I didn’t grow up in a faith-based family. I was saved at thirteen years old in a friend’s kitchen, her mom holding my hands and saying the prayer with me. It was the first time I felt God move in a way I couldn’t deny. Since that moment, I have prayed and wished that my mom believed. I’ve prayed for my sisters and parents more than anyone, but only God knows if they’ll ever have a relationship...
When we lost our second child at thirteen weeks gestation in June 2016, my mom was quick to urge me to get over it. Everyone, it seemed, just wanted me to “be happy again,” which is both essentially the same thing and really offensive when you are doing the best you can to navigate the storm that is life immediately after loss.
And when my mom told me that my baby “didn’t count because we didn’t make it to fourteen weeks, and everyone knows you’re safe after fourteen weeks” it felt like a slap to my face. My sister’s twin pregnancy - conceived the same month as another early loss for me - was well into the second trimester at this point, making it valid, while my experience was just something to be forgotten. When I got home, we didn’t really talk for months. I could not accept that we were only one week away from validation from someone so important to me. It felt like my mom was rejecting her granddaughter because it was easier not to talk about it.
I was scared to make too much a fuss over her New Year’s Eve due date so my husband and I memorialized it by crying in each other’s arms. It got easier to heal once we had passed that marker; as if my body could finally accept that she would not be coming home with us. Time moved on, and sometimes it felt as if it moved on without me. We passed out a dozen roses in her memory - one for every month without her - on the first and second anniversary of her passing. Our aim, to bring joy to those we prayed for and gave them to, because we know she would have been such a bright and joyful child.
To my surprise, my mom had something kind to say on my Facebook post about the second anniversary of our loss. I expected, if anything, to hear that we shouldn’t harp on it, should let it go, or something of that nature. I was very thankful for her kind words.
Yesterday, on a mild day, thousands of miles away from where I live, my parents sent up a paper lantern in memory of our girl. And when she when she sent me the video tears of joy and acceptance streamed down my face. To think that dozens of people in the area, celebrating the 4th (a day early because they have real fireworks out there) would see the lantern, warmed my heart. It was like that last piece of hurt, of feeling like my child didn’t belong in my family and therefore I didn’t belong and didn’t want to belong was healed. She told me she would have done it on the day of the anniversary, a little less than two weeks ago, but it was too windy, meaning she had really thought of her that day too.
And so, to my mom as her daughter I say, thank you. Thank you so much for acknowledging our girl. Now, as a mother speaking to my mother, I want you to know that we don’t remember her to hurt ourselves. Memorializing the baby that we lost doesn’t hurt us. Saying her name or her nickname doesn’t hurt us. Pretending she was never here, pretending that losing her didn’t change me, my marriage, who I am as a daughter and mother hurts me. She was here. She will always matter to me, to us. I don’t have to try to remember or count the years, my heart will always know how old she could have been, had she been born when she should have. There is sin in this world, so there is death, but there is also so much hope and we hold firm to God’s promises.
And so it is again the 4th of July. Two years ago I sat on the ground and held my son and cried while watching the sparks fly up from our sparklers, wishing our girl was still with us. Last year I was pregnant with a brand new baby, scared and anxious and praying daily that we could bring this one home. Tonight, I will hold that little girl, my youngest daughter and the littlest sister and probably cry tears of joy, with a thankful heart for how far we've come.
If you are a loss parent, I am so sorry. I know all too well that holidays can be a very difficult time, and today I hope you give yourself grace to be exactly where you are in your journey towards healing. It may mean forgoing family BBQs, fireworks displays or maybe lighting off a series just for that loved on lost. For those who might be friends or family members with those who have experienced a loss, please recognize their children gone too soon. I am often without adequate words to speak when someone besides my husband and myself recognizes all of our children, those here and those waiting for us in Heaven.
May God bless you greatly,