Birthdays & Broken Hearts...
This is the year that Reid understands birthdays without understanding it is also the day his sister died. I knew this day would come. I visualized it on the morning I woke up in 2011, when Ruthie Lou was still with us and I couldn't fathom why or how she could actually leave me on my birthday, a day I will now forever share with her. I cried and cried and cried and I could not make sense of it.
A friend told me that someday this would be a gift, to share the day with her. What a painful gift to be given, but he was right. It still hurts and I am not in the emotional space of celebrating my birthday yet, but my son is. We have four birthdays in a 6 week period so he has it down now; decorations, cupcakes, candles and presents, it's all very exciting to celebrate the person we love.
Reid can't wait to decorate for me, he's been talking about it for weeks since the night we decorated for him. And this is the year, the one I visualized that awful morning. I could imagine Chris taking the kids to buy me a present, them oblivious to my heartache that day and us living in the joyous moments with our (living) children, celebrating life not death. I want to be there, each year I get closer and the innocence and excitement of my son helps, but I'm not there yet.
So on that day, please don't wish me a happy birthday. I am happy to be born, it used to be my favorite day, but "happy birthday" will never feel quite right. Please honor my daughter and the complexity of our hearts that day, and acknowledge that yes I was born, but leave out the word happy, it breaks my heart and only tells me that you don't understand.
My daughter should have turned five this year; kindergarten, new school, drop offs, pick ups, picture days, father-daughter campouts and her new little brother. She's missing out on all these things and we are missing her dearly.
I know that sharing this day is a gift, that one day we will be less mournful and more celebratory but it's not here yet. My heart aches, my chest hurts and my arms forever empty. I will love the decorations my four year old displays, I will eat all the delicious food that day and smile with my family, for it isn't any different from every other day that we've survived without her. However, Chris and I will know that our hearts ache a little extra on my birthday because in my being born into this world, our daughter was leaving it for the next life, whatever and wherever that might be. All we know, is it was without us and that pain will never end
Then & Now
Five years ago on the same day, we sat in this room, our apartment with Ruthie Lou. The couch has changed, the room has not. At the time, Ruthie Lou's neurologist didn't think she would survive through the night so she captured this photo, in the case that it was the only family picture we would possess outside the hospital walls. She lived another 12 days.
Yesterday we walked through those doors again, this time with our family now complete with our two beautiful boys. When we stepped in those doors at George Mark the first time, it was to say goodbye to our girl, we knew why we were there, we were bidding our baby farewell. The most beautiful time in her life was there, it is her home and we will always remember the importance of GMCH, in our life and in our healing.
But this time we went to introduce her littlest brother to the George Mark family, to share the love that he has brought into our life as well. Adam is now older than his big sister will ever be, he has surpassed her 33 days. To hold him, healthy, growing, changing and thriving, reminds me of all the things I missed with his sister and how fleeting my time with her really was. When she was living, time stood still, the world stopped moving and her brief lifetime changed mine. But now, 5 years later it seems like I have lived someone else's life, with only the heartache of missing her to remain.
For the first time, Reid asked to see the apartment that we shared with his sister and we sat on the same couch that we held Ruthie Lou on, but now with her two brothers. It was bittersweet, the closest that we would all be together as one family. These pictures of our family and with our children are sacred to me, sitting in the same spaces sharing our pure love for them. My only wish is always that they could all be in the same picture mfor real.
I love our family. I love the life I now live but it will forever be missing a third of my heart, the part reserved for my babies. The missing never leaves, the wondering never stops and as I watch my boys and the children I'm surrounded with I always ache for the daughter I'll never see grow. My smile is true, I live in this moment, but the pain of living without my child is real every day.
He's here, he's here, he's here! Adam Waid Lands is here!
This sweet little boy that I felt grow inside me arrived July 27th at 9:58am. Weighing 8lbs 14oz & 20 1/2 inches, he's the perfect mix of brother and sister- the spitting image of his brothers size and his sisters sweet profile.
I still can't believe he's here, that 40 weeks have passed and we did it! He did it! He made it to us, safely, healthy, whole and alive. I can breathe freely now.
His pregnancy (falling four years after his sister died) has allowed much of our life to return to normalcy, not the normal it was before Ruthie Lou, but the normal that we have grown to know and be grateful for. But that said, my fears felt so much greater this pregnancy. The combination of Ruthie Lou dying and Reids delivery being traumatic, left so much fear of the unknown as we waited to see if Adam would survive pregnancy, then survive birth, and be born to us healthy with all his chromosomes. It was a huge and heavy burden to bear, all while creating a space of peace and faith for him to flourish inside me.
Chris and I process our grief so differently. We were both just waiting for our boy to arrive to exhale. It's hard to feel your own feelings, all while allowing space for your partner to do the same, and doing so with patience. Both of us were unable to really tend to the other, except for supporting each other from afar. Even saying we were scared that Adam might die felt like tempting fate.
This pregnancy was private. We never announced that we were expecting. Although my belly was a walking billboard, unless you saw me, it was not something I wanted to talk about other than a select few who probably heard my worries more times than not. I can't explain why, other than I was holding my breath and it took all my strength to maintain my emotional sanity in this pregnancy, that I couldn't dare speak about it publicly.
I am happy that I held Adam quietly inside me, it felt safe. He felt safe. We have lived in the public eye so much with Ruthie Lou and in our love obsession of Reid, it felt good to hold this baby close before he met the world.
Adam felt different than his siblings. Like them, he is so sweet, but he also holds such a gentle presence. He seems like one of those strong silent types that goes with the flow but when they speak up, you listen because they're only expressing them self when it's truly important.
His story is completely different than his siblings. I was so certain he would come early as his brother and sister did. I never considered the alternative of going full term. I expected his labor to mirror theirs too, and imagined what that would feel like for the third time, but that never happened. I worried that his delivery would be as scary as theirs, was but it was the most beautiful of all deliveries, even in a surgical operating room. I thought I would feel crazy for lack of sleep but instead, other than sore from a poor latch, he spends all days nursing and most of the night sleeping.
He is nothing as I expected, and everything I could have ever wanted.
I love Adam.
Faith & Fear
I have always (in my adult years) believed that these two cannot reside in the same space, they are opposite forces so you cannot hold one if you are in the midst of another. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real and Faith is the ability believe in something that you cannot yet see. Both are beliefs, both require a ton of energy.
I have tried, am trying, and will continue to try to sit in faith that all is well with this baby. It is my constant struggle. I feel this baby move in my belly and I want to believe with all my heart that there is nothing but perfection growing inside me which I know to be true because my other two babies were also perfection. But, then again, one of my perfect babies died.
