The house felt strangely inhabited tonight. Reid wanted to "watch Rufie Roo" before bed. We probably have 2,000 photos of her, many plastered around the house, on our phones and most anywhere that we are. Reid knows her pictures, her name and that she is his sister. We speak of her, we include her in all that we do and how we live. Tonight when he asked to watch her, my heart leapt with fear and excitement. I have not watched her videos (from the video camera) for near three and a half years and before that only once, days after coming home without her. My sister and I sat on the couch in the living room and watched Ruthie Lou and cried, it was hard and it was sacred. It was so necessary. But, I haven't had the courage to watch them since.
I often picture Ruthie Lou in our daily life and that thought is full of so many emotions: sadness, emptiness, love, pride and so much loss. I feel my own loss but I also feel it for Chris and even for Reid, for the sister he'll never know. I worry about him loving her at all, and then I worry that he'll love her so much that it will cause him his own grief. But mostly, I feel so sad that he doesn't get that playmate that other kids get in a sibling. He has a sister but he'll never actually get that sister.
So tonight we snuggled on the couch, we had milk and loved watching Ruthie Lou. Reid giggled and squealed to see his mama and dad on screen and he asked questions about what he saw. We stayed up past his bedtime and we laughed and I cried and my heart was full, having both my babies in one room for almost a minute. It was a sacred moment. I kissed Reid all over his face and he even let me do it without saying, "eww". His eyes were near closed before his head hit the pillow and although I still feel like crying, I think I'll revel in the feeling of love instead.
Not a day goes by- and not many moments without missing my sweet girl. I'll miss her always.
Life is short, Love life , Live life, Follow your heart, Stay present
Feel love, Be love, Accept love, Show love, Love yourself
Keep living, Never give up, Be patient, Breathe
Wait, pause, think, speak
Be real, Be honest, Have boundaries, Give respect
Be your own best friend, Have best friends, Marry your best friend
Forgive, Let go, Release negativity
Work hard, Help others, Be a good role model
Be in nature, Be quiet, Be active, Be strong, Be yourself, Be patient
Laugh, Sing, Dance, Cry
Look for the lesson, Learn from the lesson, Keep trying, Keep moving forward
Remember to Always Say I Love You
The days are so full now, days that I never thought would come. In the midst of heavy grief I wondered how would I rejoin the world? How could I live in a place that felt so much sadness and so much despair? I didn't have to wait too long to find out, the answers came quickly as I felt the love of my daughter all around me in the things that went unseen before. Flowers were brighter, critters louder and the wind kissed my cheek so gently. I welcomed every piece of nature as signs from her. Were they? I will never know and that isn't really the point, they gave me comfort in my loneliness time and that was a gift in itself.
Now, after three (+) years my life has regained speed. Work fills my schedule, students, parents, colleagues occupy my weekdays while my nights and weekends are filled with the greatest love that I am honored to hold in my arms, my sweet fiery boy. The house never rests and the thunder of Reid's footsteps fill my heart more than I ever imagined could fill again, the light of his eyes swell my heart full. I have rejoined the word again. It happened so subtly I almost couldn't tell you when this happened but I am so glad it has.
But as I sit here, in the pain of a fractured nose (thank you, Reid) and in the quiet of my house, memories trickle back to my heart. Sadness, the longing, the missing of what could have been, has filled my thoughts today. I read my old writing, love letters and poems to Ruthie Lou and ramblings of a broken heart and it still amazes me, I have survived. My family has survived. The death of our daughter didn't break me and it didn't break us. It has not been easy, nor would I have chosen this path but the gifts that Ruthie Lou left in her shadow fill my heart every single day.
I miss her. I am comfortable in the knowing that I will always miss her. I am grateful for her. I am grateful for the changes that came in my life because of her. And I am proud of her. Her name sings a song to my heart that can only be matched when I am called "Reid's mama" and those are two sounds that I will never tire of hearing.
So, in my moments of physical pain, and in sadness, missing, longing and loving I remind myself that I am a survivor. The human heart is capable of far more that we give credit and while I would trade it all to have her back, in the loss of my daughter, I found myself.
We had our PreThanksgiving tonight, our family tradition of thanksgiving held early so that we can all be together without the stress of running from house to house visiting in-laws. It has been a successful tradition, a day to gather and relax, eat delicious food and enjoy each other's company. I had a wonderful time, watching Reid play with his cousins, spending rare time conversing with my siblings, laughing amidst the chaos. As a family, we have come a long way in grief and for that I am so grateful. The holidays are feeling *somewhat* lighter and a *bit* more enjoyable the fourth year around. I have come so far in the last three years and so has my family.
That said, the holidays are so hard, they really are. Anxiety tightens in my chest when the conversation turns to family traditions, obligations, and gatherings. I have a GOOD family; they are loving, they are caring, they are the best that they can be and yet it isn't enough. Not because THEY are not enough or because they are not GOOD enough, but because not only will they never understand what our daily life is like and how the holidays compound this grief, but also because they cannot give us the one thing that we will ever need, our daughter.
During Pre-Thanksgiving tonight, I stood outside the dining room as the shuffle of plates being served and the gravy being poured. I listened to the chaos. It was a room filled with beautiful noise, children squealing and adults laughing. It was the sound of the holidays and family and food and love. The sound filled the air and it was so lovely and all I could feel was emptiness,sadness, out of place and disconnect-like I didn't belong. I was not part of that joy, I was there but not, my mind was thrown into what was missing in that room. My daughter's picture lovingly sat with a candle lit amongst the others who have passed away; great-grandparents, grandparents, a mother much too young and then there sat my baby, one who will never grow up. I am so grateful for her to be honored, to be "present" in the room it is exactly what I want but it pains my heart that she is included with those who had great long lives. My daughter's lifetime was only 33 days….that is not what I wanted.
I know the way to avoid these feelings is to stay present and in gratitude but I also know that in order to process these very human emotions, it is important to honor them without judgement. And so I did. I cried and I accepted the hug and love from my brother and I composed myself, re-joining my family to be present in the moment with my family and my son.
