This Thursday, October, 20th at 8:35am it will be 5 years since our beloved daughter, Gracie was born. The old saying is, "Time heals all wounds," right? Well maybe.....I can say there isn't a day that goes by where she isn't in my thoughts. I don't cry like I used to, but my heart still has the same palpable hole in it. In fact I hadn't cried in a very long time (honestly cannot remember)...until last evening. It has been a chaotic farm year to say the least around here and I had just completed a vendor show Saturday afternoon and was driving home. For whatever reason, the gravity of everything hit me all at once. I found myself sobbing and driving which is not the best combination of course. Five years....how in the world has five years passed since we last held our daughter???? A lot has obviously happened in the last five years, mainly her twin sisters arriving 3 1/2 years ago, which has been life altering to say the least. No matter how insane our lives become, my mind finds time to drift back to our first born. My eyes find her pictures on the wall and mantle. My eyes find the keepsakes scattered throughout the house. In our room we have a beautiful canvas with her hand and foot prints on it with the bible verse,: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have a beautiful framed piece of art a friend made of her toes with butterflies around it that hangs above my husband's desk. There are memories that surround me everywhere....even the car. Jeff's sister had a vinyl decal made for the side of the car in memory our daughter. I don't get in our car too often without looking at it as well. I do many things to keep Gracie's memory alive for many reasons....I don't want her to become a distant memory to people around me, which is my biggest fear. I continue to do my talks at two local colleges about our experience in having our daughter and I also continue to do our blanket and hat project for the NICU at St. Alexius hospital. These two projects keep Gracie's memory front and center and that as a mom is all I can do for her. She will always be my first born and my first experience at being a mom. It wasn't your typical "mom" experience by any means but it was a very significant and special mothering experience. She change my husband and I in ways that no other child would have ever changed us. We grieve her every day...in our own way. Some days are more significant than others....like yesterday was for me. Jeff came in shortly after my "sob fest" and looked at me and asked if I had been crying and I replied, "yes," He then said, "about Gracie?" I replied, "yes." He was silent....this is how he responds typically. We grieve very differently and I've grown to accept that completely. He said to me, "Five years....wow." Now, my husband is a man of few words, so these words are quite profound because for all that I typed, he summed up into one very short sentence. To top things off, our 7 year wedding anniversary is this week. Since Gracie's birth/death it has changed our anniversary as the days are 3 days apart. We've gone out to eat and "celebrated" our marriage but it's not the same. I think we both travel back to 2011 and what we were doing leading up to Gracie's birthday. I knew there would be certain "milestone" years that would be difficult and this is one of them. Gracie should be in the very first preschool class in McClusky. I helped a friend with getting things started for a preschool in town and so it is extra bittersweet as I'm so very excited they have their first class, but there should be an extra chair in their desk area. I wonder often what her personality would be like since her twin sisters have polar opposite personalities. Would she have more of Anna's personality (God help us all) or be more like Sarah? Would she have brown hair and eyes like her mom, since she looked like me? What would her giggle sound like? Would she have liked Anna or Elsa more? (this is an important debate among toddlers these days) The list could go on and on and one could play the "what if" game over and over and it would get you no where but really crazy after awhile. Most of us infant loss parents adapt and learn to live a "new normal" so we can cope with the world around us. We are forever changed. We lose some friends because they don't get the "new us" and we gain new friends from the baby loss community who tend to get the "new us" because quite frankly they are in the same boat as we are. Most folks think when you have your rainbow baby(s) it should "fix" us and we shouldn't hurt anymore. While they do help us learn to live again, by no means can anyone or anything fill the void of a lost child. Quite frankly if you haven't gone through this loss it is hard to comprehend and that is ok....we do not wish this pain on anyone.
Every year that passes, the surreal feeling of the situation does not lessen. There are some years or milestones that are more profound than others and it seems that year five has brought a whole new set of emotions with it. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly is so profound about this year but I think it's because she should be in preschool and writing her name and learning all sorts of wonderful things. Her art work should join her sisters on our fridge and it's not. There is just so much that hit me last evening when I finally broke down and sobbed my heart out. So much emptiness and so much hurt and ache.....just a vast space in my heart that is so unbearable. This year will be the first time Gracie's birthday falls on one of my work days which is very difficult....maybe in a way it won't be a bad thing as I will be busy with the clinic coming to see many of my residents. I guess we will see in a few days how it all goes.
To commemorate Gracie's 5th year I encourage you all to remember her and our family in your thoughts and prayers that day. Do something special with your family/children and be grateful for the life you have been given with them. We are not guaranteed any amount of time with our children. We are not guaranteed to see them grow up, graduated school, get married, etc. Those are all privileges that many take for granted, so please take a moment to acknowledge the blessings you have been given in your lives. Five years have flown by way to quickly for us, but as they say, the world doesn't stop for us. We must keep going and keep living for those we have left in our lives.