Thursday, 28 January 2016

Birth Announcement

Not sure if I pop up on anyone's reader anymore.  Not sure if this little blog makes it on to anyone's radar these days...

But here I am, back in this space, after having nearly A YEAR pass by.  I always thought I would come to this space for EVERYTHING I'm feeling - the good stuff along with the bad/difficult.  I thought I would blog about bedtime and day trips and new foods and beach days...along with doctor's appointments, sleepless nights, tantrums, and random episodes about trying times that come along with being a Stay At Home Mom.  Turns out I've taken a bit to IG, and have connected on an entirely different level with BLM friends -- and this space doesn't feel like the lifeline it used to.  But I still feel this space is sacred.  It's connected to all things Alexander.  It was created in his absence, and posts and potential paragraphs still float around in my head on the daily. 

(And I still try to get around to reading all the blogs I follow -- even if I rarely get around to commenting these days :( )

I'm in this space today because yesterday marked the 1 month countdown to Alexander's 4th birthday, and "plans" I had been looking forward to following through with are kind of unraveling and I'm feeling a little down in the dumps about it. 

I've been toying with the idea of doing a "Birth Announcement" for Alexander for several months now (well, actually since he was born.  But only in this past 6-12 months did I feel really strongly about formally putting something together and sending them out), and now that we're a month away, I'm feeling the pressure and the Big Orange Wonderful Company has let me down time and time again. 

Here's how the story has gone:

When I did Theo's birth announcement, I was torn with the fact that I hadn't done anything for Alexander in the same nature.  We did a keepsake hand stamped disc for his first Christmas with all his birth stats on it, and gave it to 10 close family members... but never an "announcement" of sorts.  When I was working on Theo's, I felt foolish in actually wanting to produce an announcement for Alexander with it being 16+ months after his death/birth. I mean, no one needed an "announcement" at this stage in the game.  Everyone knew he died and was born -- what did they want with a piece of paper with his picture and stats on it?  But I battled with the idea so much so that it took me 4 months to finish Theo's (that and I was slammed with "new" mom syndrome and totally sucked at getting anything done or retaining any type of focus for projects).  But I mocked up a little "if I ever do this for him, it might look something like this" sample, and it's stayed saved in My Projects ever since.  I struggled with sharing his image for years, and that fact pretty much tucked this idea away since this past year. 

I've felt more passionate about sharing his picture and wanting people to see him for who he really is.  And to be brutally honest, the sketch we had done for his 2nd birthday didn't really serve me with any finality with having his image properly represented.  I think he's such a beautiful baby, and I felt the sketch softened his features (in trying to take away the "hurt" maybe) to the point where it didn't really look that much like him.  It lacks detail and precision, and I don't know if it's because I had the order "rushed", or if this was the best interpretation the artist could come up with.  I don't have it displayed.  I also haven't looked into finding another artist to take on the challenge.  It took too much out of me then, and I don't want to revisit the frustrations that come with having your dead son drawn by another (albeit loving and caring) person.

Anyway, back to the Birth Announcement.  I reopened the saved project for Alexander's birth announcement in the fall as I was looking for Christmas card options for our 2015 card.  I went ahead and ordered a few in different finishes and different picture layouts.  I stuck with card option I had picked back in 2013 -- I wasn't up for shopping around and comparing options with his photos.  I loved the little hearts, and default fonts -- I just put blinders on and ordered some samples of the one card over Christmas. 

The samples arrived, and I didn't love it.  I wanted a pearl finish with only colour pictures.  So I went ahead and made those changes and placed another order for the ONE card. 

It arrived with the changes I had made, and I still didn't love it.  I think it was the lack of boarders around the pictures, and these stock cards layouts for the announcements aren't something you can completely customize using SF.  You just keep looking.  Ugh. 

(And I know there are other companies I could dive into and test out that allow for that kind of customization -- but I wasn't up for trying anything new, and in the past SF had good ship time customer service.  So I was sticking with what I knew).

There was an announcement layout I had found in Tiny Prints (again, back in 2013), only thing was it didn't allow me to put 12-15 pictures on the back.  But I loved the front.  I knew I could maybe find something similar on SF (which has the 12-15 photo layout for the back), but that meant I had to dig in and sift through and basically devote energy I didn't have for this project. 

