Alishia Anderson is a Grief companion and support coach who helps angel mamas deconstruct grief while trying to conceive, through rainbow pregnancies and navigate motherhood after loss. Today she joins me to have a discussion on the unique challenges that come when your first baby or babies have died and all your living children are rainbows.
Listen to hear her wisdom and also catch her amazing, inspirational spirit.
Visit her website: www.aliandeenterprise.com
Follow her on Instagram @aliandeenterprise
Buy her book on Amazon
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Photo provided by Alishia Anderson
Music by ZingDog on Pond5
Welcome everybody. I’m so excited to have Alicia Anderson here to share with us her experience with loss in parenting after loss. Alicia, will you just introduce yourself a little bit and Yeah, absolutely. My name is again, Alicia Anderson, and on social media, I go by Ali Andy. Um, and I am a baby lost mom.
I lost my first born at 28 weeks and six years ago, so 2016. Um, I am the mom of two living children. Grayson is my rainbow baby who just turned five a couple weeks ago. And then Gavin is my golden baby, or I call him my pandemic baby. And he was born in, uh, 2020 in April. So he’ll be two in a couple weeks.
Um, and I. Service, baby loss parents online, just trying to make sure that they feel seen, heard, and valued in this space. And I’m so honored to be here with you today. Yes. And you are an author? Yes. How can I forget that? I, I did write a book, it’s called, still Here, A Memoir of Love, loss, and Triumph After Stillbirth, which you can find on Amazon.
Yes, which I love and I have, and I have read and highly recommend. It’s so, it’s so good. I love when people are able to share their stories and like all the different ways we share our stories. Yes. My first question I always ask people is to tell us a little bit about the life of your baby. So dj, tell us a little bit about the time when he was alive, or like any memories you have of him and also any lessons that he’s taught you.
Ooh, I love this question cuz I don’t never, I hardly ever get asked what was his life like? So this is a like such a refreshing question. One thing that stood out to me, there was like, during my pregnancy, I would play this song for him every day. It’s called Angel, which is kind of ironic, but I would play it every morning and just kind of sing it.
I love to sing. And so that was kind of, My little way to kind of communicate with him, and that was just kind of like my little special time with him. And my husband would always talk to my belly at night and just say, Hey, this is daddy. And then the other thing that really stood out to me was when we did his gender reveal.
So I had. Family and friends come from like all different parts of the country. And we just had a really fun celebration just to, you know, who’s team boys, who’s team girl. Um, and it was just such a fun time. And that was like maybe a few weeks before I found out that he passed. So it was just like one of those last final memories that I really hold dear with me.
Yeah. So were you right? Did you think he was a boy or a girl? Yes. I thought it was a boy. My husband did too. Like from the moment I was pregnant he was like, it’s a boy. So that, that worked out well. That’s awesome. I, I’m very hit and miss on guessing, being right or not. Yeah, I, I, I stopped guessing. I was just like, whatever, you know, after dj I was like, whatever dates, I’m fine, you know?
But I, I never had like a inkling of, What it would be, you know, like just kind of with him. I just was like, I think it’s a boy. Yeah. Oh, so cute. I love, and you have all these little boys. So fun. Yes, yes. We are a family of boys, so my, my husband has. Two brothers. I have two brothers. Most of his cousins are boys.
Um, so yeah, it’s, I was like, I guess I’m a dedicated boy mom, so that’s awesome. Let’s talk about parenting after loss. And I, I invited Alicia here because I think there’s something unique when you lose your first baby. Yes. And. So all your living kids are rainbow babies. And I wanna start out, um, maybe talking about parenting when you don’t have a baby that anybody can see.
So maybe tell us a little bit what that was like for you, and then some of the things that helped you to just be able to. Parent your child when he wasn’t in your arms? Yes. So I think the first thing that I remember, because, um, DJ was born in January and so I had that first Mother’s Day where I didn’t have any, Any living child.
And I just remember like, oh, what is this day gonna be like? I’m, I’m really nervous. Um, and I remember asking my husband like, should we celebrate? You know, and he’s like, it’s really up to you. But I, I remember him vividly saying like, I don’t wanna like celebrate Father’s Day because I don’t feel like I.
