Bereaved & Blessed: Danielle & Jonah honor Lydia- Part 1

Stillbirth effects about 1% of all pregnancies, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. This statistic can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (HERE ) along with other facts on stillbirth.

I read this statistic more than 4 years ago and thought, “How terrible. I’m so glad that will never happen to me.” I wasn’t fully aware of how I felt immune to such a “low statistic.” The truth is, I read it and immediately placed myself in the 99% of pregnancies not effected. How could it happen to me? I was healthy. My pregnancy was normal. Besides, such a terrible thing like this is something we only hear about when it happens to someone else right?

That’s the thing about stillbirth…

There are no warning signs. There is no screening for stillbirth in pregnancies. It happens unexpectedly.

Nothing prepares you for those 6 words…. “I’m sorry. There is no heartbeat.”

Once you have heard them, you will never forget them. The look on the medical professionals face and the tone of voice they used, all of it is burned into your memory. Because up until that moment, you life was “normal.”

That is the very moment life as you knew it stops and a whole new life begins. A life without the baby and the hopes and dreams you had for a future you will now never know. It is completely out of our control. You don’t want life to change, but it does.

My son, Mac Bryson, was born into Heaven on August 16, 2012. Having a stillborn is unlike anything you could ever imagine. I can say that because, I used to think I could imagine what this kind of loss would be like. The truth is, what I thought only scratched the surface. I had no idea. I heard of stillbirth before I had children and thought how terrible, heartbroken for the family. After I had children, it tugged at me a little more but, I still only scratched the surface when imagining what life would be like for the family. The thing about imagining grief is you can put it away, tuck it in your pocket if you will. The grief isn’t yours to carry so, you never know how heavy it really is. The load with stillborn grief is unimaginable and exhausting at times. We grieve what we will never have. We ache for these moment stollen from us. More often than not, we do this in silence. We may cry or get a little sad when Halloween rolls around because we remember the cute little pumpkin outfit we picked out for our baby. We pictured him or her in it and imagined the joy it brought. It might be something very simple that triggers a memory or hope we forgot we had. It is sometimes hard for us to talk to talk about this. Sometimes it isn’t because it is hard for us, but because it is hard for others to listen. It can make them sad and uncomfortable. Sometimes they worry because we are sad (again) we are stuck or “never getting over” our loss. Sometimes it is because watching us hurt, hurts them so much they think if we just stopped talking about it would help us. I believe it isn’t out of lack of compassion. I believe it is impossible for others to know how we feel or what imagine how remembering our babies by talking through our tears is helpful. I believe (a do not at all mean this offensively) it is simply ignorance. This is why grieving your stillborn can be lonely. It can be dark and destructive if we allow it. BUT, It could also be a motivation to live life as we never had before.

“What grief does is it puts us squarely in the middle of a fire, and it burns away everything that is not essential in our lives.” ~ Alana Sheeran

This quote perfectly sums up what happened after Mac. It wasn’t immediate for me. It took time but, slowly I realized how I craved to LIVE in honor of Mac. I made promises to him and my two living children, Hagen and Suzie. I promise to speak out on stillbirth and the grief surrounding it. This is where “Bereaved, Blessed, and All Things in Between” was born. It was through my desire to start a global conversation on the grief surrounding stillbirth. I want to let people know if they are experiencing this loss they are not alone. Their grief will at times want to get the best of them but, they can get through this. I want to ease the feeling loneliness by having more conversations with other bereaved parents and putting their stories out there. My hope is that not only will it touch the hearts of the grieving parents but, also open the minds of those surrounding them. Allowing them to see the grief is lifelong for us. Our babies are never far from our hearts and thoughts no matter how many years have passes. It helps us to remember our babies, even if we cry. I want others to hopefully feel more comfortable around us if our babies come up in conversation. Even more than that, I want others to know it is ok to bring them up in conversation. We should be able to talk about our babies. Help us grieve the best we can by supporting us.

Courageous Conversation with Danielle & Jonah

You will never meet a more sincere, genuine and caring couple. My heart smiles thinking about these two. Their love and respect for each other is apparent to anyone.

Danielle and Jonah are young but, seasoned in heartache. The way they continue to live with faith, hope and positivity amaze me. They inspire me in many ways.

It is truly a pleasure to share a little of their story with you.

Danielle~

I believe this is the first picture of me and Jonah together. ?This was taken at my 24th birthday party (8 years ago! ?), which was just over a month after we started dating. This was such a fun time in our lives! Once we started dating, we pretty much saw each other every single day. We would drive back and forth from each other’s houses after work and hang out outside on the deck talking for hours.. I always remember driving home from his place several times after midnight on a work night. I don’t know how we functioned the next day (coffee?), but it was well worth it!

