Tonight was the first sunset we watched with our girl. Holding her in my arms meant freedom from the wires, the constrictions of the hospital, settling in for our life at George Mark. It also meant we were saying goodbye. Going to bed that night I had such anxiety I couldn't breathe and I certainly couldn't sleep. Ruthie Lou couldn't either. This began our 11 nights together, nights of sleeplessness, nights I would give anything to have again.
She was so sweet in the crib we put her in. She just laid there, eyes open, watching the room as I watched her. She hardly slept and neither did I so I swooped her out of bed and brought her to the couch. I was so tired, hardly sleeping the three weeks prior staying in the hospital, I was craving rest. So, there we slept, on that couch. I listened to her purring breath and loved every sad minute of it, worried it would be my only chance. She never slept in that crib again...
I hated those moments
I loved those moments.
I cherish those moments.
I miss those moments.
The love, the strength, the fear, worry and sadness, all rolled into this little lifetime we were fortunate to share. In these moments I do ask why. Why couldn't she stay? I hope one day to find out. I'm pretty sure that "one day" will be in another life...
We were so unbelievably strong in our weaknesses, remaining present while having to answer questions like life support, organ donation, cremation or burial, funerals and obituaries. And in the midst of it, be parents, proud, joyful, loving, present and caring parents. And amazingly somehow we did! I still don't know how we did that.
We took walks, laid in the grass, listened to the waterfall, watched sunsets, critters and birds. We went in the warm tub, snuggled on the couch, sang songs and took 2,000 pictures. We lived as much as one possibly could, in 12 days.
I used to wonder if I kissed Ruthie Lou enough. Could it ever be enough? Then, Reid was born. I kiss him 8 million times a day. I KNOW I kissed her as much but it is still never enough, would never be enough.
They sky was beautiful tonight. As I sit here under the dark sky, smelling the change in seasons, I am so sad yet so grateful. I got so many memories with Ruthie Lou, 33 days of loving her alive in this world. That's 33 days more than many. I am so grateful to know her in this life, even if I'll spend the rest of it missing her.
And I do miss her. Every second of every minute of every day.
This is her month.
Two years ago, the night turned dark and I didn't know if I would bring him home. Exactly one year after his sisters due date, I went into labor. I was scared but I was present. They say faith and fear cannot occupy the same space so I held faith in the belief that I would be holding my baby boy soon. The car seat was placed where we swore we'd never put it again; in the car before baby. As I waited for Chris to reverse the car down the driveway (because I could not fit through the car door in the garage!) I spoke to the Universe. With redwood trees silhouetted against the night sky, the stars twinkled and the air was brisk, I asked his sister to bring him here safely.
I spoke to her a ton that night and she appeared to be everywhere we were; with our nurse at the ER, the room number in which we were placed, the star tattoo on our midwife, even having the same dr who delivered her. Ruthie Lou was present. I labored all night with no relief, feeling every contraction. I worked hard, waiting for Reid's arrival. I spoke to him, envisioned him and when it was time, I was more than ready.
I was told that his birth story would be whatever I created it to be and so it is this:
It was a day filled with food, family, crafts, a walk and lots of laughs. It was a night full of work, faith and love. It was my sister, tending to my every request, my doula knowing my every need, my husband being my everything. It was sacred and special, long yet so fast. It was the warm water cleansing, soothing and calming and when Reid arrived, it was entirely him; large, boisterous, stubborn, beautiful and amazing. I held him for a brief moment, kissed him and said I love you before they whisked him away in true sibling rivalry fashion. Not to be outdone by his sister, Reid was given royal NICU treatment and an extended stay in the hospital.
It was not as planned but neither is life. We are presented with this journey and with choices in the road, perhaps not in experiences but in attitude. What would his story be? His story would be amazing, just like him.
I lay here with him sleeping and I am amazed. He amazes me. This is Reid's story. This is Reid's life. I am so grateful to bear witness to him.
There is life after loss and a love so big I could burst. On this night as I reminisce, I am so grateful for the gift of Reid. His love of life is so contagious, he is the bright light in my heart and I celebrate him, today and every day.
Two years ago, we didn't know if we would bring him home. There are no guarantees in life, I can only guarantee that a life of gratitude changes everything..
Happy birthday, sweet sweet amazing boy. Happy second birthday, Reid!