It is so hard to balance the two at times, being present yet also acknowledge that it's ok to feel the hurt. It's hard to feel comfortable in a room that could never possibly understand and thankfully so because understanding means they would have to know this loss and I do not wish that on anyone. It's so hard to watch other families, my siblings families, as their children grow and become individuals and know that it is yet another thing that we have lost; all the years and experiences that we will not get with Ruthie Lou. I am so happy for my siblings, I love them. I want nothing more than their families complete with them but it is also a reminder of so much loss. Tonight, I visually could see all that I lost in Ruthie Lou. I lost a screaming, running three year old girl who likes to twirl in pretty skirts or maybe she'd rather play soccer, who loves her grammie the best or is it grandpa?! I lost the kisses and hugs and sharing my food with two kids instead of one. I lost cousin number four (of six) who will always be here but will never really be here. I lost my child. My child died.
So at the holidays, if I appear withdrawn, disinterested, not present or engaged, I may have just had a realization of something more that I have lost. And if I choose not to show up because that's what's best for my heart, please allow me to do so gracefully and without guilt, it's more for survival than selfishness. I really want to be part of the family, I really wanted Ruthie Lou to be part of it, too. Please don't pressure me to commit to too much on these days. I know it has been years, but holidays and family gatherings throw my heart right back to the day she died and all that we have missed since. I'm trying over here, and I will just keep trying. Thank you for loving me through it.
When I was pregnant with Ruthie Lou, my biggest fear in birth was the physical pain that I would experience birthing her beautiful baby body. I wasn't scared of it but was nervous about it; how I would endure it, how I would work through it, how I would overcome the pain.
Then, pregnant with Reid, I still felt fear about pain, but it was emotional fear, true fear, real fear, terrifying acknowledging death fear. I was afraid that my baby would die and I was in fear about the emotional pain that rules your life when your greatest love dies. I feared that I couldn't rebuild my life, myself or my marriage if our next baby died, too.
My fear about birthing pain, never really entered my mind in Reid's pregnancy. Physical pain, I could tolerate that, but could I endure the devastating sadness that grips you in deaths shadow? I prayed I would never experienced that loss agin. I prayed and repeated affirmations to myself all day long for 37 weeks 5 days.
I am so grateful to hold my boy today, two (+) years after his birth. I am so grateful he is alive. I am so grateful for Reid.
And I fear him dying every day.
I wondered why she waited til that day, the day we will forever share, I woke up devastated in tears that day wondering why she chose my birthday. I asked her over and over, to let me help her, to show me what she needed to let go, not because I wanted her to leave but because I wanted to help her complete all that she came here to do. She was tired, she was ready, it pained me to see her life leave her like that.
Time has passed and much has become clearer in the last three years. Some things will always remain a mystery but there's one thing I am certain, she was waiting for me. She waited for me, she held on waiting for my favorite day, and she gave me the greatest gift, blessing me with her life on my birthday, on the last day of her life she was celebrating her love for me on my birthday.
My birthday has always been my favorite day of the year, a day to feel special, a day set aside just for me (and all others born on that day), a day to celebrate life, my favorite day. Ruthie Lou stayed so that she would always be part of my birthday, we would always be together on what was my favorite day. I imagine that I will celebrate that day again. Until then, I celebrate the life we now have but mostly, I celebrate the gift that was Ruthie Lou's life.
It's devastating to share those two things on the same day, life and death, to balance the grief, the emptiness, the loss with love and gratitude for the life we had with Ruthie Lou and the life that we have now. It's hard to hear happy birthday on a day that still doesn't feel happy But I know people's hearts are in the right place, they come from a place of love. It is clear why she waited. Reid is getting older now and I knew that once we had more kids my birthday would be less about me and more about them celebrating me. Yesterday, Reid loved my birthday, although I think he thought the day was for himself, buying balloons, singing the birthday song, blowing out candles and eating cupcakes. Ruthie Lou knew what she was doing then, she had one last job to finish before she left on September 10th. She needed her life to be part of my day then and it continues to be part of my day now.
We are forever intertwined with our children, the primal interconnectedness that will never be fully understood but recognized as the willingness to do ANYTHING for your child. I would have done anything to keep her, it wasn't enough. If love could've saved her, she'd be here today.
I still can't believe she's not here.
I love her and miss her every single day.
We survived another year.
I love you sweet girl. Thank you for all you have given me and all that you left us with, the greatest gift of all, your love, lives on with us.
My chest is tight, the air caught stuck in my lungs, I cannot breathe more in nor can I let that small amount out. I'm dreaming of whales, oceans, friends long gone, and kitchens. I've looked them up, in the dream books, searching for meanings within the madness. I know the answer, I know their origins. I don't need a book to tell me the sea of emotions that I swim in this month. What I do need, is a break. A pause. A time out. A freeze button. Where I can sit in this space, the borrowed time of year, this season, that I held my daughter and just be in those moments again.
I can function, I am functioning, I am fine. But I am not fine. I just want some time....why does the earth keep spinning year after year when I just want it to stop? For a moment. For one moment. For that moment.
I will be ok. And I write that mostly for you because I already KNOW that I will be ok. I've done this for three years now and I know that to grieve IS ok. This is only grief.
I just want a break.
One more week and it will be 33 days since Ruthie Lou's birthday. And it's crazy to think while my life was on hold three years ago, when I stared aimlessly out of a fourth story hospital window for 21 days and then in the miracle that they call George Mark for the following 12 days, it is still mind blowing that everyone else's life continued while mine forever fell apart. 33 days felt so long then. 33 days flew by too quickly then. And 33 days is still not long enough now.
I will be ok.
Until then, I am here.
I am in this moment.
Trying to catch my breath.
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.
We watched the sun set together more nights than not at GMCH. The world spun, the sun set, the moon took it's place in the sky as my world stopped, a time out of time. I held her, rocking in that wooden chair, holding what I no longer am able to, knowing our time was borrowed and soaking in as much as I could.
My daughter, my love, on nights like tonight when the crimson reds meet the purple skyline, I think of you while watching a "Ruthie Lou sunset". That is where we meet, when the worlds collide and the veil is thin. I know you're with me still. I ask you to come close and I feel you. Some may think I am crazy, a mama missing her daughter so much, I know otherwise. I am lucky, to have known you, to have held you, to forever be gifted with your love and to live for you. Because you are no longer in this world, I will live for the both of us. I will love the life I live more than I would have otherwise.
Thank you, sweet girl.
