About Samantha Durante

Samantha Durante is an author of young adult science fiction romance.

STUCK Cover Reveal + *Giveaway!*

So excited to finally share the cover for Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3)!

I had this cover designed wayyy back in 2016 and have been (very impatiently) sitting on it ever since.  You may have caught a sneak preview in the back of Shudder if you have a recently purchased/updated e-book copy, but besides that, I’ve mostly been waiting until closer to the book’s release (scheduled for December 15th!!) to share.

So, without further ado, here it is!

If you’re familiar with the other books in the series, you’ll see that it’s keeping in line with the same theme, and features a callback to the cover of Stitch – only, a slightly *twisted* version of that cover!  (If you remember the big cliffhanger at the end of Shudder, you’ll know who this one is referring to!!)

 

Hope you guys love it as much as I do!

And, of course, to celebrate we’re doing a giveaway!!

1 winner will receive a Prize Pack with e-books of STITCH and SHUDDER, plus a $10 Amazon eGift Card
Ends October 12th, open internationally

 

And while you’re at it, you *may* want to go ahead and add Stuck to your Goodreads TBR, and perhaps even preorder a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes? (Note: only e-books will be available for preorder – print copies will become available on release day, sign up for an email reminder!)

huge thank you to Prism Book Tours and all the awesome bloggers who are helping me to promote the release!  I am SO excited to hear what you guys think of the book in just a few short weeks (!!!)…  :-D (More info about the planned Blog Tour & Bookstagram coming soon!  Bloggers up here!)

Grab the Prism Book Tours Button!

Celebrating Alana’s 5th Birthday This Awareness Month

As many of you know, my first child – my daughter, Alana – was born still just two days before her due date in October of 2013. I had just released Shudder and spent the summer gushing about her impending arrival on a 12-week long blog tour that garnered rave reviews. I had big plans to stick to my once-a-year release schedule, completing the trilogy with Stuck’s release the following summer, and starting a new as-yet-to-be-determined series the next. I had a thriving career, a happy family, a shiny new home, was coming off my first blissful year of marriage, and I was young and eager and fulfilled.

Alana’s death derailed everything.

It’s amazing how much can change in an instant. We heard those words – there’s no heartbeat – and time ground to a halt. Up became down. The world pivoted, hard, on its axis. And I, as I once was, ceased to exist.

It’s still surreal to think about.

But though the world had stopped turning for me, it kept going for everyone else. When you’re 9 months pregnant and your baby inexplicably dies, you don’t get much of a choice about speaking up about it. Everyone who knew me knew that I was pregnant. Which meant that everyone now needed to un-know.

I’m not going to lie, this was a humbling experience. Humiliating may be better word. Because even though I knew in my head that I had done nothing wrong, that I’d followed all the doctor’s orders, that I’d have given anything – anything – for a different outcome, in my heart, I still felt responsible. I still felt like a failure.

[Because this is what our society does: blames victims. Victims of tragedy, of violence, of abuse. Because we are all too terrified to acknowledge that we could be next. This is stigma in action. Also, #misogyny – it’s convenient how the victims who “caused” their own trauma almost always seem to be female, no?]

It took me near a month to work up the nerve to publicly announce our horrific news. Part of me would really have preferred to just be left alone in my misery. But in the end, I knew if I could help just one person to feel less alone than we did – or better yet, prevent one family from suffering the same fate – that was the only good I could ever see coming out of all this devastation. That was the only legacy I could build for my daughter. And so I did.

We had an outpouring of support. But even surrounded by love, my grief was so suffocating I could barely breathe – for months, years even. I whiled away so many days in a stupor of tears and terror and guilt, even after the healthy birth of my son. The only thing I could bring myself to write about was her. (Hence why we, dear reader, find ourselves 5 years later only *now* finally releasing Stuck!)

But somehow, the gaping wounds scabbed over. The shards of our hearts sealed themselves back together. The vise-grip around our chests loosened up just ever so much.

And we survived.

Five years and two cherished subsequent children later, I can tell you that I still think about Alana every day, and my understanding (from those who’ve walked this road before me) is that this will be true until the end of my days. I miss her deeply, I wonder who she would have been, I ache for my other children who never got to know their older sibling

But also, I am grateful. I am grateful for her – for the short time I had to carry her, and for everything (and everyone) she has brought to our lives. For the ways she’s changed us. I am bursting with gratitude, actually, the depths of which I could not ever have conceived of, before.

There was a time, after Alana died, when I couldn’t imagine ever feeling anything but sorrow ever again; a time when I couldn’t imagine ever wanting anything more than a chance to turn back the clock. Now, even knowing the outcome, I would gladly do it all over again. I’d choose her a billion times, over any other baby, even one that lives. (Though if choosing *her* alive were an option, that’d still take the cake every single time.)

