For five weeks out of the year, I am no good. In my mind, I fail at being a wife, a mom, a friend, or employee because, for those five weeks, I live a parallel life. I stand here straddling with one foot here and the other in 2011 wishing I was still there.
I would relive even the most heartbreaking, soul crushing moments if it meant I could run my fingers through her hair again, kiss her puckered lips, smell her baby skin and feel her 6 lb body against my chest. What I would give for those 33 days again.
After being discharged from the hospital less than 12 hours after delivering our baby, I replayed her labor over and over again. Her heart never decelerated. She showed no signs of injury. We had every reason to believe she would recover from whatever plagued her. We drove 2 hours convincing ourselves of this fact.
I didn't know babies died.
And then, I did.
Five weeks later, she died.
A lot has happened in the middle of those 5 weeks. A lot of hope, praying and pleading. A lot of love, snuggles and kisses. A lot of crying, crying and more crying.
And then I woke, on the day that I knew would be her last. The day that happened to be my first day of life. My 31st birthday.
When I woke she was breathing.
I held my daughter alive on my birthday, no gift will ever compare.
And then, she left.
I haven't celebrated a birthday since.
I just can't.
So for five weeks, I check out. I'm here, but I'm only half paying attention. I have obligations that I must tend to during these days, important ones even- teaching a new school year and my son's birthday, being top of the list.
So, I plan birthday parties and English lessons.
And my days are full.
But my arms feel empty still. Even holding my 2 sons, I will always be missing one of my 3 babies.
So, if you catch me during Ruthie Lou's month and I'm “off”, I promise it'll pass. Just don't count on it being this month.
Come find me after September.
Don't miss Amie Lands' next book!
OUR ONLY TIME: STORIES OF PREGNANCY/INFANT LOSS
WITH STRATEGIES FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
COMING THIS FALL!
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I walked in the front door to my empty house. The “Welcome home, Ruthie Lou!” sign had been taken down, the pack and play was put away, and the bassinet was no longer next to my bed. The items that were set up in anticipation for our daughter’s arrival had been removed because she lived only 33 days. She never came home from the hospital.
Our family and friends tried to soothe our broken hearts, but my heart was destroyed. It had shattered into 5 million pieces and I didn’t know how to mend it. I missed my baby more than words could express. Forever felt an overwhelming amount of time to live without my daughter. I constantly experienced anxiety and struggled with fear, wondering an endless amount of questions:
How will I survive this loss?
Will I always live in this much pain?
Will I smile, laugh or feel joy again?
Is life worth living without my daughter?
I missed the way life used to feel. I missed the old me, the one who didn’t know the trauma of her baby dying. I missed my husband and the excitement that we had for our future. I worried about how future children might be affected never knowing the baby who came before them. I felt overwhelmed at how to include my extended family into our life. I felt like a shell of the person I was before.
First and foremost, I needed to take care of my heart. I quickly learned that I could not tend to anyone else’s needs if I was not taken care of. I had so much internal angst that lived inside my head for a long time. Slowly, I started seeing glimpses of life again. I started to see me as a priority and found ways to put one foot in front of the other.
My husband and I, although we were in this together, felt like we lived in two separate universes. We handled our grief so differently and I often wondered what he was thinking and feeling.
And, my extended family felt the wrath of this loss. Not only did they feel my pain, but they lost their cousin, their niece, their grand-daughter. A little person was missing at every family gathering and we felt her loss over and over again during holidays and celebrations. My family would have done anything to comfort us, but they were experiencing their own grief. I could not let them in.
Now having living children, although they were born after our loss, they still have lots of questions about their sister. They wonder who she was and why she’s not here anymore. They love her and want to celebrate her with us. Over the years I have had to be creative and conscious of their experience as they try to navigate this subject that is hard for even adults to comprehend. Sometimes their questions leave me in tears too, but I am still expected to parent them through this.
I know you don’t want to be here and I wish you weren’t, but please let me help guide you through. I want to offer hope to you, that it won’t always feel like this. Unfortunately, time is not the healer of all wounds. Time alone will not heal this. You must choose to take the first step.
