There is no knowing what you are fully capable of until the moment you are right there doing it. This next Friends of Dawn story is about Elaina Bellis, who shows us the extent of our innate powers and wisdom. She shares with us the story of her first son Lincoln’s stillbirth and the experience of becoming a mama to identical twin girls, Quincy Kay and Rowe James, a little over a year later. Her strength to accept and move forward with light and love is so inspiring and empowering not only for all the mamas out there, but for everyone learning to let go and accept with grace. Even though it was always clear to her that she would be a mother one day, even she could have never predicted the circumstances in which she would become one. But despite the devastating loss of Lincoln and the doubled work of having twins, her intuition, resilience, love and amazing husband James Branaman have helped her become the mother and person she always knew she would be - learning from these little ones lessons that she never could have imagined were meant for her, but fully embracing them with so much love, grace and gratitude.
Story and Interview by Miwa Sakamoto
How are you?
I’m great. (laughs). I’m fantastic... And tired, VERY tired.
How did you sneak away to answer these questions?!
My babies are asleep! (It's a miracle) Otherwise, there's no way I could sneak away to answer these! ha!
When did you know you wanted to be a mother?
My whole life.
Can you share a little of Lincoln’s story? His life is so much bigger than what happened at the end, can you talk about the beginning of his journey on Earth? What did he tell you about himself during the weeks and months you carried him?
When we found out we were pregnant, we weren’t expecting it at all. Initially, I was scared. But after the first couple of days it was apparent that we were both extremely excited. There was a lot of nerves, not because we weren’t ready, but because of the unknown.
The second we heard his heartbeat it all became real - we were having a baby! That moment I'll never forget. That's when the excitement really took a whole new level; I was going to be a mom! Lincoln really loved music. Whenever, we were in the car I would turn on a playlist James had made for me called "Lincoln," and he would go crazy kicking inside me. Every time I heard the song Man on Fire, by Edward Sharpe, Lincoln would go bananas! He was a big fan ;) We wanted a boy so badly, and when we found out the baby was a boy it was truly the most exciting doctors visit of the whole pregnancy!
My pregnancy itself with Lincoln was challenging. I just had a hard time accepting all the change with my body and my life. I had a hard time of letting go of ego. I also would have a lot of fear-based dreams. I would dream that I couldn’t find him, or I had him and the doctors took him away from me somehow, and one night James found me sleep walking around the house turning on lights and searching for Lincoln.
I could tell Lincoln was a free spirit that had a lot of energy! He was just so sweet. I remember one night I was watching TV and I just wanted to feel him and I told him, “Mommy wants to feel a kick” and he put his whole foot right in the palm of my hand. I just loved how he was like, "I hear ya mom, loud and clear, here's my foot!"
Can you recall your thoughts during the process of going into labor and delivering him?
It was a Monday and I was at my doula’s house sorting out my birth plan. We were sitting together at the table, and then I up to use the bathroom and while in the bathroom I had cramping as if i were getting my period. When I came back out and told her, she gave me this look and said she thought I might be going into early labor. I told her no way, but she told me to go home and eat a big meal and just see how it goes. I went home and that night I was so irritable and it carried on into the whole next day. I was having these horrible cramps and I thought, ‘alright little boy, here you come…’ But thing is, I wasn’t really feeling him kicking as much or moving as much in those last days. That Sunday I had gone wedding dress shopping for Christy and I just couldn’t get into it and I couldn’t get comfortable in my body and I felt so sad. I knew something wasn’t right, but I don’t think I ever thought that it was him passing. In hindsight, I think that that was the day he passed away. Sunday felt sad, Monday cramps and then by Wednesday late evening we were in the hospital in active labor.
Once we got to the hospital and they told us he didn’t have a heartbeat, I lost it. I just couldn't understand what was happening. I didn't believe it. I thought ok, once I have him they'll give him a little shake and he'll wake up, they'll see their wrong, my boy isn't dead. But I knew deep down i was wrong. I still had to deliver him, I just remember wanting to have the nightmare over and wanting to get a c-section to just get it over with. I was just so sad, but James reminded me that if we wanted to have another baby and try for a natural birth, then maybe I should deliver him vaginally, but whatever I wanted to do he supported. I am so grateful for him and his presence of mind. They gave us time to grieve, hold each other, rest and by the next morning it was time to push him out. I delivered him in 15 minutes. The actual experience of giving birth itself was incredible. It was so powerful as a woman to get out of your head and be totally present in your body. It was so powerful to know that I had control of my mind and working with my body to birth this little human.