Dad, you know, and I was just adamant like, I’m a mom, I birthed a baby. My body went through all the changes, so I wanna be honored and celebrated. So, you know, he did get me a card and things like that just to say Happy Mother’s Day. Um, and I, I think like my mom and dad, you know, text me and like, happy Mother’s Day.
So just that acknowledgement, it really feels good because like, even though you guys can’t see my baby, He’s very much a part of me and I’m, I kind of made that very clear early on to let people know, like, I am his mom. I will be talking about him. I will celebrate him. And I think one of the most special gifts, my dad, who is also a pastor, um, he’s like, you know, I deal with people who deal with grief a lot just in different types of grief.
Not necessarily baby loss grief, but, and he’s like, you know, there’s those. Specific days that you hit every year that you don’t wanna dread it. You know, when you, when you get to those dates. So he was like, maybe you can find a way to honor dj. And so that day feels special versus where you’re like, oh, it’s coming and I don’t wanna deal with it, kind of thing.
And so that’s why we started celebrating his due date, which would’ve been April 7th. Um, and I know most babies are not typically born on their due date, but you know, as a loss parent, you kind of have to hold on to just whatever you can because the, you have to kind of piece together your parenting if, if that makes sense.
But, um, yeah, we were able to celebrate that day. So I do do good for DJ and I just ask all my family and friends to kind of do something special for somebody else that they pay it forward. And so I’ve had people tell me, I paid for somebody’s. You know, lunch or we let somebody in front of us in line. I’m like, it doesn’t have to be something where you spend money.
Just do something nice in honor of him. So that’s kind of a way that we honor him every year. Yeah, I love that. I think that’s is so fun to do and I love that your dad was giving you some good advice. Yes, yes. That that was such a special thing cuz now I actually look forward to that day. And of course, you know, I still feel the feelings.
Surrounding it, but it just feels better when people can like join you and they’re texting you throughout the day, oh, I did something for DJ today. So it just makes me feel so good inside when I, when I get those little texts. I love your confidence. I wanna point that out too. So your husband was like, this isn’t really gonna work for me.
And I think I’m, yeah, you’d honor that and then also be like, yeah, but I want Mother’s Day. We’re definitely very much opposites when it comes to a lot of things. I’m very vocal about dj. He’s very like close to the vest. Um, When I post this picture, at first he would be like, why is my son’s picture online?
You know, like, I’m just nervous. I don’t want people to judge him. And just kind of that pop bear kind of mentality, which I totally support through him, but it’s just like the way that it helped me grieve. And so this was kind of like my space to To do that. Yeah. And I think it’s different for everyone, so I think it’s.
It’s great though, being confident if your style is more quiet and private. Yeah, that’s okay. Yes. And like if you’re all out there, then that’s great too. Absolutely. I think the best thing about, or you know, the, the silver lining about parenting after loss is you kind of get to create your own style because there’s literally no blueprint.
I know with parenting there’s no rule, but, but. Especially with not having your child here, um, you really have to kind of go the extra mile to figure out what works for you and how you want your baby to be honored and celebrated. And that could be something where only you do or it could be something you share with the world and.
Either way is right. You know, whatever makes you feel the best. Yeah. I love that. You also then were able to become pregnant pretty soon after. Yeah. DJ passed. Yeah. Could you tell us a little bit about that, um, journey of. Like you’re becoming pregnant again and, and how that felt and how you got through pregnancy after loss.
Ooh. So I just remember, um, after DJ passed, maybe like a couple months later cuz I was like in therapy and things like that. And, and that question came up like, do you think you wanna have more kids? And um, I remember just talking to my husband and we were like, Yeah, we think so. You know, um, but we didn’t wanna put like a timestamp on it where it’s like, we have to get pregnant, you know, right away.
Or we were just kind of like, when it happens, it will happen and we’ll just go with it. And so we did get pregnant relatively, um, quickly. It was like, I think six or seven months after DJ was born. And so, That I wasn’t prepared for. I must say, I think my rainbow pregnancy was my absolute hardest, um, because in my first pregnancy with dj, I didn’t know what to expect, so I was just kind of riding the blissful wave until he passed.
