Happy Birthday Brienna

Our sweet Brienna Marie would be six years old today. Six.

Six feels hard. She would be so much of her own person at six and it makes me sad that I don’t get to watch her grow up. As more time passes, I feel like I know less and less and I hate it.  When kids are young, you can assume certain things, certain likes and probably dislikes too. But a six year old? A six year old is becoming their own person in so many ways … would she be sassy or sweet? Precocious like her little brother, Pete? Or rambunctious like her littlest brother, James?

I found myself walloped with grief this year. It took me by complete surprise (although at this point, I should know never to be surprised) and I was borderline incapacitated with sadness. It is so difficult to put into words the pain that her loss causes. Six years feels like a lifetime, but it’s also passed in the blink of an eye.

Pat and I talk about how sometimes, we feel her loss even more now as our family grows. We watch our friends’ daughters play together and know that Brienna should be there with them. We look at the boys and laugh, thinking about their older sister rolling her eyes at them and their loud, messy ways.

Pete tells me things about Brienna all the time. He talks about her favorite color or how he takes her for rides in his pumper truck. I envy his innocence. And I love to hear about her from his perspective.

Brienna Marie, you are sorely missed. But you are oh so loved. Happy Birthday, sweet girl.


Mother’s Day 2015

Mothe’r Day is one of the single most bittersweet days of the year for me. I cry because the beautiful daughter that made me a mother isn’t here for me to hug, kiss and thank for giving me this most precious, amazing gift of motherhood. And I cry because my sons that are here fill me with a joy and happiness I never knew could be possible. If I’ve learned anything since becoming a mom, it’s that opposing emotions coexist so very strongly …
Mother’s Day is a day of celebration for sure, because every mom deserves to be recognized for their hard, selfless work. But it’s also a day of reflection for me … I can’t help but think of all the moms out there who are without their babies. Who parent from afar because their children have gone before them, the cruelest twist of fate.
I am one of the lucky moms, because although Brienna isn’t here, Peter and James are. They light up my life every single day. Motherhood is easily the most challenging job I’ve ever had. And yet at the end of the day, when the tantrums are over, the stinky feet are washed and I snuggle the boys to sleep, it’s all worth it. All the stress melts away as I sing to them and watch them drift off to sleep. It is truly a gift to be a mom. Despite it’s challenges, it’s the best, most rewarding job and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Because I got to be Brienna’s mom, I’m a better mom to Pete and James. She made me who I am today and I couldn’t be more proud to be her mother.
We had a picnic lunch at the cemetery today. We planted new flowers and mulched the beds around Brienna’s bench. Pete and James helped every step of the way and their sweaty, red faces made me want to freeze time just for an instant. All three of my babies together. Maybe not in the way I first envisioned, but together all the same. Just what this mom wanted for Mother’s Day.

Happy Birthday Brienna

Brienna would be five years old today.  Five. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that it’s been five years since I held her in my arms, breathed in her scent and tried to memorize every single feature on her little body.

Sometimes, I worry that I’m forgetting.  And yet, there are some moments that are etched in my brain with such clarity that I can relive them as if they were happening in real time. I will never forget the joy of finding out we were pregnant, or when we learned we were having a girl. I’ll never forget the heartbreak of finding out Brienna was sick. And I’ll certainly never forget being in labor, giving birth and then hearing the doctors tell us that she had no heartbeat. That our precious, teeny-tiny baby girl had died.


When I stop and let myself think about that day, really think about that day, the grief crushes me all over again.  Time marches on, but my heart still hurts.  And yet, loss and love are two sides of the same coin. Experiencing the pain of loss has made the experience of love that much richer … for us, they go hand-in-hand.

In years past, the anticipation of Brienna’s birthday felt harder than the actual day. But this year, today feels especially difficult and emotional. Five feels like a big milestone. As I watch my friends enroll their kids in kindergarten, I can’t help but wonder what Brienna would be like as a five year old.  Would she be loving Disney princesses and the movie Frozen? Probably. Would she be precocious and sweet like her little brother, Pete? Or would she be gentle and quick with a smile, like her littlest brother, James? It makes me so incredibly sad that we don’t get to know. But we do know that she is as loved as any little girl can be loved.

Beautiful flowers from great friends ...
Remembered with beautiful flowers from great friends …

We celebrate Brienna, because as sad as I am that she is not here and as much as my heart aches, I am so much better because of her.  Our family is stronger because of her.  So today, we did things to honor her memory.  We ran 6.2 miles for her 6.2 birthdate, we picked flowers for her bench and we ate mocha chip ice cream from Crescent Ridge because it used to make her dance.  And we spent a long time at the cemetery visiting our baby girl.

