We were headed south for a two-part trip. The first leg of the trip was to visit our new niece, born one month prior. The second part of the trip, planned very much on purpose, a four day getaway for the two of us a couple hours north to Charleston where we could reconnect and decompress. I had no idea what to expect, meeting Olive's new cousin without Olive was starting out more difficult than I had planned. We didn't cover this in my therapy visits - how would I deal with a crying baby on the plane ride? I couldn't just put on my running shoes and proclaim I was going out for a morning jog, and make my escape when I was feeling overwhelmed - no, this was not part of the plan.
Lucky for me our seats were at the back of the plane, and the baby didn't make a peep - at least not one I could hear. Whew - that was a close one.
The 2 hour drive from the airport to Savannah was a leisurely one. My husband and I chatted and listened to music, but the signs on the drive indicating that we were getting closer and closer to Savannah were reminding me of the moment I had been eager for and dreading all at the same time. This trip was supposed to look much different. It wasn't just going to be Olive's first plane ride or first trip to the ocean, no, this trip was supposed to be much more. This trip would be a test of our parenting ability - could we travel with a baby? Would she sleep on the plane or make a fuss? How do you check a stroller? Do you rent a car seat at the car rental place or bring yours with you? My sister-in-law and I would share stories of newborn struggles over a hot cup of coffee. We'd exchange stories of our new motherhood experiences in between nursing babies and diaper changes.
What was happening? The panic began to set in. Just as I was about to lose it in the car my husband nudged me to look out the window. There, out the driver's side window, I saw the most beautiful rainbow - full of color and radiance. The tears began again, except this time they were tears of relief - God was there, Olive was in my heart and we would survive this trip.
I definitely had moments of doubt and frustration, and there were moments where I needed to take a breath and recompose myself. I couldn't help but get teary-eyed watching my husband rock our niece to sleep, or picturing us sitting on a blanket with Olive under moss-lined trees as we took a break from the hot Savannah sun. Every day there were moments that reminded me that she was not there physically. The volume of the radio in the rental car - kept much higher than would have been appropriate for a small child, driving with the windows rolled down to let in the warm breeze, eating raw oysters and other shellfish (we never could have gone to that nice of a restaurant with a 7 month old, and had we not lost our second baby - raw fish is a no-no when you're pregnant), late night dinners instead of having to call it an early evening because baby (or mama) needed to sleep. The harsh reality hit me every chance it could get - but I would not let it break me.
God continued to give me signs - for as many reminders of what I was missing, there were equal or more reminders that He was with me and she was OK. I cannot begin to tell you how often I saw a butterfly or the word Olive. Whether it was a butterfly on a scarf in a shop window or the Olive Branch A.M.E. church we passed on our way back to the airport - God knew what I needed when I needed it. I felt His love and her memory in those small everyday moments.
While standing in the ocean, still too cold to swim in but warm enough to dip your toes in, I contemplated whether Olive would have enjoyed the feel of the sand between her toes or let out a cry at the shock of the temperature on her little piggies. Just as I started to feel the emotion well up in my throat, the sun peeked through the clouds. I stood there with my eyes closed, listening to the waves roll back and forth over my ankles and allowed God to embrace me with the heat of the sunshine.