The fear that lives inside my soul runs deeper than I can explain in words. My daughter whom I carried under my heart and in my arms, who I loved and love, died as we held her. It is terrifying, it is overwhelming, it is nothing I want to re-live ever again. And so, for the most part, my fear is best kept at bay. When it rises, I work through it. When I know I am being neurotic, unreasonable and illogical I acknowledge that I am experiencing fear and process it, giving honor to the work that I have done on my heart while also accepting that this work may never fully be done. How could you ever be done processing that your child has died? You can't. You absolutely can be healthy and live in this world again and even find joy in your heart again, but there is no understanding or rationalizing the death of your baby.
In normal life, I can manage. I can talk myself out of the irrational fears that I hold regarding Reid and the potential unsafe situations that could befall him. I remind myself that he is safe and I do not project my fear into him, that is my burden to bear, not his to carry. But this pregnancy, as was with Reid's, is traumatic in ways that I wish I never had to experience, both for me and this baby.
Being pregnant when your baby has died, is like being in the same car accident and knowing the outcome but expecting different results. It is putting your whole faith and trust into something that you have already bet on but lost, and hoping that this time is different. It's truly not fair. Not for me and not for this baby.
I am spending the last days of this pregnancy wanting this baby to arrive so fervently that I am not even enjoying the miracle that this life brings. I love being pregnant, I even love giving birth and I am letting my fear steal that joy from me. This is my last baby, I want to savor this time, these kicks, these special moments that I hold this baby before anyone else in the world gets to meet him/her. I already know this baby, right now this baby is mine and soon enough I will have to share and I want to treasure this special time. But, I also need to acknowledge aloud that this fear is real.
I wish that others could acknowledge this fear with me. I am tired of the check-ins and small talk of this pregnancy. The daily messages that are innocent and kind but ultimately feel stressful. It's not that I don't appreciate them, I am just tired, also anxious, emotional and hormonal. I am anxious, too... Yes, I am huge. No, I am not overdue. Of course, I am ready. All that chitter chatter just mounts my anxiety of the real words that I want to hear.
"I am scared, too."
"I hold the space for you."
"I am hoping for life with you."
"I don't know if it will be ok, but I love you."
I am not (really) physically uncomfortable. I am not "over" this pregnancy yet. If I could be certain that the outcome is positive then I would actually want a little more time in this sacred place of growing a human. But ultimately, I just want to know that this baby will survive delivery and be healthy to live a long life that we have imagined in our family. I also want to feel sane. Not be reassured that everything will be ok when there is not one person (other than this baby) who can know that for sure. And for that, I must wait.
As we have been for months, I am still waiting....
Hidden in that space of wanting you here so badly is the fear. The fear that you are too large for my body to birth, the fear that I will not open enough for you to fit, the fear of you being unhealthy or dying. I am walking a tightrope of faith and fear right now.
Strangers ask me 100 questions that the billboard of my belly cannot answer so it fills this empty void of silence everywhere; in a grocery store, the bank, the pool, the gym, the locker room shower.
"How may weeks are you?"
"Is this your first?"
"Do you know the gender?"
All questions that I am curious to know when I stumble upon a beautiful pregnant mama, but in my life I have learned to smile at her while silently wishing her peace and a living and healthy baby.
It's not that these questions are anything but naive conversation, but it forces me to be taken out of the present moment to be thrusted into the future, a place that is not guaranteed.. Living in the present is the only space I have control over and any thoughts to this baby's birth and imagining baby at home feel like dejavu, and propels me back to the time in my life where pregnancy equaled life with a baby at home & quite honestly to remember that space traumatizes me.
It's so difficult for others to picture a glimpse into this time, the weight of it, how keeping my composure is a moment by moment task. But I am here, I am present, I am working minute by minute to prepare my body, mind and soul the job that lay ahead, labor and delivery.
My heart is ready for you sweet baby. My chests longs to feel the weight of your beating heart, and I am scared. I am scared I won't get to keep you. I am scared that something is wrong or that your birth will be harmful. What I want to feel is full faith that I am capable to birth you, that you will fit my body perfectly and that you are as anxious to meet me as I am to meet you. .
These waiting days are hard. I have survived the worst, I am waiting to celebrate the best. I hope it's my turn to experience a peaceful delivery this time.
And, we wait...
Here I wait, again. My 4th pregnancy, my 3rd baby and hoping for my 2nd living child. Pregnancy after your baby has died is hard, way harder than I could even articulate in words to anyone else unless of course you have experienced this loss yourself, in which case I don't need to explain because you would just know. Maybe after being in the spotlight and so open about Ruthie Lou's life and death and my obvious public love obsession of Reid, I hold this new baby so close as we wait for baby's birthday. .
I don't want to share this time, but that doesn't mean I am not in love. I still carry all the love, the hopes and dreams as I have every time I knew that life was growing inside me. So, thank you for not asking me a million questions about this pregnancy, my due date, baby's gender or name as I have felt too protective to share. This baby will be arriving soon and then, when I am holding baby safely in my arms, then I will feel ready--I think.
Until then, I do ask that you pray (or whatever you do) that we hold a healthy living baby soon.
Now, we continue to wait...
Reid and I lay together every night for his bedtime routine. We watch a quick TigerKick video, read 1-3 books and then as he's falling asleep he will often ask me to tell him stories. I ask him what he wants to hear about and then go from there. The other night, he asked for stories of when he was in my belly, and of this baby in my belly and started asking about when Ruthie Lou was in my belly. He is very matter of fact that she died, so matter of fact that when we see pictures or videos of other people's babies he will often ask when or did that baby die. I realize that that is not normal, but in his world his baby died. It breaks my heart.
I know when Reid is really tired because he will tell me that he misses his old house and he misses his baby Ruthie. He will cry and ask me questions and I answer them as honestly as I know how, but some questions there are no answers in this life. I wish I could tell him, I wish I knew.
On this particular night, I think that it was finally beginning to become reality to him that he was not the first baby in my belly and that Ruthie Lou is not just his baby that we have in pictures on our wall, videos that we can watch or stories in our heart, that she was a real baby just like he was and just like this sweet one that we are waiting for is. He loves this new baby so much and he loves Ruthie and he often cries for the sister he never met.
When I was telling him about Ruthie, he asked me, "Why didn't you get to keep your baby?" and I answered him honestly like I always do, I said, "I don't know." because I don't pretend to know. This answer was not sufficient to him and louder he asked, "Why didn't you get to keep your baby?" and then finally with alligator tears streaming down his face and on to his pillow he yelled at me, "Why didn't you get to keep your baby?!"
"I don't know, son. I am so sorry."
I don't know, nor will I ever know why Ruthie Lou's journey was much shorter than ours and why I didn't get to keep my baby.
