Still Standing Magazine- Bulk Baby Shampoo and a Blanket Connection

Published at http://stillstandingmag.com/2017/12/bulk-baby-shampoo-blanket-connection/ on December 11, 2017

Last week my nearly four-year-old child was taking a bath. She was 2.5 years old when her baby sister Breelyn passed away from SIDS. When Breelyn passed away, we were parents to two children. And we bought items like parents of two children… this included baby shampoo in a mega huge bottle. So I’m bathing my child and I see that there is about ¼ of the shampoo bottle remaining and it hits me… this was the same bottle that we used to wash our dear baby who is no longer with us. When we use up the remaining shampoo, yet another thing that was Breelyn’s will be gone. Gone are the bottles and the pacifiers. Gone is the breast pump and frozen bags of milk. Gone are the matching sibling outfits. Gone is the crib, the car seat, the jumper. It’s all gone because she’s gone.

I know that it’s just shampoo but it mattered, it threw me, and that’s ok. It’s ok that I avoid four-month-old babies (Breelyn was nearly this age when she died). It’s ok that my breath catches when I see siblings in matching clothes. It’s ok that the story of baby Jesus makes me tear up. It’s ok that I unfollow (on social media) my family and friends who have babies.

It’s also ok that, while I delight in our sponsored child from Guatemala who was born on the same day as Breelyn, I also cry every time I open an envelope from her. It’s ok that it’s painful to see her growing footprints- because Breelyn’s footprints never grew beyond that of a four-month-old.

It’s ok that I’m not ok. The death of a child isn’t ok- it’s against nature, it’s wrong. Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents. God or any other higher power didn’t will the death of our children. Sh*t just happens and it’s ok that I’m not ok with my child being gone. It stinks.

But, she is gone and I’m still here. And so, I try to do my best to be better, to make the world better. One of the ways that I try to make the world a bit better is through making and collecting blankets for infants and small children that die in hospitals. We call it Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade. I know first-hand the feeling of knowing that a stranger has cared enough to put hours of work into making a blanket for your dear child who has just died. I’ve felt that love and I wanted other parents to feel that love too.

And so I make and collect blankets. I’ve placed 273 blankets so far this year. While I, of course, knew where these blankets were going, I’m not sure that I ever really thought about the reality that each blanket was received by real people, people just like me. But then I went to Texas for a child loss retreat with A Memory Grows. The retreat was made up of three other couples who’d also had child and pregnancy losses.

My spouse was telling of our story- of our loss of Breelyn and of our pregnancy losses that followed. He went on to share how we put a lot of our Breelyn energy into the blanket brigade, and how we just hoped that the blankets would help loss parents just a bit. And then the woman next to me says, “I think that I received one of your blankets.” And she had! Most of our blankets are disbursed in Maryland but I’d also sent blankets to a hospital in Texas where a high school friend is a pediatric emergency room nurse. I’ve only ever driven through Texas or touched down for an airplane change. But, here I was, for the first time, and sitting next to me was someone who’d received a blanket just two months earlier when her child had died. And she confirmed exactly what I’d felt- she and her spouse felt the love and care of strangers when they received their blanket. I’m still in awe of the randomness that we’d connect in person. It was amazing and sobering.

These blankets aren’t healing babies but they are helping to heal parental hearts just a bit. They’re showing that there is love in the world and that a stranger cared enough about a family, that they worked some yarn to make a blanket. And so, while I’m brought to tears by baby shampoo, I also choose to make the world a better place one blanket at a time. You too can make the world a better place. I’d love to hear how you’re honoring your children.

Summer Porter is a mom to a toddler and welcomed Breelyn Elizabeth who died of SIDS at age four months.  Summer has experienced two pregnancy losses since Breelyn died.  She is a big believer in counseling and in helping others who experience child loss via www.breelynsblanketbrigade.com.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I think that these words exactly describe what happened. My church has amazingly supported the making and collection of blankets.  Seriously- they are fantastic!  And then someone donated two queen sized hand-made blankets.  Hmmm… I asked myself if they knew what these blankets were being used for (really small kiddos)?  And then I talked to my mom who is a worker of great wonders…

She turned each large blanket into 9 smaller blankets!  I’d never considered turning larger projects into smaller.  This feels like the modern day loaves and fish miracleJ

So if you have any large hand-made blankets around and you just aren’t sure what to do with them… give them to me! My mom will work wonders and many families will be blessed.  Also, if you have larger projects that maybe have a stain on a portion of it, we may still be able to use a large portion of the blanket to make smaller blankets.

