Danielle Grissom (30) and Lola Byrd (12 months). Danielle is also mother to Francis (miscarried at just 8 weeks after conception)
Tucson, Arizona. Photographed in San Diego, CA
Danielle shares -
"On May 10th, 2017 I lost a baby, Francis, just 8 weeks after conception. I am still processing this loss and feelings of grief, which have left me thinking often about the “gradation” of loss. Given that several important women in my life have struggled with infertility, and suffered recurrent 2nd trimester losses and stillbirths, it has taken me some time to figure out where my loss fits in. I have come to the conclusion that while the circumstances surrounding my loss are in so many ways less traumatic and painful, the significance of my baby is no less. This understanding has freed me to honor my baby, and given me the mental and emotional strength to not internalize well-meaning but hurtful euphemisms spoken by friends and family.
It has been difficult to share openly and honestly that in my heart, Francis is a part of our family, and that I feel Francis’ absence daily; or even that I feel we lost a baby and not a “pregnancy.” I have found that the expectations around the intensity of emotions that is acceptable after loss silences many women, and also that each individual experiences loss in drastically different ways. My own husband does not feel the same grief over the loss of Francis, and that is okay. I have known women that have moved on quickly after an early loss, and others that have been beside themselves with grief.
So often a critical question is missing from conversations surrounding pregnancy loss, which is “What does this loss mean to you?” I am forever grateful to the women who have shared their journeys through loss and grief without reservation. It is because of these women that I knew to enjoy each moment of my pregnancy with Francis even when it became increasingly clear that Francis’ life would not continue; and that I had the foresight to know what I wanted to do with Francis’ body in a moment when overwhelming fear and despair could have left me with a lifetime of regret over my next move. I am forever sending love to my baby Francis, and to all the mamas and papas who love from afar.
I am in love with my birthing body. Each and every change has been worth the gift of my child. I often look at her and think about how my body grew those tiny little toes, and that cute button nose, and I am left in awe. My body holds my soul and has held the soul of my children; I am grateful for its gifts.
As a full-time working and breastfeeding mama who returned to work at just 10 weeks postpartum, it has been a whirlwind! There have been many days where my cup is emptied faster than I can fill it and I have felt overcome by exhaustion and sleep deprivation. But my daughter has enriched my life more than I ever could have imagined – knowing I have the gift of mothering her has made the tough or bad days still infinitely richer and happier than my best days before I met her. While there have been many moments where I have felt not good enough, or lost sleep over fears of missing out; I have accepted that I both value my career deeply and love my daughter fiercely, and I have found peace in surrendering to the lovely chaos of it all.
You do not need to have all the answers or be the “perfect” parent. For those of us who have lacked models and are forging our own way – be easy on yourself. You may not know all the lullabies, parenting hacks, or fun silly games to play, but you don’t need to. All you need to do is make sure that your child knows that they are your whole heart and that they see your eyes light up each and every time you greet them. And don’t compare yourself to others. Who you are as a parent depends on the tiny little human you are raising. You are on your own unique parent-child journey and there is nowhere else you should be.
I have always felt positive about my body aesthetically and have never strived for aesthetic perfection. However, I have not always valued my body as an extension of my soul. I did not grow up feeling loved and often was made to feel unworthy. As a result of that, I spent many years harming my body, and allowing others to do so as well. Thus, for me, body positivity means less about external body image and more about internal respect and self-worth. I am here today because I now know I am worthy, because my story and my body matters, and because I am moved by all the women that have stood here before me and let it all hang out, physically and emotionally, to connect with and empower other women."