A year ago today marked four weeks since I gave birth to Joanna, still, at just shy of 26 weeks.
That first month was so hard, as are the months that continue to come, season by season, without Joanna.
But if you had told me at the four-week mark that eventually I would not feel physical pain every day from the emptiness, I would never have believed you.
Around the two-month mark, you might have said that I would not cry every day from the sadness, but it seemed such an unlikely scenario.
At three months, I heard that I would not be angry forever from the injustice, that I would truly laugh again and feel pure joy. But it seemed like the feelings would be my daily routine.
If you had told me at the four-month mark that a time would come when happy memories of my pregnancy and Joanna’s birth would come more often than the sad days, I would have certainly rolled my eyes and pulled the covers back over my head.
Five months in you might have said, it will get easier, and I would have cried oceans of tears, telling you it hurt too badly to believe that could ever be true.
At six months, when people asked if I had any children, I didn’t know how to respond. Practice makes perfect, you might have said. I would have said there is no way to tell my story to people who don’t understand.
At seven, eight, nine months, as babies were born who weren’t even conceived before Joanna’s birthday, bitterness tried to make its way into the cracks of my heart. I fought to keep those cracks filled with my love for Joanna.
And you know? If you had told me I would laugh and celebrate and smile and love, and so sweetly ache for my baby on Joanna’s first birthday, and not hide under a blanket and cry, I absolutely would have laughed in your face.
But this year has gone by, and these changes have come. Tears do come less often, not because we miss her less, but because we have found our “new normal” – we have figured out how to live without Joanna in our arms, though always in our hearts.
I have found the right way to share with strangers the story of my daughter, a way that brings peace to my heart and a smile to my lips – a story where my happy memories of her outweigh the sad memories of her death.
There are days I still ache, days where my chest hurts, that physical manifestation of my broken heart. But I know that love and hope and healing are filling the cracks, and I know Joanna is happy we are healing.