I can only be honest with Reid and say, "I miss her, too."
Baby Showers & Protecting My Heart.
I am now Facebook officially pregnant. Well, kind of. I didn't post any pregnant photos but after a magnificent day celebrating our babies at the Sonoma County Human Race, pictures were flying all over social media. I would never think to ask someone not to post pictures from their day and by association, I was included in many of the pictures.
I am now 29 weeks pregnant. I am so so grateful. And hopeful. And scared, terrified really. And I had not yet posted a pregnancy photo or announcement on Facebook. I can't exactly pinpoint the reason, other than I am protecting my heart.
People say the most well intentioned and innocent remarks. They do not mean to hurt, nor even mean to pry, but even uttering about this pregnancy feels like chancing fate right now. I have the most intimate bond with this baby and I am not ready to share that with the world yet.
In Ruthie Lou's life we were so public. The world around us watched as our life, the one we had wanted for so long and so badly, fell apart into our greatest nightmare and heartbreak.
In Reid's pregnancy, I was hesitant to share of his impending arrival but when I did it helped to have our community rally around us with hope and baited breath that he would be born alive and healthy.
And now. Years have past, the fog of grief has lifted and we live in our present, everyday life just as most other families do, except that we don't. Pictures of our beautiful daughter line our living room wall, her urn gently rests on our mantle and we answer questions about death and dying from her 3 1/2 year old little brother. We are living the best life that we have created since Ruthie Lou's left us, but it isn't exactly normal.
In the Jewish tradition, baby showers are not customary and many times speaking the name of baby is taboo, as well. I resonate with this tradition so heavily since coming home to a full nursery, but no baby in my arms. Walking past that empty room day after day was merely a reminder of what should have been.
I love this baby so much. The relationship that has already formed is so special, while I am the only one really getting to know this special being growing inside me. I want all the well wishes and warm thoughts, the prayers and hope that once again we have a healthy and living baby come July. But, I cannot emotionally carry the well intentioned comments and questions regarding all things baby; gender? name? baby shower? nursery? how many kids? All those questions, sweet and small talk, carry so much weight as I navigate the daily responses that I am able to offer; gender is a surprise, yes we have names chosen, no baby shower, no nursery, this is baby #3. I say those responses with held breath that I don't make the other person uncomfortable by having to justify my reasons or mention the sad story that I live everyday: my first beloved baby died and I hope this baby comes home with us. Nobody can tell me with all certainty that that will happen and until then, I am protecting my heart and living safely within the four walls of my home where my husband and I can share our hopes and fears meanwhile living in the present moment as seen through our toddler's eyes, that come July he will be able to hold his baby sibling.
Protecting my heart is all I can do to face the world each day. And come July, I will be shouting from the rooftops that this baby is here, healthy and well!!!
It happens every year and every year the emotions are unexpected. But this year, I know what to expect because I am creating it. I have worked so hard to get settled, to accept me, to love me and this year I welcome today because today I alive.
Mother's Day is every day. Every day I wake up to my son living, my daughter dead, this baby growing. Every day I have a (step) mom who loves me and a mother who doesn't know me. And every day I am a mother, a daughter, a mother without her daughter and a daughter without her mother.
I no longer live in the what-it's or what could be. I am so happy for those that have great moms and all their babies, but that is not my life. We don't get to choose every path in our life, some are just thrown at us and the only and best thing to do is to allow these hard feeling losses to create the best life of what is left and I am doing just that.
Every day that I am alive, is a day that I am grateful to be me, it is not the life I would have chosen but living the life I have been given and making the best of me.
Today is a good day.
Today is marked as International Bereaved Mothers Day and I just don't identify with it. I am a mother. Period. The moment a woman decides they want to be a mom, the day she starts preparing her body to create another, she becomes a mom. When that baby is in her belly, she is a mom. When that baby is born, she is a mom. If that baby dies, she continues to be a mom. We are all different, special, unique mothers, some with our babies in our arms, some with our babies in our hearts and some with our babies in our hopes and dreams.
While I was pregnant with Ruthie Lou and even before either of my children were born, I wanted to be acknowledged on MOTHER'S Day, the day for moms. We are all already so diverse and unique in our journeys to become moms, what type of mothers we are and how we parent, that having an entire day to separate those who are bereaved the takes away from the inclusion that I want to feel on Mother's Day. I want to be acknowledged for all of my children on Mothers Day, I don't want to be made to feel different because one of my children died. It is already isolating enough to be a bereaved parent, I don't want to then also be highlighted for the fact that my child died when what I really want people to remember about Ruthie Lou is that she lived, that I am proud of her, the ultimately SHE made me a mom. She made my dreams come true, and although this is not what u ever would've wished for, I want her story to be one of love, not a sadness.
There was a time when the narrative in my head was that I was the mom whose baby died, I couldn't see beyond that pain. As time has progressed and I have worked and worked and worked my grief, that is no longer the story I live. I don't know anyone whose life has turned out exactly as they imagined it, without loss, without sadness, or grief. There will always be parts of our life that we wish were different, but I don't let that consume me, instead I let it create me. I am a mother, a wife, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a writer, an athlete, a lover of life and in all of those parts of me there are stories that I have lived, good and bad and I choose to learn from all of them.
I am a survivor. I live a full life. I am living the life I always wanted, even with this broken heart forever missing my child. I am living this life to the best of my ability because of my love for her, for my family, for myself.
As a mom whose child died, I already feel on the outside of those who can hug all their babies at night-I don't want a separate day acknowledging my child died, I want her celebrated each and every day because she lived. She is always included in our family every day, please remember include her in your well wishes to me next Sunday, on Mothers Day too.
My favorite job: Mama.
I don't get to write in my journal as much as I used to; a toddler, a husband, a career, a non-profit business, and the book that is near completion, take up all my time. My days are beyond full and the nights to recover are far too short but each day, I am pulled to moments out of this life as I feel this baby move, bounce, jump and tumble through my belly reminding me of life's fragility. It pulls me back to the core of my being, the person I now am and the person I have wanted to be my entire life-a mom.
I am a mom to the most perfect children, THREE of them now! My daughter, the girl who made me a mama- she changed me. She changed the trajectory of my life, what I thought would be, who I thought I was, what I was capable of achieving and the passion that now fuels me. My son, the boy who reminded me of the simple joys in life, who makes me laugh, who challenges my very patience, who makes me strive to be the best role model I can muster. My baby, the one in my belly, who has given me renewed hope that good can be returned to us, that we are worthy of a joy-filled life, that although what was taken from us can never be returned, we can still be a family and give our boy a living sibling.
