Showing posts with label first birthday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label first birthday. Show all posts

Sunday, November 2, 2014

one!! // a first birthday bash

This is going to be a picture heavy post, but first I want to say this: I prayed (and I was prayed for) and this birthday was easier than any other. I felt so much peace. I didn't yell at my family for three days prior to the party. I didn't cry the night before the party. I didn't stress about getting things done, or cleaning every inch of the house. I felt grateful for every decoration, and all the small moments of prep, and for J who took a day off to make a wonderful cake. And, most of all, I felt thankful for Ainsleigh's life and fierce spirit. Sometimes we don't get what we want, and sometimes the force of the one who is missing knocks us sideways, but there are rare moments when everything feels okay even though the picture we imagined isn't the one we hold before us.

Ainsleigh received a lot of presents, but she was enamored with the baby doll.

J made the dairy free, gluten free, vegan cake with a macadamia nut frosting. He made the colors with carrot, blueberry, and raspberry juice. Yes, he is amazing.

Sharing with brother

My sister took a candid shot of me reacting to Ainsleigh opening her first baby doll. Sometimes a picture captures emotions perfectly. Happy birthday, baby girl.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

our story/part 3

I wasn't going to share another piece so soon, but tonight is a break the rules that don't really exist kind of night. If you want to read the other bits I've shared you can find them here:

I sat in the passenger seat of our car holding Charlotte's urn. The back was stuffed with mementos of her, including a large piece of art from a friend which I had wanted to leave at home, but Jonathan insisted on bringing it and I wasn't going to say no to his only request.

I felt sick to my stomach. I peered over my belly, a five month bump growing bigger every day, to the floor to make sure the notebook with the words I wished to say was tucked inside my purse. I shifted back and forth on my seat.

“Do you think anyone will come? I mean, I know people have said they will come, but do you think they actually will?” I asked Jonathan. “It is a fairly depressing event. A first birthday party for someone who can't be there. A quasi memorial service a year after the fact.”

Jonathan patted my knee. “They'll come. People will come because you are important to them.”

That's what I was worried about. I didn't like asking or expecting people to do things for me. I didn't want to force anyone to sit through an awkward remembrance service. But I needed my loved ones there. On Charlotte's first birthday I needed to have her remembered, even if I had to force a few hands. It was so important to me it made my heart burn with wanting and hope. I needed the flowers, the ceremony, the cards, the sandwiches, the cupcakes, the opportunity for people to speak about her. I needed to leave some of her ashes where we were happiest. Where we heard her heart beat for the first time, where I labored with her, where she briefly entered this world. Oh her time here was brief - from my womb to her daddy's hands to heaven – but she still mattered and I needed to know the tiny seconds of her life were seared on hearts other than mine and her father's.

When we arrived at the birth center I walked down the short path between the parking lot and birth center. I stood beneath a giant clump of lilacs that must have been planted a hundred years ago.

“I think we'll plant the rose and bury her ashes here,” I said to Jonathan. I was glad we were allowed to leave a small memory of Charlotte in the place where she was born.

Jonathan nodded then tilted his head toward the road. “Is that Patricia?”

I looked at the white car speeding up the hill. “Yes, that's her.”

“She's flying,” Jonathan observed as he walked back to our car to unload.

Patricia hugged me tightly then showed me the place close to the front where the rose would go.

“I thought you would want it more to the side ...” I let my voice trail off.

“This is fine,” Patricia said.

Patricia clipped lilacs and other flowers while Jonathan and I prepared the room where Charlotte was born. We set up candles, to be lit immediately after the short service, and displayed photos and mementos of Charlotte around the room. We would each say a few words, then allow others to speak if they wished. While a close friend sang “One More Day” by Rocket Club we would bury Charlotte's ashes and plant a yellow Charlotte rose. Then we would give people time to pay their respects and leave a few pale yellow rose petals beneath the rose we planted. At the end food would be offered as well as a chance to walk through the room where Charlotte was born.

We had the morning planned out, minute by minute, thanks to a friend who designed most of the service. I thought I was prepared, but as I rested a moment on the bed in the room where Charlotte was born I began to dread the event. People were arriving, many of them early, and as they drifted from their cars onto the lawn I began to realize they would want to see and talk to me. I was not ready to be social. I had isolated myself for too long. I wanted people there, but I also wanted to stay inside and remain in the background. I had become comfortable with observing life. I had forgotten how to live without the twin weights of sorrow and wishing holding me within a bubble of solitude.

I stepped into the kitchen where Patricia was arranging the last few flowers into a vase. “I'm not sure about this.”

