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HAND of the Peninsula: Newsletter June 2016
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Dear HAND friends,

The stories of loss of HAND parents, while different, share many similarities. The love for our missing babies runs deep and wide, and we honor their lives by carrying them with us as we build our new normal. While we all carry our lost babies within our hearts and minds, we now know that HAND mothers also literally carry these babies' DNA within them. Research tells us that during each pregnancy a mother experiences, fetal cells cross the placenta and enter the mother's body, where they become part of her tissue. For me, there is something very comforting knowing that the cells of all of my children, living and not, live on within me.

As summer approaches, I hope you find time to soak up some sun and find healing in its warmth. I also hope you enjoy our new newsletter format and find some comfort in its contents.


Warmly, 
Paige Abramson Hirsch, President


Eight Months

Published: Apr 26, 2016, Momma Mighty  |  By: Kimberly Roth, wife to McWendell "Mac" Roth, and mommy to Leona Grace. Kim and Mac have been attending HAND support groups since October 2015, shortly after the loss of their first born daughter, Leona, fondly nicknamed, Mighty.

My sweet Leona,

How can it be that it has been eight months since I first met you in this world? Eight months. 35 weeks. 245 days.

My arms have never ached so much. The beat of my heart has never felt so half and hollow, and yet still so full with my love for you. I miss you so much, my baby. Mommy misses you and loves you beyond measure. I miss the few memories that I have, filled with distant sounds and smells and the feel of your skin. I miss the milestones I’ll never get with you these precious eight months. You can never be replaced, my girl. Oh, how I wish I knew what your giggle sounded like and what would have made you laugh, what the sound of your voice would sound like trying to say Mommy or Daddy, or how it feels to see you crawl and reach to stand at Mommy and Daddy’s legs. It is a Mommy’s job to know these things about her baby. Yet I don’t, and it will take my lifetime until you can share it all with me again.

This last month, Mommy made it to the gym for the first time. It was scary, but I was brave. It helped that Daddy was my coach again, helping me lift through the heavier weights when I didn’t think I could. I felt proud of your Daddy for making healthy decisions for his body and mind, seeing him at the boxing gym. Daddy and I finished your garden in front of our window, complete with your special touches of Leona love. I was finally able to tell your whole birth story to Rowen’s Mama. It was heart-wrenching, magical, painful and healing all at the same time. Because it was all about you and me, baby. What we experienced together, what we lived through together, what we fought through together. I realized it was the only time I’d ever gotten to tell it through my eyes completely – without interruption. I’ve never felt more pride and joy at just being Leona’s Mommy in the last eight months, than I did that afternoon. Daddy and I finally made it to a Giants game together. It felt like home. It felt like our family. Me, you and Daddy taking in a baseball game for Daddy’s birthday, on a beautiful day at the Yard. I thought of you, Leona, our dreams for you and Daddy, and the love of baseball in our little family.

I hope you are well taken care of where Forever is. I hope that you shared your toothy grin with your precious friends, while dancing to your favorite music and talking baseball with the Greats. I am so incredibly grateful for their Mommies, who effortlessly remember your birth date along with me as they honor their own babies. I love when your special day is remembered with me and your Daddy, Leona. The 26th of every month is worthy of remembrance for your life because you, my baby girl, are worthy of all the love.

Mommy and Daddy love you to Forever, Leona Grace. We miss you more than anyone will ever know.

"Strength After Loss": A Zumba Event Held on Mother's Day, Sponsored by HAND

By: Beth Wolly, mother of Ryan who died 2/10/2011 and living sons Jake (8) and Evan (4)

My second son Ryan was stillborn a week after his due date. A few months afterwards, I returned to a Zumba class I had attended occasionally and was completely happy for the first time for a full hour. So I kept going back and each time felt that I was regaining some of my original self while establishing my "new normal". I eventually decided I wanted to become an instructor and share my Zumba joy with others and now I teach in clubs and studios throughout SF and Marin. 
This year for Mother's Day, I hosted a Zumba event sponsored by HAND called "Strength After Loss" for women whose baby or child had died - or whose own mother/mother figure had died. It was held at the beautiful dance studio Genesis in the Inner Richmond and there were 18 women who joined from all walks of life. We began with an individual art project, each of us creating a heart in which we listed the names of those who were strongest in our thoughts that day, both living and gone - and then posted them on a mirror in the studio. We then gathered in a circle and everyone shared who they were "keeping in their heart" that day, an activity which helped us understand a little about each other's sources of pain and joy. 

