There are no frilly pink tutus. No birthday parties. No cake smash photos. No gummy smiles with chicklet teeth. Just me, sitting here on my couch with a swollen belly and swollen eyes. This isn’t the same kind of first birthday that other children have, but it’s a birthday none the less. 4 shots of morphine, 4 doses of Ativan, an epidural, 4 minutes of pushing and 16 hours of labour. At 1:16pm on February 13th, 2013 I heard the words, now tainted and sour, that I had waited almost nine months to hear – its a girl. My beautiful Everlee Rose was born sleeping, much too perfect for this cruel world. And today, as bitter as it is, and as heavy as my heart is, is her first birthday.
I see the vast expanse of my life without you and wonder how I have found the stamina to live on. I lay down at the end of each day and mindlessly hum the lullaby I sang while I carried you. I wake the next morning and brace for another day without you. And as slow as the days seem to crawl, a year has passed in the blink of an eye.
I feel the anguish. I shout and I scream because I miss my daughter so much. I wail, I cry, I emote. I feel the pain until it subsides. Once it does I am able to revel in how beautiful she was. I am able to remember how wonderful it was to carry her inside me for 9 months. None of us are guaranteed or owed a long life. Knowing this makes me appreciate my own life to a degree I never could before I lost her. Every single moment with her was special. Her entire life she was inside of me, being nurtured and loved. She was conceived, lived and died within my body, I was her world, I was with her every second of her existence and I am endlessly honoured. I see the beauty in it. But god damn it, I miss her and it’s so unfair and tragic that she isn’t here to smash buttercream icing through her chubby fingers.
So many people have told me they admire my strength. I brushed that off for a long time, saying I’m not strong, merely that I was forced to cope and survive. I see things differently now. I look back on my blogs from a year ago. I see a broken sad, rumpled little girl who was unsure how she would ever stand on her own again. I see someone who could only measure the success of a day in whether she had thrown herself from a bridge, or not.
I am strong. I am stronger than I ever thought possible. Not because I wanted to be, of course. But because I had to be. As I’ve said before, many people attribute their strength to God. I do not. I attribute my strength to me and my love and adoration for my daughter. It comes from my ability to endure. It’s heightened by my capacity to accept what is despite my lack of understanding of why. It’s present in the way I continually strive to grow and evolve. It’s the human spirit. My strength resides within me and is enhanced by me. I’m no longer ashamed to take credit for it. There are certainly outside sources as well. I gain strength from my husband. I gain it from my friends and family who are still standing by me, holding my hand, showing they care. I gain strength in the love I have found (more than anything). I gain it from fellow bereaved parents who continually inspire and encourage me. I gain it through appreciating and participating in life, one she never got to have. And that’s how I honour her littleli fe and I keep her memory alive. My strength is her legacy. I want to be someone she would be proud to call mommy. That’s my birthday gift to her.
I’ve struggled over the past year with the fact that I don’t get to share my daughter in the way that other parents do. Often, outside of my blog, people find it awkward and uncomfortable when I talk about my daughter. I don’t get to show off her picture. That has killed me.
But today, on her first birthday, I am throwing those thoughts aside. My little girl is beautiful and loved and adored. And people deserve to see her the way we do. There is nothing wrong with her, she’s perfect. Sleeping and perfect, and I am not ashamed of her, So here she is. My beautiful daughter on her first birthday. Her mom’s eyes. Her dad’s nose. And the sweetest, teensiest little lips. All 5lbs and 1oz of perfection. Sleep sweet my beautiful child. Mommy loves you. Happy birthday.