Danielle and Jonah met, fell in love and started a beautiful life together. When I think of them I honestly think fairy tail. Two of the most beautiful (sorry cousin, you are handsome) people inside and out you will ever meet. Making a married on a mountain top in a beautiful ceremony on July 6, 2012 after 4 years of dating. Danielle and Jonah’s wedding site was breathtaking. Danielle was (is) breathtaking. Their wedding pictures radiate with love. You can easily see how much they mean to each other. You can also see how much those surrounding them mean to the beautiful couple. Their wedding is the perfect example of this but, you can see it in their everyday life as well. Danielle ad Jonah love much and are loved so much in return.

Back to their fairy tail wedding. I might as well admit I love to stalk Danielle’s wedding photos on Facebook. They are stunning. The view, Danielle’s dress, the look on my cousin, Jonah’s face as he is marring … everything is just beautiful.  Something else I absolutely love about their wedding- Jonah wanted his biggest influences beside him. For Jonah, this was his brothers, close friends and his Grandfather (our Pappy). Yes, Jonah asked our Pappy to stand beside him as a groomsman on his big day. I smile the biggest smile when I think of how special this had to be to both of these amazing men.

Here are just a few of their beautiful wedding pictures.

Jonah and Pappy

Fast forward almost two years into marriage… A sweet surprise for the couple. They learned their family would be growing. Their hearts filled with promises of a future filled with giggles, snuggles and lots of new and exciting memories. They would welcome a little girl, their first born, on December 21, 2014. Danielle and Jonah couldn’t have been more excited. Their house now filled with signs of their growing family. A purple and mint green nursery ready and waiting for this precious little girl. Gifts from baby showers quickly filled the room. Drawers full of tiny clothes their little princess would wear. Imagined memories of diaper changes, snuggles, late night feedings and watching their little girl grow filled their hearts.

Until….

The unimaginable happened. Their sweet daughter, Lydia Jaelle, was born sleeping October 13 , 2014. There were no warning signs. No red flags. Nothing to prepare them for such heartache.

Lydia Jaelle Barkley, without taking a breath made a huge impact on her Mommy and Daddy’s lives. Lydia has made quite an impact on many. This October will be Lydia’s second Heavenly Birthday and I am blown away with how much Danielle and Jonah have accomplished in this short time since their sweet girl left them. My eyes fill with tears when I think of the many ways they have honored Lydia and kept her memory very much alive. Lydia must feel so much love when watching all that they do. I know she is so proud of them.

Danielle, Jonah and I talked about many things surrounding their loss. When I asked Danielle to describe Lydia she had the biggest smile and you can hear a quick giggle as she started thinking of her beautiful daughter. Danielle and Jonah both light up when they talk about her. (I can’t wait for you to hear how Jonah describes his little girl) Yes, they may have tears at times but, it is music to their ears and therapy for their heart when they are able to share details of their sweet little girl.

The song you are listening to is Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United. This is a special song to Danielle and Jonah (Danielle explains why in video). Can I tell you something? It might sound a little crazy to some of you. This song came on within seconds every single time I sat down to work on this. This happened five times. Yes, five times. Different times of day, over three days. Some believe in coincidence, I believe it was God’s way of saying Lydia was giving me her approval. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me. A big worry of mine in doing these interviews is that I won’t get it right. That I will somehow miss something so important to the family or somehow hurt them by not telling it the right way. I always pray before I start any work, asking God for guidance in my work. Hearing this song play as I sat down to write put a smile on my face and my eyes filled with tears. Thank you, Lydia.

Q & A with Danielle

What advice would you give to others experiencing recent grief due to stillborn loss?

Know that your baby’s death was not your fault. Try not to allow yourself to get lost in the “what ifs” that can so quickly consume you. You loved your baby immensely, and you did the absolute best that you could for him or her. Don’t be afraid to talk about your baby, and never, ever feel like you can’t talk about him or her. Your baby mattered, and he or she always will. Reach out for support in whichever way you are most comfortable, whether that be your family, friends, church, a counselor, local support group or an online support group. There are many grieving parents throughout the world who understand what you are going through and are always willing to hear you talk about or see pictures of your baby, listen to you vent, offer advice, etc. Know that, even though your life may never be the same as it once was, you will find true joy and laughter again. You may find a new purpose in your life in an incredible way, and you have the ability make a difference in the world in honor of your baby.

What are 3 words you would use to describe how you felt in the first few months after Lydia passed?

Heartbroken, shocked, angry

What are 3 words you would use to describe how you feel now, 18 months later?

