May is my favorite month. In Springtime, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and there are signs everywhere of new life. It is a wonderful time to celebrate new beginnings and make new memories. It is the month we celebrate Mother’s Day, which honors all Mothers, Grandmothers, Stepmothers, Adoptive Mothers, and more.
For me, Mother’s Day is a day that brings up many emotions – the gratefulness of my living children, a reminder of my struggles with infertility, and the stinging heartbreak of knowing that one of my children is not with us. There are so many different types of Mother’s and sadly, some go unrecognized. “Being a Mother is not defined by the number of children that you see, but by those you hold in your heart.” In my heart, I hold 9 children, although you can only see 3. I make a point on this day to recognize all of my friends who are Moms, especially those who hold their babies in their heart.
May 18th marks the 6th birthday of my daughter, Savannah Grace. Although you cannot see her, she is very much present with us. I try not to define her by the grief I feel, but rather by the joy of knowing that she is still very much a part of our lives. Every family photo, every time I look around the dinner table, not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her. And yet, she is with us. She is there – in the warmth of sunsets, the beauty of the tulips, the butterfly that hovers, the chirping of the birds, the song that comes on the radio when I am feeling sad. Yes, Savannah is all around us.
It wasn’t always like this. For a long time, my grief kept me in a very debilitating place where it was hard to see beyond the pain. My daughter’s death, at 40 weeks and 3 days was preventable. I never in a million years thought that in this day and age with as much advanced education and technology that stillbirth still occurred. But it does. It happens to 71 families each day, 26,000 per year in the US. These numbers are shocking and startling. And it happened to me, even though I didn’t fall into any of the “risk categories.”
But if I could share with you one thing about grief after 6 years, it would be that it does get better. The load lightens, and there comes a day where you cry less, hurt less, and begin to find joy again. I can’t tell you when exactly it happens, but it does. I spent years being angry at what happened. I was angry at everyone – at my doctor, at the hospital, at my friends who had babies, at strangers. It was debilitating and hurt me in so many ways. I suffered 4 miscarriages during this time. Loss upon loss is overwhelming. But there came a day when I had to make a choice. I had to decide if I was going to continue to let this anger eat me up and destroy my relationships or I was going to find a way to find beauty within the tragedy. I think that turning point came from finding The Star Legacy Foundation.
Find beauty within the tragedy – how can you honor the life of your baby and make good come out of sadness? Can you join a non-profit in your community, volunteer at your foodbank, share your story at a support group, or something else? Building a garden or plant flowers, participate in a Walk or 5k, make a donation in your baby’s name, or come up with your own random act of kindness.
Another big piece of the puzzle for me was forgiveness. To forgive someone who doesn’t take responsibility or even face you after inadvertently causing your child to die can be a real challenge and may seem impossible for most. But it was a choice. It took me nearly 3 years to get to that point. Forgiveness isn’t about the person who harmed you or your baby; rather, it is something that only you can allow into your heart. You can choose to forgive when you are ready. It doesn’t negate what happened or fix it or bring back your baby. It is about releasing the ropes that tightly bound your heart in anger and keep you from finding peace. And it’s OK if you aren’t there yet. But I hope you will be one day.
Today, I am grateful for my daughter Savannah – not for her death but for her life. I was given 40 weeks and 3 days with my precious daughter and although I would have given anything to have more time, there was a different plan. Savannah has changed me – she has made me a better wife and mother, a better friend, and a more productive member of my community. She has made me more compassionate and understanding. She has taught me the gift of life, the preciousness of a day, of an hour. Our time together was brief, but it was an amazing blessing. While I spent many years wishing it had been me and not her, I have come to accept that there is just more work for me to do.
What will you do with your gift of time? How can you make a difference in someone else’s life? As Mother’s Day is upon us, can you find your own beauty within the tragedy? Losing a child is never easy – you can never prepare for it. But you can heal and you can move forward, never forgetting your baby, but honoring him or her along your journey.
On this Mother’s Day, I honor all of the Mothers, Grandmothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, friends, neighbors, co-workers – all of those who are missing a member of their circle. But there is joy in suffering, there is more we can do to make a difference, there is more we can do to prevent stillbirth and promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Think of your friends or family members that might be pregnant – will you share the information about healthy pregnancies and stillbirth prevention found on the website? You might just save a baby. And if each of us did this, we would be honoring those babies we couldn’t save.