It is not easy to balance all these obligations, these responsibilities, and this overwhelming love that pours through my soul, but I do it, perhaps not gracefully, but I do it eternally gratefully. All I ever wanted was to have a good life, and to create a family, to be a mom.
I am a mom now, to three perfect children who are the reason I strive to be my best and to live my best life. For them. All three of them.
Half Birthdays & Half Years...
I thought about celebrating my half birthday....every year since the year Ruthie Lou died. As an adult, its not pertinent to celebrate your birthday, the years get lost and really a birthday celebration becomes about celebrating that you are still alive. But, when your daughter dies on your birthday, it's hard to celebrate anything, let alone that I am still living on the day of her death.
This year was going to be different. My son changed schools and because his birthday is mid summer, they celebrated his half birthday and I thought it fitting to do the same with mine. I was going to celebrate my life, my living, my being alive on March 10th this year but as the day rolled around, it didn't feel right. What adult celebrates their half birthday?? None, that I know of. It began to feel silly.
The weekend prior I celebrated life by honoring my sweet daughter with 7 other ladies who have also said goodbye to their babies and I realized, I celebrate living each day that I get out of bed. I am living this life and the "years counted" doesn't really matter. I wish that my birthday felt different, I wish I still had a day designated for me, but I wish even more that my baby was living so in the grand scheme of things a birthday dinner doesn't really matter.
So instead of candles on cake, we lit candles in a cathedral. Instead of making a wish, I sent my love to my sweet girl. Instead of a birthday dinner, I sat with two other mamas missing their babies and we laughed as we ate delicious food overlooking the ocean. And half birthday or 4 1/2 years later, I am still living and today I celebrated both my daughter and me, as I do every.single.day.
I can eat cupcakes any old day. Today marks 4 1/2 years since I held my sweet girl in my arms, not much else matters on this day.
Waiting for a Rainbow...again.
The grief was so hard to live with in the year after Ruthie Lou died and especially while waiting for her brother to be born healthy and living. All encompassing fog reared its ugly head over mine for 24 hours every, single day without fail. There was no escaping and I could not possibly see the sunshine through the storm.
I never imagined how returning to a normal life would feel. I couldn't imagine it, for this life after death was not a life that I had yet lived. The "normal" life before my daughter barely resembles our life now, but normal life has returned. The daily stresses, worries, laughter, joy and best of all, peace. It feels good to breathe the fresh air back into my lungs when for so long, I could hardly breathe at all.
And now, here we are again expecting another rainbow (baby). It brings up all the grief, the fear, the longing. It is again, a conscious choice to tend to my heart, to take care of my health. We live with one foot in holding waiting for baby, as the other moves forward in the life we now lead.
But this sacred time of growth also brings hope. The thought of chancing it all for more joy, more love. Can this baby be ours? Is this real? I love this life growing inside me already-that happened so fast! And it is terrifying. I want to wrap this little one up safely and keep him/her to myself until July arrives and then announce to the world, "baby is here, safe and alive!"
But alas, my belly gives me away. It continues to grow in magnitude and beauty and I cannot hide the joy that this baby has already brought to my life. I am a walking billboard for all baby questions, comments and advice. I smile, am gracious and grateful for offered joy but although my skin is thicker now, I am still scared. I want this baby so bad, it hurts.
So while my chest has tightened once again with grief surfacing amongst joy, I know that there is light through this fog. I need only put one foot in front of the other. I make the decision each day to lean into the innocent joy of others and hope with all hope that this is our second happy ending.
All while I wait to smell that fresh air again. Because this time, I know it's there.
Shortly after returning from the hospital to an empty house without my sweet girl, I went for a long distance bike ride on the open road alone. I was climbing a huge hill, the wind beating behind me and smelling the fresh Fall air, thinking of what my life had become. I was talking to Ruthie Lou as I rode, telling her of my undying love and asking her what I was supposed to do with a life that now held no meaning when the thought came, I must live for her. I must wake up each day, put my feet on the ground and greet each day as it is my last and make it the best it can be. I must be the person I always wanted to be, do the things that always held fear for me and truly live for her.
When Ruthie Lou died, life as I knew it ended. Relationships ended. My presumed future ended. Who I had been until that point ended. My innocence ended. But, my life did not end. I wanted it to end, but it didn't. I willed it to end, but it didn't.
As every child does, Ruthie Lou came into my life to make it better, sweeter, full of love and she did, while she was alive. She did not come here to ruin my life, but to see how truly beautiful life can be. I will never un-experience the joy I had when she was in my arms, I could never fall out of love with her. Even though she died, my love never will.
I live for her because she cannot.
What does pregnancy after loss looks like?
This is not my first rainbow baby but it may as well be. I got pregnant with my son four months after my daughter died at 33 days old. I don't know if the exhaustion from that time was from pregnancy or from grief, but I was knocked out for quite some time.
This time four years later, I thought it would feel different-better or easier perhaps. As if being pregnant and caring for a toddler would be any easier than being pregnant and grief stricken. They are both so challenging. But this time I'm out of the fog of grief. So I'm very clear when my emotions are overtaking me.
Today I needed to find a sweater that's it. I came out to the bins of clothes that I had saved from both my pregnancies-five bins in total. We recently moved so most my bins have lost their labels forcing me to delve into every single bin on the shelf. The very last one, the big one, contained my daughters quilt for her crib, clothes from hanging in her closet and the letters that spelled her name on the wall. I pulled out the special clothes remembering my girlfriends who bought and hung them on the wall of my baby shower. The quilt was longed for, for weeks I searched until I found the perfect one. And the letters (they never had the chance to be painted) are now missing a few because I borrowed them to share with her brother and they hang on the wall of his toddler room.
I could feel my stomach rise to my throat and I felt the surge of heat overcome me that I experienced when they told me my daughter wouldn't survive. I rushed back inside to vomit. I sipped my lemon water and cooled my face to recover.
This pregnancy (as I tell myself) is a different story, a different baby, a different journey and outcome, but it is terrifying nonetheless. I have moments of panic and moments of peace, but I'm always giving my myself the grace that my emotions are part of the process and in order to maintain health, feeling them are all part of it.
This is pregnancy after loss. It never ends. It doesn't discriminate and appears anywhere, anytime-even from inside garage bins.
We've Been Waiting for You.
You've been in my heart
since the moment I knew you'd one day be in my arms.
I knew you were special,
I knew you were meant to be.
I've waited for now,
the moment to know my family is complete
and for my broken heart
to be finally be whole with you in it.
You complete the five of us,
you make us one.
You bring all of what makes you special,
you are our precious third baby child.
As we wait to hold you,
I hold you close.
You live under my heart,
as I wait for you to live in my arms.
Grow, baby grow.
Healthy brain, body and whole.
