GUEST SPOTLIGHT: SARAH PENNINGTON OF A THREAD RUNS THRU IT
Hello there! My name is Sarah, and I am the artist and doll-maker who runs A Thread Runs Thru It—a small gift shop for handmade memorial keepsakes.
I have always wanted to do something creative with my life: I was the kid who wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Creating was an outlet for me then, but I wouldn't fully understand how important it was until after our first child was stillborn.
After trying for years to conceive our first son, we were overjoyed when we found out we were finally expecting. But that joy quickly turned to devastation when, despite our efforts to stop his early delivery, our son was born silent and still at only 19 weeks gestation.
The first Christmas after he passed, my mother created the sweetest little ornament in our son Logan’s memory—it was a miniature baby doll with little angel wings. I treasured it so dearly, and still do: it is the doll that inspired what I wholeheartedly believe to be God’s calling for my life after loss.
Q. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and 1 in 8 couples are walking through infertility. With so many women being affected by these issues we believe there is power in the story. What was the turning point for you to feel safe enough to share your own journey?
A. Immediately after our loss, our families and my doctor encouraged us to try attending support group meetings for other loss parents. Although we never attended any in-person meetings, I did connect with a private Facebook Group for Incompetent Cervix, the condition that caused my son to be born prematurely. One of my dearest friends had lost an 8 year old to leukemia and also endured miscarrying twins shortly after that. She was a huge support to me after our loss. But I also knew I needed to surround myself with other women who understood, in one way or another, what I was going through.
I joined several infant loss support groups—but I kept quiet for the longest time. It wasn’t necessarily that I was scared to share my story, it was more that I was still so shocked from it all that I couldn’t bring myself to relive all those painful memories. I began to feel more comfortable sharing my story after reading about so many women in similar situations to my own. Seeing others bravely share their stories later empowered me to start sharing my own—there is definitely power in the story.
Q. Everyone grieves differently. What was something that helped you to heal and process your grief?
A. After trying to conceive (TTC) for years with our first, we were abundantly blessed to become pregnant with our rainbow baby, only a few short months after his big brother was stillborn. In some ways, I feel like the new pregnancy forced me to rush through the grieving process, while in other ways, the extra stress of worrying about the new pregnancy ending similarly, caused me to grieve double. And even now, nearly 4 years later, I still feel like I am trying to process it at times—I don’t know if we ever fully heal. However, making these little dolls for other grieving parents has definitely been the creative project that has been the biggest outlet for me when I am struggling.
There have been times when hearing so many loss stories and reliving my own has seemed like more than I could handle. But each time I’ve felt like giving up, another grieving mom sends me a message, or leaves a review or a comment, and lets me know how their little memorial doll helped them to have a tangible keepsake to remember their baby—and that heals my heart enough to throw my soul back into creating. I call those my little signs from God, that He wants me to keep on sculpting.
Q. Was there ever a time someone said something insensitive to you about your pregnancy, pregnancy-loss, or infertility? Knowing what you know now, how would you respond?
A. Over the years, there have been many times when people have said insensitive things about my son’s stillbirth. Those comments hurt initially, but in time I have learned that (at least in my experience) the people who said those insensitive things were most often people who have never endured that type of loss, and truly and sincerely thought they were saying something helpful. Those comments were made with the best of intentions and I am glad now for those who tried to say something, albeit the wrong thing, instead of just walking out of my life. If I could respond to those comments now, I’d definitely thank them for trying before explaining why the comment wasn’t helpful.
Q. We are firm believers that every woman who opens her heart to have children is a mother. What is your most favorite thing about motherhood? And what is the most difficult thing about motherhood?
A. Being a mom is my most favorite thing I have ever done! Honestly though, in all the years we tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant, I became content to accept that it maybe wasn't part of God’s plan for my life. And wouldn't you know, when I let go, God took over, and I became a mom. I became a mom the moment that pregnancy test read positive. I was a terrified, second-guessing myself mom, and I was instantly in love: unconditional, never-ending love. My favorite part of being a mom is the love that overflows your heart and gives you strength to handle even the most difficult of situations. However, I haven't always handled motherhood as gracefully as I envisioned it when my kids were only hypothetical beings. Motherhood is messy, it is full of surprises and emotions and it is a delicate balancing act. For me, the most difficult part to deal with is the “mom guilt”.
Q. How are you using your gifts to lift others up who are walking through pregnancy-loss, infertility, or other pregnancy-related issues?
A. When my mom gave me the first little doll ornament that Christmas, it brought me comfort—it made me feel loved to have our son remembered, and gave me joy to have a special reminder of him. I knew other parents would treasure these tangible representations of their precious babies, so I was led to start creating keepsakes for other parents and families. This has allowed me so many opportunities to talk one-on-one with other loss moms, let them know they aren’t alone, and maybe offer a little encouragement to share their own stories and vent out their feelings to other bereaved parents that understand these types of losses.
Q. Grief and loss, especially with miscarriage, infertility, and pregnancy-loss, can feel very isolating. What is something you would say to yourself in the first days after your loss?
A. “You can survive this. Life will never be the same again, but you will get through this. Find people who have been there, find your passion, find a way to remember—do what helps you heal.”
Q. Anything else you wanted to share?
A. Grief and the complex array of emotions it can cause, are something I still deal with daily. I have always dealt with anxiety attacks and excessive stress, but now those things can really trigger me into a downward spiral. I sometimes bottle all of that up until it becomes unmanageable, even to the point of being detrimental to my mental and physical health. I am learning how important it is to share my emotions and experiences both to let others know they are not alone, and to take better care of myself. I have also become aware that it’s hard to talk about our feelings to people who don’t understand and haven’t endured the same experiences.
To create a safe place to share and connect with other loss moms, I created my own private support group where I would love to invite anyone who needs somewhere to vent, to come and share your story with me and the other brave mothers who are walking their grief journeys.
There is power in the story.
Thank you for allowing us to share a little bit about Sarah, her background, experiences, and story. We want to continue to support our community while lifting others up. Did you enjoy this? Do you know a mama who would be a good fit for a Guest Spotlight with us? Feel free to comment here, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear what you think!