The Forest of Grief- How To Support Someone Through The Loss of Their Child- Mighty Gabriel

By Nicole Keesecker Plourde
This post made possible by the generous support of CatBird Baby Carriers.
Note from the editor: When Nicole and Beth shared the story of Mighty Gabriel with us we knew it was a story we wanted to help share. When they talked about how they walked with their friends through their grief, we knew the lessons they learned were ones we wanted to pass on. Mourning the loss of a child is difficult beyond words, being the friend of someone going through such pain often feels like a hopeless situation. These practical suggestions for how to love and support someone we care for in the midst of the greatest pain of their lives won’t eliminate their suffering but it can help them know they are not alone. If you are grieving the loss of a child, please know that we are here for you, TLB and the wonderful moms running CatBird Baby are ready to support and care for you, our hearts ache for you with the loss you have endured. You are not alone. ~Jessica 

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Being the friend of someone who is grieving the loss of a child, be it through pregnancy loss or after their child was born, can be an overwhelming position to be in. How do we care? How do we support? How in the world do we appropriately honor their grief without causing them more pain? Is that even possible? While I don’t have all the answers and I’m learning myself, I wanted to share these 5 points with you:

  1. Be there. No really, show up. With food or a mop to clean their bathroom, whatever it is, they’ve already lost so much, they shouldn’t lose friends too. 
  2. Stick around. Our lives are busy and our attention spans short. We will move on to the next thing—they will not. Continue to reach out to your friend even after the initial event has passed. Grief never really stops; it is carried. They will need you three months from now, three years from now and three decades from now.
  3. Say their child’s name. Mentioning their loved one will not make your friend more sad than they already feel. That’s not possible. It tells them that their child has not been forgotten.
  4. Follow their lead. Some days will be better than others. The grief is theirs and not yours. Let them do things their way and be there to support them.
  5. Blanket them with your love. Listen and be honest. Hug more and talk less (I need to work on this one). Then love some more.

I wish I didn’t have to write any of this, but I do. Gabriel taught me that walking through the forest of grief is never something any of us should have to do alone. Here is his story.

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Mighty Gabriel’s Forest

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and this year tragedy hit a little too close to home. The Catbird Baby carrier I gifted to my friends and fellow parents would never be used. Their beautiful baby boy, Gabriel Anthony Allen, was born on June 24, 2015 and passed peacefully in their arms just 64 days later. No parent should have to go through what they have. And at Catbird Baby we want to honor baby Gabriel and bring awareness to the disease that took him from us. We want to share his family’s story to bring people together, to find a cure, to let everyone who has lost a child know that they are not alone.

Gabriel had Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Even his mother, a family physician, hadn’t heard of it. SMA is a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants. SMA is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. This means that, generally, both parents must pass on a faulty gene for the child to have SMA. There are four different types of SMA. SMA type I—the kind Gabriel had—is the most severe and also the most common. Babies with type I usually face greater physical challenges than individuals with other types of SMA. The expected lifespan of a child with SMA type I can vary dramatically based on many factors.

There were no warning signs. An induced, unmedicated birth followed a healthy and happy pregnancy. Gabriel had good APGAR scores and passed all of the screening tests. He nursed like a pro just minutes after birth. Then the nurses noticed that he was a little “floppy.” Low muscle tone in very young infants is often the first sign of SMA type 1. He stayed in the hospital for observation and more tests. Everything came back normal. They took Gabriel home.

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They enjoyed time together as a family. Big sister, Eleanor, jockeyed for space on her mama’s lap and at the breast. Although a bit tricky at times, everyone got what they needed. All was right with the world.

Then one day he had an episode of blue lips while nursing and that night he was struggling with his latch. After a visit to the doctor everything seemed okay. But, a few days later, Gabriel was working hard to breathe and his whole face turned gray. A trip to the ER, followed by helicopter ride to the Children’s Hospital ended with a stay in the PICU. After a couple days he was too tired to nurse. He wouldn’t even take a bottle nipple. He needed help breathing, so his mama started pumping day and night so that he could receive her nourishment from a feeding tube.

At four weeks old Gabriel was diagnosed with SMA. As his respiratory system as struggling, his brain was developing. He wanted to play, like any other baby. He was fussy and hated to poop, just like any other baby. He was loved and adored, just like any other baby. There were no easy choices. Life at the hospital was hard. A plan was made to care for Gabriel at home.

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After 30 days in the hospital, the family reunited at home. Gabriel’s bedroom windows faced the woods. They sang, played music and read books. They spent time outside when they could. His sister enjoyed singing “Twinkle, Twinkle.”

They had been home from the hospital for two weeks. Gabriel’s breathing became more shallow. After a clear, warm and sunny spent in the woods, Gabriel died in his parents’ arms.

Gabriel’s short life has meaning. Gabriel taught everyone in his corner of the universe how to love deeply, and to live in the moment. We will hold our children closer, and speak of love and life. His mama donated a cooler full of breastmilk to a local mom, sharing the milk her body made for him with another baby in need, a healing move for more than just one.

