Finding Joy in the Midst of Loss


Pregnancy and infant loss affects one in four pregnant women. One in four. Twenty-five percent of all pregnancies (at least) end in some kind of loss, whether miscarriage (generally up to twenty weeks gestation) or stillbirth, in addition to those who lose children in the first year of life. And yet, unless you have experienced it personally, most people remain unaware of this reality.

Each October is recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. During this time, we not only acknowledge the lives lost, but also the mothers who share a precious bond with the children who are no longer with them on Earth.

I had the opportunity to talk to a mother, Brenna Gardiner, who has walked in these shoes. She has been able to find faith in the midst of disappointment, perseverance in the midst of struggle, and joy in the midst of pain. It is my hope that through her transparency and willingness to share that you will be able to take away a nugget of truth and understanding and find joy and strength in the midst of your own journey — whether you personally have experienced loss or know someone who has.

Brenna Gardiner was born and raised in Northern Maine. She met her husband while working at Rite-Aid and has been married for 17 years. She is a military wife and homemaker. She volunteers at a women’s Bible Study on post and loves to scrapbook and make cards in her spare time. She experienced pregnancy loss with her daughter and currently resides with her husband and two dogs.

Brenna, as you know October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. What is it like for you to know your daughter is being remembered, as well as you as a mother?

It is a great feeling to be remembered as a mom even though she isn’t physically here with me. It makes me miss her!

I can only imagine as a mother the many emotions you have felt. How have you found peace in your journey?

My deep faith in God has helped me have peace through our loss and He has a special plan for me! I have felt He has been right by my side and I know He knows how I feel. I know she is in Heaven and I often think of Jesus babysitting her until we get there. Knowing my grandparents are up there with her has brought comfort too. I went through wondering and asking why we lost her, but after a while realized it just made things worse and learned to accept my reality. When I’m missing her, I remember how I felt with her inside me and know she is a blessing God sent to us for a short time.

What impact has this experience had on your individual life as well as relationships (i.e. marriage, friendships, etc.)

This experience has definitely changed me as a person. I cherish life so much more, and it pains me to see mothers neglecting their children. I just want moms to know their child is a blessing from God and to cherish every moment they have, as they never know when they may lose their little one. It has also made me understand what another gal has gone through losing her child, and I feel that pain. It’s hard knowing I’m a mom, but don’t feel it, because she isn’t in my arms every day.

I’m thankful to have had support from my husband, family, and friends. They have been by my side to cry on, listen to me when I’m upset, and wishing things were different. I’m thankful my marriage is still strong and God has knit us closer together through the loss and infertility treatments and adoption process. My friends have realized they could lose their children at any time and it’s made them love and cherish their children more as they’ve watched me go through this pain.

It's hard knowing I'm a mom, but don't have a child here on Earth to show for it - Columbia SC Moms Blog
It’s hard knowing I’m a mom, but don’t have a child here on Earth.

What have you found has been most helpful in coping with the loss of your daughter?

I know things happen for a reason and know God has a plan as He says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This has been my verse and God reminds me of it in the hard days.

How can family members, co-workers, and friends best offer support to a mom who has experienced childbirth/pregnancy loss? 

I would say listening to her feelings and letting her cry as needed while never telling her to get over it. I have loved having family and friends who can look at me and know I’m not alright. Sometimes I just need a hug and for someone to say, “I love you. It’s okay to cry.”

Brenna, you have been blessed to adopt a child. Explain to our readers what lead you to this decision and what it has been like.

Right now, we are on the waiting list to adopt a newborn. We don’t know when we’ll be matched or when the baby is due. The agency will call us once the biological mother no longer has the choice to change her mind. The waiting period has been hard, but we are glad to be on the list and feel like we will eventually get the baby God has planned for us. We were led to adoption after trying to conceive on our own, having 6 months of infertility treatments, and still not getting pregnant.

We can't wait for the moment to adopt a loving child of our own - columbia sc moms blog
We can’t wait for the moment to adopt a loving child of our own.

Medical procedures, intervention, and adoption can all be very expensive. What would you recommend to a couple who desires to have a child but cannot afford medical intervention or adoption?

We held a puzzle fundraiser and people paid $20 for a puzzle piece. I had an Usbourne book party, a scentsy party, a pampered chef party, and a Premier Designs party where the business owner allowed us to retain the profits. We held a yard sale as well. We found people just wanted to give to us because they knew our struggle and how bad we wanted a little one! It’s been such a blessing!

What would you share with a mom who has experienced child loss or desires to become a mom but has had been unable to conceive?

Don’t give up! God has given you that desire and has a special plan just for you!

How can awareness or support continue to be given?

We all need to be sensitive to couples who don’t have children and not to ask too many questions why. If they feel comfortable and want to share, they will. We need to listen and be there for them in their times of struggle.

Losing a child is never easy, and I can’t imagine what it is like to walk in those shoes. I find myself in awe of those who find hope, inspiration, and courage in some of life’s most painful experiences.

Have you lost a child? What would you add as helpful advice?

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A small town southern belle, Ashley Thomas is a native of Sandy Run, S.C., and recently relocated back home after 10 years. She is the proud Army Spouse to Maj. Curtis A. Thomas and does not take her role lightly. Her life as military spouse has allowed her to experience her fair share of moving, transitioning in between working and as an AHM, deployments, and learning of new cultures. She is a graduate of Columbia College where she attained a B.A. in Psychology and the University of Washington-MSW. Ashley’s background is in education, child welfare, and community health. She is the mother of three amazing children (Corinne 4 ½, Caleb 2 ½, and Collin 6 months) who challenge her daily to lean more on God, stretch her faith, and never stop growing. In January 2014, Ashley ventured out to start her non-profit The Hive Community Circle. She also serves as a mentor for her alma mater Columbia College. In her free time when she can grab it, Ashley enjoys spending time with her family, being pinned up on Pinterest, baking, spending time with her hubby, and fellowshipping with her girlfriends. Besides being passionate about education and social justice, Ashley is also passionate about empowering and challenging women to walk in transparency. Her hope is that through her writings, mothers will be challenged to extend love and grace first to themselves, find inspiration and a sense of belonging, laugh a little, and once started, never stop living! You can follow Ashley on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.


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