A Mother’s Day Letter to Myself

Dear Mama C,

This year, Mother’s Day marks the start of a new journey into motherhood. One you had never planned on taking, and one that is more than a little scary. I don’t need to tell you that you are not alone. Your own mother and father are in your corner, your brother is your greatest ally, and you have an army of superwomen (and the men who love them) who are there for anything you might need.

It’s going to be hard for a while. Your heart will need time to heal before you can feel your power again. You don’t have to be perfect. Those beautiful children seem to know how difficult this is, and they will understand your tears, and your exhaustion. They love you, and they will see your love for them shine through this (brief) period of darkness.

Mother's Day

You’ve brought so much beauty and fire to the lives of these three young souls. You haven’t been perfect, but they see how dedicated you are to growing, to learning how to be the very best parent you can be. If there’s a silver lining in any of this, it’s a chance to forge your own unique path with your children. Nobody else will be inserting themselves as you problem solve. Your kids will see you, and they will see you shine above all else.

I know you will handle this with grace. I know you’ll be the kind of mother that you wish to be. I know your kids will remark on how steady and capable you are. (Look how steady and capable you have been through all of this!) I know you’ll teach your daughters (and son) what it means to be a strong and truly independent woman who can take care of herself and still remain open to the possibilities the world has on offer.

Mother's Day

Remember how you used to fantasize about being a lone wolf, answering only to her pups? Well, the Universe works in funny ways. What will you do with this new reality? It’s time to trade in yoga pants for vintage slips and soft kimonos. This is your new stay-at-home-uniform. Don’t be tragic, be fabulous.

Sometimes brokenhearted lovers are left with nothing but memories and dreams that will never come into fruition. You get three glorious examples of how the love you’ve poured into the last nine years was absolutely worthwhile. Stay in that feeling, let the rest slide away.

You can do this. You were meant to do this, in exactly this way. It’s time to embrace this new path and move ahead in love and wisdom.

But don’t get out of bed until you absolutely have to today. You’ve earned it.

For All of The Mothers In My Life

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL of you fabulous women who have loved and nurtured children near and dear to you. In my own short experience of motherhood, I have been humbled and broken down by the magnitude of love that is both required of mothers and returned to them by the children they raise. This year is the first year that I believe I am deserving of that abundance, (it’s been a long and at times dark journey to get here) and the first year that I feel confident in my own ability to lead with love where all of my children are concerned. That confidence, that faith in my own newly discovered softness is the greatest Mother’s Day Gift I could hope for, aside from my three children of course.

I could never begin to reach for my own strength without great teachers to model myself after, so here I must honor the many mothers in my life, and the beautiful lessons they have helped me explore.

My Mom, Rachelle Skinner

Selflessness, Acceptance – My mother is relentless in her natural, free-flowing ability to care for others. It’s completely second nature to her to see to everyone else before herself. Whisking away dirty plates before you can even set down a fork, psychically connecting and then materializing the tea you are longing for, calling you at exactly the moment you most need to hear her voice. So comfortable is she with taking care of everyone, that if you try to turn the tables on her and spoil her even a little, she will put up a fight. She’s been a constant source of comfort and security for me, during some pretty dark times. I can tell her anything, and she tries to support me, even when she can’t begin to understand the choices I make. I feel like she has embraced the person that I am, and I trust that as long as I’m safe, and my children are safe, then she is happy for me. I never, ever feel like she over-steps, or that she is trying to change me. I feel that she adores me, for exactly who I am.

My Wife, Sarah Jamal

Commitment, Patience – Sarah is a deep, placid lake. Even in the face of insane kid frenzy she is cool and unflappable. When a certain fireball of a middle daughter is raging and screeching in her face, she is calm and striving to hear the pain and frustration that lies beneath the poor choice of tone and utterly indecipherable hysteria. Our Ayla isn’t the only fireball female that Sarah has applied this stalwart patience to. Sarah has remained constant and dedicated to me in moments that baffle me to this day, and I’m eternally grateful for her faith in a picture much bigger than any of the rest of us mere mortals could see. Sarah taught me what unconditional love looks like, long before I birthed a bio child, and I continue to try to deserve the gift of her heart.

