You are currently viewing Episode 35 – Love Letters to Moms Pregnant After Loss

Episode 35 – Love Letters to Moms Pregnant After Loss

Today’s guests are both Mental Health Therapists and loss moms.

Emily Long @long.emily and Lindsey Henke @pregnancyafterlosssupport are here to talk about their new book, Pregnancy After Loss Support: Love Letters to Moms Pregnant After Loss. It is a collection of beautiful essays written to those walking this path behind the writers.

We talk about how the book was created, a few bumps along the way to launching it, and what messages Lindsey and Emily think are most important for people to hear at this special but scary time of Pregnancy After Loss.  

Wherever you are on your journey, and even if you won’t be carrying another baby, You are going to get exactly what you need from this episode.

To purchase the book on Amazon, click here

To purchase Emily’s other books, click here

Pregnancy After Loss Support, click here

FREE Pregnancy After Loss journal prompts

Find me on Instagram @amy.smoothstonescoaching

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Music provided by ZingDog / Pond5

Photo provided by Emily Long


Welcome to episode 35. Today we have an amazing conversation with Emily Long, who is a mama? A grief and trauma therapist, a storyteller and a lover of cats.

Lindsay Hanky, who is a writer, a blogger, a mom, a traveler, and also a mental health therapist. And the founder of Pregnancy After Loss Support, which is an amazing resource for anybody pregnant after a loss. They have a book coming out called Pregnancy After Loss Support Love Letters to Moms Pregnant After Loss.

And today we’re gonna talk about the book, the process of Creating it, a few bumps along the way. And all their advice they have for Moms pregnant after loss. And I think you guys are really, really gonna love this conversation and I’m so grateful that these ladies were willing to come and talk with us today.

Lindsay and Emily worked really hard to make sure this book was very inclusive. There are. All kinds of different people from all kinds of situations, and that was really, really important to them. And I just wanted to mention too, that if you haven’t grabbed my pregnancy after lost journal prompts, you can get those in the show notes too.

Just follow the link and I’ve got 99 prompts for journaling, including writing a letter to your baby and yourself, which is the premise of what this book is based on. So I think that you’re gonna love those journal prompts. So hop over and download those. It’s just one page and it’s really gonna help you throughout this pregnancy.

Let’s get to our interview. Well welcome. Today we have Emily Long and Lindsay Hanky, and I am so excited to talk to them about pregnancy after loss, and they’ve got an amazing. Book, book that has come out. Now, Lindsay, I saw that maybe it came out a a little while ago, but because of Covid, did it tell us a little bit about what happened?

Sure. So Emily is really our, uh, person who produced the book and published it for us. Um, and Emily and I thought that March would be a great month because it’s pregnancy after a loss awareness month and Friday was a great day. Um, Fri it was Friday the 13th actually we launched and that was also, I. It’s always been a good luck number for me.

We had my, um, second rainbow or whatever you call it now, your pot of gold on Friday, the 13th in May in 2016. So I’m like, oh, this will be a good date. And then the week leading up to it is probably like the craziest week in history. So Covid the world in the United States at least kind of shut down then.

And, um, Emily had the idea to relaunch it again this summer and I think the second launch did way better. Um, ’cause people were more used to their new normal of covid. Yeah. And I’m so glad that you did. ’cause I don’t know if I missed it too. I usually love to start by episodes by asking about your babies who have passed away and just telling a little bit about their life or a lesson they taught you so, Emily, do you wanna go first and just tell us a little bit about your babies and then Lindsay?

Sure, sure. So my, I have two babies. Um, grace, um, would be 17 now, which makes me feel very old. Um, she and Lily would be, I believe, 10. And it’s a bit of an interesting thing. They both sort of were, I was pregnant with both of them. In sort of pretty difficult and painful times of my life, which, and so they sort of were this like beacon of like light and hope that I sort of had that carried with me through those really, really difficult times.