Needless to say, I never in a million years saw any of this coming.

The worst part of this story, I’ve come to learn though, is that it’s not unique. What happened to me happens to 70 other families every. single. day. It happened to 70 yesterday, and will happen to 70 more tomorrow. And that’s just in the United States – and just stillbirth. Expand that out to include the rest of the world, to include miscarriage, to include SIDS and other neonatal deaths. The numbers are staggering.

And yet, the vast majority of us are suffering in silence.

Why?

Well, *I* used to be why. I used to be one of those “Everything happens for a reason!” people. (If I ever said this to you, particularly in a time of pain, I’M SORRY. I TAKE IT ALL BACK.) But, as I can see now, this is another one of those things that we tell ourselves when we don’t want to (can’t) acknowledge the random cruelty of our world. This phrase is a get-out-of-jail-free card; it absolves us of responsibility in the face of suffering and injustice. It puts a wall between us – the lucky ones, the “chosen” ones (we believe) – and them – those unfortunate suckers who have an important lesson to learn, or some god’s work to do, or whatever. This works great, until the day that you become one of them. Then it just really sucks.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in 5 years of missing my child, it is this: heartbreak is the great equalizer. Every bereaved parent I know, no matter what color, class, or creed, aches the same way. Every bereaved *person* I know aches the same way, no matter who they are missing.

And so the woman who found meaning in everyone’s suffering but her own (b/c, of course, she had none of her own to speak of) died and was buried along with her daughter. And, somewhere down the line, a new woman took her place, one who lives and loves by a different motto (coined by none other than the apparently very wise Dr. Seuss):

*This* here, in my deeply humbled opinion, is the only meaning to be found in suffering. We are all bound to suffer, sooner or later – that is the price for love. The question is: what are you going to do about it?

And so that brings me back around to Awareness Month. As I somehow glimpsed in those early, empty, strangled weeks, this here is the good that I can do in my daughter’s name. I care a whole awful lot that no else walks into a labor and delivery unit to be blindsided. That no else is tormented by the words, “What if.” That no else is swallowed up by an ocean of grief without an anchoring hand to hold. That no one else’s love for their child is silenced.

This is what Awareness is about. It’s about compassion, for those of us who are in pain. And it’s about knowledge, for those of us who, thankfully, are not.

This October, if you have lost a baby, please, (if you’re ready) share your story. If you haven’t lost a baby, please, listen – and most importantly, learn.

If you love someone who’s lost a baby, please, show your support. If you think you don’t know anyone who’s lost a baby, please, listen harder – because unfortunately, I promise, you definitely do. (1 in 4 expectant women will lose a baby during pregnancy or infancy. 1 in 4!)

There are a lot of really simple things you can do to participate in Awareness Month, in honor of all babies gone too soon. Some (like changing your social media profile frame) take only seconds. Take a moment to learn more at www.starlegacyfoundation.org/awareness-month

And with that, I am heading out to spend the day celebrating – yes, as unbelievable as I would have found that 5 years ago today, actually celebrating – my eldest daughter’s brief life. I hope you will do me the honor of spending a few moments today learning about Pregnancy & Infant Loss and how to have an empowered pregnancy.

On behalf of Alana and myself, thank you. <3

2 New Arrivals: Mia and… STUCK!!!

Dear Stitch Fans, I am over-the-moon to announce not one, but two brand-spanking-new arrivals!

First, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our family, Mia!

Baby Mia joined us earlier this summer and has filled all our hearts to bursting, especially big brothers Kiran & Gio (the cat).  She is the sweetest little nugget we could ever have hoped for, and – as the meaning of her name (“wished for”) attests – she has given us the priceless gift of another opportunity to raise a daughter, something we wondered if we had lost forever after her older sister, Alana, was stillborn in 2013 (shortly after I published Book 2 in the series, Shudder).

In fact, Mia’s imminent arrival was the catalyst for this next announcement as well!  Knowing how much (read: little) time I’ve been able to devote to writing in the 3+ years since Kiran’s birth, I was determined to finish Stuck before she was born… figuring it certainly wasn’t going to be getting any easier with two kids running around here!*  And so, this spring, I set to work finally getting the last installment of the Stitch Trilogy on paper.  (No small feat, considering I’d procrastinated long enough that by the end, I was facing down a grueling pace of needing to average one chapter a day for the last two-ish months of her pregnancy… whoops!)