I let Christmas pass.  And really, once the 25th was behind me, I was able to scroll through the birth announcement layouts with a much lighter outlook.  It wasn't easy, but I found 2 other layouts I liked (and spent several hours plugging Alexander's pictures in -- editing over and over and over and literally staring off into the computer screen with a dumbfounded wtf-esque nature), and ordered samples of them both. 

It was January 2nd.  I felt like I was ahead of the game.  I would get the samples in less than 3 weeks for sure (my Christmas cards arrived in 4 business days and I ordered 100 of those!!), and make a final decision.  I was adding on all the bells and whistles too -- pearl finish, rounded corners, coloured envelopes with a liner.  It all seemed fitting and a must do for Alexander.  I would only be ordering 10-20 or so -- maybe a few more after sending out an email to dear friends and family asking if they would like a copy too.  I also made custom return address labels specifically for these cards.  I searched the Canada Post website and found Year of the Dragon stamps to use for postage.  My BLM heart was getting warmed with satisfaction (you know, in the tiny ways it seldom comes).  I was looking forward to sitting down with the 3 options and going over them with Daniel and picking out a permanent picture keepsake announcement for our boy to send to our close friends and family. 


^^^ that symbolizes a lot of time passing
*sad face*

Weeks have passed and I've been served up with let down after let down.  I'm at the point where ordering now wont guarantee enough time to accept and then send out again with recipients having it in hand before February 27th.  I had SO MUCH time, and SF failed time and again.

One card, the folded 4x8 card option, arrived 2 weeks after ordering.  It had a big scratch/crinkle right across Alexander's sweet face, and the photo's themselves printed really dark.  The text on the front was cut off by the bottom of the card, and it didn't appear to be when I previewed.  Fail.  I liked this option because it was folded, and his pix were on the inside and it wasn't too "in your face" with my dead baby popping out of the envelope on first sight.  BUT, it wasn't at all what I initially had in mind.  I liked it, but didn't love it -- especially since the pictures turned out a lot darker than in the preview.  Plus, I still wanted to see how the other sample turned out.

Both sample cards were due to arrive before January 20 -- and it's the 28th today and the second one hasn't come.  It was a simple 5x7, 2 pictures on the front, and a collage of pix on the back.  All his birth info on the front, along with a few "winks" that spoke to me....only thing was it was set on a brownish background, which again, wasn't what I had in mind.  But the default font colour was called "Heavenly", and I took it as a sign and wanted to see how it turned out.  Maybe I would love it.  But I called SF, and they're deeming it "lost" because they cant track anything once it's crossed the boarder, and once things hit their ETA, they called it a loss and refunded me the $3 and change for the card.

But I don't care about the money or their "so sorry for the inconvenience" customer service.  I just wanted the damn card on time so I could make a decision and place my order to make it all come together before his birthday. 

I went back to the original design I had ordered over Christmas and tried to see if I could convince myself that this one was good enough.  And know what?  I left off his time of birth on the damn card.  Fuck.  #bigfatmomfail.  Even if I were to move forward with this card design, I have to go in and add his time of birth and I don't know if it's going to look too cramped. 

I'm holding a 3/3 fail, and Alexander's birthday is less than a month away.  Sigh. 

That's where I'm at.  Wind out of my sails.  Wishing that SF could have just mailed the 2 measly samples in ONE PACKAGE and have them arrive on time, and I not be faced with a failure for my hopes for his 4th birthday.  But really wishing this weren't a task at hand in the first place.  Dammit.

I didn't have anything else planned for his 4th birthday.  I still want to get a card together --but I feel it will be a little lost in translation if I'm sending "birth announcements" out 4 years and a few weeks after my son died and was born.  At least if they arrived on the exact anniversary of his death, it would have made sense technically.

I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant when he died.  He was born hours into the following day at 4:51pm.  He was 7 pounds 13 ounces.  53 centimeters long.  He was given the name Alexander because it's my very favorite, with the middle name David after my late father who I wanted to honor.  He was an entire person, and I miss him so much.  I wanted all these things on a piece of pretty cardstock along with his beautiful picture to share with those closest to me.  And for ME to have too.  I did an announcement card for Theo (which I don't love*), and I just wanted to complete this small gesture for Alexander.  A nod to my love and adoration for him. 

I wanted to send these cards out to BLM friends as well (with permission of course - I didn't want to be too in-your-face/pushy about this).  I haven't shared his picture with many people -- but I've been struck with a sense of necessity for it lately. 