My Mother-in-Love, Glenna Oleksinski

Forgiveness – Glenna could give you a lot of reasons why I should be put into a head lock, to say the least. In the earlier days of our relationship, (my relationship with her daughter, that is) the roller coaster we were on was off the rails, then on the rails, and then off the rails again. I’m sure to a protective mom, it could seem like I was in the driver’s seat, and I was doing a terrifying job at that. Despite what can only be described as my extreme asshole behavior, Glenna has been willing to wipe the slate clean and keep her heart open to me, and what a marvelous, beautiful heart it is. She’s wise, well-read, super funny, and the kind of mom who would do anything for her kids and her many grand kids. I love her dearly, I love her abuncance for her family, and I’m so grateful for another chance to be part of that love.

My Other Mother-in-Love, Khadija Jamal

Grace – Khadija mum is grace personified, and not just the beautiful, flowy kind. She moves through each moment with so much love and kindness and positive intention that you feel like you’ve been touched just by watching her. It’s a divine grace she embodies, to be sure. Always even, patient, exuding the love she feels for her family, you just want to be a better you when she’s nearby, so you can catch a glimpse of the smile that lights up her entire self. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude for her love, her incredible hospitality, her outrageously good cooking, and her faith over these last two years that we’ve been living together. I wonder if she’ll ever know how hard I’m trying to emulate her warmth?

My Aunties, Gigi and DeeDee

Joy – Not a week has gone by since the birth of my now two-and-a-half year old son where I have missed the delight of my aunties as they play with my children. One of the great blessings of my life was being raised among a tribe of fierce sisters who helped me understand what it means to be a woman. My aunts have experienced so much sadness, but despite this, continue to find joy in the simple beauty of life. The laughter of my son, the cheeky precociousness of my daughter, the willowy grace of my oldest girl; I see these gifts so sharply through my aunties’ wise and sorrow-touched eyes and I recognize the blessings I have every single day. I’m so grateful to have these incredible women here to witness the milestones moments of my children, when so many members of our tribe must now watch them from afar.

My Fairy Godmother, Gail Fisher-Taylor

Empathy – Gail has touched my life in ways that have shifted the very fiber of my being. She has helped me find the courage to look into the darkest corners of my soul, without fear of what I might find lurking there. She’s held my hand when I couldn’t find a way to love even myself, and she’s helped me see that without this self-love, I could never truly love anyone else. Gail has made it okay to feel my own pain, and hold my own heart. She’s been the mirror to my terrified eight-year-old self and showed me just how much love that little girl needs. What’s more, she’s shown me with her magic mirror that a deep ocean of love lives within me and flows deeply for anyone I wish to share it with.




Mother’s Day for the Bereaved Parent


“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’” – Mary Anne Radmacher

On Sunday, most of us are going to be spoiled in some fashion by our children who will shower us with hand-made cards and breakfast in bed as we celebrate Mother’s Day. There are mothers among us who will find this holiday incredibly difficult, mothers we know and love who bear a pain so profound that it will be carried through their lifetimes, and for them I am writing this post. On Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate the inspiring courage of the bereaved mother.

This week, I’ve been thinking of my friends Natalie and Mike. They are a young couple, recently engaged. They’re smart, athletic, funny, warm, talented, good-looking, and healthy. There are so many more attributes to describe these wonderful people, but the one quality I most want to share with you is their bravery. In early September, at seven months pregnant, our friends lost their little baby, a son they named Aemon. Our circle felt the incredible ripple of this devastating loss, and I have been humbled and inspired at how Mike and Nat have wrapped themselves in a cloak of love and moved forward, one step at a time, through their grief.

I can’t imagine how losing a child could feel. In fact, the idea of such sorrow afflicting anyone I know or love has been so terrifying, that sometimes when I talk to Nat or Mike, I don’t really know what to say. In those moments, I say; “I love you.” Those words are the most important ones, I think.

Yesterday Mike, who is the more seasoned writer of the two, (Nat is a dancer and aerialist and tells her stories with her body) posted an incredible letter on his Facebook timeline. I asked him if I could share it with you, and he graciously permitted me to post. Below Mike’s letter are some resources for parents who are grieving. Nat and Mike both wanted me to make these available to you and anyone you know who might benefit. Please don’t be afraid to share, and please do take the time to explore these resources if you have a friend or relative who has experienced infant death. You will learn so much about how you can help.

Dear friends,

I want to share an important story that I feel I’ve been keeping off of Facebook for much too long. For the last several months I haven’t felt the strength to share this very personal story online with essentially everyone I know, but I feel that by not sharing the story I’m hiding a major part of myself, and I don’t want to do that anymore.

