Every year we attend the Sutter NICU Wings Remembrance Event that remembers all the babies under the care of the Sutter Medical Center NICU who didn't make it home. Families come and attend whose baby died many years ago. Others, had just left the hospital. We come and remember the lives of our babies. To feel the love we have for them and together we long for them.
We love coming back every year to reunite with the NICU staff that were with us when Olivia was born. We reconnect with some of the same families every year. We love to talk about them. Speak their name. Hear their name. And we all know and understand each others weight of longing, missing and loving them. We write letters, send kisses to them on the wings of butterflies. Their siblings remember them through creative arts and crafts.
We shed many tears and remember the heart break. We also remember their lives. Regardless how short their life was, they are forever with us.
Every year, a slideshow is presented for the families in remembrance of our babies. These are the lyrics we picked for Olivia. It's from a song called, "Winter Bear", by Coby Grant. It was written in honor of baby who was stillborn. Click here to see the "Winter Bear" music video.
"I knew you before I knew your name
I loved you before I saw your face
I longed for you for all of that time
And I held your heart in mine
I kissed you you a hundred million times
I tasted the tears that I cried
I held you my beautiful child
And I'll keep your heart in mine
I love you to the moon and back my little winter bear
I know you know how much that is cause you're already there.
I never knew a love like this could ever possibly exist,
I love you to the moon and back as long as I live."
Winter Bear-Coby Grant
Geoff and I were invited by the Sacramento Memorial Garden For The Unborn to speak at their "Grow The Garden Tour Event" that took place this last weekend. We were connected to this group through Tanya Flores who is a friend and a Reproductive Grief Care Coordinator at Sierra Pregnancy + Health.
Toni- It was a beautiful morning to remember and reflect the lives of our babies. We met others and listened to each others stories of heartbreak and loss. We were able to share our story of loss of Olivia and two other babies to miscarriage. We shared how their lives made an impact on us and how we remember and honor them. We came to recognize and acknowledge that there needs to be a place for grief and grieving. That lives we barely knew existed and lives that we didn't get to see or hold are forever a part of us. They deserve to be remembered. That's what the Sacramento Memorial Garden for the Unborn is for. It is a place for us to come, to reflect, remember and find hope and comfort.
Geoff- I was taken back by this experience. I have noticed as of late that I am becoming emotional again regarding Olivia and our miscarriages (7 Weeks & 9 Weeks). This day was no different for me as we were minutes away from speaking I just started tearing up and feeling overwhelmed with both gratitude and sorrow. We were invited to share our story of all our losses and specifically to tell how we have chosen to memorialize our miscarriages. Toni wrote so beautifully regarding our experiences over the past 6 years ending with our most recent miscarriage in March of 2018. I was supposed to close out with a bullet point list of all the ways we have memorialized Olivia and our Brabec Babies.
The morning of the event, I asked Toni if I could actually open and close us out... She said yes of course. I only had a faint idea of what I would say. I ended up feeling moved to say "Thank you" to the Memorial Garden Group for building a special place for our family and others that have experienced the loss of an unborn child. Immediately as I started to speak I welled up with tears and found it challenging to get my words out, which is not usually the case for me 😆. In addition to saying thank you, I also shared how losses such as ours and others alike are for the most part not talked about in our society, that it is a grey area that needs to be acknowledged. After Toni spoke, I shared in what ways we have chosen to remember Olivia and our Brabec Babies. Toni and I will write a separate blog regarding this, so we can go into more detail. We are so grateful for being given an opportunity to share our story, our testimony. We both said what was on our hearts and that is always the best, Praise God ☺️
As you can see from the pictures that we took the garden is absolutely beautiful and a special place to come and not only visit but to stay and reflect for more than just a moment. The careful planning and detail that was put into everything truly came from the heart. If you or someone you know has been affected by abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth, I hope you'll remember this garden. This beautiful remembrance garden is public and open all day every day. Please check out their website https://www.sacunbornmemorial.org
- The Brabec's
Earlier this year, I heard that Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento was starting a volunteer doula program. I was notified and encouraged by a few of my friends to apply. It was a great opportunity to gain experience and give back to the hospital Olivia is connected to. Olivia was born at the Sutter Memorial Hospital before it was closed and they moved into the new hospital now called Sutter Medical Center. Many of the staff and physicians that delivered and treated Olivia, are still there. We have remained in touch and have been back to donate comfort kits and deliver copies of a book I had contributed to the staff. So the idea to possibly serve alongside them, whether directly, or indirectly was something I would be very proud to be a part of.
