In updating my blog, I came across a page in which one week I listed all the things I loved about Ruthie Lou, and in the next post I listed all the things I love about Reid.
So here it is Adam, I love you this much too! I never want you to think that because you are the youngest that you aren't as loved, adored and appreciated as your siblings. You are amazing!
I love the way you "coast" when you wake in the morning.
I love your smile when the morning light turns on.
I love how you snuggle your body close to mine.
I love the smell of your baby head of hair.
I love how you "talk" when you wake.
I love how you grab my hand, my shirt, my hair.
I love how you hang on tight when I am holding you.
I love your laugh every time your brother does anything silly.
I love the bond that you and Reid share.
I love your little cough to get our attention.
I love that you listen to "Little Light", your sister's song, to fall asleep.
I love your chunky body, the rolls on your legs and your "rubberband" wrists.
I love your excitement (and a little fear) when you roll from back to belly.
I love your grunts when you shove your toys in your mouth.
I love your forced laugh when I oil your body after bath time and I hit a ticklish spot.
I love how you watch me cook dinner from your seat.
I love that you let me eat ;)
I love nursing you.
I love when you rub my chest as you breastfeed.
I love your focus when you play.
I love your determination when you try to do something new.
I love the way you smile at everyone, making them feel so special.
I love that you love Xavi, you let him kiss you all the time!
I love watching you splash in the bathtub.
I love the piece of the puzzle you have brought to our family.
I love the joy that you bring into our life.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
Five years ago I sat bedside my daughter and two of our closest friends, the family that we were supposed to raise our little girl with, the mama who in her belly was growing my daughter's best girlfriend, the girl who I now love watching grow older while my daughter does not.
It was an amazing visit to introduce them to our sweet girl, to meet her, to love on her, to gift her their son's teddy. It was the most awful visit because it was the only one they would ever get with her. It was beautifully heartbreaking.
We sat, we talked, we laughed, I am sure we cried and in that conversation, I proclaimed, "I am going to write a book someday." I had been filled with so much love, so much amazement at the strength of my daughter, my husband, the community that surrounded us, I was sure that I needed to share this story with the world.
It was during this time that I started writing. I wrote about everything. I wrote about our days in the hospital and our long nights away. I wrote when we learned that our daughter would not be coming home, I wrote when we moved her to "her" home at George Mark. I wrote about all the beauty that surrounded this tragic time. I wrote when my heart was torn from my chest and we had to hand our baby over, for the very last time. I wrote in the years following; of intense grief, sadness, despair, hope, a new pregnancy, a little brother, joy, life moving forward, writing, writing, writing.
And in the midst of writing, my life has continued to shape what has grown to be my passion; educating others about infant loss and grief, providing hope for recovery and healing, and supporting bereaved parents. I started the Ruthie Lou Foundation providing Comfort Boxes to families when their baby passes away in the hospital. I was educated as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist and began working with grievers to help heal their broken hearts. And along the way, I became the face of infant loss in our community, and an advocate for grieving parents; answering any email, text or phone call from other mamas missing their baby.
While the story of Ruthie Lou's life has yet to be written anywhere other than these pages as of yet, I saw a need that I could fill. When we left the hospital, when we left George Mark, we left without our baby and we left without many resources. I now know that there are resources available, but 5 years ago, the conversation of babies dying was deep in the internet hidden in blogs and had not become mainstream conversation-yet. I scoured the internet, it left me scared and frightened of the lifelong grief I was facing. I checked every library & bookstore, it left me feeling alone. In the meantime, I continued to get questions from other bereaved moms, asking the same questions tryin to navigate this unknown journey of grief.
I started writing the answers to the questions I was receiving from friends, the very same questions that I had asked of others during my early days of grief; the logistical pieces of this journey and what to expect as the days led to weeks and then months after our daughter died. Slowly, Navigating the Unknown was created.
This book became a labor of love, one that I wrote as if speaking to my very dear friend. If you are in this community of bereaved parents, I immediately love you. We understand eachother in a way that (thankfully) many parents never have to experience, but we know a secret language-the language of losing part of our self when our child has died.
I wrote this book, kindly, respectfully, lovingly yet direct. There are hard topics in this book, things that "normal" parents will never have to consider-but we do. Choices that we have had to make; autopsy, burials, funerals, thoughts that give any parent nightmares at night. But when your child has died, this is our reality and I wrote this book to guide bereaved parents through the most devastating time in their life and help move them through the days that follow and how to re-join the world again. As the book follows through the first year after death, my intent is that it creates a community of support and offers hope that although our baby is not physically with us, there is hope for healing. There is hope to feel joy and have a purpose driven life, once again.
So while I have yet to write the book that I promised that night in the hospital room, this book poured from my heart and could not have been stopped. This book is my heart on paper, loving any parent who has the devastatingly need to read it.
Unfortunately, this book is needed. I hope that when you hear of a family who has learned that their baby has died whose life will be brief that you immediately give them this book. There is no time for hesitation, they only get a short time with their baby-please let them make the most of every moment. This book will help guide them through this heartbreaking loss.
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
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.