Brienna's 5th Birthday

It was an emotional day, but as I hugged Pete before bed and rocked James to sleep, I couldn’t help but smile through the tears.  I am so grateful to Brienna for the gift of herself. Happy 5th Birthday, our sweet Brienna Marie.  We love you and miss you so much.


 They say there is a reason,
They say that time will heal,
But neither time nor reason,
Will change the way we feel.

No one knows the heartache,
That lies behind the smile,
No one knows how many times,
We have broken down and cried.

We want to tell you something,
So there won’t be any doubt.
You’re so wonderful to think of,
But so hard to be without.
 -Author Unknown

Mother’s Day 2014

We had a great Mother’s Day this year.  Sunday morning dawned sunny and warm, so we packed up the boys and headed to the beach. We played in the sand, dipped our toes in the (freezing cold) water and just relaxed in the sun.  As I’ve mentioned before, I always feel just a little bit closer to Brienna when I’m near the water.  So walking along the beach with Pat and our boys while taking in the sights, sounds and smell of the ocean just felt good for my soul.  It was perfect.

Beach day with my boys! ️#mothersday #love

I had hoped for a peaceful afternoon at the cemetery, but with two kids, it didn’t quite happen as I envisioned! Pete was running around trying to pick flowers off the other graves, James was crying and it was just a bit chaotic.  I was sad about it for a bit, but then I realized that it’s just part of life with kids.  I am so incredibly blessed to be a mom to Brienna, Pete and James.  My boys make me happier than I ever thought possible, even amidst the chaos.  And I like to think that Brienna was smiling down on her family and feeling the love we all have for her.  She started me on this journey of motherhood, and I’m forever grateful to her for giving me such an amazing gift.  I am constantly amazed at how much love my heart can hold for my kids.  I am one lucky mom.

PF5D2784RHappy Mother’s Day to all the great mothers we know and love! We were lucky enough to see both our moms this weekend, spending Saturday with Nana and Sunday with Bana.  It was a  great weekend 🙂

2013 in Review …

… also known as the post where I link to all the posts I had at one point started and have finally finished!

April – Pete’s birthday party

June – Pete’s first time swimming

July – 4th of July

August – Vacation!

September – Finally Fall

October – Beach DayHalloween

November – Thanksgiving

December – Baker Pete; Christmas

In looking through all the posts I had in draft status, I stumbled across one called the Ghosts of Christmas Past.  I’m not sure why I never published it three years ago, but it seems as fitting now as it was then. Brienna’s story is, quite simply, a love story. And those are always worth sharing.

One of my goals for 2014 is to post something (anything!) twice a month.  I love looking back at old posts and seeing how Pete has grown and changed.  Hopefully someday he will too!  We have a lot to be excited about this year and I know I’ll want it well documented.  Please feel free to hold me accountable and call me out on any missed months 🙂

Happy New Year!

Christmas 2013

I can’t believe Christmas has come and gone!  It has been a fun (and busy) few weeks!

We are very lucky and get to see both sides of our family at the holidays.  We spent Christmas Eve with Nana, Bumpa and Lizzie and then saw most of the Quinn clan after church at Nana Q’s condo.  Pete was spoiled rotten!!  I think he was exhausted just from opening presents and playing with all his new loot.  We have been really bad at taking pictures the past several months, but here are a few we did get!

Someone had trouble containing his excitement during lunch at Nana and Bump’s before opening presents:

Having trouble containing his excitement before opening presents!

Opening presents with Nana and Bump!
Opening presents with Nana and Bump!

20131224_204648We woke up Christmas Day excited to watch Pete discover that Santa came.  He didn’t disappoint.  It was so fun to watch him realize that the presents in the living room and under the tree were for him!  His little eyes lit up when he saw his new tool bench and he immediately got to work building and playing.  He had to be reminded that there were other presents to open. Every time he opened anything, all he wanted to do was play with it immediately.

Santa came!!
Santa came – and Bailey is exhausted from waiting up all night!

After presents and breakfast, we headed to Bana and Birdie’s for the rest of Christmas Day where Pete was again spoiled rotten – and we again failed to take many pictures, oops.

Presents with Bana!
Presents with Bana!

We had a great couple of days with our families and it’s hard to believe that another Christmas is behind us.  This time of year is always bittersweet for us and while Brienna is never far from our thoughts and hearts, rediscovering the magic of Christmas through Pete has been more amazing than we ever thought possible. As Pat said on Christmas Eve, I hope every Christmas is as awesome as this one 🙂

Happy Birthday Brienna

Where does the time go? Brienna would be four years old today.  It seems impossible for that to be true, and yet it is. I remember the day our baby girl was born like it was yesterday.  I can feel the weight of her little body in my arms and I can feel the tears slide off my cheeks onto hers. I miss her.


