Happy First Birthday

remembering our baby girl on her would-be 1st birthday

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Dear Anysia,

I wonder if you know all this already. Perhaps… but I’ll tell you in a letter, anyway. Actually, I think this might be the first letter I will have written to you. The first tangible letter, at least. They’re have been many others written on my heart, written and stained with the ink of tears.

Anyway, today, we celebrated your first birthday, and I wanted you to know all about it. In telling you, I tell your big brother, too. He can’t read yet. But he’ll be able to some day. He knows quite a bit about your first birthday, because he was with us… he was one third of what made it what it was. I know how this goes, though, because I too was once three years old. I don’t have many recollections of that time of life. So I am guessing that at some point, he won’t either. This is hard for me to believe, because he remembers everything right now. He remembers things I had long forgotten. He’s actually quite smart. I wish you could know him the way we do. I wish you could live with us and have the best big brother one could ever ask for.

On to more celebratory things, though… and some of the sentimental, while still sad, things we did to remember you by today.

I’ll start with when the clock turned to midnight, officially making it December 19th and your first birthday. I was still awake, though the boys of the house were asleep in bed. Just before midnight, I had been e-mailing back and forth with your Auntie Angela. I wanted to e-mail her the photo she had taken of you one year earlier… or rather, of my belly with you in it, before you were to be born the next morning.

Having sent the photo to her, we continued conversing about you. She reminisced about you and made it clear just how much she loves you, and that was special to me, because she was there when you were born and was one of the first to hold you after Mama and Dada did. We e-mailed back and forth, on and off for about an hour. About five minutes before midnight, I clicked on her last e-mail of the night. In it, she suggested that I go outside and turn on the lights on your tree right at midnight. I loved the idea {and wondered why none of us here at home had thought of it}. So I did it. In my slippers, I slipped out quietly to plug in your lights… just as the date turned over to your official birthday. I walked up close to your tree… to where your earthly shell remains… and I stood there and cried. A cold air that was not at all conducive to crying sent me back inside before long. And that’s okay, because really all I wanted was for your lights to be on. Back inside, I thought about that cold… how cold it was. But the thought of lights warming your tree even just slightly made me glad as I drifted off to sleep.

As we all slept, your lights shined brightly and told the cold, dark night that you are alive in our hearts still.

Turning those lights on at midnight was the best idea… a gift, really… and I can’t think of a better way to have started your day.

If I may rewind a bit, I’d like to go back a bit further… before midnight… to when I was tucking your big brother in for the night. We talked about you, and how we had some big plans for celebrating you the next day. He asked where you are and why we can’t see you… if you’re gone. I told him that you’re gone, but just from this earth. So he asked me in his sweet three-year-old voice, “Is she on another planet?” He’s learning a lot about planets lately, Earth being one of them. So, hearing you are no longer earthly bound, he just assumed you are on a different planet. My heart smiled at that, as did my face. But it was dark, so no one saw me. I then tried to explain heaven, but it’s a difficult concept for him to understand. Ha! Even for us grown-ups, it’s not necessarily easy. There is still mystery for us surrounding heaven, but we believe it will all be revealed one day, and it is what we have hope for.

So, back to your day. When I awoke, I shared this photo of the four of us with most people I know to thank them for remembering you with us today. Throughout the day, the response and outpouring of kind and thoughtful words was overwhelming and, like your twinkle lights, warming.

Every single comment was beautiful and heartfelt. But I have to say… the one that got me the most {and nearly brought me to tears} was from your Uncle Drew {Dada’s brother}. He said this… “Happy birthday Anysia, forever. I wouldn’t trade that brief time spent holding you for anything.”

Neither would we, Uncle Drew. We’re so glad you got to meet him, Anysia.

Not only were comments for you {and us} streaming our way. There were beautiful gifts sent, too… meant to honor you and commemorate you on your birthday, and meant to honor us and one year of making it through our loss. There were several thoughtful cards and e-mails. I read them to you. I hope you heard them. One such e-mail came from someone who has come to be a truly special friend. She knows the pain and loss we’ve known, because she and her family experienced it, too. She even wrote a book about it. And then she wrote another… one for moms and dads like yours, to help them while they carry their babies and prepare for their loss. We read it when we were carrying you, and it was her gift to us even before she knew us… her gift to you, even before she had heard of you.

As for the gifts… there was a beautiful necklace that says “Forever in Our Hearts” on a circle/ring that surrounds a heart. On the tiny heart are two tiny feet… little imprints that look like the tiny imprints of your feet that the hospital made for us after you died. Layered over the heart is a very tiny gem… your December birthstone. And on the back of the circle, your name and birthday are inscribed… Anysia Noel • 12.19.13. I’m wearing it now. I love the circle, because it depicts the word complete… the meaning of your name.