Seriously- my mom rocks and I’m so glad that she saw an opportunity where I saw a wall.

Still Standing Magazine- 40 isn’t the new 20 or the new 30

Here is a piece that I wrote for Still Standing Magazine- check it out at http://stillstandingmag.com/2017/09/40-isnt-new-20-new-30/

So it turns out that 40 isn’t the new 20 or the new 30.  It’s just 40- as in my eggs are now 40.  It doesn’t matter that I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I’m even a vegetarian.  Eggs don’t care.  I was born with a full supply, and they’ve been with me since then.  But, if you’re a male, you get to make new sperm every couple of months.  That’s right, my spouse’s sperm are three months old, and my eggs are 40 years and two months.

I married at the age of 30 and attempted to make responsible choices.  We wanted our relationship to have been proven strong enough to weather what may come.  We had college and graduate degrees to complete and pay for.  Mostly, we just wanted to make sure that we were staying together.  A lot of relationships don’t make it, and we didn’t want to be a divided family.

All of our boxes were finally checked, we felt ready to move forward, and my eggs and I were 36.  We conceived our eldest Brooklyn without any difficulty.  I assumed that everyone had procreation ease.  I breastfed Brooklyn, she went on a temporary nursing strike (refusal to breastfeed), and my period returned.  I conceived our second child Breelyn.

Breelyn was born full term, healthy, and loved to nurse. And then, at the age of four months, she died of SIDS.  And it turns out that maybe we were right to wait to have children- until we were stable enough to weather the crap that was coming.  Statistics show that many marriages don’t survive the death of a child.  We knew this so we’re in counseling and we’ll continue to be in counseling.  And, honestly, we’re a mess, how can we not be?  But, we’re a mess together, and that matters.

So back to my eggs.  At the age of 39, my eggs, my spouse and his infantile sperm, and I decided to try for another baby.  Again, procreation seemed easy, right up until the appointment where there wasn’t a heartbeat.  And then at the age of 40, my eggs thought that they were ready to try again, and again, no heartbeat.

And so my eggs and I went to a fertility specialist.  We learned that my spouse’s sperm is just super and my eggs are well, still 40.  I’m becoming well versed on lingo like FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone) which gives you an idea of your egg reserve.  Ideal level is under eight, tolerable is under 10, I’m not anywhere near either of those numbers.  Things aren’t looking good.  I’ll have an official appointment with my doctor next week to discuss what my pro-creation future looks like…

But for tonight, my eggs, spouse, super sperm, and I are going to do a bit of crying.  We’re going to be sad that we’ve lost Breelyn, that we’ve lost two pregnancies, and that our back up plan may not work.  We’re going to order some take out and eat some ice cream.  And, in the end, we’re going to circle back to our foundation- that there is always something to be thankful for… even if it’s only that your local sushi place delivers!

Still Standing Magazine- My Pregnancies Ended but My Love Lives On

This summer, I was accepted to be a contributing writer for Still Standing Magazine.  Today was the day that my very first piece ran.  Honestly, I felt pretty exposed and vulnerable when I saw it in “print”.  But, I’m hopeful that it will reach other parents that need to see it.  My goal has always been to be honest in my grief.  I never ever imagined that I’d have additional grief beyond Breelyn’s death but alas, we have.  And we’re doing our best to love and honor our living and non-living children. I share my pain so that others realize that it’s ok to mourn a loss forever- you’ve lost a person.  But, it’s also ok to have moments of laughter and joy.  Your life has continued, and it’s ok to live it with as many smiles as you can.

My Pregnancies Ended but My Love Lives On

A trunk full of blankets- 108!!

The outpouring of blankets has been positively amazing!!  I’d placed 75 blankets with local hospitals and then I stalled in progress. I couldn’t seem to connect with hospitals. I had something that would help their mourning parents but it just wasn’t happening… And then I realized that, since Breelyn died, I’d been receiving regular supportive communication from the Center for Infant and Child Loss (http://www.infantandchildloss.org/).  They provide counseling and support to families who have lost a child.

And so I reached out.  Response- Yes!! We’d love to help!!  Such a relief from me- now I can concentrate on making blankets and inspiring others to do the same.  The Center for Infant and Child Loss already has contact with many hospitals so they are going to handle the blanket placement!!

I met with their leader, LaToya Bates, and handed off 108 blankets!!  This makes our total 183.  Be sure to check out our Facebook page for pictures of all of the blankets.  They really are lovely. And thank you so much for your support of this project!  It really is inspiring and I’m really very touched.

