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.
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.