The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.
On Sunday, Rustee Tosh celebrates her first Mother’s Day with her rainbow baby, Ellie Mae. This will be her fourth Mother’s Day as a mom.
“It’ll be extra special, just being a mom for three years and then this one being the first one where I actually have my baby with me and able to celebrate,” she said.
A sign of renewal and hope, the first healthy baby born after the loss of an infant has come to be known as a rainbow baby — likened to the rainbow that appears in the sky after a storm.
Eight-month-old Ellie is now six months older than Henry was when Tosh and her husband Alex said goodbye to him in 2019.
Henry was born with a heart problem and had to be sent to Edmonton for surgery. After two months and four surgeries, he contracted an infection and died in hospital.
“He just tried so hard to stay with us,” Tosh said.
Mother’s Day is a day to recognize and honour all mothers, including those who have lost their babies.
“Our lost moms are definitely still moms. And these holidays can be hard on them,” said Amy Killick, a bereavement companion with Empty Arms Perinatal Loss Support Services.
Tosh said she and Alex have had a lot of support from loved ones, especially around this time of year.
“I have such a good support system around me of family and friends that make sure to celebrate Mother’s Day with me ever since I had Henry,” she said.
Last Mother’s Day, when Tosh was pregnant with Ellie, she had mixed emotions.
“I felt pretty happy. I was looking forward to her being here. But … it’s always sad to know that Henry’s not here with us.”
After a rainbow baby comes, Killick said it’s helpful for loved ones to remember the lost baby. The new baby is not a replacement, she said.
“Welcoming the new baby and still honouring the little one who passed is really important … They’re very much a part of the family, even though they’re not physically with us.”
Tosh said she shares her story with others because she finds talking about Henry keeps his spirit alive.
“This was a thing that we went through and that he went through, and he was here and he mattered. It’s definitely hard to talk about him, but it also would have been harder not talking about him,” she said.
“When I share my story, I think it brings a little bit of awareness, too.”
Killick said it’s beneficial for grieving families to feel comfortable talking about their loss. It can bring out unexpected help from people who have had similar experiences.
“When you’re more open about what you’re going through, it is shocking how many people come out … You don’t know about your support if you keep things tucked away,” she said.
At the beginning, when loved ones didn’t know what to say, Tosh said some would choose to say nothing.
“I think that their silence was more hurtful than anything,” she said. She wanted people to talk about Henry, but she also wanted them to simply be there.
“Having people reach out and just say, ‘We love you and we care,’ that was the biggest thing for me. I didn’t need anything else other than that.”
Tosh said she and Alex found some organizations that have been helpful to them as they grieve for Henry and celebrate Ellie.
One organization, Mending Little Hearts Fund of Saskatchewan, reached out to Tosh two years ago to tell her about Treeternity Memorial Forest, a park near Vanscoy.
“They planted a tree and it was for all of the ‘heart babies’ they called them, because he had a heart condition,” Tosh said.
Tosh learned about Empty Arms through family. They help families create lasting memories in the hospital and help them through their grief. They also offer support and resources in person and online, and connect families with other resources they might need.
“Families who experience loss and maybe didn’t know about us or maybe weren’t offered our services for whatever reason, they can still reach out to us,” Killick said.
Killick, who has a rainbow baby of her own after losing her third child, said she has found her own experience helps her in supporting other families.
“I’m in a better headspace now to serve families from a place of empathy, compassion and also hope for them. I serve as an example … that we will see the other side of this grief,” she said.
Tosh said Ellie’s presence gives her strength, and they have a rainbow theme in their home dedicated to their daughter.
“Just having Ellie here, every single day she just brings me so much happiness … What a nice feeling to have a little ray of light after such a dark time in our lives.”