I’d go on a three-month trip to Bali, alone, to some Zen resort – one with loads of koi fish ponds. Each day, I’d walk along said koi fish ponds, barefoot, yoga mat (or luxurious white towel?) in tow. I’d pick a spot, lay down my mat (or towel?), sit on it (Indian style), close my eyes, and hold my hands out to my sides, palms facing the sky.
I’d absorb the peaceful sounds of running water, faint Zen resort music, and the rhythmic cadence of the soft-spoken instructor’s voice as he coached me through deep breathing and relaxation exercises. He’d be a tiny, bald man in a silk robe, at least 95 years old – wise to life’s sorrows. He would’ve suffered immense tragedy, and, at 95, lost all those he loved. But he would’ve achieved total inner peace despite it all.
He’d speak about some of his Hindu (or Buddhist?) beliefs regarding how said inner peace comes only from within. And I’d take the helpful parts of that to find some sort of renewed strength.
He’d scold a group of cat-fighting middle-aged women for disturbing the Zen environment (wait, that’s only on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). Though, it wouldn’t be completely outside the realm of possibility – the Housewives love visiting Bali.
After Matthew died, I entertained weird ideas… I mean, I was in deep despair, and it was pretty disturbing to think about all this maternity leave with no baby. It wasn’t just Bali – there were more ideas…
I thought I could hike the Appalachian trail – that trail that’s super long. I’ve since learned it goes over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine and takes about six months to hike. And I guess you have to camp along the way, which I know nothing about, and hate. But those are small details.
At the time I figured I’d just put one foot in front of the other for a few months. I’d become so tired and traumatized by the experience that maybe the intensity of my grief would lessen. Also, maybe along the way I’d meet some others hiking the trail for equally disturbing reasons.
I thought I could attend a Biggest Loser Resort for a few weeks. A good friend had recently attended in Malibu (that one’s since closed) after appearing on Biggest Loser in fall of 2013. It’s a fitness camp, and anyone can attend, overweight or not. I figured they’d whip me back into shape.
In the earliest days, I’d attempted to starve myself. It’s difficult to be gentle to a body you believe has failed you – a body with all this pregnancy weight and no baby to show for it. But I figured at some point I might start binge eating, so I wanted to nip that in the bud. And I thought maybe there’d be some other broken people at Biggest Loser Resort – others who’d gained weight for tragic reasons.
Or, I thought, we could vacation to the Middle East – Westin has wickedly spectacular resorts in otherwise scary places. And I’d kind of always wanted to go, but I worried about safety. However, safety wasn’t top of mind after Matthew died.
Mark didn’t like my brilliant ideas (WHY?), so I threw tantrums about this and engaged in random activities at home instead.
Instead of Zen activities in Bali, I contemplated taking up yoga. Instead of Appalachian trail, I walked a local bike path and hiked at a local state park. Instead of Biggest Loser Resort and vacationing to the Middle East, I… Well, there were no good substitutes.
I tried Title Boxing. It was nice to release some aggression, pretending the punching bag was the friend from this post. It was also amusing to see the class kick the asses of those who looked to be some of the fittest around. But the jumping involved hurt my knee too much.
I surfed the internet for hours per day, reading every baby loss story there was. At first it was oddly comforting. It then became oddly non-comforting. Just when I’d start to think maybe I’d come out on the other side of all this a reasonably happy, functional person, albeit after a very long time, I’d find a story of a woman, 20 years out from losing her child, who was so effed up – like so much so she became a hoarder, owned 25 cats, and pushed a watermelon around in a baby stroller at Disney World.
“What if I become effed up like that?” I’d ask my friend on our Wednesday walks.
I needed to find some sort of inspirational person AND some sort of positive activity to engage in – one more realistic than a vacation to the Middle East.
Late one night I stumbled upon @ameliakyoga on Instagram. I don’t even remember how I found her, because I’d been under the impression Instagram was only for Kendall and Kylie Jenner, or like Miley Cyrus, and their followers. I’m 30, and Instagram caught on after I lost interest in social media (and I was a Facebook sort of gal).
Amelia’s and my stories shared similarities. Amelia lost her first son, her handsome, precious Landon on July 12, 2014 at ~41 weeks after an emergency C-section. I lost my first son, Matthew, on July 13, 2015 at ~33 weeks after an emergency C-section.
