by Sarah Rieke
On this day five years ago my daughter died. She was our second baby, our first little girl. She had beautiful, full lips, and cheeks for days (how I wish there had been days!). And in the teeny moment where she mustered up all her failing strength to open up just one little eye, I saw that it was blue. She was my precious Evie-girl. She still is.
Five years removed I sit here and wonder what I would say to a mother in my shoes, a mother who is carrying a fatally diagnosed baby to term. What would I say to the tender, breaking heart with tears in her eyes who clutches her belly and feels the life kicking inside of her and thinks, How can what they told me possibly be true? How can it possibly be true that this baby is going to die?
To that sweet maternal soul, I say this:
Embrace the life inside of you, no matter how brief that life will be. Don’t let yourself slip into the lie that this baby will not matter. They will. They absolutely will. And you will want to give them your whole heart while you can. Because, I think if you’re honest with yourself, you will find they already have it.
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Name your baby. Give them the best, most meaningful name you can think of. You will speak it, you will write it, you may even have it etched in permanent ink onto your skin one day. But that name will become sacred to you. Make it beautiful.
Live every single day in the present while they are still with you. Don’t allow your mind to live in the, “what-if’s” and, “how will I’s” that threaten to annihilate you every moment. Beat them down with an iron will that is committed to fully experiencing each day that your baby is still here. It will be hard; it will be so hard. But be determined to not let the darkness win.
When your baby is born, kiss them a thousand times. Kiss them ten thousand times. And then hold them even closer and kiss them even more.
Brush your cheek against theirs, rub your nose against their tiny button one, curl your body around them and snuggle them and breathe in their scent.
Tell yourself that you are doing everything you can to experience your sweet baby while you still have them here. Because one day grief-guilt will plague you and tell you that you didn’t, that you somehow felt short. But you can beat that lie back with all those sweet memories of skin on skin, lips to lips, heart to heart.
After your baby passes away, still hold them. Don’t worry if someone will think that it’s weird; who cares. This is your baby and your only time together. Do more of the same as mentioned above: kiss, hold, snuggle, caress. And inspect them.
Inspect every square inch of their sweet little bodies so you can get a small glimpse of who they might have been.
Look at their ears, their fingers, their toes. Decide who’s feet they have and smile at the fact that they have the same receding hairline as Grandpa Joe. Don’t let death further rob you from sweet moments you can share with your precious child.
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When you leave the hospital without your baby, you will want to scream. You will feel it bulging at your throat in the most unforgiving way, and you will want to let it free.
You will also want to shake every single person you see in the hallway on the way down the hall and out into the parking lot and yell right in their faces, “Do you know what happened to me!? I had a baby, and she died. She DIED!! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THIS HURTS?!??!!??!!!” You will want to do those things.
I should tell you not to.
But mostly I want you to know when those feelings do come; you are not crazy. You were robbed, and you want the world to know.
Finally, friend, what I want you to know is that you will be ok. You will. I know you don’t believe it, but I think you need to hear it. You will be ok. For the sake of honoring the memory of your darling baby that left this world much too soon, determine not to let the darkness of this world win.
Determine that you will be ok and you will fight to be ok. For them, for you. For the woman sitting in the doctor’s office right now hearing the same thing and wondering, dizzy with wondering, how on earth she is going to survive carrying a fatally diagnosed baby to term.
Do it for the broken pieces inside of you that, over time, will make your soul just that much more beautiful.
Do it so that one day you can look back at your wounded sisters and stretch a knowing hand out to them, offering from your beautiful brokenness the invaluable gift of love, empathy, and assurance that she too, will be ok.
Published in Still Standing Magazine 9.12.17
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