How do you parent a child you never get to see?
How do you show your love for a child you never get to hold? Never get to kiss? Never get to tuck in at night?
How do you pour out your heart and your gratitude for a child God gave then took away?
These are questions that plague me, and all parent who have lost a child I suspect.
How can I keep Everett a part of my daily life? How can I love him like I love his sisters and brother? How can I continue to parent him? How can I still be his mother and help make the best of his life?
The answer? It's complicated.
I got his name and his footprints tattooed on my ankle. His handprint is tattooed on my wrist.
His picture hangs on the wall in the livingroom, there are tiny memorials to him sprinkled throughout the house.
He has a baby book.
I made him a Shutterfly photobook just I like I did for the other kids.
We made him a memorial garden in our backyard.
We planted a tree in his honor.
I think of him every hour of every day.
But it still doesn't feel right.
I can't take him to school with his brother.
I dont' get to kiss him goodnight.
I don't know how it feels to rock him to sleep.
I've never put a bandaid on his boo-boos
I've never seen his name on a birthday cake.
I've never watched him unwrap a Christmas present I just knew he would love.
I've never read him a bedtime story.
I don't get to be his mother in the way I want to, physically, tangibly.
There aren't too many ways I get to show the world my son, the one who died but I still love dearly. But I've found a way that feels good, as good as grieving can feel, and I've decided the best way I can show the world my love for Everett, and make the best of his life, is to fundraise in his memory.
It's awkward though, to implore people, the ones you know and the ones they don't, to support my cause, which doesn't mean the same to them as it does to me. It feels strange to ask for money to honor him, and I worry that I just can't communicate properly to them the how's and why's of our efforts.
But I can't NOT ask you to support me in this. I can't NOT tell you how important your support is. I can't NOT want you to attend, because I love Everett, and this is important to us. It's one very small way we can show him, you, God, and ourselves, that we have figured out how to cope with losing our baby, that we know a good way to take that pain and make it beneficial in some way.
I'm motivated by my grief, to make some good from it. I'm eager to take the scenario that broke my heart and use it to touch others. I want him to break your heart, I want you to feel a pang of something for him and for us, and then I want you to take that little something you feel and help us do something with it.
The NICU is full of babies. Some will have short stays and go home healthy. Some will have longer more complicated stayes. Some will never go home.
Then there are their parents. Mother's, newly post partum, who have found themselves parked in the NICU beside an isolette instead of resting in their hospital rooms having guests fuss over their new baby. Mothers who are pumping breastmilk every 2 hours and bringing it to the NICU so it can be given to their baby via naso-gastric feedings, rather then nursing in that glider rocker in their nursery at home. There are mothers and fathers sleeping on cots and pull out chairs in waiting rooms and at bedsides, while they wait to hear how their child did in surgery. There are parents who finally leave the hospital, babyless and broken hearted, like we did.
And I can help. In some small way, we can help them.
Our donation, no matter how small, can do good. Last year we had a charity Stella & Dot trunk show, just like the one we're doing this year, and we raised appx. $800 for the NICU. We took that money and we had two beautiful custom rocking chairs for them. And at this very moment, some new mother is being handed her baby for it's first feeding at the breast, some dad may be getting his very first cuddle with his baby, maybe their sleeping in one of our chairs at night while they hold their bedside vigil.
Our chairs helped. Our intentions helped. Our loss has helped, and therefore has become more then just a painful experience to us, but something more. We can see it now as part of a grander plan, we can see now that we are, and Everett was, part of a complicated weaving of lives knit together. We can't see how it all fits together, but we know it does.
On June 18th we're fundraising again. Same format, because it was so successful last year. But I'm afraid. I'm worried we won't be successful again. I'm worried that people aren't being touched by Everett the way they were, I'm worried his memory, and his impact are fading out. I'm worried that I'm not doing my job as his mother and honoring him and his life the way I should. Because if people aren't moved and inspired by him, I am not doing my job right.
I'm praying God leads hearts to support us. I'm praying my backyard will be full of supporters on June 18th, and I'm praying we'll be able to help in some small way, parents and babies in the NICU, by giving a donation in Everett's honor.
It's what I have to do, in the name of love.