I am so thrilled to announce that, somehow (thanks to a very thorough outline!!), it all came together: Stuck is finished!  (Well, the first draft is, anyhow.)  Right now it’s being scrutinized by beta readers, and assuming they don’t all think it’s garbage (fingers crossed!), I’m targeting a release by the end of this year.  :-D

There is a Cover Reveal & Giveaway planned for this fall, and I will announce the official release date (and preorder links!) with that promotion.  In the meantime, please go ahead and add Stuck to your Goodreads TBR (To Be Read) shelf and follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter for updates about the release!  (You can also sign up on my mailing list for an email reminder as soon as Stuck is available for purchase!)

I hope you guys are excited about these announcements as I am!  Thank you for all your support, and stay tuned for more updates soon!!

PS – If you missed the sneak preview excerpt from Stuck on my previous post, head over there to whet your appetite for the final book of the Stitch Trilogy!

[*As a babyloss mom, I feel the need to qualify here: two kids running around if I got very lucky to be able to bring home another living child.  I don’t know one other loss parent who will ever feel comfortable enough again to make that kind of assumption, and I don’t want to pretend that I’m immune, either.  To be perfectly candid, the only thing I knew was that I would be leaving the hospital with my arms full – with a baby, or with another round of soulcrushing grief.  Either way, I didn’t think I’d be getting much work done!!  And boy was that assessment spot on – it took me *nearly* as long to write the last 2 chapters and read the first draft as it did to write the first 48!]

…Nothing to See Here, Folks

SuperBoringAnnouncementsOh, hey there.  Not much new around here, just a few super boring announcements I wanted to share.  Nothing exciting, so don’t go getting your knickers in a bunch.

  1. I’ve got a new cover for Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3) – if you own an e-book copy of Shudder and can update it to the latest version (most readers can do that at www.amazon.com/mycd), you can find a sneak peek right before the Epilogue.
  2. If you can’t see the new cover in your copy, no worries – I’m planning to do an official Cover Reveal soon.  Any book bloggers out there want to help me?
  3. Oh yeah, almost forgot: Stuck is ~65% done, and I have plans to finish the first draft in the next 24 days.  No big deal.
  4. You’re still here?  Wow, you must really have nothing better to do…  Well, as a reward for sticking around, here’s a quick excerpt from Book 3:

Isaac reclined back on the shore absentmindedly digging his fingers through the grass, enjoying the scent of fresh pine needles, the unseasonably warm spring sun stroking his face, and – especially – the view.

Alessa stood with her back to him, her tall, curvaceous form poised on the edge of a large boulder, the afternoon sun reflecting off the water of the lake onto her long, bare limbs, her skin glowing luminous against the forest.  Isaac groaned hungrily to himself, and she paused to toss one coy, teasing glance over her shoulder at him before leaping off and slipping into the water.

Surfacing with a yelp, she swam hastily towards the shore, visibly shivering under the gentle waves.

The spell broken, Isaac chuckled and called out, “I don’t know what else you were expecting in March.”

Her teeth chattering, she waded in the neck-deep water until she could find her footing.  “It’ll be April n-n-n-next week,” she argued, hissing through clenched lips.

“And April is swimming weather since when exactly?”  Isaac laughed and shook his head.  “Come here and let me warm you up.”  He narrowed his sapphire eyes at her enticingly.

Alessa grinned.  She worked her way towards him, the water slinking over her limbs as her smooth, porcelain skin broke the surface with each stroke.  Isaac’s stomach clenched with desire.

Dipping her face under, she came up standing and tossed her dripping hair back.  The lake now at her shoulders, she treaded slowly forward, Isaac’s heart rollicking in anticipation as the water inched down, down, down over her chest.

And then, just before it reached the promised land, she went rigid, her features twisted in concern.

Isaac shot up.  “What is it?”

Alessa’s eyes darted across the shoreline, searching.  “I’m not sure.  I felt something.”

Isaac grimaced.  “I told you there were snakes in there.”

“No, not snakes.”  Alessa waved him off.  “I think it might be… them.

Understanding, alarm prickled down his back.  “The creatures.”

Guys, guys… in case you fell for my Jedi mind trick (did you? did you??), to be clear, I am SUPER EXCITED about all of the above!!!  I’ve been trying to play it cool, but man, cool is NOT my thing, you know?  Ahhhh!!!  Stuck is almost done!  I’m planning to release it later this year!!  THE WAIT IS ALMOST OVER!  Official release date will come with the Cover Reveal in a couple months – I don’t want to commit to anything yet until I’m 100% sure I can deliver, and, oh, I’m expecting a baby in a few weeks (another girl!!! Kiran is SO excited to be a big brother!), so yeah things are a little hectic around here – but IT’S REALLY HAPPENING.  Consider my knickers bunched!  Hope yours are too!!!

In all seriousness, I know it’s been a long wait; thank you for sticking with me through thick and thin.  I can’t tell you how much all of your support means to me, and I absolutely can’t wait to share Book 3 with you!