I don't say happy Father's Day to the father of my children, today I was asked why. I appreciate the questions, it means that she cares. I appreciate the thought, the intention of love, the courage to ask a potentially uncomfortable question. I appreciate the opportunity to check in with myself, to reassess.
She asked if my lack of "happy" when referring to Father's Day was for the sake of his feelings or mine. At first I said his, and quickly changed to "both". Father's Day does not feel happy to us anymore. In fact we only got one year that did, the year that Ruthie Lou was in my belly and to be honest, not that he wasn't happy but being a father didn't feel real to him yet like it did for me. We were both parents at that point but my job as mama had already begun and felt so real, I was tending to Ruthie Lou's needs every second of my being and Chris, well he did a great job taking care of me but I don't think that led him to feel quite like a dad just yet.
I have pondered this question all day. Why don't I tell my husband "Happy Father's Day", why can't I tell anyone happy Father's Day without a pit in my stomach, if I can even bring myself to say it at all?
I love our life, I love our family, I love our son. I am so grateful that we have survived and are thriving and continue to choose each other day after day through the good and most importantly through the bad. We are lucky to have one another but there will always be an emptiness where our daughter should be. We will forever mourn her in our life. They say having a child is like "having your heart walk outside your body", where does that leave your heart when your child has died, does it die too?
Today our sweet 5 year old neighbor asked if Reid had any brothers or sisters. What was once an innocent question now carries so much weight. "Yes, he has a sister." I tell her. "Where is she?" she says. I was quickly able to stumble my way through that conversation with a child but I was not quick to recover my heart.
I have learned not to question why I do certain things in regards to Ruthie Lou because while it may not be logical to others, to Chris and me it is our reality. My heart will always ache for her. I get a few more short years before Reid understands these big days; Mother's Day, Father's Day, my birthday, days that are so painfully raw and until then I get to take care of me. I made a promise to myself that when my living children are old enough to participate knowingly that I will be present for them but until then, today was just another day and a sad reminder of all that should have been.
I am so grateful to those that shared their love and good wishes to my husband today, he needs to hear the words from you because coming from me, Father's Day just doesn't feel happy.
The Tri 4 Fun marks a moment for me, a moment in time when life was so good and pure and full of hope. I have always loved being active, feeling the strength of my mind flowing through the strength of my muscles. I have rarely worked out for my physical appearance, exercise has always been an outlet for me, my own personal counseling. So much can be processed on a 65 mile bike ride or a 10 minute walk. In 2010, this event represented who I was and who I had become. I went to the race on my own, not competing with anyone I knew, only with the recommendation from a friend. I trained (mostly) on my own with a goal in mind. I attended with the assumption that at the end of that summer, my husband and I would be growing our family. This summer in 2010, would be the last summer of freedom, the last summer where I was only making decisions for myself, I was strong now, in all sense of the word and I was finally ready to be a mom. If you know me, you know that I had been prepped and waited my whole life for this moment.
That first weekend of June, with my husband's support we drove to Sacramento, stayed in a hotel, enjoyed the "carb load" meal and I completed my first sprint triathlon, it was exhilarating. To the Triathlon world, a sprint may be no big deal but to me it was and still is a sign of strength and discipline, a 1/2 mile swim, 16 mile ride, 3 mile run. With training, anyone can do it, its really only a 2 hour workout but for me this event was so much more. Summer 2010, I was at my strongest, physically and mentally. I had spent years working on myself, on processing my past and relationships that served only harm into a positive relationship with myself and a future that held so much hope. As I rode my bike 16 miles up and down that hilly road, wind blowing on my face and sun blazing on my back, my heart sang. I felt on top of the world. I imagined the next time I would compete in such an event at least 2 years later, I would have a family cheering me on, my husband with our baby on the sidelines. That thought fueled me, I held that image with me through 3 triathlons that summer, through 3 pregnancies in 2 years, through a miscarriage, through pregnancy and labor with my daughter, through her brother's pregnancy and labor, through the last 2 years of his life since he was born. It has taken longer than expected, the road has been so very different that I had envisioned but finally, I have now lived that moment.
Yesterday, I entered the water without an ounce of nerves and although I did not properly train for the swim this year, I needed this moment. I held my breath, submerged in the water and spoke to Ruthie Lou, "I do this for you, sweet girl. I do this for your brother. For the life we thought we would have with you and the life that we now live." I did not drown although I probably did more floating than swimming, I was conquering the life I now live, I was remembering an ounce of who I was, the work and strength that I had held so tightly to, I am surviving, somehow I have survived. It is not easy, it is the constant choice that each day I will get out of bed, I will love life with all it's sadness and appreciate all the joy, I will be in the moment and do my best to live without fear, not participate in the what-ifs because there is no answer there. We aren't guaranteed anything in this life except for the moment that we are in and that moment is RIGHT NOW. I am instantly reminded of the sacred time with Ruthie Lou and I have often wondered how did I survive that time, how did I wake up each day not knowing and then knowing that she would die, how did I do that? And the answer is the very same, we aren't guaranteed anything in this life except for the moment that we are in RIGHT NOW and that was it. I lived so faithfully in that mantra that I was able to experience LIFE with our daughter that I otherwise would not have: 2,000 photos, walks, swimming, laying in the grass, critters buzzing, birds flying, wind blowing, thunder, lightening, rain, sunsets, singing, stories, snuggles and sleeping with her in the nook of my body, all things I was so fortunate to get with her, fortunes that I know many parents do not get.
This year's race was so bittersweet and so empowering. I felt the strength in my body, the strength in my mind, I felt the devastating sadness and the heartfelt joy. I felt old, not old in this lifetime but old in wisdom that I have survived the death of my child. My child's lifetime was 33 days and while she achieved more than I have in my 33 years, it will never make sense to me. At this point, not making sense is acceptable, for my own mental health I have stopped asking WHY. I am better now, having had my daughter. I am stronger, wiser, more patient and compassionate. I view life and even death differently now. My values have changed, my parenting style positively affected since loving our daughter and now having our son. I needed yesterday. I am still strong, I am still surviving, I am still me, a little bit different, with a hole left in my heart but with light shining through the cracks. Life is (still) good. It has to be, or it wouldn't be worth living.
