So here we are, one year later. Spring has arrived. The tulips, daffodils and magnolias are beginning to bloom. Lent has come and gone and we are Easter people once again. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed since the day our baby girl Molly Marie was born and died. Bob and I were reflecting on the past year the other night during dinner and he said that sometimes it seems like Molly’s birthday was so long ago and other times he remembers it like it was yesterday. I know there are so many powerful experiences in our lives that we say that about. It reminds us that life goes on, however difficult and painful it may be, especially for those grieving over the loved ones we have lost.
When I reflect on the past year so much of it is surreal to me. We had months to prepare for Molly Marie’s birth and now we have had a year to begin to process her life and death. At various points on our journey with Molly, before she was born and after she went to Heaven, I was doing all I could just to get by. I was living one day and often one hour at a time. I have grieved a lot over the past twelve months. Sharing some of my feelings and emotions through my writing here has certainly helped me to heal. Though in many ways I still don’t know that I have fully digested what happened with our daughter and the impact it has made in our and many others lives. I understand that coming to terms with the loss of a child, our baby girl, takes time. I don’t think I will ever get over Molly’s death, however I do believe that with each passing day, month and year the pain will soften and I will continue to learn how to live with out her.
Ten days ago a woman named Angie who also sadly lost a baby girl, Audrey Caroline, in April of last year wrote a memorial post about her daughter on the first anniversary of her birth and death. I first heard about Angie a few weeks before Molly’s birthday and just days before Audrey’s. Audrey also had been diagnosed with a condition incompatible with life and ultimately lived for a about two hours before she went to Heaven. Angie shared about that bittersweet day in her and her family’s life on her inspiring blog Bring the Rain that I have followed ever since and I know that many of you have too. Though I felt so sad for Angie and her family when I read about their journey with Audrey, it was also so helpful for me to be able to read about her insight and perspective since she went through a very similar experience right before we did. I recall last year Angie sharing how she felt such peace after Audrey died, believing that she was healed and at peace with God in Heaven. That helped me so much to prepare for April 17, the day we knew that we would have to give our baby girl back to God as well.
I was curious what Angie would say about Audrey’s birthday one year later on April 7 of this year. What touched me most about Angie’s post was when she talked about how she chooses to think about Audrey’s birthday. She said that instead of looking at April 7, 2008 only as the day Audrey DIED, she shared that she would rather remember it as much or more as the day that her baby girl LIVED. I found that way of framing their experience with their daughter to be very profound and on this day I will also do my best to focus more on Molly’s life, than on her death.
Likewise, one of the things that has helped me to make some sense of our journey with Molly and to believe that her short life and our loss was not in vain, is the connections I and others have been able to make since Molly’s birthday. Just as Angie was able to help me prepare, cope and heal by sharing so openly and candidly on her blog, I have been humbled by opportunities to help others who were preparing for, coping with and/or healing from losing a loved one, especially their child(ren).
A little over six months after Molly was born and died we got a private message on her CarePage from a family who had just given birth to a baby girl who had severe fetal hydrops and died soon after she was born. The baby’s mother shared with me that they had found Molly’s CarePage prior to their daughter’s birth. She told me that they knew their baby girl would be very swollen when she was born, but didn’t fully understand what that could look like. She said that she was very grateful that we had shared pictures of what our beautiful baby girl had looked like when she was born on her CarePage, because seeing those pictures had helped them to prepare for what their daughter would look like. She told me that their baby girl looked a lot like Molly and knowing that would likely be the case ahead of time, allowed them to have less fear as they prepared for that day. She also shared that reading my writing since Molly’s birth had also given her hope for her healing process, understanding that the journey wouldn’t be easy, but that she could and would be able to survive this tragedy in her life.
As I mentioned in my Remembering Molly (10 months) milestone post, I had been looking at a website, that I came across for the first time awhile ago, about Perinatal Hospices. The website was created and is maintained by the authors of two books that I have read and that helped me to cope and to heal before and after Molly was born: Waiting for Gabriel and Empty Cradle, Broken Heart. While visiting their site I was reminded that the two authors are writing a new book together called A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy with a Terminal Diagnosis. I shared that Dr. Davis and Ms. Kubelbeck invite parents who chose to continue our pregnancies after receiving a prenatal diagnosis of something expected to be life-limiting, to share our stories for this book.
I spent a lot of time in February of this year working on my answers to their questionnaire, which they asked parents like us to fill out and then submit for possible use in their A Gift of Time. I found sharing about our journey with Molly to be very draining emotionally, but also therapeutic to reflect on all we have been through. I have already shared with some of you what my favorite of all of their questions was and my answer, however on this day, Molly’s birthday, I wanted to share it again, as I know for many of you it may be the first time you have read these words.
Question: If you could reach back in time and say something to yourself on the day of the diagnosis, what would you say?
