Mabel’s First Birthday

One year ago today was the saddest day of my life. The day also brought joy- the birth of my first child, long awaited and very wanted- but that joy was overshadowed in the hours following her birth. I went from utter amazement that I had a baby and despite the odds stacked against her, she cried. She might live, I thought. My excitement lasted minutes, until Chris updated me from the NICU. Her lungs were too small. She would die. As I raced to wrap my mind around this outcome, known as a possibility for months, her condition deteriorated in the hours that lay ahead. The days I thought I had with her melted into just a few hours as the vent and oxygen failed to sustain her tiny body. We took away that pain, removing her from life support, after just six and a half hours of life. The warm solid baby that lay on my chest became heavy and cool, her skin turning from a light pink to a mottled purple, her lips deepening to a dark red. I held her until I could hold her no more and gave her up for the final time.

One year ago today my daughter was born. Today is her birthday. But today is her death day.

In my early days of grief, I envisioned such a different day. I would plan a birthday party- a large, kiddie birthday party, with hats, and cake and balloons. I would invite everyone who I would have had she lived and ask them to bring books to donate to a needy school or library in the area. I would write Mabel’s name in each of the books, so she would live on when others read her name. It would be a celebration of her life. I was inspired reading about another mother’s celebration of her baby taken too soon.

Holding that birthday party is part of that ideal grieving woman I often aspire to be, but feel like I fall so short of.

But I can’t have that birthday part for Mabel. I’m just too sad.

I’m sad that it’s even a decision I have to make- how to celebrate my dead baby’s birthday and death day. I’m sad that my baby died. I’m sad she suffered. I’m sad that I have suffered. I’m sad that I’m not where I thought I’d be in my grief at one year. I’m sad that she’s not here. I’m just so so sad.

No big party today for Mabel. No party hats. No book collection.

Today I plan to hide under the covers. I know I have so many people in my life who are supportive and thoughtful (many of whom have already graciously reached out) and their support is welcome. Today, though, I plan to turn off my phone and hide from social media and just be sad. It’s too overwhelming to be gracious and sad at the same time on this day.

As the day approached and I recognized I wouldn’t be making my dream birthday party happen for her, I made an alternative plan. I couldn’t face an in person celebration, but I wanted her recognized so I invited friends and families to a virtual one. I sent these invites out earlier in the week:

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In memory of our daughter on her first birthday we invite you to join us in doing a Random Act of Kindness.  Enclosed you’ll find a small notecard that you can leave behind, if you choose, when doing your Act of Kindness.

We would love to know what you do in memory of Mabel.  Please feel free to email us or post on social media.

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Feel free to join us in Mabel’ virtual birthday party. Or you could simply learn more about her here:

Happy Birthday, baby. I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.

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54 thoughts on “Mabel’s First Birthday

  1. Hi Meghan! This just tugs at my heart. I too am feeling anxious already about that day, about Rheice’s first birthday & death day, though it’s about 3 months away. It is a nice feeling always though to read your blog & know there’s someone who feels the same way. I feel bad also that I am not the “ideal” grieving mother that I have planned to be. I don’t know what I will be doing or how I will be on my daughter’s first birthday 3 months from now.
    I really admire what you did, on the virtual birthday thing. You are one amazing & inspiring woman. Again, thank you for your blog!

    • THank you- for your words of support. It’s so helpful to be having people ahead of me on the loss time line and behind me- makes me feel validated, more normal in the world. I’ll be thinking of you and Rheice as the big day approaches

  2. Happy Birthday, Mabel! I’m
    Sorry you couldn’t stay longer. And that you suffered and you aren’t doing all the things a one year old should be doing now.
    Your life, though brief, meant so much to your mommy and daddy and all their family and friends.