For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to apply. I was slightly disappointed, however, I felt the timing wasn’t right. I left it at that. If there was another opportunity, then I would consider it at that time. Well, that time came. A few weeks ago, I received an email stating that Sutter’s doula program was a success and they were looking to expand. They wanted to know if I was still interested and if I would apply. Well, of course, I said YES! That set in motion for me to apply and a little while later was called in for an interview. I picked the first available interview time slot because in the back of my mind I felt employers often remember well the very first interview of the day. So 8:30am it was even though getting there was right in the middle of morning traffic. I got there in time even with a bit of walking to find the location of the interviews.
I was called in and was rather surprised to see that there were seven nurses and doulas sitting around a small table that would be apart of my interview. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous. Maybe it was because this was volunteer position and not a paid one so there wasn’t any financial pressure that way. I definitely believe prayers from my family were felt and answered. I also believe that our story and that I truly feel called to this work would speak for itself. I sat down and I was asked to share about myself. Well, I shared. And from the wide-eyed looks of their faces and the amount of head nodding indicated that the answer I gave was more than what they were expecting. By the end of the interview, I felt like I was chatting with dear colleagues and friends. I left and hoped that I would be seeing them again soon and prayed we would be working together as a team.
A little over a week later, I received a call from Sutter saying they wanted me to join their doula team. I immediately said, YES! So I am beginning my volunteer doula position this fall. Right now, we are in the process of obtaining the necessary paperwork to complete my application. I have an orientation later in September with training taking place in early October. The days before and after Olivia’s 6th birthday will be at Sutter training how to support other families in their birth story. I honestly can’t think of a better way to honor and celebrate her birthday.
My time commitment for this is really only a couple times a month and I will be able to know ahead of time my schedule. I will start out doing night shift at the hospital. Prayer would be appreciated as I haven’t done an “all-nighter” since college. Regardless, I am so honored and grateful for this opportunity. It appears that God is opening doors for us we never would have imagined. Please pray for Geoff and I as we step out in faith and see where God will lead us.
Earlier this year, I (Toni) had the privilege of leading and guiding a small group of women through the Grief Recovery Method. It was my pilot group so it my first time leading it. I felt honored for these women to have allowed me into their own personal and sacred journey of grief. It was such a reward to see the participants realize some of the misinformation they were given as a child or previously to deal with losses and disappointments in their life and how they were inhibiting them from moving forward. With the proper tools taught in the Grief Recovery Method, they are now equipped to better deal with grief, loss and other disappointments.
God has placed on our hearts to serve the community by providing support to grieving families. Grief Recovery Method is just one of those ways. We continued to give our desires to the Lord and trust He would provide the opportunities and supply all that is needed to do so. And in ways that we believe could only have been orchestrated by God himself, He has provided us a location with a private office in Roseville. This is a temporary arrangement, however, it is meeting our current need and it was truly only God that could have arranged this space to hold 1on1 as well as group sessions. We will be here until God closes this door or opens another one. We know He will continue to open doors for us for partnerships, and to further reach our community. He already has. Because of this, I now have a client scheduled for one on one meetings. We desire to keep our hearts and minds open to God’s plan, His timing and provision in what we believe has been God’s calling for our lives. Please join us in our prayer request- that God will continue to use us His way and in His time.
