40 weeks is how long women are told they "should" expect to be pregnant for. Olive was born at 39 weeks 6 days, one day shy of her due date.
40 weeks is also how many weeks it's been since that day. While I do realize that you are technically only pregnant for 38 weeks, if you've carried full term, the point I'm getting at is that we've officially grieved her longer than we had her.
That seems so strange to me. Many people would only count the 36 hours she was on this earth, but I gladly and proudly boast that my child was alive and thriving inside of me well before she came earthside. When I think about these 40 weeks I recognize that a lot has changed.
Occasionally I'll go back and read earlier posts on this blog - posts that are filled with sorrow, some that are filled with hope and a couple with a good balance of both. But mainly sorrow. and pain. and hurt.
I have had a number of people tell me that they have enjoyed following our story from the beginning because they've had an opportunity to watch me grow. I have grown. As a parent you take on the responsibility of teaching your children lessons in life and, hopefully, have an opportunity to watch them grow into remarkable adults. I don't have that option, and in our situation, the exact opposite happened. I planned and prepared for what kind of a parent I would be to Olive - I never realized the full potential of what my daughter was going to end up teaching me in the long run.
Often times I catch myself thinking of the person I was before Olive. The people and things that were important to me - where I spent my time and energy. Then my thoughts will turn to the people I have met, the opportunities I've had and the love that has been shown since Olive's death. While I would do anything to cradle that sweet baby in my arms once more, I am also at a place of peace and acceptance for where this road has taken us. I know that might garner some questions. Obviously there is no way to trade in all of the people and moments since her death, so I won't try to put it into words - the only way I can describe it is, "I'm ok" - actually I'm better than OK.
Please don't misunderstand me - I still hurt, I still cry and I still long for the moments I've missed out on - it's not a fair trade no matter how you look at it. But there have been some wonderful blessings that have come from not only her life, but her death.
My marriage is stronger than ever. I always knew I loved my husband - but there is something heartbreakingly beautiful about experiencing tragedy with someone. In our case, I believe we have walked away with a better understanding of each other. We have a new level of respect for our thoughts, feelings and ways we express ourselves. Even after enduring the death of a child, I'm certain we will experience more that will shake us - but we've learned that it will not break us.
I have a greater appreciation for this life. I should start out by saying that I do not, in any way shape or form, go through my day blissfully loving every thing about this life. No - I still have bad days, people still irritate the crap out of me and I have low patience (some things will never change), but I appreciate more. It's more than just admiring a beautiful sunset or seeing spring come to life after a long, harsh winter. It's truly finding beauty in moments and feelings, even tragedy. The "circle of life" has become much more apparent to me and while I feel sadness over life lost too soon, joy over new life and hope for everything in between - there is a peace that comes with accepting God's will as it falls into place. Things don't shake me as much - I know there is someone greater than me in control - especially over the heavy hard stuff that doesn't make sense. And I truly believe something beautiful can come of everything - if we're open to it.
I have a much greater appreciation for the life to come. I know this is controversial to some, but I have never been so sure of anything that I am that this is not the end. It's true that I've begun a new relationship with the Lord through this walk, many of you have witnessed that first hand through this very blog. In no way am I anywhere near being as close to God as I'd like to be. In no way am I anywhere near understanding Him. I don't pray or spend as much time as I should with Him - and I don't give Him near the credit He deserves. But He loves me anyway.
God and I still have a rocky relationship - and to be honest, I kind of like it that way. I don't want to know Him perfectly, not in this life anyway - but I do want to spend this life searching for Him. I never want to feel too comfortable with Him - that's how I felt before Olive was born. God and I were good - He was giving and I was taking, it was the perfect relationship. And then He took and I had nothing to give - and it's the loneliest and most empty I've ever felt - and while I was angry and confused, a deeper desire to draw near Him took over. I brought my broken hallelujahs to Him and He answered. And someday this selfish, desperate body will be restored to glory - and I will know the joy my daughter now knows.
40 weeks later and I'm still sad, but I'm no longer angry. I'm still grieving, but I'm no longer broken. I'm still confused, but I no longer question. It's not that I don't have moments that knock me to the ground - but I get up more quickly now. I recognize in my pain that the sadness, confusion and anger I was feeling were because I was missing out on her. I wanted her longer so that I could have the experience of raising her and watching her grow. In the end I've had to watch myself grow - and while not the ideal situation for this selfish mama, it has been a beautiful thing.