And then, Once I was pregnant with Grayson, it was just like, everything was like, is that okay? Am I doing this right? Is he gonna live? And I just remember at the beginning, I almost didn’t even want to connect with him cuz I was like, what happens if this happens again? I always tell this story. My mom gave me this book or told me a book that she was reading.
She was like, I suggest you read it. And it wasn’t about baby loss at all, but it was actually about mindset. And it’s called the Four eight Principle by Tommy Newberry. And. He just really talked about, um, focusing on things that you can control and letting go of the things that you cannot, and that like transformed my mind in that pregnancy because I was just like so focused on the fear, the anxiety, the like, I don’t know if he’s gonna make it.
I don’t, should I even, you know, prepare, should I do this, should I do that? And once I read it, I just was like, okay, I saw somebody say like, You only can live in the moment of now. And so if your baby’s alive now celebrate that. You know? And so I was able to kind of switch my focus ne and, and not so much focus on the anxiety and fearful part, and more so like focus on, okay, you have this baby and you’re just gonna try to get to the finish line, but soon as possible.
So, That was a task. Yeah. I love the mindset too. That’s what we talk about here is just how powerful. Yeah. Like the way we look at things and how we process through it really does help with that, that fear. What was it like then having that living baby? Ooh, it was very tough, especially in the beginning, because Grayson was born six weeks early, so he spent a week in the nicu and I just remember like.
When I had him, I was like, nobody ever told me motherhood would be this difficult because you know, my first baby, he dies. And then my second baby, he’s in the nicu. And I’m like, all these things that you think that you’re gonna be able to do. So I was like, this time I want to do skin to skin. I want him to breastfeed, I want to do this, I wanna do that.
And none of it happened like they sat him on my chest. And they were like, we’re gonna take him. He’s breathing. You know, his breathing isn’t the best. Um, and like they just whisked them off. And I was like, not again, not again. So I like broke down when I got home, like we stayed at the hospital a couple days.
They actually gave us an a room. Um, they were like, you can, you guys can stay here. For a few extra days just to be with him. I think we left him overnight, maybe one day. Um, and then that day we were supposed to come and pick him up and they were like, his temperature’s not regulated, so you can’t take him home today.
And that was the day I lost it. Like I went home and I was just like, why can I not bring a baby home? You know? And the. Course he was living, but I think it was like the compound grief on top of being pregnant again. And like finally, like I know he is here, I saw him alive, he’s breathing, but now I still can’t take him home.
So it was just a lot early on and I just remember like people wanting to come and help and I was just like overly protective of him and it was just a lot. And I, I think I did go through some type of postpartum, but I never like got diagnosed, but, Looking back, I was just all over the place, like with my hormones and it was just a lot.
So I just want, you know, parents to know, like, if you feel like you’re going crazy after this, you know, new life comes because everybody thinks, oh, you should be happy. Problem fixed. You know, you have a living baby, everything is well, and it’s like, this is literally just the beginning. It’s a challenge, I would say.
Yeah. And that, when you were talking, I was thinking of another question just to discuss, is that we do say that like, if I could just have a living baby, everything would be better. Yeah. And then when it’s hard, then you’re like, I should be grateful for this. I should be grateful. I think. Oh yeah. So other people say it, but I think to ourselves is where it really causes a lot of pain.
So what would you say to someone who is struggling parenting after loss, even though they’re very grateful and aware how blessed they are, but. But what did you do on those days that were just really hard? I would say invest in a journal. In journal, like journaling was my best friend because it was somewhere I could be absolutely raw and I could just say what I needed to say because you, you’re like, I’m a first time mom even though this is technically my second time around.
And that’s like a whole nother piece where it’s like, I should have been doing this with a insert, how old your baby should be, but technically now I’m doing this for the second, but first time. But I would just suggest like really honing in on your feelings and releasing them. Um, and again, you can do, if you don’t like to write, I always like suggest.
Voice notes on your phone, do a video, whatever you need to get that out because it is very challenging. And if, if you feel like you’re at a step where you want additional help, I would absolutely say therapy is amazing. Um, and as a person of faith, that was something new for me. Um, because I’m like, you know, you always hear trust God and pray and, and I’m like, those things are absolutely.