Today, I (Toni) felt my heart break. After so many months of picking up the pieces and clumsily holding it together, it came undone. James, now 3, caught me off guard and in a random statement told me he didn’t have a sister. Realizing that this is coming from 3 year old mindset trying to process why he can’t see his sister, I softly stated that he did indeed has a sister and asked him why he thought he didn’t. He looked up at me with question in his eyes and said, “But I don’t see her. Where is she?”. My eyes quietly filled with tears and I told him, “She is in heaven.” James responded, “But I want to see her.” I looked down at him and felt the tears fall. “I want to see her too”, I told him. I stood in the kitchen where this short conversation took place and felt my heart crumble while James was already off and playing with one of his toys.
This was the first time that James has brought up his sister on his own (at least with me). Geoff and I speak of Olivia with James often and look at her pictures. He has always known he has a sister. But today he showed that he is just beginning to process and question why his sister is not here. My heart broke wishing that we didn’t have to have that conversation and this was just the beginning. I so wished that Olivia was here playing with him on the floor.
Some people wonder when the grieving period ends. It doesn’t. Grief never ends but takes on a different shape with each new stage of life. We learn to live and move forward with it. We are now embarking a new stage of life as James is starting to verbally try and make sense of everything. And James makes sure he constantly communicates this to us (“why? why, mom? why?”). This is a new shape of grief; helping James process death and loss appropriately for his age. We want to teach him it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to grieve. It’s not something we want to hide from him. And we will teach him that death is not the end. We will see her again because we have a hope founded in our faith and relationship with Jesus that we will one day join Olivia in heaven and be in the presence of Jesus for eternity. Death and loss are a reality in this life. We had a daughter who died. James has a sister whom he has never met and can’t see. So until our time here on earth comes to an end, we will long for her. This is our reality.
Today seems a little tougher this year. My heart is torn between longing and happiness. Missing my sweet girl, Olivia. How I wish she was here growing up with her brother. Missing my mom. There are times when I just need my mom.
James is growing to be such a little man. And I’m so proud and honored to be his mom. So thankful and grateful for my mother-in-law, Sheri. She has walked with us all along the way.
I am so blessed to have all 4 of these people in my life even though two are in heaven. I know I will see them again. But until then I will miss them and continue to carry them in my heart.
Wishing a gentle Mother’s Day to all moms and those who are missing their moms. ❤️ 💐
Happy Nurses Week to all!!! I have had the honor and pleasure of placing 100s of nurses over my 3 1/2 years of recruiting.
I would like to honor Suzanne Griffith, RN. She was one of our nurses from the High Risk Maternity Ward at Sutter Memorial Sacramento just five years ago this past October. Suzanne journeyed with us from prep, to delivery, to the NICU and finally to our goodbyes for our sweet First Born Olivia Hope. Believe it or not we laughed, we cried and shared a hug. Even during tough times I look to sarcasm to create a little laughter (It’s just who I am). I noticed Suzanne overwhelmed with tears of sorrow when we were preparing to say goodbye to Olivia. I followed her out of the room, met up with her and gave her a big hug and a thank you filled with tears. She had already given us so much care and support, standing strong for us throughout our stay. To this day Toni and I keep in touch with her. We will be forever grateful to Nurse Suzanne for her presence in our lives ❤️ (Praise the Lord)
I would be remiss if I did not share the following... A week ago today, I was in Little Rock, AR for a work weekend away from my loved ones but surrounded by my work family❤️ Toni and James were back at home walking in memory of our First Born Olivia and our subsequent miscarried babies.
We attend the annual March of Dimes #marchforbabies walk in Sacramento with a local non profit focused on pregnancy and infant loss, #sharingparentsofsacramento. This was the first walk without me there. to say that my heart was torn in two different directions is an understatement. To this day I still find myself weeping for our losses. As the years pass it has become easier to share our journey in and through child loss.