PS – In case you follow my grief writing, I had a guest post last week over at Glow in the Woods (my favorite ever babyloss blog, I’m SO HONORED to be published there!) about Postpartum Anxiety, as inspired by the AWESOME recent sci-fi horror film A Quiet Place.  Check it out!  (And if you haven’t seen the movie, definitely do!)

GIVEAWAY: Signed ARC & Limited Edition Stitch Scarf!

To celebrate the release of the Stitch 2016 Revised Edition, I’m giving away three (3) awesome prize packs, each including a signed ARC and a limited edition Stitch scarf!!!

Stitch 2016 Revised Edition Signed ARC and Scarf Giveaway

These ARCs and scarves are some of only five in existence (the rest of which I’m hoarding for my own personal enjoyment), so I’m SUPER excited to be sharing these with fans of the trilogy!  The super-soft, cozy scarves were created by the one and only Litographs and feature the exact text from the revised edition of the book!  SO COOL.  (In case you were wondering, yes, I will be sporting mine all winter long!)  They also have tons of other awesome products if you’re looking for gift ideas for the literature lover in your life (or yourself, haha) – t-shirts, totes, posters, etc. – featuring your favorite classics (Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, Shakespeare), contemporary hits (Outlander, Cinder, The Time Traveler’s Wife), and more!  (Note: this is NOT a sponsored post, I’m just an unabashed fangirl! Lol).

In short, lots of goodness in this giveaway, so don’t miss out!!

Enter to win below – it’s totally free, open internationally, and will run until December 12th!

Enter to win here!

SURPRISE!!! Revised Edition of Stitch Available TODAY!

stitchrevisededitionannouncement

Ok Stitch fans, I have a big announcement that I’m very excited to share… I recently invested a little (a lot of) time in creating a *new and improved* revised edition of Stitch and it’s available… today!!

“Wha-wha-whhaatt…” did you say?  I know, you must have questions, considering I totally snuck this project up on you.  So I went ahead and made a little FAQ that will hopefully clarify everything – read on!

— FAQ’s About Stitch (Stitch Trilogy, Book 1) 2016 Revised Edition —

Wait a sec… aren’t you supposed to be writing Stuck??
Why, yes.  Yes I am.  But the thing is, when I release Stuck, I obviously plan to do a huge promotional push to hopefully draw more readers into the series.  And to be frank, the thought of potentially thousands of new readers reading Stitch as it was – and forming their first impressions of me as a writer based on the original version of the book – was making me cringe.  And that icky, knotted-stomach feeling was pervading my enthusiasm for Stuck and for the series as a whole.  So in order to give this trilogy its rightful end, I felt I needed to go back to the beginning and make sure that Book 1 was done to the very best of my ability.

As much affection as I have for the original version of Stitch with all its quirks and flaws, I’ve learned a lot since it was published and have grown a lot as a writer (much of which is thanks to you and all your wonderful – sometimes brutally honest! – feedback, dear readers. I told you I read all the reviews, didn’t I??), and I want the series opener to be the best it can be.  Make sense?

Ok, awesome. So what’s new?
Let’s start with what’s NOT new.  First off, the plot.  Nothing about the storyline, or the characters’ history, or the major plot points have changed.  So if you don’t feel like re-reading it before Stuck releases, that’s no problem at all – you won’t be missing any essential information for the finale and can jump right in when Stuck comes out.

What HAS changed is the storytelling.  It’s faster-paced, more intense, more engaging.  Mostly, there’s less exposition – there’s more showing and less telling, i.e. through flashbacks, conversations between characters, hints in the setting, etc.  So that means… new scenes!  You’ll find LOTS of new interactions between Isaac, Alessa, Janie and the rest of the crew, more of Isaac’s POV, more action, more ROMANCE… and a *bit* less of Alessa blathering on in her head about her feelings or describing inconsequential details of her everyday life (the number one critiques of the original version of the book, which I have to wholeheartedly agree with).

Most of the changes are in the first two thirds of the book, because, well, I pretty much wrote it in the order that it reads – so those early chapters were the first ever chapters of a novel I’d ever written, and I frankly didn’t really know what I was doing.  But as many readers commented, the book really picked up after the twist and I felt I really hit my stride by the climax, so there’s not too much different towards the end.  (And just in case you were wondering, I have NO plans to make any changes to Shudder.)

I want it!! How do I know what version I have?
Check out the copyright page (two pages after the cover). If it says “Copyright © 2012 Samantha Durante” it’s the original.  If it says “Second Edition, Revised 2016. Copyright © 2012, 2016 Samantha Durante” you’ve got the revised version!