    Hi Meghan, I so sorry for your loss and for all the dreams you had for baby Mabel that didn’t come to be.
    I don’t know how I found your blog but I’ve been touched by your and Mabel’s story.
    The random act of kindness idea is a lovely way to honor her memory.
    Xoxo

  3. What an absolutely beautiful way to invite others to engage with Mabel’s memory and build a legacy of kindness in her honor. And, I have to say, an incredibly, strikingly gracious act – truly. I don’t know exactly what your ideal of a gracious grieving mother looks like, but I’m amazed at how gracious you currently are.

    I’m sad that Mabel isn’t here, too. Sending all the love I can muster.

    • thank you. THough I’m getting more comfortable with the griever I am still idealize this image of a woman who is not jealous and can welcome others’ happy news more easily than I can, who can turn the sadness into pure joy at her short life. That woman doesnt exist, I know, and I dont know where she came from, honestly- maybe the media? But for now, I am who I am. and thank you for the love.

  4. Thanks you for sharing. You are very gracious for sharing Mabel’s story and all the ways you and your family honor her. I’m not sure how a grieving mother should look….but I hope I can honor our son Jacob on his first birthday in two months with as much grace.
    Happy birthday Mabel! With love – Jacob’s parents

  5. Happy birthday, Mabel. You might not have been here long, but because of your mom’s beautiful writing I have got to know about how wonderful and how loved you are. You are making a difference to the world.

    Meghan and Chris – thinking of you and your beautiful Mabel today. Your random act of kindness idea for her first birthday is wonderful. I hope the day is being gentle to you. Sending love xx

  6. Happy birthday Mabel. I’m Thinking of you and of your parents today. Hoping they are treating themselves gently and doing what they need to do to make it through the day without you.

  7. Happy Birthday, Mabel. Presents will be donated to a local shelter in your name today; including a squishy carrot stuffy 😉 You have touched, and are missed by, people all around the world. I firmly believe that you are celebrating with cake & ice cream and that my son Max is encouraging you to smear it everywhere! (Meghan, I cried at your GITW response. Yes, Max had dark hair. It’s desperately sad and beautiful to think of our children together.) Much love, Mabel, you gorgeous girl!

    • Oh I love the donation, especially the carrot stuffy! thank you Carole! And when I picture Max I picture him as a kid- a little kid, a toddler maybe, dark haired and messy faced. I picture him in the same way I sometimes picture Mabel, as a little kid.

  8. Happy Birthday to your Mabel. I don’t know you but I’ve been following your journey via a long ago link from Roo’s blog. I wanted to let you know that I keep you in my mind when I go about my life. Your anecdotes about how to be more caring, more aware of life and death, pregnancy, grief and loss have touched my life.
    I hope that your journey gets easier to walk despite the burden you and your husband carry.

  9. Happy birthday Mabel, we remember and love you together with your parents who miss you oh so much. I chocked up about how many times you said you are so so sad…its a measure of the love you have for your dear girl. Its amazing you still thought of kindness to others even in the middle of your own pain. We will be here when you come out from under the covers..to walk this journey together. Hugs x

  10. Beautiful honoring and loving of Mabel.

    I wonder if you would consider making that invitation a PDF next year, so those who know Mabel through this blog can participate and spread kindness in honor of her.

    Wishing you comfort (strength) in this time and always.

  11. Meghan – It is so, so terribly sad. Birth and death should never be said in the same breath or sentence. Somehow you have made it through a whole year without your precious girl.

    Mabel has touched us all… though I’m certain you would rather not know any of us and instead have her here with you. I continue to read and hold your hand from afar, as you live on in her memory.

  12. Happy Birthday Mabel! You are in my thoughts often.

    Meghan – My hearts breaks for you. You continue to amaze me by how you help others by sharing your family’s story. Thank you for sharing. Please know that Mabel has a presence that goes far beyond the people she met and that her life and death are remembered by many.

  13. Wishing Mabel was here to celebrate her 1st birthday this past Sunday. She would have been so adorable getting cake all over herself.

