Today marks the four year anniversary of the last time both of my boys hearts were beating together.
The last day that I had a fleeting shred of hope that I would bring them both home alive eventually.
The last day that I felt them both move within my belly, fighting for space.
The last day that my heart wasn’t yet filled with pain and grief.
Four years ago, I was spending my last day as a soon to be mommy of twins.
We knew very early on that one of our babies had severe birth defects that would make life outside of my womb nearly impossible, but I was determined to keep hope alive in my heart that I would bring home two beautiful baby boys. I had an amazing group of people offering words of encouragement and support to our family, and they helped me to keep my spirit up through the difficult news that marked my pregnancy week after week. Though each doctors appointment and ultrasound brought worse news, I refused to lose hope. I would cry and wallow in my sadness for hours, but then I would be forced to pick myself up, and take care of my babies. If I didn’t keep myself going, I would not be able to keep those babies growing. So I got up and kept going…
I remember when I went into labor after 5 weeks in the hospital, when my boys were only 29 weeks. The panic on the nurses face when she realized I was 5 cm dilated, and needed to be rushed into the OR for an emergency cesarean section. The tears in another nurses eyes as she told me Joey would be too small for the life saving measures we had been discussing with doctors for weeks. The crack in her voice when she called his time of death only 90 minutes after he was born. The little squeak we heard as he took his last shaky breath. The tears in my husbands eyes as he held our son as he died. The painful cry that I can only assume came from my mouth as everyone left the room so we could weep over our sons lifeless body.
I remember it all like it happened yesterday.
For the last four years I have struggled immensely with the pain that comes with losing a child. I went from throwing myself into work to avoid the pain, to drinking too much, to not wanting to get out of bed. From fighting with my husband daily, to being too tired to be the mom my surviving children needed me to be. I listened to many well meaning people try to offer condolences by saying things that made me feel so much worse.
About a year and a half ago, I realized I needed to make a change. I needed to find a way to be happy again, and to be a better person than the one who was being swallowed by her grief. I changed jobs, and found a new one that totally changed my perspective on where work should fall within my priorities. I fought to find time for myself, but still struggled with following through with my well laid plans. I would set goals for myself, and then consistently make excuses as to why I couldn’t do things that would get me to where I wanted to be. I was still so tired of fighting through the pain I carried with me each and every day.
Four years after suffering the most painful loss of my life, I am finally beginning to realize that I do have the strength to realize my goals. I have the ability to stop making excuses to myself when I don’t feel like getting up. Only I have the ability to force myself into action. I can make the loss of my son overwhelm me and hold me back, or I can use this grief as motivation to be more. I can be more. I have a bigger purpose in life than to continue to be the shell of the person I used to be.
Today, on the day before my sons fourth birthday, I decided to focus on me. Three years ago I spent this day barely functioning, but today I got up. I showered, got my kids ready for school, and then took some time to think about who I want to be. Instead of parking right next to my sons grave, I walked through the cemetery. I felt fully alive as I walked through the rain, only for the sun to come out as I reached the back of the cemetery where my baby is buried. I took the time to talk to him, and tell him how his life has changed me. How he taught me that I am stronger than I give myself credit for.
And I promised him that I will always try to fight through the rain, and find joy in the sunshine.