The mama who sent that also lost a baby with Trisomy 18. I hope you know her sweet baby boy. Perhaps you and he are as good of friends as she and I have become.

There was a figurine that represented an angel holding you {sent by a dear friend who was also there the day you were born}. I loved getting this, because almost a year ago, I received a similar one… another Willow Tree figurine {from a different friend}. That one was of a mama holding her baby. I see those, the mama figure holding you one year ago, and now the angel figure holding you for me, and I think of how you went from my arms to another’s. I won’t claim to know exactly what heaven is like. Whether or not you can see us. Whether or not angels surround you right now. Whether or not you are in the arms of God or the arms of an angel. But I don’t take this angel and baby figure literally anyway. I take it as a symbol that you are okay. More okay than me… or any of us still here. You left my arms {and your dad’s}, and now you are in other arms of one who’s far more capable… and you are whole again.
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There were ornaments… which I love, because I know my tree will forever be adorned with beauty due to when your birthday falls… so close to the birth of Jesus, who we celebrate. Each ornament given this year is so lovely. And I can’t pick a favorite. But I have to say, the pink angel made of glass crystals is so beautiful and perfect for you.

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Pink has been a theme for you this year… since we’ve come to know you were a girl, really. Not to stereotype. It just always seemed to fit. And wouldn’t you know it… your brother’s favorite color is blue, which also seems like a gender stereotype. But it has nothing to do with blue being a long-standing “typical” color for boys. It has to do with the fact that his eyes are blue, and it’s something he takes pride in. So, when he tells us or others that his favorite color is blue, he doesn’t just tell us his favorite color is blue. He says, “Blue’s my favorite color, ’cause my eyes are blue, and so that’s my favorite color!” He’d tell you, too, if you were here.

Actually, he talked to you a lot today. But I’ll get to that later.

Here’s another beautiful ornament that was sent to us. It’s from your Uncle Nate and Auntie Brooke. I love it, because I love to see your name.
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Let’s see. What else? Oh, there were phone calls. There were tears shed for you by others. I always appreciate that. Every time. It tells me you’ve touched other lives.

There were others who shared about you to people we don’t even know. There were people I hardly know reaching out to me to tell me they were thinking of us. That happened a lot when you were born, too. That’s a special thing that has meant so much to us.

There was a bouquet of the most beautiful pink flowers delivered to our door… from your Auntie Ginger and her family. In the center was one pink rose, surrounded by pink and white flowers and the coolest velvety leaves I’ve ever seen. Your brother said they’re beautiful and likes the way they smell.

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Do you remember Sheri? She was the first to arrive at the hospital the day you were born {even before Dada, you and I arrived}, and along with Auntie Angela, the last to leave {only minutes before you left your tiny body}. She gave me many gifts with a cardinal theme, because she knows just how special that bird is to me, and how you are the fourth cardinal in this family. Sheri’s a very special person who prayed us through the most difficult days. I hope you were able to realize that the day she held you.

Oh, boy… what else? I just don’t want to forget anything.

Well, if I think of anything else that was extended to us for your birthday, I’ll make sure to add it.

Oh… I remember. There was a very special phone call from a very special person. It was from Danielle. Do you remember her? She was the nurse who held you and cared for you while you were with us. Surely, you have not forgotten her. She was nothing short of amazing… a gift to us on that day. She took the most attentive and thoughtful care with all of us, especially you. Last year, on Christmas day, she called us to say hello and see how we were all doing. That alone was pretty incredible. But then, all this time later, one year after we lost you, she still remembered you… and us… and our phone number! {Well, that was probably written down somewhere, but still!} So she called us once again, today, just to say she was thinking of us. And she told us that you changed her life. Actually, there have been several people who have said this to me. But you know what? She’s had to watch a lot of babies leave their mamas… their families… too soon. So, I’m sure each one has been special to her… every life is. But to be told that you changed her life. Well, I can’t really even begin to tell you how that makes me feel. But it is a beautiful thing to hear. There is never a time that I hear of your life affecting another’s that I am not moved and grateful. It helps me remember that your brief life was not for nothing.

What a great day we had in all. But that… her call… was definitely a highlight. What a special person to have remembered you, though I would not have thought less of her if she had forgotten.

Now, on to how we spent your day. Your big brother spent the morning with your cousins and aunt. Really, this was arranged so that I could have some time with a special friend who wanted to take me out for breakfast. But I was glad it worked out this way, because he spent the morning with your cousins the day you were born, too. So, it was sort of like a redo of that day… a special reunion. And just as I knew he was in good hands that morning a year ago, I knew he was in good hands today. They were honored to be a part of your day in that way, and happy to make it possible for me to celebrate your day with a friend.