364 days

I’ve been dreading tomorrow.  After tomorrow passes, I won’t be able to include Breelyn in my look back at the year. My memories will fade.  Today I remember with complete clarity what I was doing the week before she died.  I had a rocking presentation at work.   I was kicking butt on breastfeeding and pumping.  I’d created a Father’s Day card with Brooklyn and Breelyn’s handprints traced.  I dressed them in their first matching church outfits and took their last sister picture.  Breelyn had just started drooling so I put her first bib on.  We all had breakfast together as Breelyn sat in her carrier on top of the table.  And then Dave, Brooklyn, and Breelyn got into the car and drove away.  And hours later, our lives had changed forever.

It still hurts.  I hate that it ever happened. I hate that others have to go through this- that others will come after me.  And so I’m taking a moment of sadness, to just say that this totally stinks.  I hate it.

Tomorrow we are going to release butterflies at Breelyn’s grave and we’ll read a piece that my sister Amber found.  I think that it summarizes exactly what a parent (or at least this parent) is thinking.  Thanks for listening.

We Thought of You
We thought of you with love today
But that is nothing new
We thought about you yesterday
And the day before that too

We think of you in silence
We often say your name
But all we have is memories
And your picture in a frame

Your memory is our keepsake
With which we’ll never part
God has you in his keeping
We have you in our hearts

We shed tears for what might have been
A million times we’ve cried
If love alone could’ve saved you
You never would’ve died

In life we loved you dearly
In death we love you still
In our hearts you hold a place
No-one could ever fill

It broke our hearts to lose you
But you didn’t go alone
For part of us went with you
And now we’re praying for when God will take us all home

The heartbeats that weren’t

This week, a dear friend saw the heartbeats of her twin babies.  I rejoice with her.  It’s been a long struggle into parenthood.  She’ll be an amazing mama and I can’t wait to see her in this new role.  She shared the picture and the happy news via text.  I wrote back to relay my thrill- I hit send- and then I dissolved into tears.

In June 2016, our four month old daughter Breelyn died.  It was devastating.  We missed Breelyn so much and wanted to have a sibling for Brooklyn on this earth but we wanted to give ourselves time to just concentrate on our grief.  We chose the random number of six months to wait.  We then conceived and we had our own heartbeat appointment in January 2017.

We didn’t have the same happy outcome.  It was at that appointment that we first heard that there was no heartbeat, and that there would have been two babies.  The outcome wasn’t certain and we were sent home for a couple of days with instructions to come in again for another test.  I didn’t know what to pray, we’d prayed for Breelyn and she’d died.  The second appointment came and there were no heartbeats.  I had a D&C and stopped being pregnant.

In my head 75% of my children had died.  It’s a lot to take- especially when early loss pregnancy isn’t something that you usually talk about.  I could publicly mourn Breelyn, but not the loss of her siblings.

I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know why we experience pain and loss.  I hate that we do. One of my sisters and I were talking about praying for protection.  She mentioned that she was ticked off that we taught our little ones that praying for protection would make it alright.  It isn’t going to make it alright.  Parents, siblings, and friends are still going to die.  We’d prayed for protection and Breelyn still died. We’d prayed for our twins and there weren’t heartbeats.  My sister’s theory is that the protection is eternal.  God gives us eternal protection instead of protection here on earth. He gives us the eternal protection of a life in heaven with Him.  So, I concentrate on that.  I concentrate on the future where I’ll certainly have all my children running around.

And, I’ll rejoice in my friend’s children. They are a blessing and my loving them doesn’t discount the love that I have for my own.  Her joy and my joy for her doesn’t erase my sadness. It can be separate- it’s ok for me to thrill for her and still be sad for me.

WGTS 91.9 hometown hero

Thank you WGTS 91.9 for giving me the opportunity to talk about Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade!  Together, we can make a difference to some hurting families.

Hometown Heroes: Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade

By: RobC
Summer Porter will never the moment she arrived at the hospital after receiving the worst news a mom could ever get. Her 4 month-old baby, Breelyn, had fallen asleep at the daycare and didn’t wake up. When she was given Breelyn, she was covered in two blankets made by volunteers. She says it really stood out because, as she puts it, “it meant that somebody had put the time and energy into it; that somebody was able to take care of my kid when I couldn’t.” Summer and her husband, David Burke, would later learn that Breelyn had died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Summer Porter

Photo credit: Allison Shelley/AP Photos for Visitor Magazine

It was that attention to detail that inspired Summer to learn how to crochet so she could make blankets for other families who had lost children. But it wasn’t until she saw her 7 year-old niece crocheting a square that it occurred to her that there could be others interested in helping make blankets, which was the impetus for Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade.

