My Story

Thursday, March 14, 2013


It's been 6 years since our son Riley was born still.  He is on my mind almost daily.  I talk about him often.  But his birthday is today, and I didn't even realize it until a friend sent me a text that she was praying for me this week.  It took me a minute to realize why she was praying for me, then guilt set in.  I hadn't actually forgotten.  His birthday (and Angel Day) is easy to remember because our second son, Ty was born on the exact same day, one year later.  I think I was just so wrapped up in the busyness of caring for two little boys and preparing for their upcoming birthdays, that Riley's wasn't in the front of my mind.

The guilt was only momentary, however, because I also took this as a sign of healing.  There was a time when the memories of Riley's life, both good and bad, consumed me. Even in my sleep it haunted me.  My arms ached to hold him and kiss his cold forehead again.  I dreaded each milestone.  Each day, week, month, holiday, birthday he had been gone.

So have I forgotten him?  How could a mom who carried a baby for 9 months, who wanted to give him every shot at life, who gave birth to him EVER forget her son?  She can't.  I can't.  And I haven't.  But in time, 6 years now, God has slowly restored my JOY.  Not by replacing him with another child.  But by lessening the bad memories and amplifying the blessing of his life

In the past, on his birthday, I would take a bunch of balloons to the cemetery and put one on each of the babies hooks surrounding him (like a little party...I know it's kind of weird).  I almost did it again today, but I decided not to.  I was going to do it, but only because that's just "what I've always done".  And not because it's something I WANT to do to honor his memory.  I decided not to because I don't feel like I need to do that anymore.  I don't have to prove my love for him.  I think resting in the peace that he's in the Father's arms is enough.  He's ok.  I'm ok.  Today I can think of him and smile instead of holding back tears.

I miss him.  But I know I'll be reunited with him in Heaven because I have Christ as my Savior. So while we are apart, I choose JOY.  I have chosen to focus on what God has called me to do while I'm here.  And that has allowed me to heal.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NIV)

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Gift From Riley

I realized today what a precious gift my son Riley has given me.


A new level of FRIENDSHIP that I couldn't have known before.

I am certain that God placed pivotal people in my life,

at just the right time,

to carry me through my grief.

Through it.

They carry me even today.

And the network continues. With the advances in technology, grieving families can now find other families in similar situations with a click of a mouse.

There's incredible comfort in knowing you're not alone.

At first, we are carried. Then, we are able to carry.

And surprisingly, without knowing it, as we are being comforted...

the ability to hold the hand of another grieving mom brings comfort in it's self.

I think for me, it's more than just FRIENDSHIP. I feel it's a calling. A purpose.

I'm intrigued to see where this journey leads.

And it's all because of Riley.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Everything is God's

These are some beautiful flowers given to me from my SIL Denise for Riley's birthday. Tomorrow he would be 4 years old. It's such a nice gesture to have someone remember him even as the years pass.

Today's sermon was about money. God is amazing how He speaks to us in a way that only He can. Money...that was the topic, but the message I received was so much deeper.

Colossians 1:16
"...God created everything...
Everything was created through him and for him."

The point made about money, was that it's all God's. HE is the one that made it. HE is the one that gives it to us. It's HIS. He has just loaned it to us.

But the scripture spoke to me because it says that EVERYTHING was created by Him and for Him. Everything. Even our children. They aren't "ours". They are His. He created them. And he loans them to us, for however long that may be.

When I look at Riley's life in that light, it makes me more THANKFUL for the time God loaned him to me, as opposed to angry or hurt for the short time he was here. I am eternally grateful for the 9 months God loaned Riley to me. What an honor. It's an honor to be Ty & Drew's mom as well, for however long they are loaned to me.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Not To Say

Today a friend of mine lost her baby. My heart aches for her and her family.

After my experience with miscarriage, then stillbirth with Riley, I thought I would have an incredible insight on how to comfort moms experiencing similar pain. What I have found though, is that no words can comfort a grieving mother. However, well-meaning words can be hurtful. Even I, who knows what words were hurtful to me, find myself word vomiting in the awkwardness of the situation. To fill the space, we say things we're "supposed to say" like: "This was all for a reason" or "They are in Heaven now" or "What can I do for you?". While those things may be true, they don't comfort.

So for anyone reading this, please check out this article written on What Not To Say.

And remember that it's not your words, but your actions & your presence (even months & years later) that really comfort.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remembering Riley

It's important to me to acknowledge the life of Riley and to tell my other two boys that they have an older brother in heaven. So we try to talk about him occasionally, and in our prayers, and through other small ways like hanging a Christmas stocking for Riley each year.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Celebrating Birthdays

As a member of "a-group-no-one-wants-to-be-a-part-of," I have become friends with many other moms who have lost a child. This has been one blessing that God has brought to my life through the short life of our son Riley. Because of my experience, I am able to help other families through a heart-wrenching time.

Today I received an email from one such mom, asking for advice on how to survive what would have been her daughter's first birthday. After responding to her, I thought I'd share my response here as well:

What I tried to do for Riley's first birthday, was to make it a celebration of his life, rather than a sad day.

It helped that my son Ty was born exactly a year later (on the same day), so of course there were mixed emotions. But I didn't want Riley's life to be missed or overshadowed by Ty's. So we had a birthday cake in my hospital room (after delivering Ty) that said Happy Birthday Riley & Ty.