Argh, I’ve still got the old one – how do I get my revised edition??
If you bought a Kindle copy: Log in to your account on Amazon.com and go to the Manage Your Content & Devices page – find Stitch and click the “Update Available” button.  (Note that you will lose any existing notes/highlights!!)

If you bought a paperback copy: All paperback copies have been sold through Amazon, and Amazon has a great feature where I can make a discounted Kindle version available to owners of the print version.  So guess what – I made it free!!  Just log in to your account on Amazon.com, go here, and download your free updated Kindle copy.

If you bought an e-book from B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, or elsewhere: Stitch is exclusive to Amazon for the next few months (more on that in an upcoming post), so you won’t be able to get the update until around March-ish (sorry!).  And to be totally honest, I’m not really sure how updates work at these other vendors…  Worst case, if you can’t get the update from wherever you bought it (or just don’t feel like waiting), just email me and I’ll send you a copy!

If you won a free print or e-book copy, or received a free copy for review purposes: Email me and I’ll send you a free updated e-book copy!  (Honor system!!)

Ok, I’m re-reading Stitch… Now what’s up with Stuck???
FINALLY – I’m writing it!  For reals!!  Sneak peek coming soon!  And I’ve even got some super sweet revised cover art…  More on the cover reveal coming as soon as I feel confident enough to announce an official release date, hopefully in the next few months!

As always, thank you again readers for all of your support and enthusiasm, for giving me the confidence to keep writing, the courage to make hard choices, and the chutzpah to admit when I haven’t done my best.  I’m really proud of the new and improved Stitch, and I hope you love it too!

PS – Celebratory GIVEAWAY coming soon with some really awesome prizes!!!  Check back here in the next couple days for details, or sign up on the mailing list here to get a notification (I only send 1-4 emails a year tops, promise).

Guest Post: A Candid Portrait of Grief

Babies on the BrainJust wanted to share this guest post that I wrote for a dear friend’s blog, a candid portrayal of my grief after losing my daughter, for anyone out there who might be hurting right now (whether due to babyloss or any other type of loss).

Update: If the above link does not work, please see an archive of the post below! 

(Check out the the Babies on the Brain blog for more honest accounts of different hardships – infertility, postpartum depression, rape – and follow along all month long for a new series of posts about how individuals and companies can support expectant mothers, particularly those going through difficult times!  You can subscribe at the bottom of the link above – only blog posts go out, no spam.)

In case you didn’t know, October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, so if you see pink-and-blue around this month, that’s why!  If you’ve been personally touched by babyloss (as a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, cousin, sibling, friend, etc.), consider participating on October 15th in the global wave of light by lighting a candle at 7 pm (local time) in honor of all the babies we’ve lost. <3

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

A Candid Portrait of Grief (originally posted at Babies on the Brain)

Today is my birthday – but celebrating is the last thing on my mind.

For the past 3 years, my birthday has not been marked with cake and candles and good cheer.  Smiles and excitement and joy have given way to tears and sorrow and despair.  My birthday list – once a mile long – is bare.

The truth is, the only things I want for my birthday, no one on this earth can give me.  I want my daughter back, and I want a guarantee that my son will remain healthy and happy and alive for the remainder of my (hopefully many) years.

But the knowledge that no one – not even, apparently, God – can make me this promise, forces me each year to confront the visceral terror that on better days simmers deep within my bones.  And the slogging battle to tamp it back down leaves me drenched with existential dread.

(Happy birthday to me.)

It wasn’t always this way.  Before the day I learned what the word “stillbirth” meant – after a textbook pregnancy with zero risk factors characterized only by an eager, innocent, anticipatory bliss – I had been an expert at invincibility.  I was lucky for 28 serendipitous years to be untouched by any real tragedy or heartache, and so it’d become almost a reflex to shake off the possibility of “it” (sub in whatever misfortune featured in the news that week) ever happening to me.

And don’t get me wrong – I was arrogant and naive, but I was also grateful.  I understood, at least on a rational level, how incredibly lucky I was to have been given all I’d been given, and I was as conscious as someone who’s never suffered adversity can be not to take it for granted.  I guess on some level I must have thought that that gratitude would protect me, and by extension, those I love.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

And so when I found myself walking into the hospital two days before my due date, after nine uneventful, blissful months, ready to finally, finally, finally bring home my baby girl – the much beloved and anticipated eldest daughter (and first grandchild!) that I’d dreamed of since I was only a child myself – only to learn that her heart was inexplicably no longer beating, well, my entire world was decimated.  This wasn’t supposed to happen to anyone, not this late in a healthy pregnancy – and it especially wasn’t supposed to happen to me.

I wandered in a daze through my delivery and the empty, heartrending, surreal, lonely weeks that followed.  I woke up every morning with her name on my lips, still in utter disbelief that she was gone, that I wasn’t going to get a do-over, that she would truly never again (never??) be here in my arms, where she belonged.