Breelyn

Initially, it started out with 40 friends on Facebook who helped make 5″ x 5″ squares that would be constructed into blankets to be given to families at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. But the group grew to more than 480 people with people in other states like Arizona, California, Hawaii, Texas, and more joining in the effort.
The project has now grown to include classrooms at local schools, where kids are learning to crochet to help add to the blankets.
We love how she has been able to turn a terrible tragedy into something that will comfort other families on their worst days. It’s why we chose Summer Porter as this week’s Hometown Hero!
Send squares to Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade Attn: Summer Porter, P.O. Box 744 College Park, MD 20741
To read Summer’s full story check out this article in Visitor Magazine
170512_SummerPorter-HometownHeroes

Listen to the podcast here:

http://wgts.org/podcast-wgts-919-mornings-podcast/hometown-heroes-breelyns-blanket-brigade

Numbers

Oh those dreaded numbers…

New job- how many dependents do you have?  I write down two, no wait, scratch that out- one.

2016 taxes- how many dependents do you have?  I answer one, no wait, make that two.

At a recent physical exam, how many pregnancies have you had?  I answer two, no wait, three.  We had a pregnancy of twins in December 2016 that ended in January when there were no heartbeats.

And also at the physical, I learned that my weight currently slightly exceeds that of when I delivered Breelyn a year ago.

My numbers have changed and it makes me sad.  I want to be raising two live children with two more on the way.  And as long as we’re dreaming, having my weight not be a constant battle would be nice too.  And so I long for heaven.  For the day when I will have all of my children with me, when we won’t have worries like weight, jobs, and healthcare costs.  For the day when there won’t be sickness or death.  For the day when all will be well and we’ll be home.

Work worship

I work for a religious organization.  They start their day off with a voluntary worship. It’s a nice way to start the day and I usually try to attend.

In the last month three things have resonated with me in regards to this organizational worship…

  1. In the car I realized that I hadn’t put mascara on.  Not the end of the world but I was a little ticked off.  I sat down to worship and in it, the speaker sang the song “Press On” by Selah. I’ve written about this song previously http://wp.me/p83gmr-U it basically says that when you are dealing with the very worst, in Jesus’ name, we press on.  It’s been my sort of theme song during the loss of Breelyn.  I let myself cry a lot during this song.  So there I was, fighting back the sobs, while my tears fell, when suddenly I had to smile.  God had my back.  I’d forgotten to wear mascara so it wasn’t immediately evident to the whole world that I’d been crying.  It was a little delightful to think of God helping me to forget my mascara so that I wouldn’t look like a raccoon all day.
  2. A speaker delivered a message and at the end, someone on the platform mentioned his family and that he had four sons.  The speaker paused for a bit and said yes- I have four living sons.  As a parent who has lost a child, I struggle with how to relay my family make up.  Breelyn lived and I don’t want to just ignore that.  I loved the “four living sons” because that implied that there might be others who hadn’t lived.  The statement helped me feel not alone.
  3. Today!  Oh today.  The speaker talked about how he’d experienced true love during the eventful birth of his son.  He built up the agony of waiting for his child to take a first breath.  He talked of how he started to bargain with God- how he’d give up his life if only his son would live.  And there I sat, this time barely keeping it together.  My child hadn’t lived. I don’t have a revelation on this one yet.  It’s honestly just too fresh.  I’m thrilled for those that live.  I love that people can experience truest love when they become parents.  And yes, I think that I now understand just a bit about the crushing agony that God must have gone through to give up His son Jesus to die for us.  And I’m forever deeply grateful for God’s sacrifice.  But, today, I just want to feel bad that my child didn’t live.  I’m glad that the speaker’s baby lived but I’m going to continue to be sad that my didn’t.

So dear world, corporate worship is good for me however, I think that I’ll start sitting on the aisle so that I have a clear line to escape if needed. Thanks for letting me vent just a bit.  This is hard stuff and I always hope that maybe in the future, someone who’s experienced a loss will stumble across something that I’ve written, and they’ll realize that it’s ok to be sad, angry, etc.  And it’s ok to be angry at God- He can take it and He’s going to keep loving you and me- just like I’ll keep loving Breelyn Elizabeth- forever.