A West Michigan woman is turning her family tragedy into joy by doing something she loves.
Jess Resheske recently opened a mobile flower shop called Blossoms of Joy, where she arranges and sells bouquets of flowers and floral crowns as a way of coping with the loss of her pregnancy, and also as a source of support for women who have suffered miscarriages like herself.
Resheske was supposed to welcome her fourth child in April but she lost her pregnancy in December when she was 19 weeks pregnant.
“I felt her kick on a Saturday and usually when I start feeling movement from the baby, from my previous pregnancies, I feel it constantly, at least multiple times throughout the day. But I just felt that one kick and I didn’t feel anything else after that,” she said.
“I just knew something was wrong. I felt that kick on Saturday and I didn’t feel anything on Sunday, so I just knew something was wrong. My husband tried to calm me down and tried to talk me out of it, but I told him that I needed to make sure that everything is OK. When I went to my doctor’s appointment, they were trying to find a heartbeat with a doppler, but my doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat and then she said, ‘Let’s go take an ultrasound’ and I just knew, I just knew she was gone. And she was.”
Resheske had to deliver her baby who wasn’t considered a stillborn because Resheske was just shy of 20 weeks pregnant.
‘When she was born, I got to hold her right away,” she said. “They wrapped her up and I held her. I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted to with her, but I spent a couple of hours with her. Since she had passed, it was better to have her in a cooler room just because things start to diminish pretty quickly. And since we wanted to do an autopsy, we wanted to preserve her and try to find out what happened.”
Unfortunately, the doctors could not figure out what went wrong, but before Resheske and her family left the hospital the next day, they were able to spend more time with the baby and hold her before saying their final goodbyes.
“We went home with a little box with her footprints, what she was in while we were holding her, and we ended up having her cremated, so we have her ashes in a little urn,” she said.
Although Resheske had the support of her friends and family as she grieved, she searched the internet for support groups and for people who had a similar story to hers, but there were not many.
“After losing Joy, the type of grief and pain (I was) in was just unthinkable,” she said. “You don’t even know if you are going to feel OK again. Of course, I have my three other children, but every child is your whole world and when you lose one of those children that you have hopes and dreams for, your whole world comes crashing down. I couldn’t see past it. I just felt hopeless, sad and really in a dark place.”
Resheske said three months after she had lost Joy, in March, she was watching a show on Netflix, and she saw someone making flower crowns for someone’s wedding and suddenly she got this overwhelming feeling of conviction to start a flower business.
Making flower bouquets was a personal hobby, but now Resheske wanted to make it a business. More importantly, she wanted to create a place where women and families who have suffered a miscarriage, or knows someone who has, can go to for support.
Resheske created bouquets of flowers on April 29, which would have been her due date, and delivered them to Boven Birth Center at Holland Hospital as gifts to the new mothers.
She and her husband recently bought a trailer that she is using as a shop to sell her flowers at the Zeeland Farmers Market on Saturdays throughout the summer. She also is setting up pop-up shops in her driveway.
She began selling flowers at the farmers market on June 5 and every week Resheske said she will have different fresh bouquets of flower assortments that are in season, including pansies, roses, daffodils and daisies. She said she will not have a lot of flower crowns at the farmers market, but she’ll make them for specialty orders for events such as weddings, baby showers and birthdays, among other events.
This summer, Resheske said she is getting her flowers weekly from Walker but expects to grow her own flowers next year in her backyard after the completion of their home, which they are currently building.
In addition to selling flowers, Resheske said Blossoms of Joy is an awareness campaign. She will have information about her story and her contact information for anyone who needs support as they grieve a lost pregnancy while she is at Zeeland Farmers Market.
“Being someone who they can talk to is huge,” she said. “A lot of people, when you tell them about your loss, they say, ‘I am sorry for your loss,’ and you just don’t want to talk about it because it is sad. I get it. A baby passing is not the circle of life. It is not the norm. Having an innocent new life taken is not the norm, and people don’t know what to say and they don’t know what to do. Instead of having that conversation being ignored or kept quiet, saying, ‘I am sorry for your loss, do you want to talk about her (or him?) Do you want to tell me about her (or him?)’ — just opening a conversation instead of shutting one down might help someone who is grieving. Some people don’t want to talk about it, and they can say, ‘No, but thank you for offering.’ At least there is an opening, a door to have that support. That is my start right now with Blossoms of Joy, with the flowers and sharing my story, to see if I can help connect.
“With COVID and all the restrictions, I can’t figure out how to put a support group together, but definitely in the future I intend to have a safe space for other grieving moms in the West Michigan area to go to and be able to grieve the loss of their baby with other moms who have gone through the same thing, to be able to create that community that no one wants to be a part of but there is one and it is bigger than we know. I just want to have a safe space or have that one person you can call.”