I found out yesterday that today, October 15, is the National Day of Remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss. The day has been our own day of rememberance for the last 9 years but it's kind of neat that the same day has been set aside to remember others as well.
Our first daughter, Olivia Margaret, lived a miraculous 10 days and went ahead of us to heaven on October 15, 1999. Both of our mothers' names are Margaret and it was fitting that she carry the name from both of them. We had picked out her name early on in our marriage just waiting for the birth of our first daughter to use it. She was born at 25 weeks for reasons I do not have. In all honesty because we did not know if she would live or die we found it hard to give her the name. I love her name. Really love it. I am a name and meaning person and I so desperately wanted to be able to call out her name. To call her for dinner or to say her name when it's time for bed. I wanted to protect myself and find a different name. One further down on our list. But the next day when the doctor came in to tell us that it had been a rough night with pneumothorax issues we both felt that we needed to name her. Not a second best name, her name. That even if she never came home, she was our daughter. Our daughter who deserved my whole heart. The best that she would have been given even with a promise to live.
"Olivia, it's time to come in now."
"Olivia, it's time for bed."
I will never say those things to her.
But I did get to say...
"Olivia, mommy loves you."
"Olivia, I'm going to read you a story."
"Goodnight, Olivia, we will see you in the morning."
I remember checking out of the hotel that cool, fall October Day. We had decided that we would check out of our hotel that day because we wanted to sleep at home. Home was thirty minutes away from the hospital and we had no idea what the future held plus expenses were adding up. Little did we know what the day ahead held for us.
My parents had decided to come back and visit and as my parents and I went to the hospital cafeteria for dinner, Steve came with an urgent look on his face. He informed us that her oxygen levels were so low they were now doing permanent damage and we had some decisions to make.
After an hour talking together just the two of us and then with our parents we decided to make the excruciating decision to let her go. To ask her to stay now felt so selfish. We went in to see her first before telling everyone what we had decided. Moments that I remember of that day are still too painful to recount.
Family was called. The hospital gave us a large room to all be together. Steve and I and our parents all sat in the room and took turns holding her for the first time, praying together and giving her back to the One who created her. She was so tiny. My brother-in-law had purchased some very tiny clothing for her and we dressed her and wrapped her in a blanket he had purchased with her name on it. I was so grateful to have those things.
After some time, we invited the rest of the family to come in. We spent some time together and then everyone left us so we could be alone with her. The nurse would come in every once in awhile to listen for a heartbeat. There was a moment where we both felt that she had left us and we knew that she was gone. It still seems so impossible. I felt like I was watching myself go through it and not really living it at the time. I had always felt so protected and what was happening did not feel real.
With each passing year I feel it a little more. The numbness and self protection is wearing off. I process it more each October. Some years are harder than others but each one that passes it becomes more and more real. The grieving process is long. 9 years seems long to me but not when I think back to that day and it all comes flooding back reminding me that it wasn't all that long ago. It seems like only yesterday that I gave my heart to a little 1 pound bundle with no guarantees. Give her my best, I had told myself, no matter what comes.
We have no guarantees for tomorrow. The only guarantee that I have is found in my salvation that Christ has given me. In that salvation lies the promise that someday I will see my daughter with no IV's, no tubes, and with her eyes open looking at me.
For that day I cannot wait. But for today I will remember her. I will remember her and all the others that have been lost.