things, they may learn. Tomorrow, October 15th, is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day. A time to honour all children held in our hearts. A day that gives the bereaved parent a voice, a step towards the acknowledgement their families deserve. A way to express matters of their heart that they may be protecting. Tomorrow, we share, we love, we celebrate.

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owenswonderfulworld This evening, our community will be gathering to see a local covered bridge lit up in pink and blue in honour of all children carried in our hearts. Surrounded by love, we will tie these tags up to the bridge alongside messages from others. Candles will be lit to continue the wave of light that has travelled around the world to reach the west coast of Canada in Whistler, BC. Owen has brought this event, this celebration, to his community. He has brought, and continues to bring so much. He is so very loved.

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owenswonderfulworld There are no words to adequately express how beautiful tonight was. So many beautiful hearts came together. Stories were shared. Tears were shared. Hugs were shared. We love our community.

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owenswonderfulworld The changing of seasons reflects the passing of time. Another element beyond our control, surging forward despite any desire, need or effort to slow it down. Moving with it is our only option. Making the most of it is our only option. Not accepting, but embracing the changes of the seasons. Together, we have felt the raindrops of autumn, marvelled at the sparkle of the snowflakes on the trail, experienced the forest wake up from its winter slumber, witnessed the world being bathed in colour, and crunched every leaf we could crunch. We have, and continue to celebrate the beauty of the world and this life we have together as a family.

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owenswonderfulworld The other day I learned that while listening to Owen’s heartbeat recording, if I put my phone at full volume, I can feel the vibrations of him. Of his heart. My little boy. Music to this mother’s heart and soul.

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markwhistler As an outlet for my grief I picked up the dusty guitar in the corner and vowed to learn to play “Love is all” for my little boy. It’d had been years since I’d grasped a few chords so I had set myself a pretty good challenge, it’s taken me almost a year to feel like I can say I almost accomplished my goal. Using music creatively has helped me focus and re-find meaning in feeling accomplishment and I’ll always have our little boy in mind as I learn and play more.

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owenswonderfulworld We are grateful for those who have asked about our son and have given us the opportunity, the space, to introduce our little boy, to continue to talk about and to proudly share him. We are appreciative of those who let us know when they have been thinking of Owen, allowing his spirit to flourish. We are thankful for those who understand that our son is so very present with us, and allow for the space to keep him there. We cherish this space that many have given to our family, recognizing that our love, our bond, transcends death and physical separation. We value this space. It is our sacred space.

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owenswonderfulworld My love letter. Little messages sent in the most beautiful ways. We love you too, little one.

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owenswonderfulworld FedEx Employee: “Who is Owen?” Me: “Owen is my friends’ baby! He’s turning 1 on Friday!” FedEx Employee: “Happy Birthday Owen!”

— Happy tears. I have so much gratitude for those who continue to celebrate Owen with us. For those who love our little boy and have made a place for him in their hearts. For those who have stood next to our family, recognizing our love – understanding it has no boundaries, knowing that smiles and tears can co-exist. For those who reach out, offering comfort with their words and thoughtful gestures. For those who do not hesitate to let our family know that we are loved. All of us.

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markwhistler Gratitude for the delivery staff at St. Paul’s Hospital for fighting for Owen and gifting us 5 days together.

Gratitude to the NICU staff at BC Women’s who treated Owen with the special care he deserved and went above and beyond their jobs, particularly this amazing woman who gave her heart to him.
Gratitude to the continued support of close friends who show their love and care with the smallest gestures and words.

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markwhistler What heals you

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owenswonderfulworld It was on this day last year that we met as a family (outside of the tum). It was on this day that my heart learned a love it did not realize it was possible of. Every day, every moment, every breath since, has been spent appreciating and reflecting on the love and joy our son has brought to our lives. He made us parents. He made us a family. He makes us better people. Today, we celebrate Owen Benjamin’s first birthday. Happy birthday, little one. You are so loved.

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owenswonderfulworld As one day ends, another soon begins. Even when some seem impossible, we get through. One breath, one moment at a time. Together.

 

happy birthday, little one

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Our baby is a year old. We have a one year old.

We have spent a lot of time pondering, dwelling, and heartbroken over the what could have beens. We have been grieving expectation. The moments we anticipated. The firsts. The documented steps, smiles, words. The milestones. The development. The physical things that a bereaved parent has to learn to live without. Those experiences the world would like you to believe happen for everyone. Conversations that revolve around rosier colours and textbook dreams. Nobody talks about the unexpected. It is just too difficult.

But we have. We have talked, we have shared, we have introduced our son to the world. We have spent the first year of our son’s life pouring our hearts out, allowing others a glimpse into our world. A glimpse into his world. We have embraced our family exactly how it is – exactly how it looks. We have done this as we do not see any other choice. This is our family. Our story. A story in which our son plays a lead role. A story with ups, downs, adventures, but no endings. A story where we continue to learn lessons. A story that unfolds with each day we choose to embrace life together.