'm here, nurturing you, nourishing you,
I Decided to Live
Through this journey of grief I have found numerous avenues of support, many that led me to my life here; to the creation of The Ruthie Lou Foundation and to become a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®. It has been a tremendous honor to work with other grievers (like me...and you!) and to offer tools that can help facilitate grief and heal broken hearts. I can't help but feel such love for my clients, the honor of walking this path with them. I am often asked HOW did I survive the death of my daughter, it's a question I still ask myself today. How did I survive her death? I still don't know exactly, but my thoughts have led me to this:
My daughter dying was an event, it was something that happened to her which as a result happened to me. I was victimized because of her death and ultimately the demise of the life I had hoped to have. That changed me forever. There is no going back to the life I thought I would lead, there is no going back in time or to her. In Ruthie Lou's life I knew that we would have other children but I also knew that no other child would be her, there was no replacing her nor would I want that. I also knew that in order to be a good parent to her siblings, a good wife to my husband and a functioning person, I would need to grieve. I mean, really grieve and just feel all the feelings, mourn the loss in the way that I needed.
Two years later, I attended a retreat for bereaved mothers. We bonded in a way I had never felt with any other group of people in the world, an unspoken language that we wished to never know but since we did, we have become forever connected in the love for our child(ren) that died. At the retreat among many powerful messages, one that became life changing was, "You were victimized but you do not have to be a victim." Those words spoke to my core because it was how I had grown to see my grief. I had generously given myself all the time I wanted, to grieve and to feel the enormity of pain and loss of my daughter but honestly I had also grown tired of living in that space of feeling perpetual sadness. I was ready & wanted joy to return to my life. I didn't want the death of Ruthie Lou to be the only story of my life that survived.
In the weeks and months and years since, I have chosen MY LIFE. I discovered that if I allow Ruthie's death to affect my life in a negative way, then her life would have been for nothing and it would have been two lives lost instead of one. I did not want that to be her legacy or mine, for that matter.
I feel really strongly that it is important to feel your emotions. There is no other way out than through. Grief is so powerful and all consuming and if there is no appropriate outlet for your sadness then it will find other areas in your life and/or body to seep through. But, many times we allow our emotions to be the guide of our life, when sometimes we need our cognitive decisions to take the lead. It is important to be aware of your own place in your journey, to know when you need more time or to know when it is time to move forward- not move on, but forward. I had to make the decision that I was worth living a good life. It's not an easy decision, often it was and still is a daily decision that continues to be re-made. Honestly, sometimes moment to moment! But, I have to remind myself of the fact that it will get easier, it does get easier and the weight becomes more manageable to carry. It will not happen overnight, but it can happen and I am worth it. In that regard, I choose to surround myself with that same energy of people, books, and podcasts that send me the same message: that life is good and I deserve a good life. I am worth it.
I want to be VERY clear, it is important to feel our feelings, all of them. But I also think that when we get to the point that we no longer WANT to feel only sadness, when the pain gets old and heavy and the desire to feel MORE comes along, that is when we know-it is time to find our joy again because YOU are worth it. At some point, we need our cognitive decisions to guide us, allow the emotions to follow and repeat to ourselves, "I was victimized but I am no longer a victim. My life is worth more than this. I am worth more than this, so I am choosing ME."
All my love to you, fellow griever. (Because we are all grieving something, at some point in our life.)
***If you have reached out for appropriate support and are not feeling relief of your pain, please consult a professional.
This day of life and day of death.
This day of love and day of loss.
This day of joy and day of sorrow.
This day of smiles and of tears.
This day of light and of darkness.
This day of fullness and of missing.
My heart will always miss the weight of you in my arms. My soul will always feels you close.
If I believe in a life after this, I must believe that my daughter is there. But where that is, I can't be sure and neither can you until you arrive. So until then, today is the day of my birth into this life and her birth into the next place.
The most sacred gift of gifts to be shared, a bond that can never be broken. You will live in my heart until eternity, Ruthie Lou. I have already loved you for a thousand years and I will love you a thousand more.
So, today we eat all the delicious food in your honor.
Happy birth-day to us.
I wish you were here to celebrate, life has never be the same without you.
We are in the midst of Ruthie Lou's month, day 24 of 33 to be exact. Because her life was so short, I can count her days in my head in just a matter of seconds. It has been four years, and undoubtedly it is easier to survive these days than they were in the beginning. Easier, not easy. I am often on the edge of emotions this month, I don't try to be but I am. I retreat, stick more to myself, analyze my life, and separate slightly from many around me. This month (her month) is not any more difficult than any other day(s) of the year but because I can instantly place myself four years earlier and know exactly where we were on each particular day, I livei n two alternate realities in August/September because these memories live so vividly today.
August 9, the day of her birth.
August August 13, the first time I held her
August 15, first time Chris holds her
August 19, private room at Kaiser
August 22, we get horrifying news
August 23, we have to tell our families
August 28, remove life support
August 29, we move to George Mark-first bath, walk outside, sunset, snuggle
August 30, professional family photos
September 2, warm tub time begins
September 3, Blessing Ceremony-family says their goodbyes
September 8, we begin our goodbyes
September 10, Ruthie Lou celebrates my birthday & births into the next world
September 11, we wake in a room without her, our life never the same
I can type that list in a matter of minutes, without looking at one of the hundreds of pages of writing or the thousands pf photos. If I were to consult those, I could give you a minute by minute of each day, and I have. Those days were sacred, scary, hopeful, stressful, heart-filled and heartbreaking, the most anxiety filled days of my existence. And I miss them.
It is not to say that this month is horrible, it is not. In fact the opposite at times. this month is SACRED. At any one time I can reminisce about our life in 2011 and be there in my mind. I can feel the excitment of hot tub day, getting Ruthie Lou ready, putting her much too large swimming diaper on her tiny little baby body. I can feel the joy of holding her in the warm water, her being handed to me and taught how to soothe her, in a way that we never could before. The Rock-A-Bye baby Beatles CD playing in the background with the soft soothing lights as Chris and I share Ruthie Lou and share the photographer duties.
And this, this is why the month still feels sacred because I can feel her still. As strongly as I allow. And this, this is also why working through grief can be so important to healing. The sadness of my daughter dying will never leave. The ache that her absence placed in our life will never be filled. I don't want to live in a life of pain without her, I want to be able to remember her with the joy of those past moments and speak of her openly. Because I have felt it all and because I continue to feel it, speak it and live it, I am able to also remember the joy of those moments, to live in the love and the loss, the sadness and joy, and know life is all of these things at the same time. It is the opposing forces that makes this life so beautiful, to be able to feel both and thrive in my life that continues on, while always loving honestly my daughter that lives on in my heart.
How Many Children Do You Have?