I want to wait to give this "lost" card sample option time to arrive.  But I'm afraid if I don't place an order this weekend, I have zero chance to be on time.  I complained to SF customer service that this was a time sensitive project I was ordering samples for and having pieces go MIA really effed me over.  And yes, I told them it was for my dead son's 4th birthday.  They put a free shipping credit on my account for my next order.  Oh Happy Day, right?  Blah. 


Just a screen shot I saved from when I was trying to see if I could work out an option to go with the Tiny Prints card I liked.  Note, they couldn't reconfigure the options for the back of the card.  Sigh. 
Life of a BLM.

*This is the BA we ended up going with for Theo.  I don't love it because 1) it says "Introducing" and he was 4 months old by the time I ordered and sent them out -- and almost everyone we sent the announcement to had already met him. 2) we didn't have professional photo's taken and these were just cute snap shots and before sending them out I had a big "These don't scream birth announcement!!" moment.  3) we didn't even own a DSLR when he was born, so the photo quality didn't turn out that great.  But meh, time was passing and he was growing and it was getting boarder line embarrassing putting something in the mail when basically he was almost a year, haha.  But they went out to 150-180 people and there's no do over's and he lived so it's really no big deal.

this was the back -- which I like very much.  Love actually. 
This message was set to be on the back no matter what layout we went with
this was an additional sample I ordered WITH the 200 announcements.  It didn't allow me to fit all the text I wanted, but I really liked the layout.  But the fact that I ordered it anyway??? indecisive much??
this one was probably a favorite too.  I didn't like it because it was a vertical layout and I was convinced a BA needed to be horizontal.  But again, I ordered this sample WITH the 200 OTHER cards because I liked it.  Turns out, this is the one I wish I had went with all together.  Learning more and more about my indecisive nature lead me down the sample ordering for Alexander's cards. Too bad nothing is arriving on time... :( 


  1. I'd really love to see Alexander's beautiful face. I've had good luck with tiny prints but I totally get wanting it to be perfect and just a certain way. We don't do a big thing for Bear's birthday. It certainly is an incredibly special day, but we love and miss him just as much every other day too so whatever you end up doing will be just fine. I wanted to take cookies to the nurses on his third birthday. I accomplished that goal on his fourth. I'm a turtle.

    1. I like tiny prints too. Did our Christmas cards with them last year. And their ornaments are FAR superior over SF. SF ornaments are horrible actually.

      We don't have anything planned for the day either. You know, back when his first birthday was approaching...I had this vision that I would invite EVERYONE I knew to a park. Make the invite for 4:30 and do a balloon/latern release or a candle lighting right at 4:51. I felt like it would be so special, and I wanted to let all the love out, along with the hurt and grief. I never did anything. I didn't even look into invites or park locations. I was too overwhelmed by the task and felt like no one would show up. But I regret it. Or at least, maybe not regret, but feel sad rather that it never happened. I sometimes picture my grief to take form as it does in the movies and have support and effortless abiding from others (non blm). But it's hard. I'm better with small things. Gestures. Blips of quiet love that can ripple through and touch anyone who notices.

      I love that you baked cookies xox

  2. I so regret not sending announcements for Cale and I regret not doing more for his fifth. Announcements would be nice for a 5th birthday if you want to table it for another year.

    Here's what I think. Send out his sunset name in the sand, or a picture that you just LOVE when you see it. Could be of him, could be something that makes YOU think of him, whatever, something that brings you warmth when you see it. And write this on the back:

    I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant when he died. He was born hours into the following day at 4:51pm. He was 7 pounds 13 ounces. 53 centimeters long. He was given the name Alexander because it's my very favorite, with the middle name David after my late father who I wanted to honor. He was an entire person, and I miss him so much.

    Happy 4th Birthday to our Alexander.

    And send that. It's beautiful. It's loving. And no matter what, he will be loved and missed that day as he is every day.

    Also, I would love to see his pictures. Have I sent you Cale's?! If not, I would also love to share him with you.

    Love you friend.

    Also, ditch shitterfly. I broke up with them a few years ago and never looked back.

    1. That really spoke to me! I know I know they were just what I said up there, but I told myself not to put anything of my "own" on the announcement because it was just too much pressure. Nothing would sound good enough/strong enough. But I like that. You've got me thinking now.
      I really want to send his picture out. I've been thinking strongly on this since the summer, and I don't know if I can wait for the 5th birthday to tackle this energy source again. I'm so bummed about Shutterfly, but i'll see what this weekend brings me with fiddling around with my options.

