Where does a mother start when it’s 4:00am and she finds herself awake, alone, and realizing it’s been 5 years since her first child was born?
I knew this day was coming but wasn’t sure how I’d manage it this year. The beginning of October was an emotional rollercoaster, and now 25 days in, the tides of life have swept me in and I haven’t been thinking as much about Poppy’s birth anniversary.
Do you know that stillborn babies in Washington State are not entitled to a birth certificate? Only days after her birth, Eli and I found ourselves needing to pick up Poppy’s death certificate. I can’t remember now why we needed it. Was it for the cremation? We didn’t belong in that office. No new parent does.
But that, like many other horrible realities, was something we had to do.
Anyways, I woke up tonight around 2am when Eli crawled into the sheets. “What time is it?” I mumbled as we wrapped our legs around one another.
“I don’t even know,” he whispered.
“Have you been up all this time?”
“No, I fell asleep on the couch.”
“Oh, good,” I turned and asked if I could be the big spoon.
We cuddled for a few minutes and then I rolled over feeling too warm. I laid there hoping to fall asleep again, but I couldn’t. Eli’s breath was rhythmic, so I knew he was asleep. I tossed back the covers, grabbed my clothes off the floor and tip toed out of the room.
I felt my tummy as I walked into the kitchen and confirmed that I was, in fact, hungry. Toasted waffle with peanut butter and strawberry jam would do the trick. I walked downstairs to my office with a glass of milk and midnight snack in hand.
Wilson, our doggie, picked up his head and greeted me from the couch with a gentle wag of his tail. I gave him a kiss on his brow and told him I loved him.
I munched on my waffle and tackled some minor tasks for my Color Street business. One thing led to another and an hour later I glanced at the time. 3:30am, October 25, 2020.
And it hit me. Poppy’s due date. The day I went into labor 5 years ago. The day my worst nightmare would come true.
I opened the manuscript of my memoir and thought about editing a few pages of my first draft, a colossal task I’m working through. Then I thought about the handful of pictures we have of her. I almost never look at them.
I decided to open the pictures on my computer and commune with her spirit.
I have a total of 30 pictures. Some are black and white. Some are in color. A few years back when I started my blog, I shared one picture of Eli and I holding and looking down at her. She was swaddled and the back of her head faced the camera. You could see her little foot. It had slipped out of the blanket.
You never want to know the weight of a dead child in your arms. She was born 7lbs, 11.8 ounces but she felt heavier than that. She was a mess. Covered in sticky fluids and her head sort of crushed from the labor experience. I still want to believe she was beautiful, but death had done its damage.
Her skin had blistered. Her lips were raven. Her eyes swollen shut. God, describing it is awful. Why bother? I’m not sure honestly. To remember? I guess. I can’t bear to forget. She was real. She is real. And she still lives in my heart.
Eli and I have been reading The 5 Love Languages together over the past 2 weeks. It’s transforming our marriage. The pandemic has been hard for us. I’m extroverted and gregarious. I get my energy from being around others. Eli is quite introverted. He likes people, but he doesn’t need them like I do.
Before the pandemic we had balance. I would pop out alone on Friday or Saturday night to go dancing or have a girl’s night. Eli chose to stay home where he could tinker alone and enjoy the quiet of his man den. We had regular date nights and got dressed up for one another. We enjoyed live theatre, burlesque, dance clubs, costume parties, cocktail bars and fancy restaurants. And when we were out at big parties, although we weren’t always arm and arm, we always gravitated back to one another.
The 5 Love Languages is reminding us what we knew but had forgotten. I need quality time with him and with others and he needs to hear how much I value and appreciate what he brings to the table as a man, a husband, a lover, a provider, a father. We are practicing and it’s making a difference.
Eli and I met 7 years ago next month. We dated for 1 year, got engaged, immediately found out we were pregnant, got married 2 months later, shared a beautiful pregnancy and then had our hearts broken when Poppy was stillborn exactly 6 months after our wedding.
We survived. And we had Moxie. And her existence is the most beautiful gift I could ever hope for. Looking at pictures of Poppy tonight, I could see how Moxie looks like her big sister. They would have been best friends, but seriously I can’t even let myself think about that. No point really. I’m not going to wish for something impossible.
We have Wilson, our angel puppy, sent to rescue us from our sorrow. He will be 5 in December too. He is our “replacement” for Poppy (only I’m allowed to say that). Sometimes when he and I are gazing at one another I pretend that he is Poppy. That she came back as a dog to protect and adore me. It could be true. No telling. I like the idea. It’s comforting.
Anyways, October 26, 2020 at 3:39pm is the 5 year anniversary of Poppy’s birth and death. I am proud of how far I’ve come and how much I honor her existence. It isn’t always easy and it makes some people squirm. But she continues to guide me — she is an extraordinary being, not earthly, but right here with me.
She reminds me to believe in possibility, to trust in things beyond my control, and to live my best life while I can. Thank you Poppy for choosing me. I love you always. XO, Mommy