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.

Meghan was fun

When I turned 33 I had a Cowboys & Ninjas- themed birthday party.  Every year I would have some sort of theme party to celebrate turning one year older.  Previous themes included: 80s, Bowties & Moustaches, MadHatter and Pizza & Chocolate (I know, the last one was lame; it was the year I was planning my wedding and planning a big theme party just seemed like too much that year).  Throwing a good theme party takes some skill.  You need to pick a theme that is exciting enough that good photos will be shot but easy enough that most people can find something in their closet to wear. Cowboys & NInjas seemed to meet that criteria. I try to incentivize my guests by giving out prizes, which I tend to make up on the spot.  Some are obvious- like best bowtie and some are spontaneous- like best 90s costume worn to an 80s party.

Bowties & Moustaches

Bowties & Moustaches

MadHatter Party

As the host, there’s a lot of pressure to be in good costume for the party. My first instinct for Cowboys & Ninjas was to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but the more I heard people talking about coming, the less cowboys I thought there would be, so I scrapped my green hoodie in search for something western. Creativity struck and I ordered some men’s underwear- the tighty whitie variety- and got my red and blue markers out to decorate.  I found a tan colored tank top, a cowboy hat and boots.  I made a guitar out of cardboard.  Soon I became the Naked Cowboy.

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It was a hit.  It took a lot of guts to prance around in just underwear and a tank top, but that’s the kind of person I was.  I liked being the center of attention, making people laugh.  I may or may not have made some new friends slightly uncomfortable, with my faux- near nudity.  We played the Wii, ate Ninja food (pizza, sushi, shumai) and Cowboy food (pigs in a blanket, cowboy dip) and prizes were awarded.  Best group costume (a set of four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- far better than the costume I planned) and best Denim on Denim for the cowboy.

I was so carefree at that party. That was in the “before.”  I was fun, uninhibited, guiltless in my enjoyment.  I threw parties!  Now I live in the “after.”  Small talk is harder.  Smiling doesn’t come as easily.  I don’t want to be center of attention.  The idea of running around a party in such an outfit feels wrong.  I know this is all part of the grief journey, but it’s discouraging how long it takes.  I thought I’d be in a different place by now.  I know doing the job I do has complicated my journey and I try to remind myself that, but I’m struggling to find joy in my job again.   Every now and then I see glimpses of the old me- truly enjoying her self, finding satisfaction at work.  I can remember what she was like.

I miss the old Meghan.  She was fun.