I also had awareness bracelets made with Riley's name on it. And sent them to all my close family & friends and asked them to wear it that day to remember him. And hopefully by them wearing it, someone would ask about him and they'd get to tell his story.

I took balloons to his gravesite and put a big bouquet oh his stone, then tied a single balloon on all the babies sites surrounding him (he's buried in an area designated for babies). So it looked like they were having a little party. I know it's silly, but it made me feel better. I felt like he was being celebrated.

Then on his 2nd birthday (which was Ty's 1st birthday), we had a separate small cake for Riley with a flameless candle on it displayed at the party.

I remember thinking that this could be a very difficult day for me if I let it. So I made a conscious effort to make it a celebration instead. I knew if Riley could see me, he wouldn't want to look down and see his mom sad. He'd be wanting to have a party :)

I hope this helps.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Riley Dean Black

Pregnancy and Diagnosis

Having lost our first pregnancy to a miscarriage, we were very nervous about this pregnancy. But after seeing our baby’s heartbeat at a 6wk ultrasound, having made it pass the week we miscarried before, having made it past the first trimester, then to our ultrasound at 19wks, we were somewhat relieved. We counted down the days to find out if our baby was a boy or girl. The ultrasound seemed to be going well. We saw that he was a little boy and tears overflowed from my eyes. Because of the baby’s position, the technician had a difficult time looking at our baby’s heart. So when she was finished, she said she was sending in the doctor to get “a better look”. Still, we did not suspect anything. After the doctor had finished looking, he set down the wand and said, “We need to talk about a few things”.

The markers they found were a choroid plexus cyst, a large neck roll at the base of the head, short femur bones, a calcium deposit in the heart, and a small left ventricle in the heart. After explaining his findings, the doctor told us that although the majority of those markers could turn out normal, he suspected that our son could have one of three things: Hypoplastic Left Heart, Trisomy 21, or Trisomy 18. Being a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse myself, I knew these conditions well and burst into tears. My husband Dennis didn’t understand. After an explanation, the doctor performed an amnio. An agonizing week later, the genetic tests revealed our son had Trisomy 18.

I feel blessed to have been at a hospital where they would not allow us to induce labor and therefore terminate the pregnancy. It encouraged us to remember that every life is sacred regardless of how long it is. God had trusted us with this child and it was His decision to decide how long our son would be with us.

The next four months we tried to enjoy the time we had with him as much as possible. I took time off of work to take care of my body and fully enjoy the experience. We were surrounded by incredible family and friends. My co-workers gave me a “Mommy Shower” where the gifts focused on things my husband and I would enjoy, as well as keepsakes. One thing we bought ourselves was a Fetal Heart Rate Doppler. This way I was able to check his heart rate and listen to it anytime I wanted. It was music to my ears. We recorded his heartbeat on a little box that we bought at Build-A-Bear and placed it inside a bear we had chosen. It is a precious keepsake we will have forever.

The Birth of Our Son

On March 13, 2007, at 35 weeks, I went into preterm labor. It was a long, sleepless night of listening to his heartbeat on the monitor. We were told that labor can be very stressful on babies with Trisomy 18 and a heart defect such as his. He held in strong. When my doctor arrived in the morning we decided to break my water. Shortly after, my contractions picked up and then slowed again. To get things going again, they started giving me pitocin. From there on, things seemed like a whirlwind.
As my labor progressed and my contractions got stronger, Riley’s heartbeat slowed. We had made a Birth Plan and explained that we wanted to know our son’s condition at all times. Our wonderfully supportive nurse, Jessica, calmly let us know that Riley’s heart was not handling the stress of labor. We had a choice: Slow things down only to try the same things later with the likely same result, or continue and try to progress labor to get him out quickly. We chose to continue on. Soon after, we listened as our son’s heartbeat slowed and faded to an occasional beat. At 2:55pm, after 27 hours of labor Riley passed away. He was born a couple hours later at 5:39pm.

We spent the next several days with our son. He stayed with us in our room and we soaked up every minute to hold him. We had previously contacted a wonderful photographer, Brandy, from She attended my delivery and captured the precious moments we had free of charge. I would encourage any family to at least look into this option. The professional pictures we have are such a treasure. I was also able to "find some good" in the situation by pumping and donating my milk to the mother’s milk bank. Knowing that I could help improve the lives of premature babies with my milk soothed my soul. You can find a bank near you by going to

Life After Loss

It has been almost 3 years now since we lost our son. We still miss him deeply, but I can tell you that the healing process is taking place. With lots of prayer God has allowed me to see a few of the reasons for Riley's life. After finding out about Riley's diagnosis it was too difficult for me to work as a NICU nurse, so I took time off to stay at home. Nearly 3 years later, I have healed enough to realize that God has granted me a special perspective and that I need to use my experience to love and care for the families in the NICU. So I have returned to work as a NICU nurse. And although I had to go through what was the most difficult time in my life, the experience of working through depression has empowered me to help others.

We are proud to say that Riley is a big brother. Ty Allan Black made his appearance in March 2008. The boys actually share the same birthday, March 14th. Since I had to schedule my C-section, we thought it would be neat for them to have the same birthdate. This way the day will be a celebration and not a day of sadness. We plan to have a cupcake with a candle just for Riley each year at Ty's birthday party. And on March 23, 2010, God blessed us with another healthy son, Drew Thomas Black. He is such a joy and a completion to our family. Having more children does not take away the pain or replace our son Riley, but it has given me hope and a reason to continue on.