Today is a gloomy day. Gloomy days are the worst. It's hard enough to get out of bed, but when it's dreary out - it's almost an invitation from the darkness to hide under the covers and stay there.
I finally got myself out of bed this morning around 10:30. I was awake, as I usually am - thinking about where the last 6 weeks have gone and wondering if this is some crazy dream, scratch that, nightmare that I'll soon wake up from. But one scan around the room tells me this is reality - her pictures, the bereavement box we received from the hospital with her belongings, the stuffed monkey my friends made me at Build-a-Bear that weighs exactly 8 lbs 2 oz that I hold at night when I find myself staring at her picture, smelling her blanket and wishing her sweet dreams as I fight back the tears. They are all there, sitting quietly on their shelves, inviting me back to the reality that this is my life now.
I grab my iPad and scroll through my email, Facebook, Instagram - getting a glimpse of what normal looks like for other people. This morning as I was scrolling through Facebook I noticed an event in my newsfeed that looked interesting - a yoga circle hosted by someone that I've been seeing as part of my healing process. When I clicked on the link I noticed it was a yoga circle for moms. Hmpf. The tears started before I could even process it - I want to respond that I'll be there, I am a mom after all-but I don't think that's what they mean. This isn't the first time I've been conflicted - everyone tells me I'm a mom, I believe I'm a mom - but being a mom without an earthly child is such a confusing state to be in. I'm sure it won't be the last event that will leave me feeling like I'm not really part of the "club". I closed my iPad.
As I was sitting on the deck, drinking my coffee, I noticed the sun trying to peak through the clouds. That's how my heart feels on days like today. I'm so sick of being sad and angry and confused - I long for the moments when a little glimmer of happiness shines into my heart. I decided today's post was going to be a happy post (even though it doesn't sound like it's starting out that way).
Today I'm going to tell you about my beautiful daughter, Olive.
Early on in my pregnancy Olive liked to make her presence known. I knew the exact moment she was there. November 9, 2013 I woke up in the middle of the night with some pretty intense cramping. We had been trying for a baby and every month prior had been the same - but that night, instead of waking up thinking something was wrong - I knew we had conceived. I waited, and waited...took pregnancy test after pregnancy test - all negatives. It didn't matter - she let me know she was there and I felt it. On the morning of November 21st I woke up after having the most peaceful dream that I had just delivered a baby - I knew that would be the day. I took a pregnancy test and fell to my knees, thanking God for this gift. Praising Him for choosing us to be her parents, for giving us that opportunity.
At 18 weeks I felt her move for the first time. She was a little stinker, always moving - every doctor appointment we would have, she would scurry away as our midwife would try and find her heartbeat. You would hear swift movements in my belly until we'd finally pick up her heart rate - just long enough to get the info we needed and she'd be on the move again.
Olive was a foodie, like her mom - although not necessarily the type of foodie I had hoped for. Her preferences were Mexican (tacos) and sweets (donuts, milkshakes, ice cream cones, pastries). Girlfriend had a sweet tooth like her daddy (and now, by default, her mommy). I dreamed of the day I'd have a helper in the kitchen with me, someone to lick the beaters and sneak tastes of whatever I was making. While we won't get those moments, I know whenever we celebrate her we'll have some of her favorite foods on hand - after all, everyone needs a good excuse for sweets now and then!
She was a good sleeper - we'd settle into bed and she'd give us a little gymnastics show and then off to sleep we would all fall. My favorite nights were the ones where we'd fall asleep as a family - daddy's hand on my belly, my hand on daddy's - snuggling our little one. She never kept me up at night -which I had secretly hoped would follow her into the real world. The only time she actually woke me up was the morning I started having contractions at 2:30am the day she was born.
Olive was born after 15 hours of labor - a beautiful labor, one where my body and mind were both confident and strong. A labor that I wasn't sure I could do the way I intended, but once I was engulfed in it, was positive I had made the right choice (I will do a post on Olive's birth story, as many of you had initially been interested in it - but that will come at a later time). It was a peaceful labor, even when I was grunting and screaming - my body was doing exactly as it was supposed to - and I was proud of myself, proud of us.
At 5:18pm she came out, all warm and slippery - she was gorgeous. I spent most of my pregnancy wanting to keep her inside - I loved the bond I had formed with her and wasn't ready to share her. But when she came out, and was laying on my chest - with my husband's arms wrapped around us - it was more than my heart could handle. I was in love! In love with her, in love with my husband, in love with our beautiful little family.
It's true that most of the time I spent gazing at her was in a hospital NICU with wires and tubes - but that didn't take away from anything. She was my daughter - the most amazing being I had ever laid eyes on.
Olive had my nose and my husband's ears. At 8lbs. 2 oz. she was much larger than I had anticipated - and much bigger than both mommy and daddy were when we were each born. I love chubby babies - and she had cute little rolls on her arms and legs - chub that created beautiful wrinkles in her feet. Her cheeks, oh my stars, her cheeks were my favorite. They were so kissable - I longed to be able to spend hours kissing them - especially the bottom of her cheek where you can't tell where her cheek ends and neck begins! She had this beautiful little dimple in her chin that I would run my finger over, knowing secretly (or not so secretly) that it must have been the fast food and ice cream I consumed so often in the last months of my pregnancy that led to all those rolls. Either way, she was perfect.
Her skin was perfect, not a flaw on her. She didn't look like a typical newborn to me - everything about her was smooth and soft. She had this fantastic baby mullet - the right amount of fuzz on top with strands a tad bit longer in the back. Sweet little lips and gorgeous dark eyes (that we were only able to see after she was born as they remained closed the whole time she was in the hospital) that you could get lost in.
Olive was a fighter. Yes, I know in the end she lost the earthly fight - but when she came out she wanted nothing more than to breathe - and she certainly tried. While in the ER, the doctor was about to call time of death when another doctor was able to find a weak pulse. She still had life left in her - she had a purpose on this earth and she wasn't going to leave until she was good and ready. Olive held on until mommy could get there, she held on and was able to meet lots of family and friends. She held on longer than I think many of us thought she would - and when she was able to fight no more, she let us know all on her own - very independent, a perfect mix of both mom and dad, no doubt.
She spread love and hope - her little life reached around the globe in a very short amount of time. People stopped what they were doing and spent time with God. Moms and dads hugged their babies tighter because of her. Perspective changed and love filled the hearts of many.
Olive may never learn to tie her shoes, graduate from high school or become a doctor who saves lives - but in her short time she made us very, very proud. She helped bring people together, she showed my husband and I a new kind of unconditional love, and her life and death are helping to strengthen my faith.
I can't brag to you about how her first word was dada, or how she learned to read at age 3 (because she would've, ya know!). I can't brag to you about how she got straight A's or scored the winning goal in a big soccer game - but I can brag about 36 amazing earthly hours and the lifetime of love she's given us.
There is not a moment that I'm not thinking of her, thinking about how my life has changed because of her. While it all seems icky and confusing at times - it's still incredibly beautiful.
And that is what I'm choosing to remember today.