Little Jo Travels the World

It is with gratitude and bittersweet joy that I can tell you my new poetry book, written in the year after I lost my daughter Josephine in labour, is now available for purchase online at blurb.ca.

unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope

After a year of writing, and a year of creating the book, my friend Rachel (who really made this project happen) and I, after some excellent final editing by my husband James, ordered several boxes of my poetry book. It shipped within three days, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. There couldn’t have been a more poignant day for me, as I’ve drawn such consolation and hope from her in this journey. I really wanted the book to arrive on time for Josephine’s second birthday, on September 30th, and it came in good time only a week after ordering it. I am so impressed with the self-publishing company Blurb! Emotionally, I needed her birthday gift on time and they delivered.

To celebrate little Jo’s special day, we had an open house book launch, and filled our home with people from 1-5:30 pm. It meant a lot to be surrounded by loving friends and family. My mother and sister-in-law even took the ferry to be here. My amazing friend and midwife Terry-Lyn also came, with a tiny pot of white flowers. This made my day. The hands which held my baby, when so few others have, will always be sacred to me. I know she holds my Jo in her heart as well.

That day we ate goodies and shared stories and sold books. In the few weeks since receiving my boxes of books, 200 have sold or been donated. I had the honour of reading one of my poems at an event for bereaved families on October 14, the evening before international babyloss day. My books were available for any grieving families, counselors, funeral directors or other care workers who were there to take with them.

In a strange twist of fate, it turned out that one of the counselors there, Sarah, is close to a good friend of mine, Katie. She had driven her to my house the day before Josephine’s funeral to deliver the soft white blanket she is wrapped in. Funny how life works.

I am grateful that my little Jo is able to be so active in this world from Heaven. That her special mission to reach out and comfort other moms through my writing is being carried out. That she will be known and remembered. One of the sweetest comments about my book came from a Korean friend in broken English, after having read it, “I didn’t understand all words, but I think your baby very happy. She sees her mama loves her very much.” What more can I ask?

Today I mailed 20 more books, so my little girl is, in her own special way, seeing the world, as her book travels to Calgary, Tofino, Nelson, Saskatoon, Toronto, Rome, Hawaii, and the Philippines. My little shooting star…may she bring sweetness and hope to every heart she shines on.

PS If you know a bereaved mom or family member who may appreciate a book, please let me know in the comments below, or order one from the link above.



Post-Partum, “Femachoism” and the Need for Mom Buddies

A buddy and I were chatting tonight about motherhood and vulnerability, and how tough it is to get some some women to open up about how they’re really doing, for example after having a new baby. There seems to be, especially among women who are hoping to have multiple children, a feeling that they need to pretend it’s easy…like “Of course it’s great! Otherwise why would I do this again? I don’t look crazy…do I?” And these kind of sentiments shove any post-partum struggles way down out of sight.

Sometimes, in hopes of attracting others to motherhood, moms will put on a brave face and only present the good. But this is a bit like trying to recruit future Olympic athletes by pretending that it’s a cake walk. Not effective because it’s not authentic. It is better to admit the difficulty and affirm that it’s worth it. As G.K. Chesterton insisted, a mother’s task is challenging not because it is minute or unimportant, but because it is gigantic.

Where does the pressure to pretend that one of the most physically and emotionally challenging life experiences– new parenthood– is a smooth ride, come from? It’s part of what I like to call ‘femachosim’–the tendency to be competitive about motherhood, and to shy away from admitting any vulnerability or suffering which would seem to indicate weakness. There is an underlying insecurity in this attitude…a fear of being told their suffering is their fault, and that they shouldn’t have wasted their time having kids. These kinds of things do get said.

In an essay in the anthology “Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood,” I discuss this devaluation of motherhood and femininity in general. I question the validity of a feminism which looks down on the intrinsically feminine power of bearing and nurturing children, and only values professions that have typically been done by men.

A friend of mine who recently returned from maternity leave has heard comments at her workplace like, “being a stay-at-home mom is for lazy, lost losers.” This attitude can make new moms feel parenting should at least be an easy ride and not a challenge. “How hard can it be? It’s just changing diapers…right?” So they hide their struggles.

The fact is that motherhood is extremely hard, besides being beautiful and rewarding, but that we moms choose it anyway. We choose the sleepless nights, the intensity of labour, the vulnerability of having our hearts walk around outside of ourselves in tiny little bodies we are totally responsible for. It’s overwhelming and exhausting and challenges every fibre of our being. And we choose it anyway. We choose to love. We choose to give of ourselves constantly. We choose to have enough hope in our world to believe that life is worth living and worth sharing. We don’t choose it because it’s comfortable. We choose it because it’s transformative. If that’s lazy I need a new dictionary, because I can’t imagine how those things are at all connected.