Patricia paused to rub my back. “This is good. A lot of these people haven't seen you since, right?”

“Some,” I agreed.

“This will be good for everyone. They need to see you and know you're okay.”

I placed my hands on my belly.

Was I okay? I was five months pregnant, alternating between traversing valleys of anxiety and stress with mountains of hope and wanting. Was I okay? That was debatable, but I had invited everyone to come and I needed to get myself together.

“I'm not ready yet,” I whispered to Patricia as I retreated to the bedroom.

People came to me. They sat next to me on the bed, wandered the room quietly looking at Charlotte's picture and footprints. When it was time to begin I gathered myself and walked outside. Somewhere around 40-50 people were there. We had friends and family who drove nearly 4 hours to attend. Grandparents, aunts and uncles were there, as well as friends.

The service was beautiful. As Jonathan and I bent to pour half of Charlotte's ashes into the ground I felt a release deep within me.

I had to say goodbye to Charlotte in a public manner. I had to acknowledge her life before I could greet the baby growing within me. Even though it was a year after she died, and even though it should have been a very different gathering, celebrating and remembering her with a special service felt right. It completed the circle of our first year of grief. It did not cap our mourning, or bind our wounds so tightly scars could not be seen, or seal our hearts from the unique pain of losing a child, but it provided a comfortable ending to the first long year of grieving.

As people silently wandered the room where she was born they met Charlotte and came to know her. So much of parenting a child who is gone is in the small details and slight memories. I only have a handful of things I can tell you about Charlotte, but if you are willing to listen I will tell you every single one. On Charlotte's first birthday I felt loved and blessed to have so many pause their lives to listen to hers.

I had worried over the day for weeks. Months even. As it drew near I thought about canceling because I felt like I was requesting too much of people, myself included. When the service was over, as we tidied up and packed away left over sandwiches and cupcakes, I understood that I had done my best for Charlotte on what should have been her first birthday. I opened my heart and our lives so people could meet a child who would never walk or talk or say I love you, but who would always be my first born; the baby who made me a mother.

We packed the car, said our good-byes and headed home. Down the hill, around the curves, into town and over the bridge. I was relieved to have the day behind us. I was pleased with how it turned out. I held Charlotte's urn on the way home just as I had on the way out. Half of her ashes were waiting at home to be reunited with the custom urn and I was worried it would break on the short drive home.

The night before Jonathan and I had opened the lid of Charlotte's urn and carefully pulled out the red velvet bag tucked inside. I had looked in it before, sometime shortly after she died. It was one of those odd moments of absolute horror and insatiable curiosity that came about quite often after Charlotte died. I wanted to look because it was all that was left of her, but knowing she was reduced to chunky ashes with a metal identification tag mixed in made me feel sick. Then I shoved the plastic baggie back into the red velvet bag, pulled it closed and pushed it into the urn with trembling fingers, but the night before her service I had to divide the ashes in half.

“Should we just put them in another baggie?” I asked J as we peered into the urn.

“No, that won't work. Let's take out half, put it directly in the urn, bury that and then leave this here to put back in the urn when we're all done.”

It made sense, but it felt strange to divide Charlotte's ashes in half. There was so little of her left. Was it wise to cleave her life any more than circumstances already had? I made Jonathan do the pouring. I replaced the lid on Charlotte's urn, then set half of her ashes on the mantle in the red velvet bag.

When we arrived home after the service I tucked the red velvet bag back into the urn and set it above the fireplace with a sense of relief. The remainder of her ashes will stay with the urn until it is time for them to be mixed with ours. It is unsettling that she has gone before us. That her ashes wait to be mixed with ours, that we were not allowed more time with her. Our hearts are closing around the pain, drawing it deeper every day. We are beginning to understand the impossibility and unfairness of continuation as we have lived within deep grief for a year and have met a hard truth: life does not follow rules or obey common order. Charlotte went before us and on her first birthday we honored the brief time in our story where she lived.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bennett's First Birthday

I can do nothing but sit. I am so wiped out and run down. It's like I have the flu only my stomach doesn't hurt, except it does a little from the antibiotics ...

Here is B's first birthday in all its glory.

J decorated the backyard

Cake table

Photo banner

Craft table - had the little ones make sand jars as their party favors

The picnic table J built was a huge hit with the littles

I baked, J baked AND decorated

So many toys, we're going to save a few for later

From us

B did not enjoy his cake


J bought a red balloon for Charlotte

Bennett and Charlotte


Ali is five weeks old now

Too much party

Ready to play after a long nap

This moment brought to you by J


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