Sunday, November 5, 2017

What Two Looked Like for You

Dear Lydie,

Last November, we celebrated your birthday with a hike.  We climbed up rocky stairs, Josie on Dad’s back, and Ben clutching my hand or Oma’s hand, we weaved our way to waterfalls and caves, and we felt you with us.  I captured a photo of light streaming on Ben, as he peered out over a canyon, and we felt you with us.  At 12:14 pm, Dad and I said out loud, “I love you, Lydie,” as we often do.  Later, back at home, we decorated cookies with your name and decorated our countertops with beautiful flowers that remind us of you.  Dad and Ben went out in search of balloons, a bright pink “two” in the middle of a turquoise and yellow one.  Your colors.  We sent them to you in the sky, we watched them disappear and hoped they found their way to you.  I found some quiet time, and I held tufts of your dark hair in my hands.  I smelled it.  I wondered, like I so often do, whether it would have stayed that dark or whether it would have changed color.  After dinner, we gathered as a family, opened your birthday presents and cards from so many who think of you not just in November but every day.  We sang you happy birthday, ate your cookies, and we missed you.  At Thanksgiving, Aunt Laura decorated the table with leaf name cards at seats.  Your name card sat in the center of the table, with a candle on top.  I cried, both out of gratitude that you were included and of course, out of grief, that your namecard held a candle instead of a booster seat.  I missed you.  Could you feel our love?

In December, Ben held Josie’s hand when she cried on Santa’s knee.  I thought about your space, there in between them.  Your Christmas tree lit up our family room, and your brother and sister played with ornaments bearing your name, picked out just for you.  Ornaments of angels and stars and hearts. A “baby’s first Christmas” Oma Jo bought before you died.  An ornament reading, “Lydia, may your star shine down from heaven.”  An ornament that Leigh, the videographer who videotaped your memorial, was given in her childhood and took off her own tree to put on yours.  A bird holding the word “peace” that I bought you last year.  A pink heart Dad bought you, with a matching green one for your sister.  So much love on one little tree.  Our big Christmas tree was decorated with a new ornament from a new friend, holding your name between your siblings. How special that friend is, how rare it is for me to find friends who understand without explanation.  On Christmas Eve, your brother and sister wore matching plaid, and I missed you.  You were supposed to be my Christmas baby, due a week before Christmas. We hung your stocking on the mantle.  On Christmas morning, it was empty, and we missed you.  I’m often not sure it’s possible to miss you more than I always do, but Christmas morning makes me feel like that is possible afterall.  We opened presents and Aunt Laura gave you a book called “Forever.”  When the whole family gathered around the Christmas table, we lit your candle, as we do every evening, and Pop-Pop was the first and the loudest to say “I love you, Lydie.” Could you feel our love?

In January, we visited an indoor water park.  Ben zipped off with AJ, climbing to the top of a huge water slide, zipping down, and then running in circles to do it all again. Jos had just started walking, and yet she climbed the stairs again and again and again, never tiring of the slide.  We took turns catching her, laughing at her glee. I wondered which part would be your favorite, what you would do again and again and again.  Later that month, I interviewed with the national board of the Star Legacy Foundation and founded our very own Ohio Chapter.  I vowed to continue my advocacy work about stillbirth awareness and research and to make a difference for other families.  I do this work because I miss you so damn much and I shouldn’t have to.  Could you feel our love?

In February, I skied with Ben while Dad stayed with Josie in the lodge.  Two would be the perfect age to start skiing, and I imagined you out there, on the bunny slope. How you’d be in the bunny bump, the cutest little ski boots on your feet.  We'd be struggling on the magic carpet together, since you wouldn't be ready for the chair lift yet.  I missed you.  The days were long and dark and I missed you. I watched your brother and sister play together and I missed you.  I watched them fight with each other and I missed you.  I wondered what your laugh would sound like and I missed you.  I woke up, hugged your blanket for a moment, said out loud, "Love you, Lydie." Could you feel our love?   

In March, flowers started peeking through in your new garden.  I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about how your presence has infiltrated our new home.  I had been worried you wouldn’t come with us when we moved. A friend of mine had told me, "A love like this knows no bounds," and she was right. You did come with us, and I feel you here.  Your portrait arrived in my inbox and I stared at the computer screen, tears flowing down my face – the sketch of this beautiful baby girl with a full head of dark hair and long fingers, wrapped in her baby blanket her mother spent eight months making.  First I saw Josie but then I saw you.  (Others found Benjamin similarities.  Isn't it amazing to know you looked like both your brother and your sister?)  I framed your sketch, Dad hung it proudly in our hallway, and your little sister pointed to it, saying “baby.”  I responded, “That’s Lydie.  That’s your sister, Lydie.”   Could you feel our love?

In April, your big brother turned four.  I hung the birthday banner and underneath, we took family photos.  When I asked Ben to put his arm around his sister, he hugged the Molly Bear with your name on it, and laughed, “I thought you meant Lydie, not Josie!”  Later that month we decorated Easter eggs with your name.  In there somewhere, I got another email from a family thanking me for the Cuddle Cot donation.  Telling me about how they got time with their children, time we didn’t get together, because of you.  Your brother started asking why he didn’t get to hold you, and my mama heart hurt.  Could you feel our love?

