Some time ago, I was scrolling aimlessly through my social media newsfeed when I came across this post. Being the sucker for punishment that I am, I proceeded to read the article despite gleaning from the click bait title that nothing good would come of it. Long story short, it ended up being one of many posts floating around cyberspace documenting the incredible survival of a “miracle baby” who managed to beat the odds of a grim medical prognosis made during pregnancy.

Obviously, this in and of itself is not problematic. As a mother who knows the despair of watching her newborn baby die in her arms, the last thing I want is for other families to join the tragic child loss club. Instead, it was this excerpt in particular that left me reeling:

The family never gave up on their miracle baby for a second. Maybe it was their unwavering hope that helped [him] develop into a strong, healthy boy.”

There it was—the omnipresent mantra powered by the prosperity gospel paradigm which shaped my Christian faith while growing up: Believe enough, pray enough, hope enough, and God will deliver positive results. Of course, this paradigm is itself a product of the broader New Thought movement that defines our culture in many ways: Choose to have positive thoughts, and positive outcomes will ultimately follow.

It goes without saying why these glib sentiments pour salt in the loss wounds of bereaved parents. I personally know several loss mamas who learned at their second trimester anatomy scans that their babies had a fatal genetic condition, but chose to carry their pregnancies to term anyway, hoping and praying every day that their children would survive. In all these cases, their babies died before or shortly after birth. So does this mean they simply didn’t have enough hope to heal their babies’ bodies?

I also know a number of women who lost their children to sudden complications at the end of an otherwise textbook pregnancy. Like me, some of these mothers had to make the heart wrenching decision to remove their babies’ life supports after learning that they wouldn’t survive—sometimes hours, sometimes days, and sometimes weeks after giving birth. Does this mean we didn’t have enough faith and positivity to overcome our children’s dire conditions?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with clinging to positivity during periods of struggle and uncertainty. But many people don’t realize how hurtful it is for those who have suffered the worst types of hardship to hear our more fortunate peers attribute their positive outcomes to hope and faith. After all, I never took Leah’s safety for granted during my pregnancy, and I prayed every day that God would protect her. Likewise, when I received her devastating prognosis mere hours after her birth, I prayed for a miracle, promising God that I would love her and care for her for the rest of my life, no matter what condition she was in. As it is, hearing other people say that their hope, faith, and prayers are responsible for landing them a new job, healing a loved one of an illness or injury, or keeping their children healthy and safe feels like a callous slap in the face.


As my due date with Leah’s brother draws nearer, I have been reflecting on how my understanding of faith has evolved since this time last year. To be sure, “faith” was already a complex concept for me during my pregnancy with Leah. As I inched my way through the first and second anxiety-ridden trimesters, I wanted to believe that God loved my daughter enough to protect her from harm, and I always thanked Him for answering my prayers whenever I received reassuring ultrasound or blood test results. But at the same time, I was aware of how frequently pregnancy and infant loss occurred. If God didn’t intervene to save these other babies, despite their mothers’ hopes and prayers, why should I believe that my daughter and I were guaranteed His personal protection?

When I confided in others about my fears of miscarriage and stillbirth, I was frequently told to “have faith.” And by the final weeks of my pregnancy, I finally did. After making it to the third trimester with no cause for concern in sight, I was simply bursting at the seams with faith. I had faith that God had been answering my daily prayers for Leah’s protection, and that He would continue to do so until she was finally out of my womb and safe in my arms. I had faith that my healthy female body, in all its corporeal wisdom, knew how to carry a pregnancy to term and birth a child into the world safely. I had faith that the people around me knew what they were talking about when they told me not to worry, because they were certain that everything would be okay.

It is painful to look back and reflect on how differently things might have turned out if perhaps I hadn’t had so much faith. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gone to the hospital immediately after Leah missed her post-dinner kick session. Instead, I dismissed the encroaching worry and decided to choose faith over fear—after all, God surely wouldn’t forsake us after bringing us this far, plus everyone says that babies start to slow down right before labour. As evening turned to night and her movements didn’t change, it became harder to ignore my anxiety’s alarm bells, yet I still told myself that things must be okay—after all, people constantly assured me throughout my pregnancy that my worst-case scenario fears were unwarranted, and until this point they had been correct.

Needless to say, my understanding of faith during my current pregnancy has been shaken up to the point of incoherence. I still pray for my son’s protection every day, because it is literally all I can do, but this does not come without a list of caveats. If this boy makes it into the world unscathed, it will be difficult to attribute his positive outcome to answered prayer when I prayed just as vigilantly for my daughter’s safety each and every day that I carried her. Simply put, I have a hard time believing that a benevolent and omnipotent God would decide to actively protect one of my precious babies, while allowing the other one to suffer and die.

28 weeks

Leah’s brother at 28 weeks gestation

And yet it isn’t quite that simple. There are days when I am so desperate to believe that this boy will be born healthy—and so adamant that there must be order in the chaos—that I indulge in the same epistemological hoop-jumping that causes me to roll my eyes at other Christians: Maybe Leah was destined for Heaven this whole time, and God made me her mother because He knew I would love her fiercely during her brief life and after her death. Maybe she belongs with God and this boy is the child I’m supposed to raise on earth. Maybe God allowed this to happen because He knew I would be strong enough to use my suffering to help other mothers whose children have died.  

For me, faith now means accepting that I will never have the answers to these theological ruminations. As it is, I simply don’t want to believe that a benevolent God with the capacity to answer prayer would actively “bless” a privileged minority with comfortable lives and healthy families, while leaving many others to endure the worst kinds of suffering. As comforting as it is to believe that God is an omnipotent micromanager who is perpetually on-call to answer our prayers, it seems far more likely that the beautiful and devastating things that happen in our lives are all part and parcel of the broken world we live in—a world whose ongoing chaos just happens to benefit some people more than others. And yet, if God is real, it is not for me to define His nature or His role in the universe. The truth is that I simply don’t know.