My answer: This really sucks, there is no doubt about that. I am so sorry that this is happening to your baby girl, to you and your family. You will get through this. It will be the hardest thing you have ever done, but you can and you will survive. You will have a lot of support from your family and friends. The doctors, nurses and lay people who will treat you and your baby during your pregnancy and beyond may not give you all the answers you are looking for along the way, but they will show you wonderful care and compassion. You and Bob will make the best decisions you can along the way with the information you have at the time. There is no right or wrong answer to most of the questions you will be faced with. Do your research and then follow your head and your heart, hopefully most of the time they will lead you in the same direction.
Try to be patient with everyone you come into contact with on your journey with your baby girl. Many people will not know what to say or how to treat you, but most of them will have the best of intentions. Please keep that in mind, as this journey will not be easy for your loved ones either. There will be people in your life that will show great care and concern for you and your family. Some of them may surprise you, in a good way, and it will deepen and strengthen your relationships. There will also be people in your life that unfortunately will disappoint you. These people won’t understand what you are going through and won’t make enough of an effort to try to learn how they can help and be there to truly support you.
Your baby girl is going to teach you, your loved ones and even strangers so much about life and love. Your daughter, though her heart is broken, and you may feel like yours is too right now, is going to touch so many hearts. She is going to bring people together and inspire them to communicate, believe, hope and pray. You, Bob and Sean will grow, mature and become more compassionate people from being Molly’s parents and big brother. Through your experience with your daughter you will in turn be able to help others in the future who have lost a baby or loved ones of any age. Share about your experience openly with those who are willing to listen, support and encourage you. In turn you will learn from them and they will learn from you and you will all be able to help others who you know or meet who are faced with personal tragedies.
Don’t ever give up. Don’t lose hope. Always believe in yourself, in your loved ones and in God’s love for you all. This journey may not end they way you hope and pray that it will, with Molly getting to be a part of your family here on earth, but that doesn’t mean that her life will be without purpose or reason. You are an incredible mother, wife, daughter, friend and human being. Hang in there and try to live one day, and even one hour if you need to, at a time. Try to find joy in your journey and not to focus so much on your destination. I am proud of you!
Recently Bob told me about a new song by Rascal Flatts called “Here Comes Goodbye.” He shared that he had seen the video and that it was really powerful, though he said he had to watch it a few times to fully make sense of it. Earlier this week, on Tuesday evening, after we had put Sean down for the night, Bob and I were watching television. We had just finished the “Dancing with the Stars Results Show” during which Rascal Flatts had performed “Here Comes Goodbye” live, while two of the professional dancers danced a beautiful routine that they had choreographed to the lyrics. The dancers’ interpretation of the song seemed to be the more obvious one in which the singer appears to be reflecting on the break up of a relationship he had with a woman he really cared about. However, Bob said that we should find and watch the video interpretation, as it takes a very different view on the words of the song, in a way that we can really appreciate and relate to. I don’t want to give away the story in the video, as I think part of what makes it so moving is watching it and figuring it out for yourself. So here is the video on YouTube if you want to check it out. Make sure you have at least one tissue, if not a box of them, near by before you begin.
Thank you again to all of you who have walked with us on our journey with Molly, no matter how long you have been a part of our lives. Your support, encouragement, kind words, thoughts and prayers mean so much and we, especially I, will be forever grateful. We look forward to celebrating Molly’s birthday and honoring her memory with those of you that will be able to join us on Sunday. We know that those of you who will not be joining us this weekend, will be with us in spirit and that means a lot to us. May God continue to bless you and your loved ones.
Happy Birthday Molly Marie!
We love you and miss you so much! Please know that a day never goes by when your Mommy doesn’t think about you and how you have touched my life and so many others. I am glad that you are at peace and healed in Heaven, though I still wish that you could have stayed with us here on earth.
I wonder who you would be today? What milestones you would have reached? Would you be crawling? Walking? Babbling? How many teeth would you have? Would you be a good sleeper? What would your favorite foods be? Would you have a favorite stuffed animal like your big brother did at your age? Who would your first friends be? What/who might you look like now? Daddy? Mommy? Sean? Probably some perfect combination of all of us.
Would you have made a mess of yourself today, after we sang to you, when we brought you your first birthday cake? What would your laugh sound like? How about your cry? Though I did see you move one time after you were born, which meant so much to me, I never got to hear your voice.
I can imagine how much you would have loved playing with your big brother and all the things Sean could have taught you. Instead you have taught Sean, and all of us, so much about love and life. I know you would have been, and will always be, Daddy’s little girl. I like to think that you would have been so excited to meet your new baby sister later this year. However, I also believe that you have already met her soul in Heaven and helped to send her to our family here on earth.
Please continue to watch over our family, my sweet Molly-girl. We believe that we will be with you together again someday in Heaven. We will never forget you, Molly Marie, our first daughter, our second child and forever our baby girl.
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Molly, happy birthday to you!
I have you in my heart. ~ Philippians 1:7