A Bucket List for Life After Baby Loss

July 2, 2013


A Bucket List for 30. 30 changed my life.

As I lay in my bed 38 weeks pregnant, swollen and heavy with water retention and anticipation of becoming a new mom, I perused the Internet and put in the Google search “30 things to do before you’re 30.”

It was my 30th birthday and I was preparing for motherhood and entering a journey unknown. As the search results brought up things to do before you turn 30, such as skydiving, having a one night stand and skinny dipping in Thailand, I was sad at knowing I would not accomplish all of these exotic adventures I once so vigorously sought out. As I sighed and patted my large belly, I realized with calm contentment that I would need to put my childish need for novelty behind me as Nora would soon be born and she was the priority now.

Putting down the computer and awkwardly reaching for the worn journal in the night stand drawer, I fumbled around and pulled out the book that held bucket lists of the past, from the month before I met Nick in 2008 to our combined bucket lists we created with each other early on in dating.

A smirk arose and brightened my now chubby checks as I read all the Bucket List goals Nick and I had already accomplished:

• Fall more deeply in love with each other every day…check.
• Get engaged…check
• Marry my best friend…check
• Buy a house with a fireplace, nice kitchen, deck, and fenced in back yard for our dog, George… check.
• Get pregnant…check.
• Become a mom at 30…check (wow! I was specific on that one).

A part of me was lost as I read and re-read our past bucket lists. I had accomplished everything, as planned, in order, and on time. A strange sensation of pride and emptiness flooded me as I didn’t know what to write for my next decade, for 30 and beyond. I had no road map of what lay ahead. My usual twenty something goals were either complete or not appropriate for life with a baby.

I was confused. I didn’t know what to expect going into 30 as a new mother. I was excited and sad…sad about closing the door on youth not only with a number, but with the arrival of a child. When I got married I asked my mom, when she felt like an adult for the first time, as I didn’t at my nuptials. She replied with, “When I had children.” That made sense to me, so the arrival of Nora would also end my youth at age 30. How fitting I thought, and decided to hold off on writing my next decade of bucket list goals until then.

Little did I know, on my 30th birthday, how much Nora’s arrival really would change my life and bucket list. Not in the way expected through the joys of motherhood but through her sorrows instead.

Nora’s life and death have taught me that life is not guaranteed. Time is not promised and moments can matter more than years, depending on how you use them.

I have now written my bucket list for the first year of thirty and beyond. I hope that once again my goals are accomplished with an eerie ease as they were in my twenties. Since now I look back and sadly realize that nowhere on my old lists did it say, “Become a bereaved parent.” This wasn’t in the life plan.

Now that it is part of my reality, I must learn how to make do.

So here is my Bucket List for a Life After Baby Loss…

1. Throw caution to the wind.
2. Follow your dreams – (I want to write a book).
3. Hold onto hope (about future pregnancies) no matter how elusive hope might seem.
4. Become a mom to a living child.
5. Show my love for my husband every day.
6. Do rewarding work through devoting a career to helping others.
7. Travel – France this time.
8. Set goals – like running a half-marathon.
9. Find my voice and be true to it.
10. Relax, life is too short to worry.
11. Imagine your ideal life and live it, if only for moments at a time and even if only in your imagination and dreams.
12. Support Nick as he starts his own business. Risky, but what is risk without reward.
13. Find my creativity and swim in it by starting an Etsy shop with Awesome Aunt Kristi. Coming soon!
14. Do good in her name: “In honor of Nora.”
15. Snuggle and cuddle with little man (my dog) and husband every chance I get.
16. Eat healthy and good food to nurture my body and support my soul.
17. Meditate. Enough said.
18. Find God, or my version of her.
19. Spend as much time possible with family and friends – make connections a priority.
20. Become friends with grief. She’s going to be around for a while, if not a lifetime. We might as well be on good terms.
21. Let go and let in.
22. Find acceptance and peace.
23. Find joy in my moments of grief. Learning how to enjoy the smaller things again, for they are the big things. Or so I have heard.
25. Let her, Nora, rest in peace and release her soul.
26. Dedicate the year to remembering Nora and honoring my grief.
27. Let healing in whenever she whispers my name.
28. Follow my joy and reason for being if it is to be a therapist and help others or to drink a nice cup of tea. Follow it as Dorothy followed the yellow brick road back to her place of joy, her home.
29. Feel, Heal, and Grow and accept the transformation of whatever might be.
30. Forgive. Forgive myself, others, the Universe. Just learn how to forgive. Enough said.

What would your Bucket List for Life After Child Loss have on it?

  • Lindsey Henke

    Lindsey is a baby loss mom, writer, and clinical social worker. She writes about her journey through grief after child loss using her professional knowledge to heal her personal pain on her blog Stillborn and Still Breathing.

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