How many kids you have? For a bereaved parent that is such a loaded question. In an instant a hundred thoughts can run through our minds. How do we answer? What do we say? Do I share about ALL my children? How will they react? I want to honor my baby. I don't want to make them uncomfortable. I don't know if they're worthy of knowing our story. I don't want to be pitied. And much more, I'm sure.
It's a simple question, in many cases just small talk. It's not malicious, it's not insensitive and not a question people give more than a thought. But we (bereaved parents) think about it a lot, and for a long time. Our answers evolve as time passes, our answers change depending each situation and also dependent on who is inquiring.
In our society death is very private and when the death is a child, it almost feels to be a shameful secret-mostly because the thought of one of our children dying is so extremely terrifying that if we don't ever mention it, then perhaps we can pretend child/infant death doesn't exist. But it does. And, it's not contagious, especially not by talking about it.
We want to talk about our children. We love our children. We are proud of our children. We hesitate because we want you to feel our pride and unending love, without our child being know as "the child that died". They are so much more than that, and although hard to fathom, our babies whether they took their first breath outside the womb or not, are our perfect sweet child and we want you to know that about them, too.
Before I continue I want to be clear, this is how I have decided to honor my daughter. I have utmost respect and understanding to parents who honor their child by not sharing the sacred existence of their baby. Both sharing and not sharing are very personal decisions that us bereaved parents have decided on after much contemplation. So the answers that follow are mine and mine alone (unless you choose to borrow them!) and there is not one ounce of judgment for you who answer differently and especially those who choose to hold your child quietly in your heart. Our decisions are as unique as we are.
So, how many children do I have? I have two. I always have two. One time after Ruthie Lou died, the first time I was asked this question, I denied her. I said none. And my heart nearly fell to the floor. I felt sick to my stomach and in my head I was crying apologetically to her. It was awful. I swore never to do that again. But, I am creative in my answers because in some cases I don't want to share the sacredness that is her life.
When we were leaving George Mark Children's House without her for the first time, it was suggested we role play some conversations to be prepared for when these questions begin. In being prepared, although in the beginning it still felt devastating each time we were asked, at least we had a standard answer to blurt out as we fought our tears and walked away. Now although we call them "grocery store conversations" it's really just a general title that we give to a person who we may only see once and never see again or someone you don't or won't really know. These people while well-intentioned, probably aren't very interested in the answers they're just having casual conversation so in these situations I don't feel the need to bear my soul to them. But, I do always want to honor my daughter and include her in our family so I choose my words carefully.
Also, there are many different ways that people inquire about your family. When pregnant the most often asked question was, is this your first? After Reid was born that question changed to something along the lines of, is he your only child or do you have any other children?
Typically in the grocery store conversation, when I'm answering these questions, I keep the responses to be short and concise. I do this for my sake and their's, I'm never trying to make anyone uncomfortable with the fact that my daughter died and I'm also not immediately sure if the person asking will get the privilege to "know" my daughter. In having conversation with them, I quickly determine if it's someone to whom I want share Ruthie Lou or if it's best to keep it short and sweet.
Here are some examples of my rehearsed responses that I use today with my short answers first. Then I'll explain what I say when they persist in the conversation, as often happens.
The Grocery Store Conversations-
If I don't want to share Ruthie Lou, I am choosy how I answer. I am not dishonest but I'm not forthcoming either.
"Do you have any other kids?" "He's my only kiddo at home."
That pretty much shuts down the conversation. I didn't answer him yes or no and I stated the truth, Reid is my only child AT HOME.
But, if I've decided I'm open to the possibility of this conversation, here is how I quickly answer the questions when asked, still short, sweet and to the point. Here are some examples, all said with a proud smile on my face:
"How many children do you have?" "I have two."
"Is he your only child?" "No, I also have a daughter."
"Is he your first?" "Nope, my second baby."
(Most times these simple responses satisfy their question so they stop there, remember it's just small talk and it's the same way we answer "fine" to how are you, when we're really not fine. At this point, if they continue to inquire, then they either must really want to get to know me, they're just keeping casual conversation or they're just nosy in which case they're going to hear our story.)
So, these are the continuing type questions that follow:
"Oh, is his sibling a boy or girl" "He has an older sister."
"How old is she?" "My daughter passed away the year before he was born." -or- "My son is three and my daughter would have been four this year."
Uncomfortable moments can follow as the person decides which way they're going to go with this conversation as I stand there hoping for the magic to happen-when two people are real and honest and share a human moment.
"I'm so sorry." "Thank you so much. And don't be sorry, I love to talk about her."
That's my favorite line to share,"I love to talk about her" because it opens the opportunity for the person to inquire more if they desire. It gives them permission to know that I want to talk about her. Sometimes the conversation takes another turn. Sometimes in my vulnerability to share my life experience it allows the other person to also be truthful to share their loss as well. Both of those are so magical when two people come together and are real with one another. And just as much as I like to talk about Ruthie Lou, I equally as much love for the opportunity to share human moments with another person. To be authentic with them. For them to share something authentic about themselves that perhaps they don't often get to share either.
Now I'm not saying that I don't trip over my words in these conversations. I still get those nerves in my stomach, I'm still not sure how the person will react, I still don't know if on any given day if tears may well in my eyes. But I do know, that when I choose to share Ruthie Lou, my stomach doesn't hurt because I haven't mentioned her and that's the decision that I've made to feel most comfortable in my own skin.
Other than grocery store conversations, there are those instances where you're meeting someone worth getting to know, a new friendship is evolving, or perhaps getting a new job, or you know that eventually you'll want to share your truth this particular person. These conversations can go very differently, they may start out the same but my answers are really clear instead of being vague, as I am in a grocery store conversation. I always leave space for the conversation to continue but I never push more than they are willing to receive. Sometimes a person is ready to delve right in, sometimes it's not the right time/place and it gets continued another time and some people while I want them to be aware of my experience, we may only have the conversation that one brief moment and never broach the subject again and that's ok, too. For me, I just want to be true to Ruthie Lou as well as myself and allow the other person to be met wherever they feel most comfortable in the conversation. But mostly, I want to model that I am not ashamed, she is not a secret and leave the conversation so that should they want to talk about her in the future, I would love and welcome that opportunity.
Really simply, when asked how many children do I have in a general setting I answer, "I have two. My daughter lived 33 days and my son is almost three." That simple response will either open the conversation or shut it down but I put it out there and then I follow their lead. By doing so, I have opened the door and they can walk through it any way they choose. I don't get into "the story" ever, unless someone asks because That doesn't need to be pushed on anyone-they may not be prepared to hear it. But, in sharing that Ruthie Lou's existence matters-that all our babies matter and it gives them the opportunity to take the next step and I feel like in sharing her, I am helping to shatter the stigma about infant loss. It's my own way of educating others through the beauty of my daughter and what a beautiful gift she continues to be.