What did Lincoln teach you about yourself?
That I needed to learn to let go. That I have no control of outcome and I have to accept it.
What will/or do you share about the experience and their brother with the girls?
I am going to tell the girls so much about him. He is such a huge part of our family. I already talk about him to them all the time. I show them his photos and his ashes are in the bedroom. They wear his clothes and every time I say, “those were your big brother’s!” Every year on his birthday to give thanks to him and celebrate him for what he has given to our family. I never want him to be forgotten about.
What would you tell other women who have experienced a stillbirth?
Keep trusting in the universe. Trust that you are so taken care of. It's hard to see, but there really is a rainbow after a storm.
Now you have two beautiful girls! When did you learn you were going to have identical twins? What was that like?
We found out at 14 weeks that we were having twins. We found out kind of late, but I hadn’t even had a check up until that point because we were out of town. I had seen a midwife and she suggested that we go in for an ultrasound because I was high risk after Lincoln. As soon as the doctor started the ultrasound she was like, “Is this really your first ultrasound!? Guys, guys! You are having twins!” I couldn’t stop hysterically laughing. I just couldn’t stop. And James was just in shock. But what is really crazy is that before we got to the doctor I had told James that I had this strong feeling that we were going to be having twins! I was right!
Any advice for soon-to-be twin mamas?
Don’t put any pressure on yourself to do anything other than take care of them and you. They are getting exactly what they need. They chose you to be their mama after all! Make sure you eat!
Did you have any funky cravings while you were pregnant with the girls?
I drank gallons and gallons of whole milk! I went through a gallon about every two days. There are 10g of protein in a cup and you need 100g a day when you’re pregnant with twins! It was just the quickest way to get protein in me when I was feeling hungry.
How do you balance family and work?
I’ve been on a couple jobs since having the girls. The first job my sister-law babysat and I felt totally safe. But the next one we had to hire a sitter and I had a meltdown the night before. I was so worried she wouldn’t know what to do, but she turned out to be amazing and it was all fine. I’ve tried to take them to work too, but that’s too much right now. This work of caring for them is so much more rewarding for me anyway, and this is my number one priority now. For me I have daily accomplishments like, “oh my god! I got them to go to sleep by myself! I bathed them by myself! I walked them to the park and did errands with them by myself!” All these things I just never knew I was capable of.
What are three words you would use to individually describe Quincy and Rowe?
Quincy: silly, chatter-box, life of the party. Rowe: sweet, sincere, little-lover-cuddle-bug.
What are three words you would use to individually describe James and yourself?
Me: Hard-worker, loving, silly. James: patient, kind, sexy.
And three words to describe your family?
Team, chaos, cozy.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Lincoln, Vermont. Where I met James, where Zeno Mountain Farm is, where we named Lincoln after, where we got engaged, where we conceived the girls. haha TMI?!
What's your favorite song?
Firework by Katy Perry. I know this sounds cheesy but every time I hear it I think my mom is talking through her to me. Letting me know she wants me to show everyone how I shine. She called me her little sparkle. The verse when it says, "After the storm, comes a rainbow." I always think she was letting me know that after losing Lincoln (the storm), my rainbow babies were coming and sure enough, she was right.
What's your favorite thing about being a mother?
I just feel like I birthed my two best friends! To feel that much love from something so small is just so magical.
What’s your favorite moment of the day?
Morning, right when the girls wake up they are the happiest they are all day. Their eyes are just so twinkly. It is just the 4 of us cuddling and enjoying each other.
What do you hope this year brings for you and your family?
A 3 bedroom house! I'm joking, but totally serious too! HA! With a fenced in yard, and a kitchen that opens up to the living room. That sounds silly, but really they’re growing up so fast we’ll need the space soon!