They were integral in in my healing piece, but I was like to have devotion and prayer and worship plus therapy was like the golden ticket for me. So if you need that additional help, don’t feel ashamed to seek it, because we all need help and that’s okay. Even as moms. Yes, absolutely. I think always giving ourselves permission to say a motherhood is hard.
It is very hard. Yeah. Yes. Yes. What was important to you as you brought these little boys into the world that were living was important to you to tell them about their big brother, and how do you incorporate him into your family Now, I never really had like a set plan on how I was gonna do it, but. I just kind of, it, it kind of happened on accident with Grayson.
I had DJ as my lock screen on my phone and I also had his picture on our dresser in our room. And so once Grayson started getting to that talking age, he would point to my phone and I would say, oh, that’s your big brother dj. And so that just kind of kept going. And then we would. Show him his picture, just like how you would show your, you know, your kids, your, their picture of their grandma or their, you know, dad or whoever, like just to get them acquainted with who the this person is.
And he just kind of took a liking. So he would then go, and this is dj, you know, he’d point to it or point to his picture, and. So we just naturally started having those conversations and because I was in the baby loss community already kind of doing things, it just felt natural to talk about ’em because I’m like, he’s a part of our family.
So it’s very common now for my kids to talk about ’em. Um, and my older son is like, oh mom, are you talking to baby lost moms today? You know, like he’s very aware of what I do. Um, I. I told him like, you’re my rainbow baby. So we talk about what does that mean? And you know, how do parents feel when they lose the baby?
Like, we’re very candid about what happened to DJ and how he is integral in our family. I think that’s, that’s really beautiful. It was natural because like you already had DJ as part of. Your family and Yeah. You know, it just kind of extended from there. I know sometimes people can be really scared about those conversations or maybe you had an earlier loss and you don’t have pictures.
Yeah. It’s kinda like, how, how do I do it? I would just say that kids are more, they’re very in tune and um, a lot of times our worry like, It, it’s escalated in our mind, but really the conversations, I, I make them appropriate because he is only five. So he’s like, did the baby die? Well, what happened? You know, like very like cut and dry, you know, his body stopped working cuz he, you know, when you use the terms like sleep, they’re sleeping or things like that, that can be kind of scary for kids.
Like, I don’t wanna go to sleep, you know, I might die. Things like that. So we just really like normalized. What it means, and, you know, it can change for different people. I’ve, I’ve heard some parents say, no, I don’t think my kids are ready, and that that’s okay. And again, like there’s literally no manual to this.
So you just kind of have to do what feels good, but it just kind of felt natural so. Once Grayson started talking about it, once Gavin got old enough to talk about it, now he knows who DJ is and he’ll point and sing about ’em. And so it’s just very natural. Yeah. And I just think as I hear you speak about your sons, like how amazing of a gift is it to have these boys who understand babies die and we can help each other when we go through bad things and so many lessons.
That override, like that fear of Well, I don’t want my kids to know that bad things happen. Yeah. And it, it’s, it, you don’t want to tell your kids that, um, obviously you don’t want to be a baby loss parent at all. But it’s like once you’re dealt these cards, I just had to find something that would. Make this life like, okay, why would God choose me to, you know, have my baby be the one that died?
So I was like, I just have to make some type of meaning out of this, um, to make it make sense for me. Since you mentioned your faith, I love hearing about people’s faith and how it has helped them on. Their journey. How has your faith helped you parenting children in heaven and on earth? Oh my gosh. Yeah. I always say like when I first lost dj, it was like, I think that was the first time that I.
My faith really was tested in a way, um, because I grew up in church again. My dad was a pastor since I was six, so very, very young. I was always at church, heard all the stories, you know, you hear about having faith and God will be there for you and things like that. And, I just was like, at first, I, I just couldn’t believe like, why would God do this to me?
Like, you know, I don’t understand. And I just remember when we lost dj, my husband was like, this was like so profound of him, but like he always reminds me like, Something is gonna come out of this. He was like, I don’t know what, I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but I just feel like God is using us for something from this experience.
Um, and I never wanna say like, oh, my baby died so that I could, you know, be out here to be a support. But I just think his life taught me. What empathy looks like, what it means to really have faith, what it means to really need God to be a provider and to be a comfort. Cuz I was like, on those days when I felt my absolute lowest, I was like there.