Return to Zero premiered on Saturday, May 17th at 8pm on Lifetime. I have posted about it on Facebook nearly everyday and I am so grateful for the support and understanding of the people in my life and their willingness to watch a film that includes the devastating loss of a child. I am so passionate about this film. I am so grateful for the potential that it has to bring to our society, not only to parents of babies who have died but also to their support networks of family and friends. Nobody knows what to do when a child dies, including the child's own parents!! Yet in the midst of grief you find yourself having to navigate through the unknown sea of overwhelming emotions while at the same time explain or educate those around you because it is unchartered territory for everyone. It is a truly devastating, confusing, scary and lonely time to survive. This film will change that. This movie is for everybody because unfortunately, at some point in your life, you will know someone who experiences a tragic loss and you will want to be able to support them.
While I didn't experience the still birth of my child, I have endured and survived the death of my beloved daughter at 33 days, Return to Zero is still my story. It is the story of a couple that love each other so much, a couple anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child, a couple that had to rebuild their life, their view of the world and ALL of their relationships after their beloved child has died. This movie is so much more than a child dying. It is so much more than death. It is about the beauty of life, the resiliency of the human spirit, it is about living when you are pretty certain that there is nothing left to live for.
I was fortunate enough to see the movie twice already, the first time being at the World Premiere at the San Jose Film Festival Cinequest. I was so nervous to watch the movie, of how I might feel emotionally affected, about being in the room with strangers while feeling vulnerable, I was afraid of what emotions might be stirred back up. I quickly realized that instead of being thrust back into the world of loss, in which I live everyday, I felt seen, I felt heard, I felt empowered. I felt like, FINALLY, someone is telling our story! Of course, I cried (which I seldom do in public) but I also laughed, quite a bit! There are so many times when you're in the midst of grief that inappropriate laughter is the only thing that can possibly carry you through and this movie captured so many of those awkward, entertaining yet necessary moments.
Since the viewing at the film festival, I have had the utmost honor of befriending the mother who this story is based upon, whose husband created the film in honor of their son. She has offered our community of "baby loss mamas" an incredible gift by sharing such an intimate time of her child's life with the world. She, and her family, are breaking the silence of stillbirth, they are breaking the silence of the taboo subject that babies die, too. She is offering a look into our lives from the outside, so that friends and family members can better understand and support those they love when they experience the unimaginable loss of their child.
In this movie, they do show the labor, delivery and post partum time with the couple's beautiful baby boy. It is devastating, it is sad, it is heartbreaking. And it is real life. It is real for the 26,000 families a year whose child has died before birth. In those moments that you never think you will experience, you have to fit a lifetime of love, hugs, kisses, snuggles, smells and photos. I am so glad that the creators of this movie were true to life in this film, they didn't shy away from the reality of what life is like when your child dies. In order to BREAK THE SILENCE, you have to be forthcoming and real and raw to bring understanding that these babies, our children were real and valued and important and will always be desperately loved and fervently missed.
You know, at one time, I too thought that "this" could never happen to me. It was an easier life, a more lighthearted view of the world where I cared so much about things that I now find truly unimportant. My greatest prayer is that nobody I know has to endure this loss, it is truly devastating and life never returns to "normal". I do however know, that this is a horrible reality yet because of this film, families whose babies have died will have support not only from the community in which relates to them but also from friends and family who through this film can be more empathic, loving and patient as rebuild their life.
Yes, this movie is about a family whose child has died. Yes, this movie is about a child who left far too soon. This movie is mostly about love, perseverance, and the ability to create life after loss. And most importantly, this movie is about educating our loved ones on what this journey has been like and how they can best support us in our greatest time of need.
Through our greatest loss, we truly learn the value in this lifetime.
Please watch this movie in whatever capacity feels safe for you.
Thank you, RTZ team, you have truly changed the way in which our society will view our beloved children in their short yet beautiful life in this world.
I am waiting with anticipation for Saturday's Human Race and the beautiful day that it will be...
This weekend is so much more than the Human Race. It's so much more than fundraising or the foundation or attracting attention for a cause. This weekend, the Human Race, is all I get each year. I don't get to plan birthday parties or have first day of school photos or invites to play dates with Ruthie Lou. Instead, this weekend I get to honor my daughter by walking in the Human Race, by wearing her name on my shirt and by seeing it printed on the shirt of all those who love her, too. This weekend, I get to "see" her in the people who show up and the people who support us and include her in our lives still today.
I love that this event is always the day before Mothers Day, it feels so appropriate. It also makes that day much more difficult. It feels so fitting that on a day reserved for mothers, I get to speak of my little girl freely because every person in our group at the race signed up to be there. But also, on this day reserved for mothers, I only get to hug one of my babies and kiss one to sleep at night. That will never feel fair.
The Human Race is so much more than how many people show up that day, it's about those who know the value in showing up, who understand that this day is all I get. I know life is busy and I know not everyone who wants to be will be there but I am always so excited to see who will be there, each year is different and each year is perfect. The Human Race is about continuing Ruthie Lou's legacy by spreading her love between friends, family and the families in which her foundation will help. This day is about my daughter, her amazing soul and her heart that will always live on in mine.
This day is beautiful. And this day is hard. Much like life is, beautiful yet hard.
I miss you, Ruthie Lou. Always.
"Because of you
I am standing tall
My heart is full
Of endless gratitude
You were the one
The one to guide me through
Now I can see
And I believe
It's only just beginning
This is what we dream about
But the only question with me now
Is, do I make you proud?
Stronger than I've ever been now
Never be afraid of standing out
But do I make you proud?
I guess I've learned
To question is to grow
That you still have faith
Is all I need to know
I've learned to love
Myself in spite of me
And I've learned to walk
The road that I believe."
~ Taylor Hicks
While Ruthie Lou was in the NICU, a kind nurse (or volunteer) came by and offered us a few colorful blankets to choose one for Ruthie. We chose a brightly colored vibrant pattern and hung it proudly from her isolette with visions of her using her "special blanket" for years to come. We would tell her the story of how she acquired it and we would breathe a sigh of relief that our NICU days were far behind us and that our sweet Ruthie Lou was healthy and safe. I planned on making blankets in the future to donate to other NICU families and that we would be the hope that families would survive the NICU experience. That was my vision anyways.
It didn't turn out as expected. We did use Ruthie Lou's blanket, we have pictures of us laying in the grass with her, her special blanket underneath us but now that is all we have. Pictures. Her special blanket sits in her special chest, the one we bought at the antique store to hold all her special items in.