When you gaze upon the child you've longed for, every cell of your being changes. It's unexplainable until experienced and even more than one can conceivably imagine. When I could finally see the child I had only felt in my belly for 37 weeks, my life, my purpose, my everything shifted, my heart exploded with love. My Ruthie Lou, my sweetest girl, she changed me even before I knew how much.
Ruthie Lou, your pregnancy, labor up until the moment of birth were everything I had imagined and ever hoped it could be. Dancing with your dad, being cared for, anxiously waiting your arrival, longing to be your mama in this world. This story, the one of your birth can be whatever perspective I want it to be, sometimes it is lovely, other times it is terrifying and many times it is all those things. But above all the conflicting emotions of that day, the LOVE that exhumed could not be contained in my heart. You were here, you were mine and you will always be our daughter.
Everything about the days leading up to and the weeks that followed from the day of your birth, are ingrained and embedded in my mind. I treasure every single memory.
Blue eyes, auburn hair, puckered lips, the dimple on the right side of your cheek. Chunky feet, chunkier thighs, skinny booty, long fingernails. Soft skin, baby smell, tousled hair that my fingers ran through one million times a day. Lovely visits, pinching booties, laughter and your room full of love. Soft kisses, more kisses, could I ever have kissed you enough? Poop explosions, the warm pool, sunsets, brisk air, the days turning to night. Opposite schedule, party animal, night wakings, holding you every moment we could, sharing you between us only because it was fair. Long talks, stories told, lessons learned, our souls speaking a language never to be heard aloud.
My heart will always long for you, the child that I am unable to raise, but let's be real-you raised me. You taught me more than I anticipate learning the rest of my life, the true reason we are here- to love and be loved, to show love, to grow love and to understand that time on Earth is valuable and borrowed. That a lifetime is not a measure of time.
I live in your love every day and especially today when I wish I could kiss you just one more time. I love you more than all the stars in the sky.
Happy 4th birthday, Ruthie Lou. Today, I will eat all delicious food in honor of you.
It is a beautiful Sunday morning. I got more than a full nights rest, the boys let me sleep in, I was delivered a beautiful handmade card and some delicious baked goods. It is currently 11am and I'm still not dressed and although this is the definition of a great weekend day, it's not necessarily a "Happy Mother's Day".
Mothers Day is everywhere today, and what a beautiful thing it must be, to share the love of your mother with the world, she deserves all of that. I am envious of you, in that curious way. I am happy for you and wonder what that must feel like, to have a life where your mother loves you unconditionally and has raised you with a life filled with love. I don't have that, nor a beautiful picture of me with my mom to share, those pictures don't exist anymore, they once did but those are from 20 years ago and the emotions attached to it are now so conflicted.
I also see the pictures, where all your children are held in your arms, I daydream and imagine how that feels. I will never have a picture of all my children; the result of my three pregnancies or the two children that I birthed pictured together as they should be, and it will always be that way for me. When I look at my family picture, there are always four of us-even if you only see three.
I also know that just because you have these things, a loving mother and your beautiful children to hold, doesn't mean your life is perfect but today, as many of you qualify this a "happy" Mother's Day, it highlights those of us who do not. Please do not take this as offensive, in fact quite the opposite, your mothers are my role models and your mothering is my inspiration, just because I don't have these things, I would never wish for you to not have them too.
I have a good life and I am grateful for it, but it has not always been easy and today is just one of those days. Realistically, today is no different than any other day in which I realize that I am a (biologically)mother-less mom living without her daughter, it's just that this Hallmark holiday magnifies how many others have what I do not. It doesn't mean that I hate Mother's Day or that I will avoid it (although I will not be going to Sunday brunch) but this day is definitely not easy.
What I do have is an amazing daughter, the one who has shown me my passion to live. I have my gorgeous, witty and energetic boy, who I have learned to love life as he does-through his eyes. I have a step-mom who mothers me, as much as I let her in and even when I don't. I may not hold all the traditional things that qualify this day but, I know that I'm not the only one to whom this day difficult.
My happiest Mother's Day is the normal day; the mornings that I wake up with my sweet boy loving me and the memory of my daughter warming my heart and all the women who have shown me that to be a mother is a privilege, and really that just makes every day my Mother's Day.
My heart is with you today, those who also find Mother's Day to be difficult. Feel your feelings and know that you are amazing every day. And to those who have reached out to the mother-less or mothers without children, my heart is with you too for your are our lifeline. You are our strength.
Living life for you, Ruthie Lou!
"I see those shirts everywhere!" she said to me as I walked into the staffroom for lunch. It took me a moment to even remember what shirt I had put on that morning but quickly remembered I wore my Ruthie Lou Crew shirt in celebration of the upcoming Human Race. I told her it was probably at a past Human Race event but no, nonchalantly she continued to tell me, "I think it was in Cloverdale. Those ladies are always dressed in costume, sometimes they have kids with them and there are usually ladybugs everywhere!" I laughed as so many images and memories came to mind of times when my crazy (lovely and supportive) friends displayed their love for Ruthie Lou in the most unlikeliest of ways. "So sad about that baby." Her voice reminding me we were still having a conversation, she continued to tell me, "Her name was Ruthie Lou." And then I realized, she didn't know. So many times I have answered that question and how painful it was in the beginning. Now I am able to answer with love and pride as I told her, "That's MY baby, Ruthie Lou." We continued talking and I told her about the Press Democrat article hanging in our school office (thanks WMS!!) and after we finished chatting, she went to go read the article. That conversation stuck with me all day, and it got me thinking about the last few years and the impact my daughter has had and how much we have been supported in the last 3 1/2 years.
We have had so much love shown to our family from the start; organizing Ruthie Lou's Celebration of Life, feeding us after we returned home, grocery shopping for us when we couldn't leave the house, sharing our story when it was too new for us to tell, welcoming us for holidays in their homes, showing up at our fundraising events, walking one of the many races that we do for Ruthie Lou, I could go on and on...One thing is for sure though, I do have some crazy friends, in the absolutely best way possible of course; from hanging ladybugs on every lamppost of the Cloverdale Half Marathon, to decorating our front yard with daisies and ladybugs on her birthday, to dressing in full ladybug costumes in public including their dogs and children, those ladies ARE crazy!