Eventually I woke cursing the very air I breathed and begging not to wake again, the salt of her tears crusted in my swollen eyes and a constant, panging ache in my gut.  I wept, all day, every day, for months and months and months on end.  And soon, I seethed, my soul consumed by an angry, often irrational bitterness, and the blackest of envy.

If you’d asked about my worldview in that first year, “bleak” wouldn’t even have begun to cover it.  I didn’t know how I would ever feel joy again.  I didn’t know how the hurt would ever, ever subside.  I didn’t know how I would ever learn to live with such a gaping, ragged hole in my heart.

And yet, somehow, I did.

Somehow, I found the courage to try again, and to face a second – now long, anxious, and terrifying – pregnancy with as much joy as I could muster.  Somehow, I let myself fall hopelessly and perilously in love with her baby brother, and let myself believe (or, at least, tried my damnedest to convince myself) that he would indeed be coming home from the hospital with us.  Somehow, I learned to let the smiles surface along with the tears, often in the very same breath.

We were blessed to bring home a son just a few weeks after what should have been her first birthday, and he has lived up to the meaning of his name: our beam of sunlight through the dark.

And now, as her third birthday approaches, with two years under my belt of the gratitude and heartache and wonder and guilt and fullness and anxiety and unadulterated, earth-shattering love that is parenting a living child (particularly after a loss), I’ve come to realize that I am well on my way to “integrating” (as they call it) her death.

Yes, I will always, always, always miss her.  But many days now, with my son’s toothy toddler smile beaming up at me and his soft little hands wrapped in my palms, it is both heartbreaking and a relief to realize that that ache is no longer quite so searing.  I know now that I will never leave her behind; she is a part of me, a part of our family.  Our love will endure for always.

And is that enough?  No.  Of course it is not.  But it’s all we have.  And most days, I can make do.

There will always be some days, though – like my birthday, like today – that will stand as a grim reminder of all that we have lost.

So, yes, as my wonderful family and friends refuse to let me forget, my birthday is worth celebrating – at the very least, for the significance it holds for my own mother, who never fails to remind me that it was the happiest day of her life.

But for me, now, I simply can’t imagine it ever feeling anything short of criminal to commemorate my managing to survive another year on this cruel, fickle planet, when my daughter didn’t even make it to her own birth alive.

My innocence, my faith, my child are gone.

And my birthday will never be the same.

But as grim as this all may sound, if there’s one thing I’ve learned to take comfort in along the way, it is this: I’m not the only one.  You are not the only one.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that we will all, eventually, suffer.  After all, grief is the price of love – the tradeoff for a life well-lived.  As a shockingly wise internet quote I once came across said, “None of us is making it out of here alive.”  And so, someday, we will all lose the people closest to us (unless, like my daughter, we are unlucky enough to go first).

It’s a morbid thought, but also a comfort.  Grief – especially that for a loss like stillbirth that is so poorly understood and little acknowledged by the general public (we “didn’t even know her,” after all, so how can we miss her, right? Sigh) – can be incredibly isolating.  But it doesn’t have to be.

No matter your heartache – death, divorce, infertility, abuse, illness, rejection, you name it – there are other people out there hurting too, in the very same way, in this very same moment.  And if you can only find them – through a support group, an online forum, a mutual friend, whatever – you don’t have to be alone in your pain for another minute.  Having been there, I can promise you, it’s all so much better when we do it together.

So the next time your birthday rolls around and you’re plastering on a smile while silently sobbing away the hours inside, ask yourself this: how many other people are doing the same?

And when the desolation of despair calls your name, instead, remind yourself that no matter how bad it hurts in this moment, tomorrow is a new day.  And there’s someone out there right now who understands, if you just put your hand out and reach for them.

 

Samantha Banerjee lives in Westchester County, New York with three of the four loves of her life – her husband, son, and cat – and carries her fourth love, her stillborn daughter, in her heart. In addition to penning novels and writing candidly about grief, she is also a sometimes freelance writer/consultant – though more often than not these days she’s on full-time mom duty! A former software engineer, Samantha said goodbye to the corporate world in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and lifelong love of writing. Learn more at www.samanthadurante.com.

Finding Balance

Or: Why It’s Taking Me So Long to Finish Book 3

I know you’ve all been waiting patiently for an update on Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3).  I was really hoping I’d have a completed manuscript (or, at least, a firm release date) to share with you this fall.  But I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m not even close.