One thing didn't change though, I still had every intention of making blankets to donate to the NICU, when the time was right. Our first Christmas without Ruthie Lou, I bought myself a sewing machine and even took a class with all the older sweet ladies buying a new machine. I made my nieces "RL blankets" for Christmas but still wasn't ready to make the NICU blankets yet, the time wasn't right. Since then, two years ago, I have toyed around with how Ruthie Lou would impact the world, how I would impact the world in her honor. It can be such a daunting undertaking to give honor to such an amazing life. I have visions of writing books, publishing, speaking, trainings, workshops, supporting other families. These are dreams of mine, someday dreams. I feel like someday is coming closer and closer, it can feel overwhelming at times. So instead of planning and projecting and assuming what this path will look like, I have closed my eyes and am jumping in. Just jumping!
Of course there has to be planning but I am not concerned with the outcome other than putting my heart in this endeavor and seeing where it goes. I want all the things I spoke of, I want to write the books, publish, I have visions of guiding hospitals to support families, I want to be a role model of hope and survival, I want to share Ruthie Lou with the world. I am often brought to the quote, "a persons a person, no matter how small" and she was just that, a person who I continue to love more than life itself and for that, I must do these things. She changed the path of my life and I am so glad she did. I see life in a much greater way now, I have a driven purpose and more expanded heart because of her.
The idea of these comfort boxes came after a night sitting around the campfire with friends. I was expressing my dreams and desires for the future (if money didn't play a role) and the Ruthie Lou Foundation was made. I still plan to follow where my heart guides me in regards to Ruthie Lou's legacy but the first tangible step is supplying a comfort box for families leaving the hospital without their baby. The last few weeks of gathering items, sewing blankets, writing letters and articulating my purpose for this project has given me such inspiration that I know I am on the right path, wherever it might lead. My heart feels full of hope.
I gave myself permission to lose it for just a moment today. I have to remind myself that it's ok to be present in my emotions, it's ok to be gentle with myself and acknowledge when something is scary. I don't get much time to myself these days but I knew it was important to feel, so while it was only ten minutes, it was long enough during the drive home to compose myself before the transition from teacher to mama.
Reid has had a fever for four days. I hate it. Perhaps this is normal in the early years of building immunities, a child of a teacher who brings germs home each day, a toddler who loves playing with kids while putting every toy in his mouth. However, it doesn't feel normal to watch your baby be sick. Once again, I remind myself to be present. I remind myself, not all "sick" babies die. I use quotation marks because Ruthie Lou wasn't "sick" she was born without all her chromosomes. She was perfect. She also died from pneumonia. Now of course there were underlying medical conditions and many other parts to that but on her death certificate (which I have looked at one time and never again) pneumonia is the listed cause of death.
So today when my husband, who is so wonderful and took our boy to the doctor while I was working, told me that our son has pneumonia my stomach rose to my chest and maybe more realistically, into my throat. I know babies get sick, I know pneumonia is an umbrella statement for fluid in lungs, I know I get walking pneumonia near every cold (once a year) but to hear those words in which I haven't thought of since staring at a paper that held my daughters name, I wanted to cry. Now, I know all parents worry when their child is ill, I am not trying to negate that very real feeling but the post traumatic stress of saying good bye to your baby is something you never get over and it will show up at a moments notice. My fear is real.
In the ten minutes that I drove I let it all out, then put my car in park and entered our house ready for him, ready for the night, ready to be his mama and be present for whatever this evening would bring. I sit here next to him now as he lay sleeping, hearing the raise of every breath and I am so grateful. So grateful for him and his wonderful light that he brings to our home and our hearts. And I miss his sister so. There are so many moments that I get to be Reid's mama, the mama free from worry and the terrifying thought of him leaving me. I stay present each day because I choose that to be my only option, I want to live life fully for him and being in the moment is the safest way I know how. But, there are these other moments, mostly that come later at night when the house is silent and he's asleep that I am reminded, the house is too quiet, as if I need a reminder. Yes, I am surviving, we have survived, but man it is still exhausting.
I couldn't love this boy any more than I do, I would burst. I want to keep him always. I know it's such a silly thing to say, of course we all want that for our children but I pray for that every single day. I know in my heart that he will be ok but I hate waiting for my boy to feel better.
Today was scary.
I learn so much from Reid in his innocence. Toddlers can teach us such sweet lessons. In their eyes, everything is fresh and wonderful and dramatic, the laughter is pure and hearty, the tears are large and loud. Toddlers li ve in the moment. I think the best lesson I can learn from Reid is to always be present, laugh when it's funny, cry when it hurts and when the exhaustion is too much to hear, go to sleep!
I have never felt such joy as to watch my son grow. I felt this same joy the moment my daughter was born but it was coupled with such fear, worry and anxiety that it was never allowed to just "be". But now, with Reid, it just "is". He just "is". He is wonderful, curious, contagious, joyful, energetic, mischievous, entertaining, loving, funny, playful, innocent and amazing. He is everything I wanted. He is my everything.
I have never felt such joy coupled with such longing grief. I hate that it can't be pure joy for life but that the grief is forever present. I wanted all these things for Ruthie Lou, too. I wanted her. In whatever capacity that meant, healthy, sick, able, disabled, special, special needs, I didn't care. We didn't care. We prayed for something she could live with, anything, we didn't even know what we were asking for but just something that would allow us to bring her home. We have watched, over the years and admired my brothers parenting and relationship grow with his son, my nephew. We LOVE my nephew. We prayed that we could have that, too. Language, no language, walking, wheelchair, fertile, infertile. We made plans to adopt our next child when there was a moments thought that the worst case scenario was RL's reproductive organs were incapable of reproducing. We were going to show her that your child is your child is your child, it doesn't matter if you birth them or not, you always LOVE your child. We wanted her. We will always want her. She is our child. She is perfect. Period.
I have never felt such joy. I have also never suffered so much pain. I wish I could say the pain has lessened or time made softer, but it hasn't. I have learned to live with the loss of my greatest love while mothering her brother, my greatest love. My heart has never been so full yet so empty.
October 29-October 31, 2013
Day 29, Healing-This boy.
