Dear Joanna (5.29.15)

Dear Joanna:

It’s been a little while since I have written to you. But I figured you don’t mind, since I talk to you all of the time. I know your daddy does too, especially while he works in his garden.

I was thinking back to Mother’s Day, when I went into the nursery and sat down in the half-painted room, tracing your hand and footprints. I told you that even if the result of my pregnancy with you were the same, I would go back and do it all over again. Joanna, you meant so very much to us, you still do. We miss you every moment of every day, but most days have less tears, usually, than the day before. Every day also has more love for you than the day before.

Today marks 5 months since your birthday. You quietly slipped away a day or two before, in a moment I didn’t even notice. That breaks my heart, that as your mom I didn’t know. I try so hard to remember the last time I knew all was well, that last moment I felt you moving. But I don’t know when it was and for that I am sorry.

I am also so sorry you won’t be joining us for Emily and Cameron’s wedding this weekend. It was supposed to be your big debut with so many sweet friends. They love you, even now. Emily even told me that your dad and I can have your cupcake because she knows you will be there with us. These first milestones without you are so hard. But Emily is right – you are always with us, in our hearts forever.

And so, sweet girl, I wanted to share this quote with you, because I am in a place where I know it to be true:

“Sometimes I think of you and feel giddy. Memory makes me lightheaded… All the things we did. And if anyone had said this was the price, I would have agreed to pay it. That surprises me; that with all the hurt and the mess comes a shift of recognition. It was worth it. Love is worth it.”

Joanna, some of the happiest memories of my life are of you. I think back on my pregnancy and can smile. Not every day, but some days. Like I told you on Mother’s Day, I would do it again.

You are worth it, my love.

I love you.

Mom

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Pretty in Pink [A Celebration of Life]

These past few days I have had a lot of trouble thinking about what to say, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. So here goes nothing…

Easter weekend was pretty hard for me. I was surrounded by so many of the people I love. It was a beautiful weekend of joy and celebration. But at the same time, it was devastating. Thinking that I probably shouldn’t even have been up in PA, considering that Joanna could have been born early. Or, better yet, that she was growing and healthy and happy right up until 40 weeks: Tuesday. Which would have meant I couldn’t have traveled so far away for Easter. Those are the things I think of when I’m alone, when I’m in bed trying to fall asleep, when I’m driving in my car… If only things were different.

Speaking of 40 weeks, Tuesday on my due date we had a celebration of Joanna’s life. We decided to plant a winterberry bush in our backyard. It will get bright red berries in December (her birthday) and will have bright green leaves most of the rest of the year (that come out in Spring, around her due date). Prior to the evening of our celebration, we invited friends and family from afar to write “Dear Joanna” letters on tags that I designed and printed on light pink card stock. Then, local friends (and my mom and Aunt Barb) came over for a potluck dinner Tuesday. April 7. We hung all the mailed-in tags and the friends who could attend the celebration filled out tags and hung them as well.

We had wanted to plant the winterberry and hang the tags outside, but the weather was not cooperating. I was pretty upset at first. Something came out of my mouth in the car on my way home from work that sounded like, “God, You get to have Joanna, can’t I at least have nice weather for our memorial?” And it came out in a loud, angry yell. It was certainly a low moment for me, though anger is a common emotion for me to feel when I think about losing Joanna. Regardless, I felt better after saying what I was truly feeling, and a bit of peace washed over me, like God was answering me, “You carry Joanna in your heart, you celebrate her life every day, the weather can’t change that, or how much you love her.” And so I went home, put the tree in the house like a Christmas tree and we celebrated. It was beautiful. The pink really popped, plus we had pink tulips and pink balloons.

Love Mom

I feel so blessed to have so many family members and friends who joined us in celebrating, near and far. I am so grateful for their thoughts and prayers and support during the past three months. There is no doubt in my mind how loved Joanna was and still is – and no doubt that Bill and I are loved, as well.

Proud Parents

A final thought…I feel like making it to my due date and surviving this time is a huge relief to me. Every week I thought about how far along I would be in my pregnancy and what that would mean for us. And now, I am not counting down to the day when my baby would NOT be born. It has passed. I am here. Breathing. Sure, I will think of all those milestones we are missing as the rest of the Spring babies are born. I will be happy and sad all at the same time to see new pictures of those babies on Facebook and even meet some of them once their parents bring them home and are settled. But now, we’ve made it. Now, we look back with love and sorrow all at once. But now we also look forward – and try to hold on to hope that someday there will be a baby brother or sister for Joanna. We look in our hearts and we find her there.