Honestly, I struggle with picking three words to describe how I feel now. My emotions still vary a lot from day-to-day, and some days my grief hits harder than others. Thankfully, though, there are a lot more joyful moments now than there were in the early days after we lost Lydia. Our son, Luke, brings a lot of that joy and light into our lives. 🙂 We also feel more at peace now than we did at first. I’ve picked three words below that I think I can safely say we feel every day now. I had to explain what I mean by them, though!
Changed: Jonah and I will forever be changed by the loss of our daughter, Lydia. Our hearts will always yearn for our baby girl. It’s hard to explain, but I honestly don’t even recognize myself when I see pictures of me before we lost her. We’ve lost a lot of our naivety, for certain. But we’ve also gained so much. We now look at life through a different lens and have such a deeper appreciation for our children, our families, and the beauty that God surrounds us with every day. While we never would have thought twice about a butterfly or ladybug before, we now find joy in those little things and are reminded of our daughter.
Hopeful: Because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we have hope and confidence that we will be reunited with Lydia in Heaven someday. When that day gets here, we will never have to leave our baby girl again! We think about that reunion often. The birth and life of Lydia’s amazing little brother, Luke, has also helped to restore our hope of parenting (living) children.
Inspired: Every day, Jonah and I feel inspired to honor Lydia’s life in some way. We are inspired to make a difference in our daughter’s name, whether that be through raising awareness about stillbirth and the importance of counting kicks, or being there to support and comfort other parents who experience the heartbreaking loss of a child.

If you could go back in time (before Lydia) and give yourself words of wisdom, what would it be? 

ALWAYS trust your intuition. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor the very moment you feel concerned about your pregnancy or your baby’s health. Count your baby’s kicks starting in the third trimester. Appreciate and celebrate every moment you are blessed to have with your baby, starting from the moment that sweet life forms. (I’m so grateful Jonah and I did this last one with our Lydia.)

I recently asked Jonah to share a few scriptures he personally turned to in his grief. His answers are a testament to how deep his faith is. I’d like to share his recommendations with you in hopes that it will inspire, uplift and encourage you as it did me.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

He also shared this article on giving thanks through grief.

I love and admire this in my cousin. He knows he will be united with his daughter again. Until then, she will live on through him and his family.

I considered it such an honor to sit down and talk with them about her. They have so much wisdom, love and inspiration to share all because of that little girl. I pray in watching this you are able to take from the conversation what you need. We all deal with grief in our own ways. Danielle and Jonah are strong in faith and have hope in front of them. They will be reunited with their little girl again.

Please watch to the end. I added a few special pictures just for Danielle and Jonah in honor of their little girl.

Danielle and Jonah are helping others while honoring their daughter, Lydia

Danielle started a blog, Letters to Lydia. She is an incredible writer, bringing so much emotion to her beautiful letters to Lydia. You can read Danielle’s blog HERE.

Danielle teamed up with Tara, a friend and fellow mother in loss, to work on something very special. They raised money to donate cuddle cots to local hospitals gifting time to those suffering a loss as they did.

This was an amazing, self-less and impactful act. The gift of time is something cherished when we are only given such little of it to spend with our sweet angels. Cuddle Cot allows parents to keep their babies in the room with them for as long as time will allow. This time is precious. It is the only time we will have with our babies, allowing us to have a few more memories to hold onto.

Here is the link to their Cuddle Cot Campaign

Danielle and Tara’s goal was to raise enough money to donate two cots, one for each of their babies. Their actions made the local newspapers. Raising enough money to reach their goals AND start working on a third cot donation.

Danielle became an ambassador for Count the Kicks.

Count the Kicks is an easy to use free app during your third trimester. Helping parents monitor your babies activity and alerting you if there are any changes.

Here is the link to Count the Kicks website, where you can find more information about the Count the Kicks app

How can you help?

How can you help? I’m so happy you asked! It would mean the world to me if we can help Danielle and Tara reach their goal of donating a third cot. It can be our way of showing them support. Think of it as a way of telling Danielle and Jonah their Lydia has made an impact. I’m donating $25 but, you can donate what you are comfortable with. If able I’d love us to include a note with the donation that simply says “for Lydia”. Oh, the smiles on their faces when they read them… warms my heart. Thank you so much!

Be on the lookout for “Part 2- Lydia’s little brother”

Danielle and I will be talking about pregnancy after loss. How having a living, thriving baby after their stillborn daughter impacted their grief.

It was a pleasure to talk to her about a little bundle of joy I affectionately call “Mr. Cutie Pants”, otherwise know as Luke Jonah, or Lydia’s little brother. I can’t wait to share it with you.