If you or someone you know has experienced child loss and/ or miscarriage and are struggling, please encourage them to grieve as they feel they need to and to share their thoughts and feelings as they need to share. there is no wrong way just as there is no perfect way to grieve❤️
#gtbrabec gtbrabec.com #gtbrabecgriefrecovery
Well tonight brings another Christmas Holiday with the celebration of our Savior and time spent eating great food and opening presents. Over the past 5 years Toni and I have discovered the difficulty of celebrating the Christmas Season in the midst of experiencing immense loss. This year we are mourning the loss of both my Dad and a miscarriage between Toni and I. In our society the holidays are supposed to be a celebration and not a time of mourning and grieving.
Ever since the loss of Olivia 5 years ago there is the constant reminder that she was here on this earth and now she is not. As James (Our Rainbow Baby = Subsequent baby after loss) grows older it is at times a constant reminder that he is not our only child and that there is a gap in our family. Our First born Olivia was born and gone the day of our 5th Wedding Anniversary. We also have had two miscarriages that I come to find out are just as important losses even though they never made it to full term. We should have 4 children and instead James perceives himself to be an only child when looking through the lens of a near 3yr old. His mother and I know better and little by little we are introducing Olivia into his day to day.
There are 4 stockings on our mantel, two of them have names on them for Olivia and James. I catch myself staring at them and wondering what Olivia would look like and sound like next to James. I picture the two of them helping Toni while setting up and decorating the house and our Christmas tree… Is this selfish of me? Am I stuck in the past? Am I not happy with what God has given us in James? I would say a resounding “No” to all of the above. We cherish Olivia and her short life that was lived on this earth. She will always be known as our first born. The Holidays are always going to be a little rough when we remember those loved ones that we have lost.
As I started my journey to be a Doula and began to share with others what I hoped to accomplish, it was very common to see the questioning look in their eyes underneath a raised brow. “A doula! What is that?”, someone would ask. I’ll be honest. A few years ago, I didn’t really know what a Doula was. All I knew is that they had something to do with delivering a baby, but what role they played and how it differed from a midwife, nurse and physician, I didn’t really have a clue.
So what is a doula and why did I become one?
According to the Miriam Webster a doula is “a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth”. Doulas of North America International (dona.org) defines a doula as, “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”
So why did I want to become one? 5 years ago, I would never have guessed that becoming a doula was in my future. But 5 years ago, I was thrown into a world I had no clue how to navigate. Pregnancy in of itself can be challenging to face with so many changes to your body and the anticipation of a major life changing event is about to happen. It’s a lot to take on. My husband and I were expecting our first child. Neither of us were at all prepared for how our world would be rocked. Our baby girl was diagnosed with Bi-lateral Renal Agenesis at 20 weeks. The absence of both kidneys. Should was not expected to survive. We felt lost. We had no clue as to what we were supposed to do. We didn’t know where to look for help. What were our options and what did those options mean?
Our doctors didn’t even really know who could help us. A lot of the support we found were for after loss. But for us who was still carrying our baby, we couldn’t find support. We felt alone and helpless. And we so badly needed help. Advice. Just knowing we weren’t alone. A pastor couple who actually married my husband and I reached out to us. A family member of theirs had gone through a similar situation where their baby had passed. They offered us counseling and spiritual support, even a list of tips and suggestions from their family member on what we could do to make the best of what we were facing. Our burden was a little bit lighter thanks to our pastor and his wife. After the loss of our daughter, followed by a miscarriage, our rainbow baby James and a second miscarriage, it become more and more clear that I wanted to be the help that was at the time so hard for us to find. To be a support to someone experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth or fatal diagnosis. To supporting through the high anxiety of a subsequent pregnancy.
As a StillBirthday doula, I am trained to provide support prior to, during and after delivery in any trimester and in all outcomes. That means the good and the bad, when things go as expected or when the unexpected happens. During the joyful times. During the heartbreaking times. I’m here to hold that space for you, to help you know your options so you can better navigate your pregnancy. It’s your body. It’s your baby. It’s your birthing experience.
Geoff and toni Brabec
Here is where you can read up on the latest with the Brabecs- Event Experiences, Our Thoughts, Book Reviews, What Is On Our Hearts & Wherever Our Journey Is Taking Us.