The only person I felt I could really be. My full self with was God. And I would like cry out like tears and awe because I know a lot of people see me and it’s like, oh, you, you must not, you know, you, you, you look healed. And I’m like, no, I still have grief. It’s still there, but I’m able to channel that through.
Just my gifts of what God has blessed me with. I like to sing, so I sing. When I’m grieving, I listen to the music I write. Those are just like natural gifts that I’ve been given. And so I just try to utilize those things. Um, and then also just use my gift of encouragement because I was like, this is what I wish I had.
So I know that other parents are going through that and I hope that. Just one thing I say can maybe brighten their day because I know hope is necessary in this space. Yeah, absolutely. So on that note, let me ask you one last question. What would you say to someone who is struggling right now with like balancing the grief and their babies that aren’t with them, and then having living kids no matter what age?
Um, it can be challenging. What would you say to someone who’s, who’s just struggling with that? Ooh. I think the first thing is knowing that you can always hold space for your baby that’s not here. Um, and a lot of people won’t at first, and I think they, a lot of people take their cues from us. And so if, if I want my baby acknowledged, I say that, you know, and, and really be vocal and it’s okay to stay.
Hey, I need you to support me in this way because grief is really hard, and so I always say, you can acknowledge and honor your baby. Any way that you want and, and make that known. And it may just be you for a little bit, but people will start to notice like, cause I, I noticed my parents, they’ll include DJ’s name and things because I talk about ’em so much.
Or like, I just had a cousin who did a family tree and she put DJ as one of my kids and that like lit me up cuz I’m like, oh my god. People are like actually taking the things that I’m talking about and like putting it into action. So like, just keep talking about, I know people feel uncomfortable to make others uncomfortable, but it’s okay.
You know, you can make others uncomfortable, especially if you feel like you wanna honor your baby in that way. Um, and two, you can still honor and celebrate life with your kids, you know, like, My life is still beautiful in the midst of the grief. Like grief is always my companion, but I can still go on to live and have meaningful things in my life as a mom because, you know, my kids are a gift as well.
So it’s like just finding that balance that works for you and again, reaching out for help. Um, there’s community here in the baby law space and there’s somebody for everybody. So, you know, if I’m not your cup of tea, you know, I could. Hook you up with the resources cuz I know many, many parents in this space that would just love to pour into you.
So, you know, just find your tribe. And I love being able to have this conversation too, cuz just showing everyone who’s listening like, It’s possible to find your way. And it’s not always easy, like for sure. It’s, it’s tough and like questions come outta your kids’ mouth that you’re like, what do I even say to this?
Yes. And motherhood is still hard, like even with living children, like it’s very hard. And you know, again, I go back to when you said, Sometimes you’re like, you don’t feel like you can complain because you had a baby that died. But there are days when I’m crying cuz I’m like, this is hard. And be okay with that.
Like just sometimes you just have to sit and be in the moment. And then it is like, I told my friend, she was like, you know, I’m so nervous about parenthood. And I was like, there’s always tomorrow. There’s always a new day to start again. So if anything else, just remember that tomorrow is coming. Yes. And that love.
Between Yes, yes. Family and your babies. It’s, it covers a lot of our, you know, what we think are our shortcomings, for sure. Yes. Okay. Well, thank you so much, Alicia. And will you tell us just a little bit where people can find you, what you have out there that. So I actually have my book again. It’s on Amazon so you can find it there.
I’m on social media, so I’m on Instagram the most. Um, so if you wanna find me there, I’m at Ali, Andy Enterprise, and that’s a L I A N D E Enterprise, and you can reach out to me there. I have some things coming down the pipeline as far as how people can work with me. There’s just. Lots of things that you know, I want to help with.
Again, just tapping into the community and serving as a resource for others. Yeah, that’s amazing. I love all the work you do, and I will definitely have all those links in the show notes for people. So really easy. But thank you again for being here and for sharing. I love. You guys can’t see her, but she like, she glows.
Oh, thank you. I appreciate, I really appreciate you and you know, you always being so welcoming to me, so thank you so much for having me. Are you tired of feeling like your baby’s dad was somehow your fault? Go tostones coaching com and get my free mini course. How to Stop blaming Yourself After Loss.