Then it was time to dance! We had a terrific hour long Zumba dance session and finished up with some snacks and mingling. A successful and fun event and hopefully one to be repeated in the future!  Some shameless self-promotion - I teach at Genesis every Saturday morning at 8AM, just $10 per session - send me an email at bethzumbaparty@gmail.com if you'd like to join a class sometime!

Highlights from HAND "Creative Honoring" workshop

By: Sara Johnson, HAND bereaved mom, facilitator and board member

In March, HAND sponsored a 'Creative Honoring' workshop in San Francisco. The workshop provided a place for parents to come together to honor their babies and themselves through creative expression. The group shared their stories of love and loss, connected with other parents, wrote in journals, sat for a mindfulness piece, created a keepsake heart to take home and concluded with a poem. The parents who attended brought warmth, comfort and support to each other--and created a space for themselves to heal and honor their babies. The workshop was led by two HAND facilitators/bereaved mothers. Let us know if you are interested in attending a 'Creative Honoring' workshop.

    

Join a Special HAND Event for Upcoming Father's Day

By: Kai Martin, who lives in Pacifica with his wife Deirdre. Their path includes multiple miscarriages, one stillborn daughter Thora and a beautiful living daughter Nova

For men who have lost a child or their own father/father figure, Father's Day can be a difficult time and a painful reminder of those who are missing in their lives. HAND welcomes these men to join in a free event, a mid-morning hike with bereaved dad Kai Martin. There they can enjoy beautiful natural surroundings while in the company of other men who understand the challenges of this day and share their stories while getting in a workout.

The tentative location is San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica from 9am -12pm. Participants can gather near the park entrance to save on the car entrance fee, do the 4 mile hike (about 2 hours and not strenuous) and then have a brown bag lunch (BYO) in the picnic area which also holds horseshoe courts. More information will be provided upon RSVP.

If you are interested in this hike, please RSVP asap to Kai at eventshand@gmail.com
If you are interested in a hike but not in this location, please RSVP asap to Kai and let him know the general areas (SF/Peninsula, East Bay, Marin) that work better. If there is a large contingency in one area the location may be adjusted.

A HAND of the North Bay Chapter is launching!

Monthly support group will meet the 3rd Wednesday of the month from 7:00-9:00pm at the Marin Community Clinic in San Rafael. The group will serve Marin and Sonoma Counties. Contact (650) 367-6993 or email info@HANDsupport.org for more information.

Expectations

Published: Feb 22, 2016, Glow in the Woods | Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come to this site to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion, having been through this mess - and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.  


It’s been two and a half years since my daughter died and it feels like the expectations on me to move on and let go are growing at an overwhelming rate.

They expect you to have your shit together, all neat and tidy (excuse the analogy). They expect you to have gathered up the shattered pieces of your life, pulled it all together and moved on. They expect the dirt and grime you carry inside you to be cleaned and that it’s all sparkly inside, like stained red wine glasses going through a dishwashing cycle. They expect you to have swept up the ashes from your brokenness and dusted off the broom. They expect you to stop speaking about someone they never knew, someone they think you didn’t know either. They expect you to try again. They expect you to wipe away even your unseen tears. They expect you to stop the clock; they don’t want to know how old she would have been. They expect you to give up those dreams you had, to let them go. They expect you to be okay, smile and mean it. They expect you to be grateful for your own life, for the life of those who remain. They expect you to forget.

These are expectations, expectations I am faced with every day, expectations that grow and change and evolve every second of the day.

To this I say “Expectations are not constant.”

The void, that is constant, the longing is constant, missed milestones are constant, missed birthdays are constant, the empty space at our dinner table is constant, the fact that I will never see my daughter grow, that’s constant, the fact that I want to see her grow, that’s constant, the missing and wishing, that’s constant, the sadness, that’s constant, the heartbreak of knowing I can never buy her a gift or take her to lunch, oh that is constant, the memory of holding her lifeless body in my arms, that’s constant, the fact that I only have a box of ashes to hold instead of her, that’s constant, the fact that I have to listen to your opinionated vocal onslaughts of how you think I should be feeling, that’s constant, the fact that my constants outweigh your expectations every time, that is constant.

What do you feel like others are expecting you to do? Where in your grief do you feel "expected" to be?


Cut this out as a tangible reminder for you or a HAND parent you love

5 Things Every Pregnant After Loss Mom Should Do

Published: Mar 29, 2016, Pregnancy After Loss Support  |  A community support resource for women experiencing the confusing and conflicting emotions of grief mixed with joy during the journey through pregnancy after loss. 