I scrolled back to July 12, 2014 and read all Amelia’s posts. She so beautifully and candidly shared her journey – the roller coaster that’s grief. She shared her darkness, with which I identified, but because she was one year further down the road, she’d also been able to share some light, which gave me hope.
I admired Amelia’s fitness level – her physical strength achieved through her yoga practice, which she maintained through her intense grief. I liked Amelia’s business – her bright colored Prana Vida yoga pants. I was excited to see Amelia pregnant with her rainbow baby, Lily. And, I was inspired by all Amelia had done, and continues to do, to honor Landon’s legacy, including designing yoga pants inspired by Landon and starting Landon’s Legacy Retreat, a healing retreat for bereaved mothers.
Amelia often explains Landon’s life was short, yet big. I hope, someday, in addition to Matthew’s life being short, it too will be big. I’m not sure in what way, and it’ll be no consolation, but the thought is inspiring – the best it can get under the circumstances.
I showed Mark my new “most inspiring person”. And he told me I should contact her, and I was like, “No, she has like 100,000 followers! She doesn’t care about this random girl from the Midwest (Amelia’s from Canada).”
But Mark emailed Amelia despite my protests, because “shy” doesn’t describe him, and he’d do ANYTHING to help me (and I love him for it). He didn’t tell me – because I would’ve told him it’d be freaking weird for him to contact Amelia and share Matthew’s story, but Mark’s comfortable with his manhood, so he did it anyway.
And she responded to him! So then Mark was like, “You should email Amelia! She’s so nice and inspirational.”
But I never emailed her, because I was still shy about it.
So then Mark ordered me a dress and two pairs of size medium yoga pants (one pair with palm trees, and one pair with butterflies) from Prana Vida. Everything came to our house, and the dress fit perfectly, but the pants were too small. So Mark told me I had to contact Amelia and ask if I could do an exchange. He wouldn’t contact her because he was embarrassed by my fatness (not really, but that’s what I joked about with him).
So I emailed Amelia asking if I could exchange the pants, and she was super nice and inspirational – just like Mark had told me. We talked about Landon and Matthew, and she exchanged my pants for larges (though now that I’ve lost weight, I may need mediums again, but that will be on me – I’ll just order more).
I continue to follow Amelia on Instagram and be inspired by her journey.
I wear my bright colored palm tree and butterfly yoga pants with pride. They’re unique around here, and knowing Amelia made them with Landon in mind makes me feel more connected to Matthew when I wear them. They’re beautiful – eye catching, so I figure when I wear them someone might ask where they’re from, and I’ll get to talk about Matthew. Or, I’ll wear them on walks with my conservative accounting friend, just to see how long it takes her to question them. 🙂
I started yoga too. I mostly do Level One Yoga Meltdown with Jillian Michaels on YouTube. Amelia would be disappointed, but I’m a beginner, and it’s super difficult. And yoga’s a little Zen for my type-A personality – there’s something about Jillian screaming, “Get COMFORTABLE with being UNCOMFORTABLE!!!” in this video, that gives me that extra push. And it has to be somewhat legitimate – it has like 11 million views, and only like 8 million of them are from me. I’ve almost graduated from it though, so soon I’ll begin using our subscription to project oneOeight, a program with yoga videos (Amelia’s one of the instructors).
The second annual Landon’s Legacy Retreat is scheduled for July 5-10, 2016 in Manitoba, Canada. The 2015 retreat included 24 attendees from five countries, and the attendees are close friends now – Amelia has been sharing their stories on Instagram. Amelia even raises money to make the retreat accessible to women of all income levels – to find out more, go here. What an amazing way to honor Landon’s legacy! I might attend in 2016 or, perhaps, another one in the future (right now it’s difficult to plan ahead more than like three days).
But I think Landon’s Legacy Retreat would be a better fit than a hike up the Appalachian trail, a trip to Biggest Loser Resort, or a vacation to the Middle East. I’m also excited to have connected with someone from Canada (before, the only Canadian I knew was a soccer referee by the name of Jonathan Weiner).
So, in conclusion (that phrase appropriately transitions anything), thank you, Amelia, for being to me what you are to so many – a glow in the woods – one of the lanterns helping to light my way down this dark path.