      You always know what to say Caroline!!!

    2. I agree with Caroline completely about that message: it absolutely stood out to me when I read your post - there is so much love in those words.

      I would love to see a picture of Alexander. I was struck, too, by an intense desire to look at Anja's picture this year, about a month before her birthday. You and your family are in my heart this month...four years old, little Alexander, you should have been.

    3. Your card arrived today. E sat with me as I opened it, after I told her it was from another mama whose baby died and would've been four. 'He's so, so cute, Mommy,' she said. 'Such a cute little baby.' He really, really was beautiful, Veronica. The card is beautiful, too, and I am very glad to have it. You and your whole family are in my thoughts and heart this weekend, especially tomorrow. Happy birthday little baby Alexander. It is so, so terribly wrong that you are not here. The world is so much less bright without you taking up your spot in it. You are loved and missed and always remembered.

  3. I too would be honoured to see Alexander.

    Indecisive or not, that you are doing this speaks volumes to the love of your son. I also absolutely love the words on the back of the announcement you sent out. I didn't do anything like that for Scarlet's. I was so worried I would be judged for even mentioning Xavier on what was Scarlet's "moment" that i completely shied away from it.
    Whatever you decide to do V, I hope it brings you a measure of peace knowing that you are remembering Alexander in such a beautiful way. Xoxo ~ida

    1. I struggled a lot with "including" Alexander on Theo's BA. I mean, it was THEO! He's a new independent person deserving of his own spotlight and time in the sun! But I leaned towards including the "Little Brother" shirt because of how I know others would perceive it. If I just sent it out with no mention or nod to Alexander, I know a lot of people would be relieved because I was "fixed". So I did it because when Theo was born, he was so very much part of Alexander's story too. Now, he's grown and 100% building his own story - but with Alexander tied in in what ever ways WE can manage to help him understand. When he was first born, he was so undeniably my second born and I needed to represent that...even if it made some people think I was "stuck" in grief or whatever. I'd rather that than them think I was over it all.

      I hope Theo can look back at it in 20 years and see he was born after great loss and mended us in ways impossible to understand.

      I will definitely send you a pic of alexander if I ever get around to finishing these cards :(

  4. I love the idea of an announcement and wish I had done more for Ava as well. I didn't even do a obituary and have always regretted it.

    I too support ditching shutterfly. I love VistaPrint or PosterJack. Both Canadian and awesome.

  5. I didn't do an obituary either. I don't even think Alexander is registered as "Alexander David Melaragno" in the history of birth or death records. We left the hospital with him as "baby M". I always wanted to call and poke around as to how I could get him officially down in the record books with his proper name. His cremation documents said "baby boy M", and we told them we'd properly named him (it was 3 months later that we picked up his ashes), and the funeral director changed the documents in front of us. Not sure how legit or concrete that made anything. I really want to call the hospital and ask about what happens to still birth records and where the names end up being sent to. But it's a lot of energy. Maybe for his 5th...

    I've used vistaprint for calendars in the past, and my sister used them for her engagement photo announcements. They're good! I think I leaned to shuttetfly because I had Theo's done with them...and already had the mock up. I'll have to check out posterjack!

  6. Okay. So I know you're feeling defeated about the cards and possibility to not have them out by his birthday. But really, I was just thinking how wonderful it would be for his 5th. Something about how I failed Andrew's 5th having nothing planned and perhaps that would've been the most wonderful thing to do. Just a reminder. An announcement instead of a birthday party invite to the people who matter most. To re-announce how much you love and care for the boy with your very favorite name. <3

    If not this year, how about for his 5th? Spend the year devoting and sampling and getting it just right. Being rushed with Alexander's sketch left you regretful. Theo's announcement sounded similar in regrets. Spend the next year setting yourself alarms on your phone on certain days of the month, (perhaps the 27th of each month?) to check-in on Alexander's card project. Get it just right and then make your decision.

    No matter what, Alexander's 4th will be hard. We will celebrate with you. I am very much holding the love for Alexander in my heart with you and mourning again that your 4 year old is not here with you.

    It's so hard. Love you, friend.

  7. Your beautiful Alexander's card is on our mantle. I love seeing him, your beautiful first son. V, i'm terribly late here. I just want to say that I love your family and sweet Alexander has been on my mind as we approach his 4th birthday. I have no experience with cards, for the past few years we have quietly run away for Liam's birthday to breathe a little. I hope these days are as gentle as can be.