So you new moms out there, if you’re struggling, reach out. Don’t suffer alone and isolate yourself, for fear of not being a super mom. I saw a great t-shirt tonight that said, “World’s Okayest Mom.” It made me laugh so hard! None of us are perfect. But we’re in this together, and it’s a lot more fun that way. Spend time with other moms. “Waste” time visiting over coffee. The laughter and conversation you have there can save you hundreds at a therapist later!

Many people suffer from post-partum depression for a time after birthing, and there is help. A good place to start is postpartum.org, which also has great materials for your spouse to read. Your hormones are raging and sleep is a distant dream…so don’t beat yourself up if that takes a toll. Reach out. Talk to your doctor. Talk to friends who are supportive. Take steps to get help. And don’t be afraid to ask for it. Lean on others, so they can one day lean on you. That’s what friendship is. It enriches life so deeply.

With a support network of mom buddies, your life with kids is really awesome, despite the difficulties…there are so much opportunites to share, grow and love together. So next time someone asks how you are, think twice before you pop out “Fine.” Your honesty might open the gate for the other women around to share their struggles and find the support they really need as well. How rewarding is that?


The night before

is the night before I lost you, dearest,
two years ago
when you burst from my womb
and were launched straight into Heaven.

Two years ago tonight,
it was Michealmas
and perhaps your passing the next day
was accompanied by him–
this warrior angel
this strong protector—
to carry you on high
in arms safe and loving as your daddy’s.

Great angel,
protect my spirit now
and give me the courage to face the night,
knowing what tomorrow brings.

Help me be brave enough
to feel the pain of loss
yet again,
ever still,
but also to live with the simplicity of my children
who know how to rejoice in each moment
and sing Christmas carols with gusto
no matter what the season.
Sufficient for the day
is the joy thereof.


How blogging helps prevent soul clutter…and house clutter, too!

Half a year ago, as I was busy sorting through my boxes and packing up my house for our move, I found all sorts of precious old papers–boxes of dusty journals that hadn’t seen the light of day for years.

For you see, before I had my blog, writing was a covert operation. Almost nobody was allowed to see my poems. My scribbles were hidden away, safe from scrutiny, safe from the ‘horrific danger’ of being disliked or dismissed.  I’ve grown a little since then, and realized that unshared art is like a silent opera…tons of emotion just burning to be released, but kept in a bottle. It’s worth it to risk people laughing at you, to make it possible for them to cry with you, hope with you, and rejoice with you.

So in honour of the publication of my first book of poetry, I’ve decided to release some of my earlier writings from their solitary confinement and share them with you. Perhaps some sappy love poems from my early days dating my husband, impassioned prayers from my time of conversion to my faith, or other melodramatic outpourings…So if every now and then something appears from “Anna’s archives,” I hope you’ll welcome it kindly and pat it on the head, even if it is a little bit puppy love…

And once I let it live in Crazy Land, I can recycle the original! So it’s all part of my mission to delcutter my house, and by sharing these pieces of me with you, also delcutter my soul. Where is your soul clutter? Is there something inside waiting to be shared? Set it free!



Embracing the Waves

I feel like a ship on waving waters
tossed about and slightly seasick,
but all is not chaos
and I won’t be lost
if I keep firmly anchored in You, Lord,
my bedrock.

I can toss and tumble, 
but I won’t drift off course
so here in the jumble of waves
I’ll be happy.
The dry land with its steady stillness 
is not for me now.
Perhaps when I retire, 
I’ll dock at a nice sunny spot
near the shore.

But for now
the waves and sea storms for me—
the ups and downs,
the splashing crashing waves.
I’m surrounded by little rowboats and seagulls 
but anchored in hope Lord,
because I’m anchored in Your love.


Rain Murmurs Gently

Rain falls on the gazebo roof
and murmurs gently 
in the surrounding forest

I sit here with the stone lion
who gazes with undivided attention 
into the nearby woods
as if expecting Aslan 

I admire his silence
and try to cultivate interior quiet
attuning my ears to the soft sounds
of bird calls and frog chatter
sounds of my youth
unchanged and immortal

The baby sleeps warmly on my chest
snuggled beneath the nursing cover
I sigh and he echoes me
heart to heart
imitating me even in his sleep

A tiny spider throws his rope onto my iPad 
and hangs out with me while I write
Today even a spider
is delightful 


New Quotes from the Peanut Gallery

Sizing up her grade:
My almost 5 year old girl: “This is a lot of yogurt, Mum! It’s full up to here.”

“Oh, yeah? If you eat it all up you’ll get really big. You’ll be a giant and you’ll have to be in grade six instead of kindergarten!”

Her, walking by indignantly: “No, that’s silly. If I was a giant I’d be in grade 100!”

Nursing the baby:

Almost 5 year old daughter: “How come you have the milk on both sides?”

Me: “Because I have two breasts and that’s where the milk is made.”

Her: “What if you had three? Here, and here and here.”

Me: “That would be funny. Pig mummies have them all down their bellies so they can feed lots of baby pigs.” 

Her: “And ladies have two in case they have two babies and they’re both hungry at the same time.”

Me: “That’s right.”