This wasn’t just any friend. She was the first person to be told in person that you existed {besides Dada, of course}. She came over with her daughter one Spring day to have a play-date with your big brother. It was just days after your life began. I told her I was sure you had been formed and were growing there inside. And she immediately hugged me with excitement and congratulatory words, so happy that I’d be having another baby. She was by my side through all the ups and downs from that day forward. Like others, a true support that held us up when we were wobbly and having trouble standing on our own. But not only that… our friendship has grown through it all. Tested. And grown. In fact, it’s a friendship that was really just getting started on that day when she learned of you. So it’s as though, along with you, a friendship was born. She will forever be so closely associated with your life and the days we had with you… which is why it was so special to be with her today. We had a delicious breakfast, shed some tears together, and laughed too. And she gave you {and me} your little pink angel ornament that I told you about above. She asked me what we’d be doing for the rest of your day. So I told her…

We’d be walking out to your tree to sing happy birthday to you. And we did.

We’d be baking you chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting {because you seem like a chocolate kind of girl… and we already established the reasoning behind the frosting color with that whole pink thing}. We did bake cupcakes. Your brother even helped, and it was his cupcake that held your candle, which our collective breath blew out together… right at 9:30 in the evening, because that is when the light inside you went out and you took your last breath.

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I also told her we’d be going out for a special dinner so that we didn’t have to cook something here. And we did.

That’s how we like to celebrate birthdays around here… by going out for a nice dinner. Sushi is usually the fare of choice. Now, if you were here, we’d probably have taken you to a more baby-friendly place. But since you weren’t, and we were sure you would have wanted us to celebrate at a place we all love, we went to our favorite local restaurant… a Japanese sushi restaurant that has great food and a cool fish tank that your brother loves so much. We had a lovely time.

Getting back to earlier in the day, after breakfast and before we picked up Dada from work, your brother and I spent the day with your cousins and my sister. We had lots of fun. We talked about you among many other things. We listened to Christmas music and ate some lunch. We laughed at your brother and his antics. Oh, and we had tea. Your aunt is known for her teas. I’m sure, if you could have stayed with us, she would have invited you to one of her famous teas and given you the prettiest pink tea-cup to drink it in. That was the color of the one I drank my tea from.

Speaking of pink, while your cupcakes were baking, Dada, your brother and I went out to your tree to sing happy birthday to you, right in front of that one pretty pink light Dada added for you. It was a special moment. This was when your brother was talking to you. He told you to jump up high in the air, and he kept looking up into the sky for you. He told you there were cupcakes baking in the kitchen for you. He said he wished you were here so that you could eat them with us. Earlier in the day, when I told him we’d be making cupcakes for you, he said, “Okay, but then after that, let’s make some for me!” That’s your brother! Always thinking of what sweets he can get his hands on. Well, we made twelve cupcakes, so there were more than enough for all of us.

Oh!! I just remembered something else! While we were out for sushi, we asked the waitress for some paper and crayons to keep your brother occupied. She didn’t have crayons, but she said she could give him some markers. I expected maybe a green, red, blue and yellow marker… or something like that. She brought him orange, yellow, red… and PINK! After drawing his own picture on one side of the paper, he turned it over and told us he wanted to draw you a picture with nothing but the pink marker. So he drew you a pink tornado. He asked me to add your name, with very specific instructions that it must be in pink as well. So I did. It’s lovely, isn’t it? It’s the prettiest pink tornado I have ever seen. We’ve hung it next to the Christmas tree your brother made in preschool. I hope you like it too.

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Mostly, we remembered this day one year ago. We remembered holding you, elated to meet you and breaking inside having to let you go. We’re still heartbroken… still having a hard time letting go. We look at pictures like the one of us four above, and it’s easy to remember every single emotion we felt that day. It’s easy to remember your beautiful face. Yes, it broke us to lose you. But God has been putting us all back together a little at a time. Thank Him for us, would you?

Well, I do think {and hope} that I have remembered every detail. It’s so hard to believe that you’ve been gone for a year. You’ve been gone more days than the number of days we had with you. But you will always remain in our hearts and minds. And we will celebrate you every day, especially every December 19th. There are those who consider babies like you “incompatible with life”. That’s the actual term they label you with… or the condition you had. But that’s just not so for us. Your life, as short as it was, was just as meaningful to us as it would have been if you had lived to be 100 years old. And you, my daughter, were not incompatible with life. God knew the number of your days, just as he knows mine and my almost 100-year-old grandmother’s. He makes no mistakes. You were not a mistake. You were a gift. You are a gift.

Happy birthday, dear sweet Anyisa. We had a very special day.

I hope you did, too.

Love,
Mama

{P.S. – A very wonderful mama, who also told me your life changed hers, took that photo of us four above… along with an entire album of many more beautiful images that I will cherish forever. She didn’t get to hold you, because she was busy capturing our time with you. But like us, I think she holds you in her heart.}

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