And kind of as a result of that, for both of them, they’ve sort of given me this life philosophy, I think, in which, and I, it’s actually a, a. There’s actually like a little quote that I have created out of, you know, sort of carrying them and them being part of me during those times, um, in my life since then that I actually got tattooed a few years ago.

And it’s, um, sort of their lesson for me, I think, or, or. What I got from them. Their gift to me was to always seek the beauty and the ruins, the light in the dark, the fun in the serious, and create meaning from it all. Mm-hmm. So that’s sort of the thing that I use and sort of as a guiding principle of my life that I feel like I got from them.

That’s beautiful. Beautiful. To define my relationship with them. Lindsay, tell us a little bit about your baby and her life and maybe something she taught you. When my first daughter, Nora, was still born at, in 2012, at the end of the year, um, and I was overdue by four days with her. I went in and I, uh, thought I was gonna deliver a healthy baby and was told there was no heartbeat.

And since then, Nora’s taught me so many things since then. I went on to have two, uh, rainbow babies or whatever you’d like to prefer to call them. Um, babies born after a loss. So Zoe in 2014, and then Leah in 2016, I think she’s taught me to find the light in the dark, kind of like Emily said, which I thought was really beautiful.

Nora’s name means light, it means honor. Um, so I think. She kind of taught me that the, the epitome of the and Right, and I think that’s what Emily’s quote is kind of saying, that both grief and joy can live in the same place. You know, fear and hope can live in the same place. So set important peace to carry the and with you, the both, and that’s what life is really about.

And so how do you balance that as you go through it? And she also taught me that love doesn’t die. You can love someone without ever, you can love them without ever meeting them fully or only knowing them for a brief moment in time. I, I love that. First, why don’t you guys tell me where the idea came for the book and kind of what your goal was with putting these love letters together?

Sure. So actually the most of the letters are written back in 2013. So I had a blog that was called Still Breathing, stillborn and Still Breathing, and I wrote for Still Standing at the time. And then I also got picked up by Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine that year to be their Bump Day blogger when I was pregnant with my subsequent pregnant with Zoe.

Um, she’s now six years old and Nora would be eight in December. So, In February. I always liked the idea of writing letters. I mean, I think I am a mental health therapist. Emily, you’re also a mental health therapist, right? Yep. Yeah, so I think there’s just something healing and writing letters to yourself, um, your body, your baby, after.

After, um, you lose your baby or even a loved one. It’s a tactic I think is often be used in therapy for eons it seems like, or as long as the therapy’s been around. And I think it’s a tactic like writing to your loved one, your loved baby is probably something loved to miss. Baby is probably something people did before, you know, the internet.

So, but what I did is I realized how hard pregnancy after loss was for me and carrying this grief and. Joy at the same time. And also this hope and for a new baby to come out a place where death last lived is how I kind of put it. Like literally my womb. The last thing that was in there was death. Um, so hope and fear at the same time.

And I needed more hope. And Zoe was doing March of that year and I thought, uh, February is the month of love, right? Love letters, um, Valentine’s Day. So I was like, what if I get a bunch of other moms who’ve been there before to write letters from their perspective, um, over all the different. Unique ways there is to lose a baby and all the different outcomes afterwards.

Like maybe it’s having a subsequent child through adoption. Maybe it’s not going on to have a subsequent child and being resolved, and what’s your rainbow after loss when there’s no baby? Maybe it’s going on and having how to get through the journey of being pregnant again after a stillbirth.

Miscarriages, infertility, SSIDs. So I gathered all those women in one place and they kind of all wrote letters that they would’ve wanted to hear themselves when they were going through a subsequent pregnancy. So then when we started PALS in 2014, June, I had the idea in the shower after, um, for PALS itself, after.

So I was born and um, I was on maternity leave and I felt like my words weren’t completely wanted it still standing yet because it was still so new, this online magazine that it was seeped in grief and a lot of people were in early grief, and I know that I didn’t wanna hear. Stories of hope then it’s different now.