I hope someday you understand an ounce of how incredible I think you are.
I just want to crawl under the covers, lift my blanket over my head and "be" with you. I want to remember every moment of your life and relive it with you; finding out we were pregnant, feeling your kicks, going into labor, holding you for the first time, feeling the hope that we would bring you home, even the moments after we knew you would leave us. I want to relive every moment of your life, including your death. I want to be in your space and relish in the moments that will never return. I want to be naive and believe in all that is good and right in the world again.
Post Traumatic Stress is not a disorder, it's the reality of facing a world when your life experience has changed every fiber of your being, of having to assimilate a new reality when all that you have believed and loved is gone. It is very real. You are not here and that isn't natural, it isn't right, but it is truth. This day still feels unreal, it has to be a nightmare but it's not. It's our life. It's part of the beauty that we live every day, its evident in our family, in our life and how we love each other. You are part of that because you were here and are still here in everything that we do.
But on these special days when my heart is being ripped from my chest, in the moments reserved just for you, I need my thoughts, my quiet, my sacred space. To be alone in the only way I know how. To look at your pictures, to watch your videos, to listen to your music. I need to mind myself that yes, I had a beautiful daughter and yes, she is not physically here anymore and yes, I survived and am surviving this unfathomable loss. You are okay, your family is okay, you will be okay.
Instead of planning your birthday party, I have to plan how will I honor you today? What will I spend the day doing? It pains my heart to know I will never send out invitations, buy your decorations, sing happy birthday until you blew out your candles. But you were born on this day and that was the happiest moment of my life. Your perfect gorgeous little chunky body that fit perfectly nestled among mine, that is all I will get.
So instead, I try to understand. I edit your photos. I write love letters to you. I make a slideshow. I release a few more pictures unseen to the world. I eat cupcakes, LOTS of cupcakes. And I imagine that you are near. Please, say that you are near.
And when the hours have passed, when I have processed this trauma and the morning has turned to afternoon, then I am able to celebrate you. I am able to share you and our time and your love with others. Then I can be part of this world again.
So until then, I edit your pictures, I write love letters to you and I wait for your signs...
I am waiting...
I love you, Ruthie Lou.
I am forever blessed you chose us.
I miss you everyday.
I celebrate you always.
Happy third birthday, sweet girl.
So, here we are again.
We have a love/hate relationship.
I dread this month, I hate this month, I love this month. It is Ruthie Lou's month. It is Reid's month. They now share this time. Spread across a year but only a matter of dates apart, during 33 days I will celebrate the birth of my daughter, the birth of my son, then the death of my daughter on the day of my birth. A whirlwind of 33 days. It still feels unreal.
In those 33 days, your life will speed by at its normal rate while mine runs parallel to a time never returned. Days that I can re-live like it was yesterday.
Last days of pregnancy with Ruthie Lou I can remember food I ate, clothes I wore, conversations had, the scorching Cloverdale weather and perusing Etsy for the perfect headband to purchase for her newborn photo shoot. Days of innocence.
Just as clear as yesterday, I can also remember the devastating days after her birth, living in a hospital, hearing the beeps of machines and only holding my daughter after being granted permission....until the moment they told us our days were limited and hope was lost.
Then the sweetest days roll in, a time out of time. In these days, I am back at George Mark, rocking her in our chair. I can feel her soft skin, smell her baby sweetness, see the crisp clear Autumn sunsets and run my fingers through her hair. These are the days of Ruthie Lou's life. Life beyond the hospital.
I remember the days surrounding Reid's birth just as clearly; the fear, PTSD, coupled with hope, and faith rolled into one big ball of emotions. Then he was here, he had arrived safely! Not without his own dramatic entrance but in my arms he would stay.
In just one short year, 365 days:
August 29, 2011 We walked our daughter into her new home, George Mark Children's House, for the end of her life.
August 29, 2012 We walked our son into his home to begin his life..
This month carries the most love I have ever felt coupled with such complete devastation. I am often still in disbelief that this is our life, that our child has died, that we have this beautiful boy with us now. And then August hits.
I am so grateful that in the midst of this sadness and longing for my daughter, that we get to celebrate Reid's life, his birth! It is something so special that they share, the month of August. I love that gift.
August, ready or not, you have arrived. Please just be gentle on me.
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.