That’s not to say I haven’t been working diligently toward that goal whenever I can – I have – or that I’m any less dedicated to getting the final installment of this trilogy into your hands as soon as possible – believe me, I’m as excited as you are!  It’s just that, I’ve had to readjust my expectations for what “whenever I can” and “as soon as possible” means during this season of my life.  And as a result, it’s looking like it’s going to be a while yet until Stuck is ready for public consumption.

And my instinct now is for the next thing out of my mouth to be “I’m sorry.”  But I have to tell you: I’m sorry, and I’m not.  Because the reason I’ve been struggling to find time to write is that my son is at a very precious and fleeting stage in his life right now, and I just can’t bring myself to miss any of it.

As you may know, I’m the work-at-home parent in my family.  And I know lots of awesome work-at-home parents who hire a regular babysitter or utilize daycare to give themselves more time to be productive (or just recuperate), and when I see them doing this, I say, “Right on! Good for you!”  And I see how they benefit, and I see how their kids benefit, and I understand where they’re coming from when they encourage me to do the same.  But the thing is, I’m just coming from a different place.

As a mother who’s had the singular and heartwrenching experience of burying my only child, I’m coming from the same place as my friend, Kelly, whose beautiful toddler son, Kevin, was tragically taken from her too soon by Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Kelly posted this heartfelt reminder to other parents on Facebook the other day as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month:

“I know I only had 2 1/2 years. I know 95% was spent on a roller coaster. I know that he’s not here now. I regret every break I took, every time I picked up my phone in front of him, and it wasn’t to take his picture. I regret every time I went to the sleep room and took a nap. I regret every time I went to the bathroom, and he couldn’t come with me. Some days it eats me alive. […] Forget cellphones on Saturdays! Forget cellphones as much as you can! Set alarms if you have to. Go out! Go play! Give them your TIME. It is all they will ever need or want and it won’t last for long. […] I just urge all of you to treasure EVERY second. […] Treasure the time.”

Of course, no one would ever begrudge Kelly – or any parent, especially one dealing with something as inconceivably stressful and horrific as childhood cancer – those naps and bathroom breaks and occasional zone-outs on the phone. That’s just survival.

But I felt the same way after my daughter, Alana, was stillborn.  I regretted (regret) every moment that I spent doing anything other than soaking her in, and basking in the miracle of her pregnancy.  I thought I had the rest of her life to really pay attention to her – I never realized just how short that life would be.  And this is where my mind goes when I need to decide now where to spend my time.

Should I take a couple hours this afternoon to go upstairs and write, or should I just stay here and let him and his glorious imagination cook me yet another “gourmet meal” from his play kitchen?  Should I pull my phone out and try to sneak some work on my outline, or just marvel as he so intently and purposefully pours water back and forth between cups for the next ten minutes?  Should I get on my computer while my mom reads him his book-of-the-moment for the 8000th time today, or should I stay here and do it myself so I don’t miss it if he suddenly looks up and busts out a newly mastered word with the biggest, proudest smile on his face?  More often than not, my son wins out.

And is devoting so much of myself to my child the “right” choice, or the healthiest or most sustainable, for either me or him?  I’m the first to admit that it’s probably not.  Any of my family or friends will readily tell you that Kiran and I suffer from a (mutual) separation anxiety which is hugely inconvenient to anyone and everyone who wants to spend time with either of us.  Some days (luckily, usually only a couple days a month when my nerves are raw from hormones or lack of sleep or what have you), I am burnt out and not the mother I know I could be – and I second guess my choices then, and wish I made more time for myself, and I strongly consider hiring regular help (or depending even more heavily on my mom than I already do – thank you, Mom, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you!) so I can finally finish this book.

But then I have weeks, like I have had most of this past month, where the days – slogging and repetitive and interminable as they may be – are somehow also just brimming with delight.  Where I watch with wonder as my toddler discovers a boundless love of merry-go-rounds and waves with pure joy at every pass around the carousel.  Where I might be overtaken at any moment by an unexpected bear hug and chubby little hands yanking me in close (by the hair!) for an open-mouthed kiss on the cheek that fills my heart to bursting.  Where I lay down each night with my son in one arm and my cat in the other (my poor husband curled up in the remaining seven inches of mattress…), exhausted to the bone, but so, so full of love.

How can I bring myself to miss any of this, when I know so viscerally that it could be over at any moment?  I just can’t.

And please, please, please, don’t mistake me – the last thing I want is to send anyone off on a guilt trip for making choices that are different than mine.  Every family and every parent is different, and this is not a critique of anyone’s choices, or the completely valid reasons and experiences behind those choices.  I’m also painfully aware of the enormous and glaring amount of privilege I’ve been blessed with to even be able to have choices in this arena.

So this is just me trying to explain where my head is at, and why I’m finding it so hard to find the time to actually write, as much as I find meaning and enjoyment for myself in doing that – and as much as I absolutely hate feeling like I’m letting anyone down or failing to accomplish something I set out to do.  It’s just that, I know I can’t get any of this time back.  And when it comes down to it, I’m just not willing to give it up.