It’s been seven, almost eight years, so it’s a lot different. Um, and then I wrote for pregnancy New Newborn Magazine and the Normie population didn’t wanna hear about things that could go wrong, so I wanted to create a place for the mom, pardon? After loss, really? Because of these letters that were written, because they were so popular at the time.

And then we kept them on as a series for PALS in February. And I think what evolved over time is that we wanted a place, For pals to reach more people that wasn’t just on the internet. And we had this book of love letters. So when I was living in Germany two years ago, actually, I reached out to Emily and I can remember I was standing, I was like, Emily, you have this great series of letters, which I think we should talk about in general to, ’cause I wrote some of those earlier in my grief.

And Gretchen contributed to her books. I think it’s like Letters to Lost Moms. There’s. Letters from dads to dads, and she can tell you more about it, but she published this whole series of books in this format from different parents who are grieving and what it’s like to be in that position, writing back to yourself almost of what you’d wanna hear.

And I said, what if we make a book for pregnancy after loss? And we co-author it? And, ’cause I don’t have time to do any of the work of editing and publishing and you seem to be an expert. So, um, that’s how I brought Emily on board and I think we decided, because I reached out to her pretty like in January or February and it didn’t seem like it would hit, uh, March of that year.

It would be possible two years ago. So we did it of March of this year. And at first it didn’t go well, but I think the second time around it did pretty well actually. Emily, you wanna add to that end of it? Yeah. Lindsay reached out and we. Use a lot of the letters that Lindsay already had. We get a few, um, new ones from folks that I knew and sort of compiled them and came up with that and, and sort of worked together and then, you know, released in March and then the world was chaotic and, um, very confused and it just didn’t feel right, I think too, to like try and promote it at that time.

Yeah. Just because there was so many things going on and nobody was, there wasn’t a lot of, I don’t think any of us had capacity to think about anything else. And so we sort of said, well, okay, we’ll kind of see how it goes. See what happens with covid. Things seemed to be a little bit settled down, sort of, um, in the summer or people were sort of back to.

Somewhat of like, okay, we settled with this. We’re adjusting to all of the new ways of living, and so. Now let’s try and relaunch it again, um, and share it because it is so important I think, for both of us. Like Lindsay said, I’m also a mental health therapist and I work, I specialize in working with mostly women who have experienced pregnancy loss or infertility or um, child loss of various kinds.

So I work, I end up then working with a lot of people who become pregnant after loss. You know, I’ve been sending people to Lindsay’s pals for years, uh, online for things, but I loved the idea when she approached me of having something like tangible and concrete that, that they could have and hold. So I was really excited about also having that option.

So, yeah. And our launch, the second launch did, did pretty well, um, and has continued to sort of, Get out there and, um, in my experience with books is particularly self-published books, is that, you know, you kind of get out the initial sort of push. And then, you know, it takes a little while and it builds over time, but it’s, it’s selling, it’s, you know, people are getting the book and I’m hearing about it and that’s always very exciting.

Yeah. And I’m seeing it and recommend it in our groups, which is really nice. ’cause there isn’t a lot of books about pregnancy after loss. There’s a lot of great books that I know the authors of, but this is just a little different version of it. But I also think it’s important to talk, Emily, about your series because I feel like.

The concept fits so well into what you already had created that I didn’t wanna recreate the wheel. Right. So I’m trying to think. I think it was back in the end of 2015 that I had this idea to do. A book for Lost Moms in the initial, initially for lost moms writing letters to, to other lost moms who were dealing with loss, who were maybe fresher in their loss to just like, offer words of, of support and love and comfort and say like, you know, we, we get it.

We know where you’re at. Here’s our experience. We are here with you. Um, and to have it be more than just my voice. To have it be multiple people having the opportunity to share because our experiences are all a little bit different. And so I think if you can have a platform like these books where it’s a collection of different letters from different voices, different backgrounds, different experiences, everybody can find something for themselves, something that fits or resonates for them.