    I love the call for a random act of kindness in honor of Mabel! A donation was made to the Hartford Public High School Lunar Rover Team in her honor. Since both her mom & dad are science & engineering types, hopefully Mabel would appreciate supporting inner city kids in their science and engineering aspirations:
    https://www.crowdrise.com/AOEGTLunarRoverTeam/fundraiser/chelseabrown2

    • love it!! Chris has done a lot with robotics and things (he even volunteered at a local high school’s robotics team). I know Mabel would have had lots of legos and K’nects and would have been fascinate by such a team. so much thank you!

  14. Meghan, I was out of town all weekend (and off the grid) hanging out with my dear friend who lives, ironically, in Connecticut! So I spent the weekend in Mystic, getting snowed in with my friend while her husband plowed the city all weekend. I was off the grid by choice–just not spending much time online at all, but I did wake up Sunday morning and think, “it’s Mabel’s birthday today.” She shares the day with two other beautiful February 15th girls, my friends Katie and Erin, and I instantly thought of her when I realized it was the 15th.

    Meghan, I want you to know that Mabel is so loved. Not just by you and your immediate circle, but by those of you who have gotten to know her through your blog. I now understand what my friends mean when they thank me for writing my about my experience with Reece, because I am so so grateful that you chose to share Mabel’s story with the world. What a tremendous gift her way too brief life was!!! Sadira and I have been doing acts of kindness every day in Mabel’s precious memory.

    I too struggle with what to call the day, since Reece’s birthday and death day are the same. I think for the bereaved parent it’s hard to think about it being a birthday celebration because we are still shrouded in grief. But on Sunday, I chose to remember and celebrate Mabel for all that she has given the world through her parents. Thank you so much for sharing her with us. Happy Birthday, sweet baby.

    • Nasrene, your words are so wonderful- thank you! thank you for bringing her memory in with the other birthdays you celebrate on her day. it is hard to celebrate a baby’s death, which is something we are forced to do when we celebrate his/her birth. But there is some choice there and I”m glad you could celebrate her fondly.

  15. Happy birthday to Mabel. There is no rulebook for this. I think you do what you can, what you are moved to do, what you need to do.This is a lovely idea. XO to you as you endure this difficult time of year.

  16. Oh my. I just watched your beautiful video. What a lovely representation of Mabel’s time here with you, in pregnancy and in the short hours after her birth. Thank you so much for sharing it. It was an enormous privilege to see her and learn about your experience.

  17. I just saw the video tribute to Mabel – don’t know how I missed it before but I’m so glad I saw it. I cried watching it because how could I not – seeing her beautiful short life chronicled so lovingly and with such care. She was truly beautiful and she has left a mark on the world and in the hearts of everyone who learns about her. All the good things that have happened on her birthday because of you and her are a ripple of goodness and love that this tired world and people like me and so many others need.
    I hope that those who forgot or who didn’t acknowledge Mabel’s birthday find a way to connect with you, or redeem themselves somehow. But people are strange at the best of times:( Hugs from a stranger who thinks you’re a “good enough” mom.

    • thank you so much for your kind words! I reconciled with some of the people who didnt recognize the birthday (a simple misunderstanding of what they thought I had wanted), and others…well some are more worth the effort 🙂

  18. I’ve been thinking so much of you and Mabel these past days. This time of year is so heavy. I remembered last year as I watched Mabel and Seraphim’s story so intently, knowing soon my story would come soon too. As your sadness comes in deep waves know I am thinking of you and praying for you. All of the love you receive in Mabel’s honor is so amazing. I am so thankful for the people who love on you and your family, they are truly amazing. Much love, Maria

    • aye, yes- our stories- the ones of Mabel, Seraphim and Gideon- will always be intertwined for me. three babies with such similar stories born and gone all around the same time. Thinking of you as your time approaches

  19. Pingback: Walking through an art gallery with a sleeping newborn | baby boy blue

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