And, it just so happened, that one of Catbird Baby’s new mei tai prints featured a forest—just like the one outside Gabriel’s window—filled with deer, rabbits and foxes. We knew. It was mighty Gabriel’s forest.

Might Gabriel CatBird print

MightyGabriel Catbird MT

He never grew up to run and explore the wonderland outside his window or learn to skip rocks alongside his sister. But we know that his spirit lives on in the whisper of the wind, the rustling of the leaves, in the playfulness and purposefulness that is nature.

A portion of all CatBird Baby Mighty Gabriel’s Forest mei tai sales will go to cureSMA, an organization that funds research for the treatment of and cure for SMA. To honor Gabriel, the little guy who never got to go in his own carrier, the CatBird family is walking through the forest of grief with our friends and hoping to inspire others to do the same. 

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Help us spread the word, find a cure and stand with our friends and loved ones who grieve the loss of a child. Nobody should walk the forest of grief alone and we hope that together not only can we support each other, we can also help find effective treatment and cure for future little ones with SMA. For Gabriel.

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To learn more about SMA visit cureSMA.org.

To learn more about Mighty Gabriel and his story visit here.

To learn more about surviving child loss and infertility visit this site.

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Nicole is the Director of Marketing for Catbird Baby. When she’s not talking about baby carriers, she’s usually wearing one while playing mom to her three amazing girls with a coffee in one hand and her phone in other.
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Free to be SAFE!- #TLBsafeKids with Clek

#TLBsafeKids

Hey Leakies,

It’s time to talk about practicing safe…ty.

We’re not here to feed into any anxiety or to cause any stress about your family’s safety.

Be honest, you probably do that just fine on your own.

Since so many of us parents have no problem worrying about our families we wanted to start something to actually help reduce that worry.

I know, right? How are we going to do that without alcohol?

Community. Better than fine wine.

Through the month of September and even far beyond we’re building community to share information, tell our stories, confess our fears, admit our mistakes, and help each other work out the right safety decisions for our families. Free of judgment, #TLBsafeKids respects the individual responsibility of parents for their family and trust them to make the best informed safety decisions according to their individual resources, circumstances, and access to information.

Respecting each other, ourselves, and our children, #TLBsafeKids brings together parents concerned about safety around information, ideas, and sharing our stories. And we believe it can be fun. Though there are aspects of safety conversations and education that can be scary, when we approach it with respect and a sense of fun it can become a part of parenting that isn’t dominated by fear and instead builds confidence in ourselves, our communities, and most importantly, our children. Together we are journeying toward health, safety, confidence, and awareness. Not as isolated individuals, but as a family, a community. With each other and with our kids, we’re taking steps to be confidently and freely safe. It may mean getting your car seat installation checked, reassessing your home for safety hazards, changing how you talk to your children, adjusting your sleep arrangements, fixing something broken in your home, you name it, you define what #TLBsafeKids looks like for you.

It all began in August 2014 with the first ever #TLBmoves and it took off. We cheered on some working on (and succeeding) quitting smoking, others had step goals to hit, there were those that started yoga or crossfit or pilates every day, and others started having salads every day. Getting moving together brought us closer together and we discovered that thanks to the global village of the internet, we could cheer each other on and have fun in the process. When we found ourselves stuck, we could be honest about the challenges we were facing and there would be no judgment, just support and encouragement. It was inspiring and we all wanted to keep moving. Nobody was judged and everyone was supported.

Not long after that we began dreaming about other ways we could support each other and other areas that can be difficult to address alone or where we fear judgment. Safety quickly emerged as an area that where many of needed judgment-free support and information sharing. And to safely admit our missteps along the way.

So #TLBsafeKids was born.

From sleep to babywearing, from car seats to home safety, from relationships to skin care, from health to cleaning products and so much more, we’re talking about it all with #TLBsafeKids and daring to honestly share the journey with each other without judgment. Ultimately, we believe this is the only way we can actually succeed.

#TLBsafeKids isn’t about wrapping our children in bubble wrap and keeping them from experiencing the world around them. Respectful of ourselves and our children, #TLBsafeKids aims to help each of us, parents and children alike, to tap into our own power to make confident decisions assessing risk, utilizing products, and employing strategies that allow us to live life to the fullest while being safe.

We hope you’ll join us.

It’s time for #TLBsafeKids!

Whatever area concerns you the most, our #TLBsafeKids community is here to support you. We may not have all the answers but you have our support in finding them.

Whatever your goal, you can join us for #TLBsafeKids!  This is all about embracing an intentional lifestyle that isn’t encumbered by safe practices but enhanced by them. No matter where you’re starting from and we’re here to support each other completely free of judgment each step of the way.

We have a team to help provide some inspiration, not with dictating how you decide to keep you family safe, #TLBsafeKids isn’t about acquiring a certain set of safety rules, but honest and respectful sharing of the journey we’re all on to keep our children safe. Kids in tow and personal goals put out there, our team isn’t to glamorize the journey, simply to share together one step at a time.

#TeamTLBsafeKids! Meet the five mamas who will be sharing their #TLBsafeKids journeys during the month of September:

Jessica: Founder, owner, and author of The Leaky Boob Facebook group and website; mother of six girls, ages 3, 5, 7, 12, 14, and 16.