That book called You Are Not Alone. Uh, love letters from Lost Mom to Lost Mom and. Actually came together really quickly and came out in April of 2016. And then since then I’ve also done another book for Moms, lost Moms with Letters and a couple of books for dads. So letters from dads to dads, which has been also really popular.

Um, ’cause they certainly don’t often have a voice or, or resources for dads. And I have an upcoming one. In a similar format for infertility, but I, what I like about it is that I think it, you know, and sort of the, one of the things I liked about it was that it was, could be healing on both ends. Both to write the letter and receive the letter, um, letters in the books.

Yeah. So Awesome. And I, I love that. I love the idea of a paper book. I’m still. I have to get the book, I have to hold it in my hand and, and just touch the paper and, and all of that. And yeah. And Lindsay, I, I think I’ve written this to you before, but I don’t know if you remember that. I definitely, so we, I.

Our paths were really similar and I lost my daughter Lauren in March. So right after you lost Nora and then your writing about your pregnancy after loss really, really helped me, um, in my pregnancy after loss, which was, the timelines were really, really similar. So I really appreciate, like you sharing.

And doing what you needed to do to share your experience. ’cause it definitely helps and I think that’s why we’re all here is ’cause we know that our stories are so powerful and I wanted to read a little. Quote from your book, this one that says, I want you to know something. I want you to know you are not alone.

Not only are you not alone, you are seen, you are recognized. You and all your babies are beautiful, celebrated and recognized. And I just love that I was looking through and I think that’s the message, right? Like you’re not alone and. What you’re feeling during pregnancy after loss, like this huge mix of emotions.

We kind of have all been there. I think that that’s a beautiful, um, message of the book. It really is. Um, thank you about my words. Um, that was very, it means a lot to mea I think my words of writing was just as important for me therapeutically to help myself. And it was just wonderful that they helped somebody else too.

Who wrote that quote? Whose letter was that from though? Marna, Barbara dubois. Yes, I do believe so. Is that how you say it? Sorry if I said it wrong. That was just a beautiful one. So I wanted to ask Lindsay, did you find that there was a theme, like when you read these letters altogether, what would you say is maybe a theme or a message that they give to moms pregnant after loss?

Well, the theme that I take away from it is basically that, like what I said earlier is that you can hold. Hope and fear in the same space. Um, you can love one baby while making space for another baby, um, their siblings not a replacement. Things like that, that like we don’t have to let go of our love for one child in order to welcome a new child.

I. And I know that’s a normal concept for people who don’t lose children. Um, as I am in the mental health field, it’s very typical for parents to struggle with welcoming a second sibling or a third into the family. But I think when you lose a baby, it’s not always viewed that way. Some society for a long time might have viewed it as a replacement baby, which it’s not, or a way to heal yourself, which maybe it is in some ways.

But I always say like, you can heal. In some ways you can try it By having a subsequent child, you can heal. The way you viewed and viewed your fam. You wanted your family to look, but you’ll never view or heal, um, losing that individual child. But what I really do see from the book is that people are sharing how they held on to hope when there was so much fear going through them, during their su their nine months of a subsequent pregnancy.

What did you see, Emily, when you edited and read all of them? I would say very similar. Um, that whole idea of holding hope and fear, which to me is like, that’s sort of what resilience is and courage is. Holding those seemingly opposite things and making space for both of them to coexist and to do that without having a guarantee of what the, you know, sort of the outcome or the end result or, which feels sort of weird to say about pregnancy, but you know, what, what is, without knowing what life is gonna do at the end of those nine months or end of that, Pregnancy and just how much courage and, and it takes to do that.

And for, I think just the encouragement of like, you’re not alone in feeling all of these things. Like those were kind of the two themes of Yep, we can hold both of these things. Here’s how we’ve done it, and we want you to know that we’re here too and we, we get it. Um, so those are kind of the themes that I took from it.

Yeah, I think the books in general kind of have, like when you said that kinda, I got this picture of like one lost mom who’s made it to the other side of the river. Um, the tumultuous river, like holding your hand across and saying like, Hey, I will give you some light through the cave reach for my arm as we’re crossing this river together.