I’m not usually one to tell others what they “should” do. I actually don’t like the word. So maybe instead let’s call this list 5 Things Every PAL Mom Deserves to Do For Herself. It’s not as catchy of a title, but a least now you know the tips below are more of suggestions than expectations. Take or leave whatever you like. No pressure really. That’s the last thing I want a PAL mom to feel. You have enough stress already.

Say no – During this stressful time, it’s okay to say no! Set boundaries around your feelings and your pregnancy. If you need to, say no to baby showers. This can be your own shower or those of others. Let others know your expectations around discussing your current pregnancy. Be willing to adjust your schedule and limit your time doing things if it seems too emotionally overwhelming right now. It’s okay to just say no.

Pamper yourself – I can’t think of anyone more deserving of practicing self-care and pampering than the mom pregnant again after a loss. You have been through hard stuff, and you are currently doing a really hard thing by being pregnant again after your previous baby died. Feel free to take care of you. Get an extra massage, make it a point to treat yourself to a daily sweet, or cut back on your work schedule and house expectations. Whatever it is, feel free to pamper yourself. I give you permission.

Break up with Dr. Google – That’s right ladies, it’s time to break it off with your old BFF Dr. Google! Searching for answers on the Internet to calm your fears usually doesn’t work the way we would like it too. It often makes the anxiety of pregnancy after loss worse. Did you know Dr. Google really doesn’t hold a medical degree? Why trust its advice when it might be more helpful to call your own doctor or nurse with your concerns, and you will be able to chat with someone who knows your story and could actually help!

Give yourself permission to do what you feel is right – A mother’s intuition is a strong thing. Right now is a time to tune into you, baby, and that intuition of yours to figure out and listen to what you need. Oftentimes as women and mothers we don’t give ourselves permission to listen to and follow the advice our intuition is whispering to us. Now is the time to hear your inner voice and to do what you need to do to get through this pregnancy, one day at a time.

Advocate for you and your baby’s needs – You know your body and your baby better than anyone else. If you believe that you need to go into the clinic to get something checked out or to do an extra NST that week, then don’t hesitate to go. It’s better you go in to reduce your anxiety by having something looked at and getting reassurance than to worry. Advocating for your health and the health of the baby is not being “silly” or overly anxious, it’s just being a good mom.

Beyond Closure: Nancy Berns

An uplifting TEDx talk by Nancy Berns, a sociologist at Drake University and a bereaved mother. She looks at the space between grief and closure and has found that not only is closure a fabricated concept, it is doing us more harm than good. 

Birth Announcements


Rosslyn Marie Walton- Born Jan 2016, to Michael and Georgia Walton, and big sister Elise. Remembering Tessa Bunny Walton. 
William Lewis Gowan - Born Feb 2016, to Cole and Melissa Gowan, and big sister Athena. Remembering Baby Gowan the Second.
Eloise Paige Dodd - Born Feb 2016, to Laura and Kalen Dodd. Remembering Aria Savannah Dodd.


Alexandra Jewel Aptekarev- Born Mar 2016, to Liz Mier and Kenny Aptekarev, and big sister Nadia.
Nolan Patrick McEvoy - Born Apr 2016, to Courtney and Ken McEvoy, and big sister Camryn. Remembering Cavan David McEvoy. 
Jade Rose Pizano - Born Apr 2016, to Jessica and Luis Pizano. Remembering Ty Robert Pizano.
Thank You for Your Donations
Amanda L. Anderson 
Dorothy & Robert Friedlander
Joanne & Michael Regalia
 
Brian Slome
Straw Restaurant (in memory of Leo M. Feingold)
Make a Donation

Book spotlight: You Are the Mother of All Mothers


There are few books that address the weight of guilt and shame that a grieving mother carries with her after the loss of her child. The deep feeling of failure that accompanies child loss can be heart, mind and soul crippling. Reengaging in life after loss and attempting to find a sliver of hope again is an on-going battle– one no bereaved mother should fight alone. Read more...

Best Practices in Supporting Bereaved Parents 


As part of the ongoing HAND efforts to train public health professionals on supporting bereaved parents, HAND president, Paige Abramson Hirsch, gave a presentation to a group of 25 San Francisco public health nurses on April 6. The nurses' feedback was very positive.

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Have a story, poem or article to share for our next newsletter? Let us know!
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