It is not Reid's job to heal me, he doesn't replace his sister & his life doesn't make her loss any less painful. In fact, sometimes it's quite the opposite. Seeing him grow, develop and to learn more of his crazy personality makes our loss more real, as if it weren't real enough. With Reid here we now know what we are missing. It isn't only the baby girl that I grieve; it's her first steps, kindergarten, high school, first boyfriend, teenage drama, her dad walking her down the aisle. We miss her entire future.
But this boy...there are no words for him. He's crazy, he's full of personality, he is my saving grace. I stayed healthy in the year following Ruthie Lou leaving us, ONLY because of him. For 37 weeks I ate, slept, exercised, journaled, so that my mind, body and soul could be healthy. For him. I would often tell him while in my belly and even now, it is not his job to take care of mama's heart. But oh boy, he sure fills it full. I believe he chose us as Ruthie Lou did, he knew the special family he was joining and I'm certain he knew her, too.
I wake up each morning so grateful, I snuggle this boy so tight I never want to let him go. He is as challenging as any other toddler but through the sleepless nights and piles of laundry, this boy has healed parts of me that I never thought could be repaired. There will always be a part of my heart missing, but this sweet boy, he brings a smile to my face and so much joy to my heart. He is my whole world.
October 22-October 28, 2013
Day 22, Words-There are no words. There are too many words. Everything reminds me of her. Nothing reminds me of her.
Day 23, Tattoos/Jewelry-Chris and I both have (several) tattoos in honor of Ruthie Lou, we always want her close to us in the way that being forever inked allows. I also wear at least one piece of jewelry each day that is special just for her. These bracelets however, are so special to my heart. Just simple pieces of rubber, these bracelets were distributed during the time of Ruthie Lou's life and passing when her name was spoke of often, when people's lives were touched and directly impacted because she was born and the fragility of life was so close to home for other families, too. These bracelets were worn by friends, family and even strangers all over the county. They were the doing of the most wonderful woman, who will always hold a special place in our heart. (Thank you endlessly, Michelle) These bracelets still float around and some people still where theirs (or keep it near) and to see my daughter's name on a friend's arm or attached to their key chain means more than I can even express. I love seeing Ruthie Lou's name ANYWHERE. These bracelets are so special.
Day 24, Artwork-While at George Mark, they fostered a tremendous amount of memory making and most of that was through art. It is so wonderful to recall those moments with Ruthie Lou and her dad, the laughter and tears that were present in those memories. Today, we are continually invited to events that allow for creative outlets and ways in which to honor our sweet girl and our family. Shortly after she passed away, we were invited to take part in a tile making day where an artist came and facilitated the creating of a tile that now hangs on the wall at George Mark. It was really healing to sit with Chris to design what we wanted it to look like, symbols we wanted to represent and then draw and paint a piece in honor of Ruthie Lou. Now, that tile hangs with other special children who have shared in the magic at GMCH, it feels so good to have that spot that is just hers, it one of our favorite places to visit.
Ruthie Lou has ignited a passion for creating and art in all forms. It has allowed me to process so much of my grief in ways that words cannot convey. I don't pretend to be amazing but the release that art provides is motivation enough to continue with each new project. Just another gift from Ruthie Lou...
Day 26, #SayItOutLoud-If I could say one thing about my journey with grief is that given the choice, I would do it again. Despite my broken heart, I would do every part of Ruthie Lou again. I would want HER again. If given the choice of Ruthie Lou or a baby I could have kept, I would choose Ruthie Lou because I love her. She is my daughter and I am so proud of her. Of course I would want her to be here more than anything but since that would never be possible, I would still choose her, I always want HER..
Undeniably my story is sad but I am more than just a sad story, I am a survivor and my daughter is my greatest strength. In my heart she is my biggest cheerleader and when confronted with a challenge in life I always tell myself, "if Ruthie Lou could defy all odds to stay as long as she did, I can ____". She gives me the courage to be me, she is the reason to live my best life, she has shown me the definition of pure love and because of her, I can give to her brother what I didn't know before she was born. She has made me a better mama, I can now give Reid the best of me.
So if I could say one thing about this journey besides it being long, tiring, overwhelming and so devastating, is it is still so full of love. I love my daughter more than this world and if given the choice yet knowing the outcome, I would choose her again and again.
You are worth every single tear my sweet girl. I love you Ruthie Lou, with all of my being.
Day 26, Community-I feel most normal in the online "baby loss" community. Before Still Standing magazine was established in May 2012, I would be attached to Google searching for blogs that understood me. Instead of finding comfort and hope, many times I would be angered, feel more isolated or suffer PTSD having to relive the moments surrounding Ruthie Lou's transition from this world. Still Standing offers acceptance, understanding, empathy and most importantly hope and I am honored to have had an article published with them.
No more searching for blogs, my community now gathers in one place.
Day 27, Signs-I look for my sweet girl everywhere. Everything reminds me of her, nothing reminds me of her.
While in my belly, the ladybug told me Ruthie Lou was ok, that she was healthy and safe. I never knew how much that sign would eventually mean to me. It started with my 5th graders on an overnight field trip where a tremendous amount of ladybugs were discovered in their cabin. I told them how they were a symbol of good luck to the farmers that they helped rid pests from their garden and how lucky the were to be receiving this sign. When I returned to my cabin that eve and listened to Ruthie Lou's heartbeat on the Doppler, I saw them inexplicably in my room, too. It was magical, another sign, she was safe in my belly. She was always safe in my belly. I wish I could have kept her safe forever.
The first night home from George Mark a green ladybug greeted me inside my house and for many months, I only saw green ones. I know the green ones are not the same as the "lady beetle" but as the world was receiving visitors from red ladybugs I like to believe that the green ones are special signs just for mama.
Now, I look for the signs that my girl is safe and that there is life after this world. I feel beauty in these signs it helps me believe in the magic of our universe. It may sound crazy to you but if it helps heal my heart and find acceptance in this terrible mystery, than I will keeping searching them out for the rest of my life. I hope to see my sweet girl again. Until then, we only have this..
Day 28, Special Place-The moment that dusk takes over and the sun sets low, as the pink sky welcomes the night, she waits for me there. I can relive every sunset we shared, 11 total. Rocking in that oak chair, the songs I sung her, the stories I shared with her, the lessons we learned from each other, all blessed with sacred tears. Sunset is still our time. She's always waiting there for me, no matter where in the world I may be.