Like, I’m gonna give you some hope, hold you a little bit for a moment as you read this, as you try to get to the other side. Yeah, I often, and I talk about it, sort of similar thing that I talk to a lot of my clients about is like, and also that message of like, well, when you can’t hold onto that help or when you feel like you’re faltering in that, we will hold that for you until you can find it again.

Um, we’ll be that bridge. And, and I think that was a, a big message through all the letters of the, the writers of the letters saying to. To other moms. I love that. I always tell my clients too that you know, courage isn’t the absence of fear, right? You there actually has to be something scary for us to need courage.

So I love that you guys always use the courageous mamas and and stuff in your pregnancy after loss support on your. Website and everything. Just it’s okay to believe that you are strong and courageous, even if you feel like. You’re totally a mess, which is what my experience of rainbow pregnancy was the first time around.

It was pretty rough, but, but it’s okay to just think that, that you are courageous and also knowing that you’re, you’re not alone like you guys said. So that was kind of, Oh, another question I had, which was why do you guys individually, as therapists and as people who are out there in the loss community, why do you think that it’s so important for people who are pregnant after loss or struggling with a loss to find support, whatever that looks like for them?

I can talk about this a little bit because, um, It is an interesting perspective for me because in both of my pregnancies there was a lot of, like, for various circumstances and reasons, I was sort of doing it myself, um, without a lot of support. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Like it may not always be the support that.

We all want to have. And I think that’s often like family and friends and the sort of typical people. And many people are lucky to have that and not everybody is. And so I think to have somebody who gets the emotional roller coaster, that pregnancy after loss is, and knowing, you know, ’cause I think. A lot of people and clients talk about how once they’re pregnant again after a loss, people just sort of assume that everything is fine now and they’re gonna be happy and excited.

And to have people who say like, we know that you’re happy and excited and we know that this is hard and challenging and scary. And we’re here to know, let you know that there’s a space for you to have both of those, and we’ll listen and we’ll acknowledge. Both sides of that. Yeah. Yeah. And I also think that, um, as a mental health therapist learning, uh, one of my trainings or modalities about like, there’s really three things that help, like three basic things that help people get through any kind of challenge and be more resilient in life.

And I think one of them’s validation and the other is really community. I don’t remember what the third is. So. I’ll have to go look it up. But it’s this idea that like, community is what gets us through. We’re social species. Um, in some ways, I even say to new moms or pregnant after lost moms or lost moms.

Um, like we can’t even birth alone. Like we’re not giraffes. We can’t just like birth out a baby and then it walks in like two minutes. Like usually we need a community of women, um, around us to help us. Bring life into this world. So it makes sense that we would need a community of people to help usher life out of this world and then also usher us through it when we’re in the hard times.

Yeah. Well, and just to tack onto that a little bit, one of the things I often will say to people too, particularly moms or. Pregnant moms, you’re not, not only are we not built to do it alone, like we’re not supposed to do it alone, um, right. Because we’re human and our, you know, our general human makeup is social.

And so if you’re struggling to do it alone, that’s because you’re not supposed to. Yeah. And I just think that like right now our, our culture, a lot of things around pregnancy loss, like our, like my grandmother had a stillbirth, uh, 50 years ago now. Um, and her experience was so different than mine. I mean, I knew about it growing up, which was surprising ’cause my family is just an open book, but most families don’t talk about things like that.

And it was used to be hush hush and they offered her to hold like somebody else’s baby and she said no. And we’ve learned so much, uh, from. Then that like validating grief, letting us be with our babies and bringing the family in when the baby is lost, like the extended family and letting them meet the baby is so important because we do grieve in in community and we live in community and we get support in community.

And I think nowadays, uh, that we’re so. In some ways distance from our families, not just for the coronavirus days, but in general. Like we move farther away from our support system than we used to. That it’s important to find that sense of community somewhere. And it’s specifically, um, if you’re going through a loss or a subsequent pregnancy, finding someone who’s been through what you’ve been through, because then you can relate on that level and you can feel seen and you can feel heard, and then you also feel held.