Last August I shared an image hinting that my darling love Natalie and I were expecting our first child, due in late October. Just a few weeks after sharing that photo, we found out that our baby had passed away. At dusk on Friday, September 6th Natalie gave birth to our beautiful son, Aemon. We won’t ever know why he wasn’t able to stay with us. He was perfect in every way, except that his heart had stopped beating.

Of course the loss was the most shocking and devastating thing we’ve ever experienced. For the last several months it’s been the love and support of the people closest to us that has sustained us, yet I’ve been reluctant to talk about our experience with people outside that close circle. I’m over that reluctance.

A meet-up with an old friend this week reminded me how hard we find it to talk about death, or rather how much easier it seems to be not to talk about it. This is much more the case when the person who left us is a baby that barely anyone ever got to physically interact with. I imagine that someone hearing about our kind of loss understands that it must be very severe and weighty, but also finds it kind of intangible. I imagine that that must be very disorienting, which might help explain why discussion of infant death is one of the gigantic taboos we live with – and a very alienating one. People carefully seek to protect our feelings and prevent us further pain, but for the record I want to point out that that effort is misdirected.

Most bereaved parents will tell you that no amount of discussion about their loss and their baby will make them feel worse. On the contrary, Natalie and I love talking about Aemon. Our love and our memories of him are all that we have left, and it brings us great joy to share them. My boy had big feet and a head of thick dark hair like me. Before he left us he liked to bug his mother, like me. If you’d like to know more, I would be happy to tell you.

This weekend as we all celebrate mothers and the magic of their love, please take a minute to think of the countless women who do not have a child to hold in their arms but who still hold that same bottomless love in their hearts. And while I have your attention: do be good to one another. Everyone really is fighting a hard battle, and all life really is a miracle.

Thanks for reading.

The butterfly is a symbol for infant mortality. Baby Butterfly by Sweeper22

The butterfly is a symbol for infant mortality. Baby Butterfly by Sweeper22


Some resources that Natalie and Mike wanted to share:


The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network (P.A.I.L)

“There is no Footprint too small to leave an imprint on this world”

PAIL Network is a registered Canadian charity committed to making a positive difference to those affected by pregnancy and infant loss. This incredible service has a wide-ranging network, mostly powered by women who have lost children of their own. This is an incredible resource linking to medical care, support groups, and a wealth of other valuable information for parents who are grieving the loss of a baby.



Bereaved Families of Ontario

Their website is a bit dated and clinical, but this is a comprehensive resource for families who are grieving the loss of any family member. There are additional tools for families who have had to deal with completed suicide, sudden violent loss, and for children who are dealing with grief.



Carly Marie, Project Heal

“A mother is not defined by the number of children you can see, but by the love that she holds in her heart.” – Franchesca Cox

This incredible blog, and virtual art experience was created by a mother who experienced the stillbirth of her son and went on to create this beautiful place of hope and healing. My words can’t do this justice, I encourage all of you to visit and experience this site.




Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

My friends learned of this incredible initiative only after they left the hospital, so I want to spread the word because I was deeply moved by what this organization is doing. NILMDTS is a volunteer collective of professional photographers with a wide network who will visit the hospital and take portraits of your baby so you have a keepsake of your beautiful child. They even have resources on their site for medical professionals, with instructions on posing and lighting, in case they aren’t able to send a photographer to your location. Friends and loved ones, I hope you never have to remember that this service exists, but if anyone you love is experiencing still birth, please make them aware of this incredible resource. Many parents can’t bear the idea of a photo in the moment, but nearly all of them are grateful to have captured the memory in hindsight. These beautiful portraits often go on to occupy the space they deserve beside photos of other family members and loved ones. Photographer friends, there is no greater work that you can do.



GAPPS – The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, an initiative from Seattle Children’s Hospital produced this beautiful video:

Return To Zero

This feature length film starring Minnie Driver is due to be released on the Lifetime Network in Canada on May 17th. The star-studded cast features the likes of Alfred Molina and Kathy Baker and centers on the story of a successful couple who lose their first baby to stillbirth, on of the first times this subject is explored in popular media.

Mothers, and fathers, who have loved so deeply and felt such profound loss, know that our hearts and our hopes are with you on Mother’s Day and every day. I for one, am happy and honoured to listen whenever you want to share stories of your beautiful children.