But one thing I do know is that, while my grief for Leah has brought me to the darkest emotional places imaginable, it has not left me without faith. When I began writing this post, I had intended to discuss an article that I encountered about a month after Leah’s death. Like the post mentioned above, this viral story documented a family whose baby girl, Jocelyn, had been born alive and seemingly healthy after prenatal testing delivered a fatal medical prognosis. Christian media platforms and social media users naturally clung to this story like a barnacle, praising God for rewarding the family’s unwavering faith with His miraculous healing. I remember how this ignited visceral rage within me while my grief was still so fresh and raw—how dare these people give glory to God for healing this baby after He stood by and allowed my daughter to suffer and die.

As it turns out, while she had initially beaten the odds by making it into the world alive, baby Jocelyn died suddenly of continued complications at three months old—despite her family’s continued hope, faith, and prayers. When I read this update (which, unsurprisingly, did not spread across the Christian corners of the internet like wildfire), I broke down and cried. I cried for Jocelyn’s mother, who was walking the same devastating path as me and the other loss mamas I know. I also spent some time looking at photos of her beautiful baby girl, who was still so loved and cherished by her family. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, it hit me: If there is a God, and if there is a Heaven, Jocelyn is there with my own much-loved daughter right now, along with all the other children whose unjust deaths have left gaping wounds on their parents’ hearts.

Do I know this for sure? No, of course not.

Do I hope this is true? Yes, with every fiber of my being.

You see, my current understanding of faith is that it isn’t synonymous with certainty. For some Christians, this may not qualify as “true” faith at all. But for now it is the best that my shattered heart and broken spirit can muster. And, despite what other people may theologize, I believe it is enough.          

Mother’s Day

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day for those in Canada, the United States, and a number of other countries. It is fair to say that I have been reflecting far more on this upcoming occasion than I would be if Leah was alive. While growing up, my family never commemorated Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day, for that matter) with memorable traditions, so it is unlikely that I would have given much thought to it this year if I was a normal mother whose daily existence was not defined by the anguish of infant loss.

In many ways, it is wholly appropriate that I write this post on International Bereaved Mother’s Day. Since 2010, this day has been set aside to honour the many women whose mothering journeys are shaped by the unique grief that accompanies child loss, and it is especially significant for mothers without living children. Even so, it is important for non-bereaved people to purposefully include loss mamas and their deceased children in Mother’s Day traditions, thereby validating the complex emotions and experiences that shape their day to day lives. Unfortunately, as I and the many mothers who have walked this devastating path before me know too well, this is not the reality of the culture we live in.

Leah mothers day

A special thank you to Danielle at Jensen Grey for creating this Mother’s Day wreath for Leah

As Mother’s Day draws nearer, I have also been reflecting on how it will shape my first grief season as a bereaved mother. You see, my baby showers were held on Mother’s Day weekend, just over a month before my June 17 due date. It is ironic that, this time last year, Mother’s Day marked the beginning of the end of my hopes and dreams for Leah’s life. After eight months of grueling anxiety, I was finally confident enough to let go of my fear and plunge into the pregnancy bliss that I hadn’t yet allowed myself to feel. After eight months of cautious optimism and speaking about Leah in terms of “if” rather than “when,” I allowed myself to envision every aspect of my life with the daughter whom I had fallen head-over-heels in love with. And, after eight months of unyielding prayer that God would protect my baby from harm, I allowed myself to believe that He had personally escorted both of us to the finish line, and that He would continue to answer my daily pleas for her safety until I could finally wrap her in my loving arms.

My heart has never been so full of joy and gratitude as it was during those precious weeks between my Mother’s Day showers and Leah’s birthday. With my PhD dissertation defended and my teaching obligations for the year completed, my sunny spring days were filled with purposeful walks, thankful prayers, and unbridled anticipation. I was so ready to finally meet, hold, and kiss the girl who would complete my family. As I laundered her clothes, assembled her bassinet, and installed her car seat, I experienced happiness like I had never known before—a pure, untethered sort of happiness that grief will never allow me to feel again.


May 7, 2016

Needless to say, my current mothering journey could not be more different from what I had envisioned this time last year. For me, being a mother now means shedding tears each day for a dark-haired girl whose death has left an unfillable void in my life. It means never being able to simply enjoy occasions like Mother’s Day, Christmas, or birthdays without grieving for my firstborn daughter, whose absence will always be felt. It means living with PTSD that can be triggered by things that non-bereaved people may deem unreasonable, such as attending baby showers, hearing newborn cries in the street, or being inundated with photos of happy, intact families on social media. It means hesitating each time someone asks me how many children I have, knowing that my painful truth is probably not the answer they want to hear. It means lacking the emotional capacity to feel true joy during my current pregnancy, understanding that the son I now carry is not guaranteed a long, healthy life on this earth anymore than Leah was.

In my life, being a mother ultimately means claiming whatever space I can for myself and my daughter by speaking her name and sharing her story, even when it makes other people uncomfortable. Since bereaved parents do not enjoy the privilege of watching our children grow and change before our eyes each day, we care for them by continually reminding the world that they were here, that they are loved, and that their lives matter. To be sure, keeping our children’s memories alive cannot compensate us for the lifetime of memories we have been robbed of, but each day we seize these opportunities with every ounce of love that our broken hearts hold, because it is literally all we can do.

And so, to my fellow loss mamas, I wish you a gentle Bereaved Mother’s Day. To everyone else, I ask that you hold space for these parents and their much-missed children today, next Sunday, and on each bittersweet Mother’s Day the future brings.