We could have chosen a different path. We could have hidden. We could have run. Instead, we have continued to walk a fine balance between protecting and exposing our hearts, understanding that it is okay to listen to your needs. That it is okay to take two steps back, or a leap forward. We have become better at avoiding small talk, averting eye contact, and dodging familiar faces. We have also become better at sharing, exploring the ins and outs of vulnerability. We are learning to focus on what we do have, instead of what we do not.

Eyes heavy.
Hearts full.

As I sit here a year out from the birth of my son, in an impossibly tidy, quiet house, I am contemplating the notion of time, wondering if we have made the most out of our son’s first year of life. Hoping that we have made him proud, that we have shown him the world, the life, that he so rightly deserves. Hoping that some day, we will reflect on this time outside of his mummy’s tummy, and smile, with fond memories and appreciation of the gift of parenthood that our son bestowed upon us. The many lessons that he has taught us. The colour that he has brought, and continues to bring to our lives. The beauty he has defined our family by.

Every day, every moment, is a new lesson. An opportunity to question, to explore, and to discover. Lessons that our son’s wondrous, gentle spirit brought with him into this world. He is not here physically, but he has made no less impact on the world. His life continues to grow. Together, we are learning how our little family can thrive, how we can still live this life in spite of the unexpected.

Owen inspires us to live our best lives. He lifts us up and takes us out into the world to explore. He makes us smile in moments that seem too dark to allow light. He makes us better people. He has introduced us to a love that we did not realize was possible. A love so beautiful, so pure, so impenetrable. A love that is ours. Ours.

Our son has enriched our lives and continues to do so. Today, we celebrate our beautiful little boy. Today is his day. Today, Owen Benjamin is one year old.


Happy Birthday, little one. Mummy and daddy love you so very (very) much.

This year has been full of its ups and downs, there have been smiles and there have been tears. Your first year of life (out of the tum) has also been full of adventures. Through the stories that we have read, we have learned of far away lands, of animals (some adorning silly garments), of a fuzzy bear and his honey pots (and another in his blue jacket), of naughty boys, of a lost button and friendship, of an unlikely detective duo, and, well, dogs.

We have explored the world as a family. From the oak trees, ducks and bustling markets of Provence, to the tower and love of Paris, to the monkeys and temples of Bali, to the planes and seagulls of Vancouver Island, to the loons of the Cariboo, to the sunflowers and castles of Spain, to the coastline of Portugal, to the bunnies, sheep and beauty of the English countryside, to the cable cars and ducks of San Francisco, to the seashore of the Pacific, to the hot chocolates and floatplanes in Vancouver, to the beauty of our own backyard – from the ancient forests to the alpine of the Pacific Northwest. You have also travelled to places in the hearts of many, making friends all over the world. You have a very special, well-travelled, ever-growing rock collection, too.

The adventures we embark on will continue to write the story of your beautiful life. A life that makes our hearts full. A life that gives us a reason to smile. A life that our family would not be complete without.

We love you, Owen Benjamin. Happy birthday.

(Now, let’s go on a floatplane.)

a year of adventure

this time last year

this time last year

As we approach Owen’s first birthday, we are left thinking of this time last year. A time that seems so far away, yet also so close. This time last year, a week before our son’s due date, the day he would start to make his arrival, the day before he was born. So much anticipation. So much excitement.

We thought we were invincible. We were naive. We did not know that it was possible our son might die, or we chose not to believe it. Besides, these things did not happen to our family. In the us versus them, it was always them. Always. I look at others and see this same naivety. However painful it is to see, they are entitled to it. They are entitled to their innocence. To bury their heads in the sand. To believe in odds and meaningless statistics. To think, with horror, of the them and feel the distance between. We did.

However, odds were on our side too. The unexpected can happen to anyone. It happened to our family.

This time last year, I was rubbing my tummy, giving my little guy, my Speck, one of his signature back rubs that can still be felt through the wear on the right side of all of my shirts. I wasn’t stood in the bathroom crying one minute, wondering what could have been, while lovingly thinking about and talking to my son the next. My mind was not in this constant battle between the sadness of loss and the happiness of my son’s continued presence in my life, desperately trying to push the latter to the forefront.

This time last year, we were putting the finishing touches on the nursery, a special place for our family to grow together in. We were talking about our hopes and dreams, our plans for our family life. Moments that were within grasp. Moments that we were told we would have, that we could have, that we should have if we did everything right. Moments that we still have, but that look so very different on the surface. Moments that we have had to tailor so that they fit the unique needs of our family.

Thinking about this time last year from the perspective of this year, I realize there are many things that have not changed. This time last year we were filled with so much pride and excitement. Our hearts, in sync and bursting with love. We were excited to explore and discover the world together. We could not wait to see what the future held for our family. While it isn’t what we expected, none of this has changed. We still can’t wait. We are still discovering, still exploring, still loving. Together, as a family.