So what that means for me – and for you, dear readers – in a real-world, practical sense, is that I pretty much only get to write when Kiran is napping.  And he’s never been a big napper.  And half the time he falls asleep while driving somewhere, and then that’s it for the day.  And I wish I could just stay up late after he goes to bed or get up early in the morning to write before he wakes, but… I am tired, people!  And just like my friend Kelly, and all parents, I need that time at the end of the day to watch some TV or zone out on my phone or just talk to my husband – regular people-stuff, you know?  So basically, that doesn’t leave me with very much time to actually write.

The good news, though – for those of you waiting for Stuck – is that I have really been putting those few hours I get each week to good use.  Truthfully, I have not made too much progress on Stuck itself just yet, but I have been working on a secret little get-myself-back-on-the-horse project, which involves a good amount of brand new content within the Stitch universe. :-D And I’m planning to release that soon (hopefully before the end of the year, though again don’t hold me to it, as you now understand that I am beholden to the fickle whims of a toddler’s erratic sleep schedule!).

So, that’s where I’m at.  Trying to find the balance, and doing my best to love my life as it is, for as long as this season may last.

Thank you, as always, for sticking with me as I work to figure it all out.  And may you also, always, treasure the time.

Quick Announcement – I’m BAACCKKK!

Hey Stitch Fans!

ImBackI am **so** excited to announce that… I am OFFICIALLY working on the series again.  !!!  :-D

No release dates or anything just yet (I’m still trying to figure out how to get back in the productivity groove now that I have a toddler running around here!!), but I just wanted you all to know that it is REALLY happening.  And it feels so good. 

Planning is underway, writing will commence shortly, and I can guarantee that there’s a conclusion to this trilogy on its way… with maybe another surprise in the works as well!  (Haha, I KNOW, I’m being very short on details here… but I just don’t want to publicly commit to any dates/projects that I’m not 100% sure I can deliver, so keeping things vague for now!)

Will post another update as soon as I’ve got some progress to report…

In the meantime, hope you’re all doing well and looking forward to getting back in touch once I can leave my writing cave!!

All the best!
Samantha

Where I’ve Been + Stuck Update!

Hi Stitch Fans!

First off, thank you for waiting SO patiently for word on Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3) – I am going to make an announcement about plans for Stuck in the next few weeks, but until then, I wanted to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to for the past year (while – sorry! – not writing…).

My son, Kiran, just turned one a few weeks ago, and I really cannot even begin to comprehend where the last year has went.  It’s such a cliche, but it feels like only yesterday that we were bringing our tiny shrimp home from the hospital… and just like that, we have a glorious, giggling, gorgeous toddler scooting his adorable little butt all over our house.  See for yourself in this “second-a-day” video that my husband and I put together to celebrate Kiran’s first birthday:

As you can imagine, this sweet boy has certainly kept me busy the last year, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade a second of it for anything (even a finished Book 3, sorry!!).  And that’s especially true now looking back and realizing just how fast it’s gone by (new parents: I know it can be pretty rough in those early months, but people really aren’t lying when they tell you that it flies by and before long you won’t remember anything but the good stuff!).

Given everything we’ve been through with our daughter, Alana, in the past two years, reaching Kiran’s 1st birthday is a HUGE milestone for us.  After all, when you bury your only child (despite a 99% chance of survival…), you understand in a visceral way just how fragile and fleeting life can be, and that there truly are no guarantees.  I knew damn well that it could happen to us (to anyone) again, and a large part of me really did not believe that we would ever be lucky enough to see this day.

And yet, here we are.  (Sigh of relief.)  Kiran has really lived up to his name and brought so much joy and light back to our lives – but at the same time, it’s been an incredibly bittersweet year as we come to understand just exactly how much we’ve missed out on with Alana. So even though it hasn’t been the most productive year for me writing/career-wise, I am SO incredibly grateful for every second that I’ve gotten to spend with this vibrant, beautiful little boy – and you can bet your pants that I will continue to cherish every second to come (even when he makes me want to pull my hair out!).

Thank you so much, readers, for all of your support over the past few years – it really means the world to me.  And I will be in touch *soon* with more concrete news about Stuck!  (Promise!)

PS – For those of you in the US, it would mean the world to me if you could spare a moment to sign this sign this petition at whitehouse.gov asking the federal government to acknowledge the stillbirth crisis and hopefully draw more funding towards stillbirth research and awareness to prevent future tragedies.  No spam, no money, just a minute of your time to help save potentially tens of thousands of lives.  Thank you!!  #SignForStillbirth