I do love, I mean, I know there’s so much. It’s a love hate thing with social media for a lot of people, but I think just like the online communities, the Facebook groups, the blogs, like all of it I know for me was just like, it was everything. When I, I did, I lived in a really small town really far away from anybody and just being able to know that, hey, you know, the way I’m feeling is I.

Pretty typical and, and it’s not a problem. And just feeling connected in that way I think is like a beautiful thing about the internet. And I wanted to read one more quote from Dr. Julie Binman. It said, I had a wonderful support network and through them I asked each to carry my hope. I was unable to risk my heart and hope in this pregnancy as I was so sure that it would end catastrophically that one.

Really resonated with me. ’cause that’s how I was, I remember when I announced, um, my pregnancy, which we hid for like the first half. Mm-hmm. I wanted to, again with social media, like I wanted to put it on Facebook and tell my friends that way. ’cause we weren’t near a lot of them, but I couldn’t even say like, Coming in April or any kind of concrete word.

So I remember just saying due, he was due in April, 2014 and that was like the best I could do, but I had a couple of friends that already knew and were supporting me, and I remember just. Them telling me like what she just said was, let us be excited for you even when you can’t be as excited as you want to and just celebrate the baby even when you like, feel like you can’t breathe.

And I think that having these. Letters and having this pregnancy after loss support. Um, again, whatever that looks like is just like letting other people bring some joy into something that can be really scary and like maybe allowing you to get a little bit excited too. Community. Yeah. And I’m so glad that you guys are, again, like I said, just out there putting it out there.

’cause I know it’s not easy. Um, but I really appreciate that you guys have collected this and kept trying even when there were obstacles and I. And just got this book out into the world. And I am gonna put a link in the show notes of where they can get the book. But just as we finish up, is there any other little thing you’d like to say to someone who’s either thinking about trying again or is pregnant again, that would give them a little bit of encouragement today.

Emily, do you wanna go first? Sure. I sort of like, I think my sort of theme that I. I want people to know is you’re not alone. You know, we may not know your exact story or situation, but we know your heart and we are here and life is hard sometimes, but we can do hard things and hope and fear can live together and coexist.

I would piggyback off that, that like it’s scary to. Go down and look down a subsequent pregnancy to try again after loss to be pregnant for nine months after loss. One of my clients described it as the definition of insanity, doing the same thing and expecting a different result. And you get to validate that it’s hard, and also validate that you are being courageous.

Um, you’re doing something brave. You’re doing it for both your babies, you’re doing it for yourself, and it’s hard. And we will hold your hand through it if you want us to hold your hand. I think, I wanna say again, just so people understand that we, I think all three of us would agree that not everyone’s story looks the same.

Not everyone gets a rainbow, not everyone wants to try again. Yeah. It’s just, we’re all unique in our life story. But if you need support, then I think, you know, this is a beautiful, beautiful option. And it sounds like all these books are just great and know that. Yeah, you’re not alone and probably how you’re feeling is someone else has felt really similar to that.

So I really appreciate you guys being here and. I’m excited for this book to be out in the world and be able to help lots of moms who are pregnant after loss. Thank you, Amy, for having us. Yeah, thank you. Okay. Jump right down into the show notes. Click on the link and definitely buy this book if you are pregnant after loss or if you’re thinking about it.

I just love this message and. If you are pregnant after loss and you’re struggling and you need a little bit more help than something online or a book is going to give you, I would love to support you throughout your pregnancy. All you gotta do is click the link in the show notes, sign up for a free 30 minute session, and we will talk all about what’s going on and how I can help you.

Um, it’s one of my most favorite things to do. ’cause like I said, pregnancy after loss was really hard for me. But now I have so many tools and things that can help you so you don’t have to struggle and feel like you’re holding your breath the entire nine months. So I hope to talk to you soon. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week.

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