Jasmine: is a stay at home mom of 4, 2 in heaven and 2 boys ages 4.5 years old and 7 months. Her eldest has Autism and they are currently implementing some new safety strategies according to his needs. Jasmine is a babywearing group leader in the Pacific Northwest.

Kileah: Member of TLB’s editorial team; mother of four children, ages 7, 5, 3 and 22 months. Kileah loves canning, cooking, and being with her family.

Brianne: work from home mom of 3 children, ages 11, 6, and 3 years old. Brianne is married to a fitness enthusiast but has struggled to find time for herself to do the same.

Meet our partners:

#TLBsafeKids is a big undertaking and we are so thrilled to be working with brands we believe in to bring you this event. Our partners really want to see families discovering the best safety practices for them! With information, education, and support, our partner brands is going out of their way to support YOU. Culminating with a giveaway featuring the best of all our partnering brands for #TLBsafeKids. We’ll be sharing photos of #TeamTLBsafeKids using gear from the following brands:

 

#TLBsafekids clek sponsor

Clek. Elemental safety is the Clek approach — the Clek way of thinking is about the performance of each of their products and the lives they are protecting. Essential elements and our methodology enable them to develop systems that work together to protect our kids. Manufactured in North America with a commitment to innovation without compromise and sustainability which is evident in their recycling program. Clek is striving to keep our kids safe today and tomorrow.

 

#TLBsafekids with California baby, skin deep safetyCalifornia Baby. With a mission to only create the safest natural products to soothe, nourish and smooth out life’s rough patches the natural way: one baby, one kid, one family at a time; California Baby makes it a priority to keep our kids safe from head to toe. They’re obsessed with purity and sustainability in every part of the process, from ingredient selection to manufacturing to packaging and beyond. With California Baby moms and dads who can rest easier knowing that they haven’t brought another unsustainable, toxic product into the house.

Newton Logo

 

Newton. A breathable crib mattress unlike any other. No matter where your baby sleeps, in their own room in a crib, in a crib side-car with your bed, in a crib in your room, or on a Montessori style bed on the floor, a breathable sleeping surface for you little one will let you breath easier too. Newton knows that your baby’s safety comes first and they also know how much you want to give them the right start in life. As experts in the area of sleep, they know just how important good sleep is for both of you. This is why they have devoted our time and expertise to creating a crib mattress that is not only safer, but also more comfortable.

#TLBsafeKids Health safety sponsor Crane

 

Crane. Since 2005, Crane USA has taken the lead in putting the “fun” into cool mist humidifiers, air purifiers, and space heating with a commitment to design for better living. Knowing just how much the air we breath impacts our health and safety, Crane products are functional and efficient at fulfilling your home health needs while communicating an appreciation for elegant design. With a unique sense of design and unwavering commitment to quality Crane continues to create their own distinctive interpretation of humidity, air quality, and heating solutions while remaining a step ahead of the crowd.

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CatBird Baby. Designed by a mom who needed help carrying everything with her baby, CatBird Baby Carriers are designed to be practical, stylish, comfortable, and easy to use. With a variety of products to support babywearing and make the babywearing experience even more enjoyable, CatBird Carriers are designed by a mom for moms and dads. Offering hybrid carriers along with standard designs, CatBird Carriers listens to parents and what they are looking for in a babycarrier.

Rhoost #TLBsafeKids partnering brand

Rhoost. Rhoost’s goal is to create products that allow parents to spend more time having fun with their kids, and less time worrying about them.  They are committed to creating innovative solutions that are safe for babies, safe for the environment, and easy to use. And they’ve succeeded. From baby grooming to cord winders, from finger guards to outlet covers and cabinet closures, Rhoost supports parents in safe, easy living.

When?
#TLBsafeKids runs run from September 1st-30st, 2015, but we hope you’ll keep growing, learning, and sharing long after the end of the month! (We may have something up our sleeves to that end, too!)

How?
Participation is up to you. How do you want to be involved? Want to share your story? Have some specific safety concerns you want to address in your own home? Are you passionate about certain aspects of safety and want to support others in learning about it? Is sharing the process and seeing how others are putting safe practices into place in their home helpful for you? Whatever it is, there are options for finding the way to participate that works best for you and your goals.

Where?
Anyone, anywhere can participate! We’ll be announcing some fun prizes from our brand partners this month, and those are limited to the United States at this time, but the world is your oyster if you want to get active with us!

JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP (Please note: this is a co-ed community where you’ll find support as we get active and learn about safety together. Judgement free! Come as you are, this group is your #TLBsafeKids tribe!)

Who?
You, your friends, your kids, your partner, your boss, your mom, your dad… anyone!  Though The Leaky Boob is focused on encouraging families primarily through breastfeeding, we support breastfeeding moms and everyone that supports them.  Breastfeeding isn’t a requirement to participate with TLB and #TLBsafeKids.

We’ll have more updates soon – in the meantime, please follow TLB on Instagram to keep up with #TLBsafeKids. Use the hashtag #TLBsafeKids on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share your pics. We want to see what you’re doing to keep respectfully keep your family safe and share the journey with you!

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