October 15-October 21, 2013
Day 15, Wave of light-National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
I am grateful for this day, I also hate this day. I hate that we have to have this day. I want to say I have come to a place of understanding, peace, acceptance & healing but the truth is, I will never (in this lifetime) understand a reason to justify why my daughter died. I can learn lessons from it, I can make meaning out of it, I can live my life differently having known my sweet girl but I am not okay with it and I don't know any parent who would ever be. So while I am better having loved, carried and held Ruthie Lou in my arms, I would give anything to have her back. ANYTHING.
Thank you friends and family for lighting up FB tonight in memory of my beautiful daughter. Thank you for allowing me to continue to speak her name over and over and over again with love and without judgement. I don't imagine that I will ever hear her name enough but with your candle lit tonight, it's as beautiful as hearing you say her name today.
Day 16, Seasons-The transition of Summer to Fall holds a sacred energy now, the memories marked forever in my brain; the thick hot days of Summer leading to Ruthie Lou's delivery, the vibrant sunsets where we sat and snuggled and sang in her rocking chair, the crisp early dark nights after she left us, staring at the stars for answers. I welcome the change, the transition, the turning inward that Fall brings, the cold air outside but the warmth that it brings inside our home and our hearts, our time to reflect; time for harvest, time to slow down, time to read more, write more, be present and build new memories to add to the changing seasons.
feel like the body experiences seasons much like the earth. For example, imagine how you felt the day you fell in love, or the day your learned of devastating news, as the years roll around your body remembers that feeling when marked by an anniversary or a sparked memory, those emotions can come springing back in an instant.
Day 19, Support-I'm going to confess something that I don't really like to speak of but something that is a true side of loss. I say this without blame, I say this without judgement, I say this with only love and the truth of my experience.
The second most devastating loss after losing Ruthie Lou was the loss of friends/family who we thought/hoped would be there, who we longed for to be there, to hold us and carry us through the unspeakable, who were silent. And it hurt. It still hurts so much that we can hardly speak of it, even in the quiet of our own home. We watched it happen and knew it was happening, we also knew that we could reach out but as I could barely pull myself out of bed most days, the telephone may as well have weighed 500 pounds and what would I possibly have said? That I often thought how I would rather be with Ruthie Lou, wherever that was, than here? That I felt like I had died but was still here instead? That life was a nightmare without her? I felt like I was in a tornado and everything in my brain was spinning, I couldn't possibly be responsible for a relationship at that point. In the craziness of my grief, it was impossible to see outside my own pain enough to be able to think straight, let alone search out the relationships that I once held so dear. I felt so alone. I felt so abandoned. Its such an awful place to be, to want others to understand how hard loss is but not truly wanting them to know because then that would mean they would have to lose someone, too and I would NEVER wish that on anyone.
That said, we were not truly alone, I know that now, nor were we abandoned, quite contrary in fact. In the midst of Ruthie Lou's life and passing, our support group extended farther than we could see and probably more than we will ever even be aware of. Those who showed up and supported us were our lifeline and many times it came from the most unexpected places. It STILL comes from unexpected places.
Grief puts blinders on you, it's like living in a nightmare and when you wake up (which takes longer than anyone can imagine) it's like coming out of a fog and walking back into a life you never imagined to be yours. Having a supportive group of people is honestly what helped me to survive. The offers of "let me know what I can do" came from such kind places but I never knew what I needed, I could hardly get out of bed every day let alone take care of myself. Instead of having to figure it out myself, people just showed up. Our friends and family did everything for us and we needed everything done. You cleaned our house, did our grocery shopping, made our dinners, fielded questions, called everyday, texted everyday, sent FB messages, sent emails, sent cards, flowers, gifts, pictures and poems. You invited us to do things even when you knew we'd say no. You made sure to include us and sometimes even trick us to get us out of the house; to go for a hike, to be part of the party, to visit a restaurant, to break the fear of going into public. You stuck up for us and stood up for us. The house was rarely quiet on the weekends and on the weekdays when everyone was back as work and I surrendered to my bed, those who knew me intimately were always checking in. Even when I didn't respond for days, you never gave up on me.
This support continues today and looks very different now, as time has passed, the grief has changed and we now need different things. Thankfully we can take care of ourselves again, but we will always need support in this loss. Today support looks like; saying Ruthie Lou's name, including her in our family, donating in honor of her life, asking about her, lighting a candle for her and allowing us to constantly speak of our sweet girl and you allow us to do those things. Our life is once again filled with love and we now have relationships with people who know a different side of us, the vulnerable side. While we greatly miss the life we once had, the life we now have is filled with SO MUCH. We are so grateful for all we have and if you're reading this, then you were/are part of our support group and we are forever indebted and so grateful for YOU.
Day 20, Hope-Where do I start? I hope to reunite with Ruthie Lou someday, decades away. I hope Reid is a healthy & happy toddler, boy, teenager, young adult, man. I hope to give him a sibling someday, SOMEDAY. I hope to live a fulfilled life and to fulfill the potential inside of me. I hope to create a legacy that my children will be proud of. I hope to have a long, successful marriage to their dad. I hope that Ruthie Lou is never forgotten. But mostly, I have hope that I always remember the gifts that Ruthie Lou bestowed upon me, the lessons she taught because if I do, I will live a blessed life.
Day 21, Honor-I live in honor of Ruthie Lou, I love because of Ruthie Lou, I have gratitude because of Ruthie Lou. I am changed because of her, not only because of the grief but because of the joy that a parent experiences by loving their child. She brought so much love that when I think of how amazing my daughter is, my heart is so full.
I also know that I am in search of something more in this life, I know I have more to do and more specifically, work in her honor. I am unclear on what that might be still so I am allowing life to unfold and following my heart where it will lead me. I know I feel most clearly when I write, it feels like I am inviting her close when the words flow through me. I am drawn to photography again and love feeling an emotion from behind the lens of the camera. And my crafts?! Please. I turn on the music, put on that ladybug apron and I know she's there, craftin' it up with me.
I know Ruthie Lou came her to bless us, she came here to enrich our lives and that she has done. I miss her every second of every day but I live everyday in her honor because she cannot. I will do my best by her, it's gonna take my whole life but she has made me what I am today and I am proud of who I am, imperfectly perfect.