I know the severe pain, loneliness and isolation from missing your baby. I understand the worry, fear and anxiety that follows you. In the 6 years since our daughter died, I have immersed myself in grief recovery and healing my broken heart. My passion is helping families like mine to find peace in their hearts. Let me show you what I have learned.
I want to share 100+ simple ways to connect with your heart, how to connect with your husband, your living children and your extended family. If somebody would have offered me a way through this, even just to hold my hand I would have been so grateful! I want to do that for you. I am here, holding your hand and offering you more than 100 ways to live in this present moment and to put one foot in front of the other.
In this ebook I share:
I am personally vetting every item listed, either by my own experience or that of other loss moms. Now I can’t guarantee EVERY item will be your thing, but I can guarantee that you will find SOMETHING comforting here. You won’t know until you try.
I know life feels overwhelming. Don’t walk this path alone. Let me hold your hand. Nurture your relationships, especially the one with yourself. Tend to your heart. Take care of you. Choose healing. Find peace. Experience love and joy again.
It will not always feel like this. I promise.
The hall was full of people sitting in chairs facing the stage. The leaders sat on stage at a table looking over the crowd. They held papers in their hand, they were reading names and stories and matching families together.
A man held his paper and read the description, "There is this baby, she is amazing. You will love her more than anything in the world. She will change your life. You cannot keep her, but her love will sustain you for a lifetime. And it will be worth it."
I felt my heart jump out of my chest as I jumped out my seat to proclaim, "I'll take her! I will take her!"
And so went the story of our beginning. I was her mama, she was my girl.
That dream plays over and over like a record in my mind. I don't even know where it stems from. I don't remember dreaming it, only knowing it- as if it were any other memory in my mind. I no longer question this thought, I only love that perhaps in some other dimension this is how I was given the most beautiful girl in the world.
I chose her. She chose me. Whatever your beliefs, it does not matter. Whatever gives you peace in the most dire moments of your life is private, personal, and without need for judgement or confirmation.
To wake each year on August 9th (and the days leading before and after) are more than bittersweet, they are heartbreaking, soul-crushing. Remembering the time that I didn't know that my life would irreversibly change, the innocence that was so quickly lost, and the short time I had to parent my daughter, rips my heart out.
Celebrating the birthday of your child who has died mimics the weight of an elephant upon one's chest not allowing breath to escape.
It is not fair for you to always see the strength that remains and the good that is done in honor of Ruthie Lou. All of those things are important. All are valuable. All are true. But it doesn't make it ok, it doesn't mean I am ok. There is also the very real human mama heart that breaks to live without my baby. All the things that I do are the only way I can parent my child-my child who is no longer living. My baby who died.
Every birthday that passes, I celebrate my daughter. I honor her. I remember her. But, I remember her every single day. Just as you think of your babies in the moments that you wake, I also think of mine. Just as you feel excitement and reminisce about the day your child was born and marvel at their growth, I equally cry in pain that I don't have those joyful moments. I miss all the beautiful moments of watching your child grow because she is no longer here.
I would choose her again. I would choose her over and over again. The pain does not negate her life, but it is not easy. It is the single most difficult thing that I endure again and again as we surpass milestones, birthdays and the anniversary of her death. It is a daily choice to heal as I live every day without my girl.
I remember my daughter every morning when I wake. I think of her every night as I close my eyes. I hope to dream of her in my sleep. But that's all I get, the thoughts, the memories, the hopes for a glimpse of her beauty.
So today on what would have been her 6th birthday, I will proceed as I always do. I will wake without Ruthie Lou. I remember the beautiful light that she brought to our life. I mother her brothers with all that I have. I will make meals, clean house, entertain small boys and tonight I will kiss two babies instead of three. And when my day is done and I finally get to close my eyes, I hope to have even a glimpse of the baby that I forever long for.
Every day is a day that I miss her.
Every day is today, the day of her birth.
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.