The first Thanksgiving after Ruthie Lou died (or maybe it was Christmas) as my friends walked in our home, they unexpectedly had on their RL shirts on. They know I love the Ruthie Lou Crew shirts because I love the image of "walking for you, Ruthie Lou." However on this day, instead of the word "walking" on their backs they had each taped something that they did in honor of Ruthie Lou. Words such as dancing, singing, laughing or believing for you Ruthie Lou appeared. Quickly not wanting to be left out, I ran to my room, changed my shirt and in bold letters taped "LIVING LIFE" for you Ruthie Lou on my back. It felt so good to see how much my daughter, this little baby had touched hearts of those who loved her.
When everyone left, I collected all those pieces of paper and posted them on my fridge to remind myself of how much life was left to live. In those days getting out of bed was still such a challenge, I am so glad the weight of that grief has lessened it's hold now. Living without my daughter is still unbelievable, it is never easy, and it is a constant choice everyday. Some days that choice is harder than others, but everyday I vow to LIVE because she cannot. To some, these Ruthie Lou Crew shirts are merely a fundraiser (and for that I am so grateful) but for me, these shirts represent all the expressions of love for my daughter, the beauty that remains and the reasons that I choose LIFE everyday; the dancing, singing, laughing, believing and LIVING LIFE are all for you, Ruthie Lou.
I am so grateful for all the little ways in which we have been supported, the thousands of little things that people have loved us through. From the smallest gesture to the largest expression of love, they have held us through this, not one thing has been unnoticed. And I am SO excited for the next few weeks to make way for the Human Race. I may not be able to plan an annual birthday party for my daughter but the Human Race is such a special day, I get to see her name across the backs of amazing people in the world, as we help raise awareness and support for other hurting bereaved families who are just entering their world of grief. This is yet another legacy that my daughter has left behind. I am so proud to be her mother.
Chris and I met at 21, just young kids when we started our life together. When we met, I worked in the Johnny Garlic restaurants and he managed the docks at Lake Sonoma. As the years progressed, I graduated college and Chris followed his career dreams.
He was a firefighter, and a damn good one too. He was first responder EMT certified, completed the Fire Fighter Academy, worked three seasons for CDF (CalFire) and was loving his job. As time rolled around to start a family, we made the decision that he start Paramedic School so that he had a better chance of being hired in a city station, which would allow shorter shifts and more predictable hours. He wanted to be home for his family. It wasn't easy, years of school, focus and patience without knowing if his dream job would come to fruition, but he did it anyway with faith that it would.
When Ruthie Lou was born, I was full force in my teaching career and Chris had graduated Paramedic School, 2 years of working full time while going to school full time, interning at the hospital and studying for his exams. He had passed the manipulative test and was one test away from being certified, he was so close!! His final test was scheduled for 3 weeks after Ruthie Lous due date...and then she came early. By the time the test date rolled around, we had lived 5 weeks of a parenting nightmare, held Ruthie Lou and loved her as much as we could and she was gone. Just like that.
We had several conversations about him returning to the world of fires and medical calls and each time was ended in stress, fear, discomfort. He had held our daughter in her last minutes of life, she was in his arms for her final breath, how could he go on a medic call that involved a child? How could he live someone else's nightmare after enduring our own? He couldn't. I knew that before he did but he is a proud man, a family man and he had worked so hard for this dream.
Finally, a friend and he had these dream plans, they would talk about it all the time. Send Chris back to school, get a barber certification, cut hair for some time, learn the business, then open up their own shop, a pipe dream really. But every time they talked about it, Chris's shoulders would relax, his brow become unfurled and I would see a twinkle in this eye and a smile on his face that he had lost along with Ruthie Lou.
Finally, near a year after her death he went for it, he abandoned all "plans" of his career path and changed courses altogether. He took a leap of faith. He followed his heart without fear of opinions, without buying into the judgement of others. And he entered into another year (plus) of school, interning and working full time...again! I don't know how he functions with the amount of sleep he gets!
Yesterday, it all came full circle. Chris has been cutting hair for a while now at a barber shop he loves, his smile has returned, his pride through the roof. He LOVES his job. Yesterday was the St Baldricks Foundation fundraiser, an opportunity to raise money for childhood cancer research to show support by shaving your head. Last year, Chris participated by getting his head shaved and he really wanted to shave heads this year. Last night, Chris became the first barber to shave heads while also getting his head shaved for the event! As he said goodbye to me before getting on stage he said, "you know why I do this" and I completely understood. Chris is a man of few words but his actions speak his heart, it's why he does everything. Chris shaved heads and shaved his head for his family and especially for Ruthie Lou. He runs half marathons, he does Tough Mudders, he speaks for George Mark, he supports the Ruthie Lou Foundation, he faces his fears, EVERYTHING that he does is for his family and for our sweet girl.
Our life did not go according to our plan, it didn't go according to anyone's choice plan. So many times we remember the nightmare we have survived, but we are able to remember it with gratitude and love for all that we held in our arms. We love our family and our TWO children, we love each other. We continue to remember that time is precious and even in our most stressful moments we know that it could be worse and time will pass. We spend our time where our heart is called and we push aside unnecessary drama. We work hard, we love hard and we are best friends. We have an amazing son and we live life though Reid's toddler view of the world.
My husband is amazing. He is the best dad. He is a great barber. He is my best friend. And we are not only surviving, we are thriving in this life that we have created, even if we didn't get to make all the plans. I am so proud of him. I am so proud of us. We live this life because she cannot and it's a damn good life.
"Does It Ever Get Easier?"
I love those willing to step into this world with me for one minute and truly be present. Today, a question was posed in which I was completely unprepared for its honesty, "Does it get any easier?" This beautiful mother, who has all of her living children, looked straight into my eyes, hers welling with tears as I choked back, "No." Because it doesn't get any easier, everyday my heart aches for my daughter in the same way that it is full with my son. The weight of my grief has shifted and it has made its way into different parts of my being but no, it certainly does not get any easier. I have joy, I love my life, I am so grateful for all that we DO have but you never miss your child any less or stop trying to understand the devastating loss of the one you love.
The other day I appreciated reading something to the effect of, "The weight of the loss doesn't get any lighter, you just get stronger carrying it." That thought stuck out to me, I am stronger now. Time has passed and the loss of my daughter tears at my heart (probably much more than is apparent on the outside) but I can carry the pain differently than I once did in those terrifying early days. However, it is still there and becomes even more evident as more cousins are being born and as Reid gets older and talks about his sister regularly. But, I carry Ruthie Lou differently now too; I work her foundation, I am on hospital advisory boards, I have ladybugs on the walls of my classroom as well as on my body, all so that I can say her name with pride and joy in my heart and a smile on my face.
And when I am lovingly asked if it ever gets easier, I can honestly (and so grateful for her openness) say, "No, but I am stronger now." Although answered with us both in tears, that conversation was the deepest entrance into my heart.
I am a mama of three beautiful babes; two boys I have the honor of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.