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Elliot’s Birthday Gift

My precious Elliot,

I can not believe that a year has passed since May 29, 2017. What a crazy day that was, little one! I’d been on hospital bed rest for 50 days, and was gearing up for just another of those days. Though I’d had some increased bleeding and contractions over the previous couple of weeks, nothing could’ve prepared me for what that day would bring.

I woke up with a contraction and a little bleeding, and the doctor decided to move me from my antepartum room to Labor & Delivery to keep you on continuous monitoring. So, they strapped the fetal heart monitor to my belly, and I snuggled in to hear your beautiful heartbeat for the day. Around 9:00 a.m., I felt some contractions and started keeping track of them on a red envelope that I’d received a Mother’s Day card in a couple weeks earlier. I’d get a contraction every 10-15 minutes or so. You wiggled around so much that morning that you changed position!

I finally asked if they’d check me around 2:30, after I’d had a particularly strong contraction. The doctor checked me, and I was 9 cm dilated! We started talking about moving towards a c-section (you were breech), and at that moment, your heartbeat plummeted from the 150’s into the 60’s. Little boy, that was so scary. The chaos that ensued is still hard for me to really process: my bed being disconnected from the wall, the nurses sprinting me down the hall to the operating room, crying out Jesus’ name over and over again, hands pressing down on me, a mask on my face, my favorite doctor Kim next to me telling me I was going to sleep. Oh, it was so scary, little one. I didn’t care what happened to me. Only you. Only you.

And then when I awoke and Daddy was there, holding up a picture of you alive, it was more joy than my aching body could contain! Oh Elliot, mommies would do anything for their babies, did you know that? I would’ve died to cause you to live that day. But I didn’t have to; you were alive, I was alive, and I thought it would stay that way.

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Our five days together with you outside the womb still make me laugh with happiness even as I weep. It’s so hard to remember, but remembrance is one of my only comforts. I had you, ever so briefly, I had you. Oh, how I ache that I didn’t get to hold you or nurse you, my beautiful boy! And how grateful I am I got to change your diaper, sing to you, let you hold my fingers with your precious hands, put little drops of my milk on your tongue. I thought it would go on and on until we’d get to bring your home. I daydreamed of the day when they’d say you could come out of the incubator and lay on mommy’s chest. Once, someone who didn’t know your story very well said, “Well, at least you got to hold him, right?” Only as you were dying, baby boy. And I’m glad I was there. But so, so sad we didn’t have more time.

Many regrets swell to the surface of your mommy and daddy’s thoughts, Elliot. “If only we would have known,” has passed our lips more than once. We would’ve used those five days differently, taken more movies, more pictures.

But one thing trumps those regrets: our joy. Elliot, while you were with us, though we were oblivious of what was to come, we were filled with only joy. Part of me wishes I would’ve known how brief our time together was going to be. Another part of me is thankful I didn’t know because there was no fear or worry clouding my time with you. I was content. I was so full of joy.

And then, on June 3 at 5:56 p.m., my joy died with you.

How many times have I gone back in my mind, wishing I could’ve taken your place on June 3? I’m sure this is what those silly “stages of grief” would call bargaining. What wouldn’t I have endured to save you? I would’ve given my very life, sure, but the craziest thoughts have gone through my mind of other things I would’ve done. I’d have let them chop off my arms, my legs, make me blind, deaf, give me an incurable chronic painful disease…anything, anything, ANYTHING but the death of my only son! Those things may sound so extreme, but I know other parents who’ve lost children understand. I am weeping just thinking of how I wish I could’ve saved you. I wish the doctors could’ve saved you. I wish God would’ve saved you.

But that is not our story, little one. Death. The finality of it is so sickening. Like, really, sometimes I feel nauseous when I really take in the enormity of a lifetime without you. Only your daddy and I really have to endure the full brunt of it, though there are many friends and relatives who love and miss you. We are your parents. We should’ve brought you up. We alone knew every nook and cranny of you. We alone will know every day how old you should’ve been. We alone feel your absence in our home as if it is an entity unto itself. We alone hold your sisters when they cry for you and answer their questions about why you had to go to heaven and daydream with them about what you would’ve been like. It can feel so lonely!

And yet, there is an awareness that our pain is so great because our love for you is so great. Even death cannot hinder our love for you! Your precious life has given us a new filter through which to see everything.

Sparks of joy have returned over the past year, and really, that is largely because of you. There is such a shakenness that comes with death, a reminder that no life is assured one more day. It has made us often push past our feelings of grief to fight for joy in our home. We’ve taken your sisters on a lot of trips and created a lot of memories that I don’t think we would have except for the influence you’ve had on our lives. We’ve let go of many things on our “to-do” lists just to spend more time together. You, my little boy, have inspired your family not to waste a day, or a minute, but to love while we still have each other. Thank you for that gift, baby boy. I wish you were here to share it with us.

You also make us fight for hope. Hope that we will see you again one day. Hope that God can bring beauty from these ashes and use your presence in our lives for good. Hope that we can pour love into other lives as a way to remember you. Hope that grief will not keep us in the prison of our own minds, but will turn us outward in compassion towards others who suffer.

I dream about you almost every night, sweet boy. Sometimes the dreams are not good. I am running down the NICU hallway to find you, only to remember that you have died. Another family, another baby, has taken your room and you are just…gone. But other times, I just dream we are together. I see your head of dark hair, your clear dark eyes, and I see your smile. I know just what you would look like.    

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I like to imagine that those good dreams are a foretaste of what’s to come. Someday, I will open my eyes in my eternal home, and Jesus will place you in my arms. In my arms, just the way you were when your spirit left this world. That’s what I hope it will be like. That will be heaven for me.

Thank you for giving me so much, little boy. On your birthday, I have nothing to give you but my love. And yet, I am the one who really receives the gift. You’ve given me so much more than grief has taken from me. Our bond of love is unbreakable, and because of Jesus, one day we will be together again. On that day, our joy will shine as brightly as the sun.

Happy Birthday, my son.

Love,

Mommy

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