Three years......hmmmmm.....how can that possibly be? Why is the third year so difficult? All questions that most people don't have to think about (thankfully) except for a group of very tight knit friends that all faced their babies' third birthday's this year. These "sisters" of mine are a blessing along this bittersweet journey that God sent my husband and I on three years ago. Our babies all live together in heaven and one day we will see them again but for now, we have to finish our work here on earth. Every single one of my "sisters" have chosen their own way to honor their child...whether it be like my Everlasting Grace project of blankets and hats for the NICU, to foundations to help families that encounter similar situations, to making hats and so forth for parents of children that have been given a fatal diagnosis, to having runs in honor of their little ones to donate to the Duke University research program on anencephaly. All of us "sisters" have had little rainbow babies since our heartbreaking losses 3 years ago as well....we truly share every step in each other's lives.
So why is this year so much more difficult for me....I can't exactly put my finger on it. It may be because I wonder so often what she would look like at this age after watching Anna and Sarah change so much since birth. I wonder a lot what she would be doing and what her personality would be like and so does her daddy. Jeff thinks she would be our brown eyed/brown haired little girl and that she would have my personality....it's his best guess. We obviously won't have a clue until we meet her in heaven one day. Sometimes I think a lot of my struggles this year come from the fact that I don't know how to show Anna and Sarah just how important and precious their sister's life is to us and just how much her presence impacted us all. Most days it's hard for me to wrap my mind around everything that happened over the past three years, so how do I have a child understand that? I know we can show them pictures and videos of her and her time we had with her on earth and do the obvious things.....but for some reason this year nothing seems......enough? I don't even know if those are the correct words to explain how I feel but it's the best I can come up with at the moment. Her birthday is coming up in a few short weeks and I want it to be filled with her family and memories and laughter....I know she would want it that way. This time of the year is always when my mind starts to wander back to those last few weeks I was pregnant and the turmoil that was going on in my head. At this point I was physically and emotionally tired of being pregnant but the immense guilt I felt over wanting to have her was overwhelming....as long as she stayed in me she was ok...once she was born, she was not. That was a horrible feeling I dealt with for a long time. After we lost Gracie, a part of us seemed to die with her. We knew we wanted a family and knew since we were older than the average couple we should start trying and we did. When we got pregnant with the girls, we were obviously excited but of course terrified! Once we found out there were two babies then the fear was even greater that something was going to happen. It was hard to enjoy the pregnancy as we waited for something to happen because surely we wouldn't be able to have not one but two healthy babies right?! As the weeks slipped by, I asked Gracie to keep her sisters safe and prayed that we would get to 24 weeks (as that is "viability" age)...then 30 weeks...then 32 weeks...and 34 weeks....as the weeks went by my mind told me that I better be ready for two babies, but my heart was cautious. I prepared because I knew I had to, but it was hard. I kept thinking...what is some fluke, weird thing happens and we don't end up with these babies....and there was ALL of this STUFF!!! Well 38 weeks came and Anna and Sarah arrived...healthy and full term. Two days later we went home. As we were waiting for our discharge information Jeff kept saying....they better hurry before they don't let us take them. Our minds still didn't believe they were ours....this lasted a long time! In fact, Jeff still says every now and then, "Can you believe they are ours?" Anna and Sarah were certainly hand picked by their sister in heaven and were sent here by her for a very specific reason....to help us live again. They have opened our hearts to that special kind of love we had only felt for their sister, Gracie. Gracie makes me a better mom in so many ways. Anyone that knows me, knows I am not the most patient person....well let me tell you, after losing our first born it changes you in ways you didn't even realize. I have more patience with Anna and Sarah (thank goodness!!!) than I ever would have had if it had not been for their sister. Despite the madness of the first 1 1/2 years of the girls' lives, I managed to take only about a zillion pictures of them and I am thankful for that because frankly...neither of us remember a lot of it! I feel the need to photograph them a lot (as my facebook friends all know!) and share them with our friends and family. I take time to be with them and play with them and frankly...just enjoy them. My house is a mess BUT I have my time with my girls and that is what I find important now. Jeff finds reasons to stop by the house on average 4-5 times a day when working outside and plays with the girls....the girls LIVE for these visits. The world literally stops in it's tracks when he walks through the door. It's all fun and games for those few minutes and the girls need and crave that time during this busy time of the year on the farm. Jeff used to leave in the morning and if I wanted to see him I had to track him down and I might have gotten a few minutes of his time. HA! His girls have made him realize that there are many more things important in the world besides work. Of course while he's gone I video and snap pics of the girls doing new and funny things so he doesn't miss anything. Our time with Gracie made us realize you never know when time is up with the ones you love. So we cherish our moments with our kids...reluctantly I will admit, even at 2am during this wonderful period in their lives where they are competing in who will cut the most teeth at one time (fun game I tell ya!). I realize that in the not too distant future I will be losing sleep at night for a whole different reason and frankly I will take teething over the impending teenage years that will probably cause the rest of their father's hair to fall out and mine to go completely white!
So three years later, the ache in my heart is the same.....the hole left by Gracie leaving us at such an early age is still deep and raw.....the absence of a three year old in the house is ever so noticeable. A mother doesn't ever "get over" losing their child....you eventually learn to live with the pain by default....because frankly the world doesn't stop when yours does. Eventually we dust ourselves off and with the help of our little one's love from heaven we start to walk down life's path again. At some point you walk out of the "fog" you lived in since your baby's diagnosis, and you learn to live again. At first we are like a newborn calf and we are wobbly on our legs...scared to do things because we might fall down, but we keep going because we have to survive in this crazy world. In our case our Gracie gave us Anna and Sarah to help us learn to smile, laugh, and even trust again....trust that happiness is out there yet after having our lives turned upside down. For that we are ever so grateful to Gracie....we feel her presence with us daily and she gives us signs she is with us in our every day lives. That brings me strength in it's own....having our baby girl here to watch over us and be part of our family. Three years later the hurt is still there but Gracie managed to put a band aide over our "boo boo" and helped to make us better.