October 8-October 14, 2013
Day 8, Color- That big YELLOW flower will always be imprinted in my heart and will forever be Ruthie Lou's color. It makes sense that "the colour yellow represents happiness and fun. The traditional yellow colour meaning is that of inspiration. The meaning of yellow is also associated with vitality, energy and illumination."
Day 9, Music-Music is life, listening, dancing, singing, I live to a soundtrack of music. I could've chosen 40 songs or 100 different lines for today. I sung so many to Ruthie Lou, so many are HER songs, songs from the radio, many created from my heart. Music brings such comfort. I like to remind myself that although she was OUR baby child, we are not alone in this, even when it feels so much that we are...
Day 10, Beliefs- Recycled from Winter 2011, when I was pregnant with Ruthie Lou, I have reflected on this writing numerous times. Sometimes I wonder why I felt compelled to write it back then...a message? Perhaps. Reading it always reminds me of the good in the world & the fragility of life️
"I believe in a God that is loving.
I believe that our human experience is only one small part in the life of our soul and it does not begin nor end on the day of our birth or death.
I believe that our human life is short. Often times shorter than we could ever imagine. It is my own personal responsibility to live and love in a way that everyday I am spiritually fulfilled and proud of who I am and who I am eternally becoming.
I believe that people make daily choices in their life. From the moment I wake until I lay my head back on my pillow at night, my choices should be well thought out and only made with good intentions.
I believe that we are responsible only for oursleves. I can only control my own actions and reactions to experiences and events in my life.
I believe that all people are beautiful, pure and have good intentions. I make mistakes but am clear to always learn the lesson and try better next time.
I believe that very unfortunate things happen to very good people everyday without reasons known to us. Everyday I have the gift of choice of what I will learn from my experiences and how I will respond to lifes greatest as wells as most unfortunate events.
My God is pure, loving, accepting and warm. There is only love."
Two years later I am more certain than ever, there is only love.
Day 11, Triggers-To be completed...
Day 12, Article-To be completed...
Day 13, Book(s)-To be completed...
Day 14, Family-To be completed...
October 1-October 7, 2013
Day 1, Sunrise-Just outside my classroom door, the sun greets the day. Even in the most unlikely of places, beauty appears & a wish that never changes-please be with me today.
Day 2, Identity-Ruthie Lou Lands, you sit amongst this shelf and many others in our home, rightfully next to your brother. You will always be our daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and cousin, we are so proud of you. You are a teacher, a messenger, a water bug, a prankster, the light of our life but most of all you are absolutely perfect and you are so, so desperately missed.
Day 3, Myth- The grief will end.
If grief is the response to loss and the loss never goes away then in return, the grief is never ending. It does not go away. It does not end. EVER.
But it does change. And continue to change. Thank goodness for the change.
I don't think I could have been convinced of that early on, it was so hard to believe and quite frankly, I didn't want the grief to change. In some odd way, that sadness and raw emotion helped me to feel closer to Ruthie Lou and I was worried that if the intense emotions subsided, she would really be gone. But, she was already gone, I knew that.
I have learned that the grief never ends and can sneak up at any moment in the most unexpected times and that is ok. It's ok that I am present in my life again. It's ok that I will never be the same again. It's ok not to question why or when I am feeling lost, but just to feel it, it's healthy and it will pass. Sometimes I check out for a while from friends or family, but those who love me will understand, sometimes I just need some RL time.
Grief never ends because my love for my daughter will never end. I will always grieve the loss of my perfect sweet girl, Ruthie Lou, the child I don't get to raise.
Day 4, Legacy-"REMEMBER RUTHIE"
Remember that life is about perspective.
Remember that it's the little things in life that matter, and don't sweat the small stuff.
Remember that life is bigger than what we see.
Remember that we're all part of this life experience and we all have our own journey.
Remember Ruthie means keeping her alive. Keeping her memory alive, keeps her alive.
Remember joy, remember laughter, remember to love the people you're with, remember to love ME.
Remember to be present every day and to learn from every lesson presented in life.
Remember to be the best person I can be.
And lastly, remember that its when things are not perfect, that that's when I really learn
She left me with this, "The Hummingbird Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation." She left me with a new understanding, love and appreciation of life.
Day 5, Memory- Every memory I have with you here, is my favorite memory. But, the best moment everyday was waking up next to you in bed, hearing the purr of your breath and watching you fight waking up. You were definitely a night owl and NOT a morning person, just like your mama! I love the cranky look on your face and am so glad I captured this moment to watch over and over again...
Day 6, Ritual-When we wake in the morning, Reid and I walk to his window to look out his room. It's the best view of the backyard and perfect to watch the sun rise. In the window sits Ruthie Lou's rock from George Mark, another one specially painted from a student before she was born (of course it was a ladybug before we even knew her), her special flower and beads given to me honoring both Ruthie Lou and Reid while he was in my belly.
We stand at that window, Reid in my arms and say aloud, "good morning world, good morning sister". It's important for me to say hello each morning, to start the day positively, to have a moment set aside for Ruthie Lou. This simple act connects me to both my children at the start of the morning, reminds me to slow down and welcome a fresh new day.
It devastates me that he has a sister that he'll never know in this life. Sometimes I don't know who I'm more sad for; him or me. I want him to know her, love her and to never question how much we love both of them. equally but of course in their own uniqueness.
Day 7, "You Today"- My entire perspective on life has changed in the last two years., my belief system altered. I am a different person than I was before Ruthie Lou, that goes without saying. I will never be the person I was before I gave birth to her and don't want to be that person again. My life is so incredibly richer now because of the things she has shown me, my joy greater, my sorrow deeper.
Two years out, I feel like I should be doing more to honor Ruthie Lou. BIGGER things. It's a struggle I battle with often. I realize I talk about her all over FB and in my everyday life but I still feel like there is something larger for her but what that is...I'm still not certain. At first, I felt a big pressure to do something NOW because I wanted the world to know her but today I am following my heart to see where it leads me. I have a lifetime to honor her and I want it to be "right".
I will always be the mama to a child that I didn't get to raise, that will never change but TODAY, today I am also the mama to a beautifully curious toddler and that is such a tremendous gift. I mother differently because of Ruthie Lou, she taught me to stay present, to live in the moment and I am so grateful for the perspective she gave me. I slow down for Reid, I look to see life through his eyes. I will always live in honor of Ruthie Lou but TODAY I now also live this life for Reid.
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.