Three Mugs

This past Christmas, we surprised the grandparents with the announcement of a new baby on the way.

I came up with the idea of sharing the news via personalized mugs, each containing an ultrasound photo. I bought the mugs, and I printed the photos. I carefully wrapped each mug in colourful Christmas cheer, and presented it to each of them on Christmas Day.

It went off without a hitch.

There was joy, and there were tears.

There were only three mugs.

five years

Five years ago today, my father passed away. It’s been 1,826 days, and I still don’t talk about him much. I’ve written more words down than I’ve ever said aloud, and that suits me just fine.

I still think about him, though.

Mostly, I think about what he’s missed, what he’s missing, and what he will continue to miss as my life — and all of our lives — continue on. I think about my anger surrounding his illness and death, and yes, I still curse to high hell the grief that just never seems to subside.

As I lined up those three mugs on Christmas Day, I felt robbed and empty and gutted, but nobody could know. Especially not my mother, whose solitary Nana mug stood bravely in obvious isolation to those of her co-grandparent counterparts.

Robbed because he’ll never get to meet my sons.

Empty because he never got to see me become a mom.

Gutted because I know he would have loved my kids more than anything in this world, and he never got the chance.

But when I became a mom, I spent some time reflecting on being a part of the Dead Dads Club as a parent. Here are my top three pieces of advice to fellow club members with little ones, or little ones on the way:

1. Stop feeling let down by good things.

Creatively revealing my pregnancy to my mother and in-laws over the holidays should have been fun, but it just ended up feeling insincere and forced. I felt like a giant, phony ball of excitement as I plastered on a fake smile, waiting for their reaction. I was too focused on who wasn’t there, and not focused enough on who was. I ignored their joy, and focused on my misery instead. So if you’re standing where I am right now, stop looking through each one of life’s milestones with grief coloured glasses. You can’t go back. You can only keep living your life. The good things — I mean the really good things — don’t come around very often. Cherish them.

2. It’s okay to feel cheated.

I hate that my dad never got to see me become a mom, but what hurts even more is my sons won’t grow up to know him. I got 29 years with him, but all they’ll get are faded photographs and grainy, 80s-era home movies. But that’s life, and life isn’t fair. It’s a sobering reminder, and it’s helped me to appreciate what I do have a lot more. Yes, I’ve been robbed. But I’ve also been blessed. See #3.

3. Remember that they’re still here, in a way.

Though I’ll never again hear his voice, see his face, or surprise him at the holidays, my dad is still here, in a way. I get to see him every day. No, he didn’t get a mug this past Christmas — but he got something that nobody else did. Something infinitely more valuable.

He got his smile.

And nobody — even death — can take that away from him.

Mommy and the terrible, horrible, no good very sad brain

Somehow, I miraculously dodged the postpartum depression bullet like a ninja wearing a giant diaper-pad after the birth of my son.

I’m not sure how I did it, to be honest.

So many things went wrong those first few months that I should have been thrown into a pit of despair, starting with the unplanned c-section I still get choked up talking about.

Maybe I just didn’t have room for PPD.

Maybe something else was in the way.

Unfortunately, we’re all out of PPD at the moment, but would you like to try the suppressed grief instead?

From the unplanned c-section recovery, to the Great Breastfeeding Battle of 2014, to the most terrifying milk protein allergy hospital ordeal of all time, I still wonder how I came out of that first year relatively unscathed.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, a staggering amount of new mothers aren’t quite so lucky.

As many as 20% of new moms experience varying degrees of PPD, and as many as 80% experience a mild form, known as the “baby blues”. Symptoms include overwhelming sadness, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, sleeplessness and trouble bonding with the baby. If these symptoms persist and are left untreated, this type of depression can last for months, or even years after the baby is born. For the handful of women I have personally known to fight this battle openly, I also know that there are just as many, if not more, who choose to fight behind closed doors.

I happen to know a little about the latter.

When my father died, I shoved it all away. I refused to talk to anyone, and the worst part was that the grief I declined to acknowledge was compounded when I experienced recurrent pregnancy loss a short time later.

So if you’re reading this and you’re going through some pretty heavy stuff – PPD, grief, anxiety or literally anything else – I want you to know that you can reach out to me, anytime. Leave a message below, email me at rebecca@rebeccaford.co, or if you know me in real life, get in touch.

But I also want you to know a couple more things, and I’m not going to go easy on you.

1. You are not brave.
I say this with love, because I know what it’s like trying to do this alone. It won’t work, and it won’t get better, I promise. Fighting alone isn’t you being fearless, it’s you being stubborn. Asking for help takes real courage. Reaching out is brave.

2. Burying your feelings isn’t cute.
I wish I sought help a long time ago, when I needed it the most. Instead of dealing with my feelings in a healthy, adult way, I have always been more comfortable burying them, or burying them at the bottom of a box of wine. As you can imagine, it’s been highly ineffective. I know you may be shocked to hear this, but burying your feelings doesn’t actually allow you to feel anything at all. It masks the pain, and until you feel each loss—I mean really feel it—you will always be stuck in that pit I mentioned earlier. Don’t get stuck there. It’s uglier than you could ever imagine.

Don’t tell me to “get over it” unless you want a drop kick to the back of the head

As I sat in my midwife’s office today wiping away tears that seemingly came out of nowhere, I felt completely humiliated.

It’s been two years. Why can’t you get the hell over it? I scolded myself. Crying in front of complete strangers is easily in the top-three most humiliating things to do in public, next to sneeze-farting and getting your period in a white skirt.

I digress.

We’re just constantly told to “get over it”, and I have no idea whyWe are told this so much that today, I was actually angry at myself for not “getting over” a traumatic birth experience that happened to me two years ago. But feelings aren’t simply something you can turn off, like flipping a light switch, or that time I found out that Johnny Depp hit women.

(You’re dead to me, Johnny).

Bad breakup? Get over it.

Stressed out at work? Get over it.

Simply feeling sad about life? Get over it.

“Get over it” and “move on” are the boilerplate poster children of bad advice, and frankly, I’m sick of hearing them. Believe me, if someone could just “get over it”, they would. No one wants to lie in bed all day with the curtains drawn, wallowing in anger, sadness or grief.

So here’s an idea.

How about instead of asking people, women, moms and everyone in between to “get over it” and “move on”, we say, “Hey, let’s talk about it,” instead?

How about that?


January 25th is Bell Let’s Talk Day, a special day each year designed to bring awareness to mental health issues in Canada. To learn more, click here.

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