We told Pete that today was Brienna’s birthday and that was why we were bringing her some balloons.  He was thoughtful for a minute and then said “Oh! Brienna needs a cupcake for her birthday” … I would give anything to watch her eat cupcakes on her birthday.  I hope that she’s enjoying as many as she wants in her corner of Heaven.  But more importantly, that she feels all the love from her family here on Earth.

brienna 4
         Birthday balloons and a rose from her rosebush

Happy 4th Birthday, sweet Brienna Marie.  We love you and miss you so much.


A Mother’s Love

Mother’s Day brings mixed emotions for me. I remember being petrified that no one would recognize that even though my baby was sick, I was in fact pregnant, about to be a mom and totally in love with my daughter.  Pat framed several of his favorite pictures from our maternity photo shoot and gave them to me after I got home from work that Mother’s Day night in 2009. To this day, it is one the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.  I was acknowledged as a mom, the one thing I wanted to be above all else, and it meant everything to me.

I remember hating that I didn’t have proof I was a mom.  I was pregnant for 9+ months, gave birth, held my baby in my arms, loved my baby with my whole heart and yet she wasn’t here. The badge of honor I so desperately wanted was missing.  The first time I walked around Target with Pete, I cried, because for years, I had dreamed of being able to do just that.  As I watched with envy the other moms push their kids around, I hoped and prayed that someday, it would be me.  As Pete gets older, trips to Target are by no means idyllic and yet, I still feel so lucky just to get to be there with him. I remember being that girl a few years ago and a wave of gratitude washes over me … I am his mother.

A mother’s love means an unbreakable bond. It means loving with everything you have, even at the risk of loss. It means loving despite crippling fear. And a mother’s love most certainly does not disappear in death.  I am so proud to be Brienna and Pete’s mother. My Mother’s Day wish is to spend time at the cemetery, so I get to be with both of my kids. One in my heart forever, one who holds my hand. Both who changed me profoundly.

mother's day 2013

On a much brighter note, I also want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms we know and love!  To Bana and Nana especially … we love you so much and are so grateful for your constant love, support, guidance and inspiration. I have had amazing examples of what it truly means to be a mom. Thank you.

The Christmas Spirit

For the past several years, our little household has been lacking Christmas spirit.  We learned our sweet Brienna had Trisomy 18 on Christmas Eve 2008.  So this time of year has weighed heavily on us, and I just couldn’t muster up the energy to feel happy and excited about Christmas.  Last year was certainly better than the three years prior, but happiness still felt too … fragile.  I was afraid to embrace the fact that things were good.  I felt like it could all disappear if I didn’t cling to that fear. Even writing this makes me worry that something horrible is going to happen to our family.

The fear and sadness still linger, but this year, we’re embracing Christmas.  Seeing Christmas through Pete’s eyes is incredible.  He doesn’t totally understand, but he knows something is going on and it excites him, which excites us.  We all decorated the tree together and every day he stops, turns on the lights and says “boot-i-ful tree”.  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care (and quickly removed because he loved pulling them – and their brass holders – down), but when Pete sees them, he declares it “pretty” and just stares for a minute.


He loves to sing Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls and when he wakes up from his nap, I’ll hear him singing Jingle Bells all on his own.  It’s adorable.  He knows who Santa Claus is and loves to catch a glimpse of him.  He says “Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!” all the time, but has become a bit camera shy and I haven’t been able to capture it on video.  We were out shopping this week and I’m pretty sure every person we met got a “Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!” from him.  He makes me smile, and he makes everyone he meets smile.  He’s such a special boy and it’s difficult to be anything but happy and excited around him.

We went to Edaville Railroad tonight.  I remember going there as a kid, and couldn’t wait to bring Pete.  As we boarded the train and watched him take it all in with his little face pressed against the glass, I couldn’t help but tear up just a little.  We’ve come a long way these last few years.  I feel so blessed this Christmas and so happy to be celebrating with our precious Pete.


A Happy Memory

Four years ago today, we found out we were going to be parents for the first time.  I remember like it was yesterday.  The anticipation, the hopefulness.  The overwhelming joy when I found out that we were indeed pregnant.  Running to the bookstore to buy books.  Anxiously awaiting Pat’s arrival from work so I could tell him the good news.  I wish I had a picture of myself that day to capture the joy, excitement and instant love I felt for our baby. I miss Brienna so much, but looking back on the unadulterated joy of that day makes me smile.  There is something magical about finding out you’re pregnant for the first time.  The happiness and excitement we felt on that day can never be replaced or taken away.  And I love that it’s unique to Brienna.

We took advantage of the great weather this afternoon and went to the beach.  Pat, Bailey and I walked that same beach countless times when I was pregnant with Brienna.  And today while we were there, butterflies were flitting around us the entire time (I couldn’t catch them on camera though).  It was like my whole little family was together.  And I loved it.