Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moving Forward and Giving Back

Today's run: 3.5 miles
Donations raised to date: $0 (I'm hoping to reach $5,000 by Nov. 28!)

I first want to say "thank you" for visiting my new blog. This is something that I have been wanting to do for a few weeks now but it has taken me awhile to pull it together. It wasn't until a couple of days ago, as we put the final touches on it, that I thought about how hard it might be for others to read my story or look at my pictures. I have relived this so many times already in my mind that it seems like an old friend now. For others, especially my friends and family who have not suffered a loss of a baby, it might be shocking or painful to think about. I understand this and I thank you for taking the chance.

I have detailed the story of Reese's birth here for those who have questions or are interested in what happened. Her life was short, but it was beautiful and it was meaningful. If you don't want to read it, it's ok. If you read it and still have questions, I am always happy to answer them and talk about her. 

Yes, that is a picture of Reese at the top left of this blog and her feet are on the top right. These are the only two pictures I have of her and I only have them because of the nurses who took them despite my insistence that I didn't want any. They also took a lock of her hair, her footprints (which decorate this blog as well), and they measured and weighed her. I am so grateful to these nurses. Sometimes people know more about what you need than you do. These nurses will always hold a special place in my heart.

The middle picture at the top is of my running shoes and Reese's little urn. The butterfly in the picture represents her spirit which I feel is always with me. 

I know these pictures may be hard to look at. I realized through this experience that we are often so shielded from death that looking at it can be both shocking and upsetting. I wish I could show you pictures of her alive but because I can't, I hope that you can appreciate the beauty and sweet tenderness that I see when I look at her pictures.

These days, when people ask me how I am doing, I often struggle with what to say. I am actually doing ok ... some days I might even say I'm doing well and mean it. I often hesitate to say this because I don't want people to underestimate the impact Reese has had on my life. I sometimes want to tell people that I'm still in horrible, raw grief because I don't want them to think that I have "moved on" or "gotten over" her death. I have read of other women who still feel intense, raw pain after years and years of mourning. I am grateful that I have an amazing support system of friends and family - I credit a lot of my strength to the love I have received through this process. I also am grateful for my faith in God which has carried me, and will continue to carry me, each day.

The truth is that I have a lot of good days now - more than I have bad. The moments of grief come and go and when they come, they can take my breath away. I will never, nor would I want to, "move on" from this. She is now a part of my life, a part of my story, a part of my legacy. I will always, always grieve for the little girl that I never really got to know. I grieve that Roger will never know his daughter, Riley will never know her sister, her grandparents will never know their granddaughter and so on. We will never see her first teeth, watch her first steps, hear her first words, take her to a first day of school, meet her first boyfriend, see her graduate from college, watch her get a job, walk her down the aisle at her wedding or be there when she gives birth. 

Although I am not moving on, I am moving forward. For awhile, I felt stuck. Like my feet were in cement and the world kept going on around me. It would have been easy to stay there but it was incredibly draining and immobilizing. I decided that I could live in an intense state of grief but it would not bring her back nor honor her more than living my life would. I had to consciously make a decision that I needed to move forward. 

So here I am - taking one day at a time and hoping that I can learn from Reese. I try to savor each moment of my life right now. I marvel at Riley as she learns new things every day and develops a stronger and more spirited personality. I appreciate Roger for being a strong husband and a dedicated dad. I thank God that I have time with my parents, my sister, my nieces and nephews...all of the people who are important in my life. I share moments of laughter and moments of tears with my friends. I breath in the crisp fall air and I point out changes in leaf colors to Riley. All of these things are now richer to me, more important.

Losing a child may be one of the worst experiences someone can have. I am now much more aware of the suffering of other parents. I have decided that part of my healing process will include helping others heal - giving back. I am running a half-marathon at the end of November to raise money for an incredible charity that comforts moms who have lost babies (we call each other "angel moms"). 

I would really appreciate your support as I run for these moms. I have detailed information on the charity and how you can donate here. I will continue to keep track of my running and the donations made through this blog.

As I run, I feel Reese running with me. She is a piece of my heart and a piece of my spirit. Because of her, I am a stronger person and a more compassionate person.

I hope that in some way, Reese has touched your life as well.