In May, I was invited to speak at a Bereaved Mother’s Day event. I told them all about you, how I couldn’t wait to meet the girl who would change my life forever.  I told them, through my tears, how I thought your story was over when I left the hospital.  But I’m learning that your story is just beginning. Mother’s Day came around again, and I didn’t get to hold you. I spent the day in Minnesota with Reese’s mom and we missed our daughters out loud. I talked about you with my closest friend, who you brought to me.  Later that same month, I spoke to nurses and chaplains and social workers and doulas in a conference I organized.  I talked to them about how to take care of families whose babies died.  I told them how I believe your death was preventable, if only I had had different prenatal care. I hoped I was making you proud of me. In the parent panel, your dad spoke of you with a tremoring voice, bursting with pride.  Later we road-tripped to the cottage for our inaugural summer weekend and I felt you in the wind in my hair, the sand on my feet, the waves crashing.  We let your brother and your cousin Lane stay up late and they grabbed sticks and wrote your name in the sand under the setting sun, just as I always do. I always feel you so strongly there.  Could you feel our love?

In June, I finished work for a while.  I settled into my routine of time off with your brother and sister.  The summer routine of slower breakfasts, no rushing, mornings of playgrounds and the library and the grocery store and afternoons almost always at the pool.  I wished I could spend this time with you. I thought about those big flipper feet of yours and knew you’d be a good swimmer, just like Ben and Jos.  We road-tripped to Indiana, watched Meg and Andy get married, marveled that they were thoughtful enough to include you on the seating chart. At home, Jos started saying “Love you Lydie" on her own when we lit your candle. We visited the cottage again, had donuts at your tree.  We celebrated my birthday and I missed you. Could you feel our love?

In July, we slept in the hospital for three full nights with your little sister.  She was a trooper, and Dad and I couldn’t leave her side.  I thought of you, how I wished you were ever given a fighting chance.  It was so hard to hand her over to a doctor to operate on her and turn to walk the other direction to the waiting room.  But that’s far from the hardest time I’ve been forced to turn and walk away from my child.  You’ve given me perspective, my dear.  You’ve taught me how to be tough and how to be brave.  I used that toughness and braveness a few days later when your dad had a biopsy to determine if he had cancer.  I clutched his faded Lydie heart that he carries in his pocket while he was in surgery.  I thought of you and I hoped, hoped, hoped we’d fall on the good side of statistics this time. And somehow, this time, we did.  Once we got those two surgeries over with, we escaped twice more to the cottage.  This time at your tree, Josie wiped my eyes as I cried.  I wondered how much she understands about you. We spent a week at the cottage, building sand castles and boogey boarding and running down sand dunes and building campfires and playing baseball and finding sea glass and jumping off the Mat and kayaking and eating bridge fries and missing you.  Could you feel our love?

In August, your big brother and little sister started a new school.  I worried no one would know you there. So I told them all about you, about our middle child.  One morning, still wearing only a towel after my shower, I walked to an eastern window, wondering what the sky looked like.  It was bright pink.  “Good morning, Lydie,” I said outloud.  Your wind chimes, the ones from Kelly, that read “Hear the wind and know I am near” sounded in reply, and your skeptic mama felt you.  Your sister started wearing shoes I bought for you, adorable Keens, and that made me both happy and sad.  Happy those shoes will be used.  Sad that those hand-me-downs aren’t discolored, with the Velcro full of fuzz and the bottoms all scuffed up. They are the final brand new hand-me-down, and that too, makes me happy and sad all at once. The last item that was meant to be for you that is instead for your rainbow sister.  Jos loves those shoes, dancing around so proud of them, which I laughingly called “the new shoe dance." On hot days, Ben and Jos watered your garden, carrying cans of water from the rain barrel. Could you feel our love?

In September, I walked into your sister’s room, wearing last year’s t-shirt and Jos announced proudly, “Lydie’s Loop!”  She knows you.  We celebrated Oma and Pop-Pop’s anniversary at the cottage, posing with the rock that is inscribed with your name.  We missed you.  The whole family gathered at the beach and sent lanterns over the lake, to you.  You painted us a beautiful sky, and we missed you.  Back at home, we picked apples, throwing them down after only a few bites to grab a new one.  You’ve been to that orchard with us, soon before you were born, and in the years that followed, we’ve seen you in the sun that forms a star in our photos.  I pictured you running through the orchard, giggling with your hair flying behind you. Would it still be dark, or would it have lightened in the summer sun? Could you feel our love?

In October, my months and months of hard work culminated in the second annual Lydie’s Loop.  Hundreds of people wore your name in pink, with your footprints in yellow on their turquoise shirts.  We spoke about you, and read the names of fifty other much-loved, much-missed babies.  We donated thousands of dollars to research so other families don’t have to live without their children the way we have to live without you.  I spoke to newspaper reporters about Lydie’s Loop and about you.  How perfect your little body was, your dark hair and flipper feet, reading to you and kissing you again and again, until I had to kiss you that final time.  How I sleep with the blanket I crocheted you that held you and still holds your blood every single night, how you’re changing the world.  Your sister turned two, and I joked that I have two two-year-olds for three short weeks.  My Irish twins.  On October 15th, we celebrated the Wave of Light by lighting your candles.  The weather turned colder and grief hit me hard. I mailed out your birth announcements, almost three years too late, to the special family and friends who honor you just as we do.  Could you feel our love?

Your dad, in a letter he wrote to you for your first birthday, told you we celebrate your absolute place in our family, "so painfully empty but so beautifully full."  This continues to be true and I know it always will be.  Two didn't look like it should, but it was full of love.

And now it’s November again.  Tomorrow, you're three. Another birthday without the birthday girl. 

I love you every moment of every day.  I loved you at one and at two and now I love you at three.  I’ll love you at a hundred and a hundred and one.  I’ll love you for always.

That letter that Dad penned for you on your first birthday, he said he dreamed that these words find you in the starry night sky: You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.  We'll keep making sure you feel all our love.   

Happy third birthday, my girl.      



  1. Been thinking of you and Lydie, Heather. Sending so much love your way.

    Xo, Nora


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