In 1967, Kathrine Switzer pinned on bib number 261 and set out to run the Boston Marathon– a race no woman had ever officially entered. Along the way, she was attacked by the race director trying to remove her from the course. She kept going. She got blisters on her feet that caused her to bleed. She kept going. And she finished.
This weekend, Skirt Sports held a 261 Fearless virtual run in honor of Kathrine. So I also pinned on the bib number 261 and went for a run. I may not have run 26.2 miles, but I’ve had my own challenges to overcome. That’s what the run was about– feeling fearless in the face of whatever challenge you face.
To me, it’s more than actually having no fear. I just don’t think that’s realistic. It wasn’t for Kathrine. And it isn’t for me.
I was afraid to be a mom. Afraid of the sacrifices being a mom would mean. Afraid I’d be a terrible mother.
But I did it anyway.
I was afraid of carrying a child with a life limiting diagnosis.
But I did it anyway.
I was afraid of her death. I was afraid I’d lose myself in grief.
But I couldn’t stop it. I’ve gained more insight into who I am and who I want to be. I live each day anyway. Bruised & battered but moving forward. And forever grateful for the moments I spent with Zoey.
Kathrine says she “turned the fear and humiliation” she felt that day into anger. And I turned my fear into love. Fearless love for my little angel.
We went to Cracker Barrel for lunch today. I thought it was a “safe” place– free from most of the triggers. But it betrayed me. While wandering through the store, I came across a display of little girls clothes. All of them with anchors. And among the items was a little pair of shoes. Blue. With white anchors. And red elastic where the laces would be. Just like Zoey’s dress. The one she wore her first day at home. Navy Blue. With white anchors. And little red buttons. It’s the last dress she wore. The one I put on her after she died. The one she wore as she left our home for the last time.
I wanted to buy them. Because I don’t have that dress. Because when they asked if I wanted her clothes and blankets back, I said no. Because I didn’t want her to be naked. I didn’t want her to be cold. I handed her over carefully dressed and lovingly swaddled. But why would I buy shoes for a baby that can’t wear them? A baby that isn’t here.
So instead I cried all the way home. And cuddled on the couch with Zoey bear until I fell asleep. And I eventually told Joe about the shoes. And that I wanted them. Because they remind me of her in that little dress. I went back and bought them. Because it doesn’t matter if it makes sense.
Today the moms of the girls I consider Zoey’s sisters gathered to meet and celebrate a new life. A little rainbow baby. Hattie’s little sister. And we laughed. And we cried. And we talked about our girls.
The three of us have only all been together twice. Once when we met baby Evey. And today meeting Matilda. But it’s a safe place. Where we can talk about our girls and nobody will try to change the subject. There are moments you could have looked in that room and it would look like any group of friends greeting the new baby. Smiling. Hugging. Putting hats and bows on her perfect little head. But if you stopped to listen, you’d hear the other side–the catch of sadness when we told stories of our girls.
And yes it hurt. She reminded me of Zoey in some ways—her long toes. The cute little baby noises. The way she turned her feet. But she was so much heavier. And holding her reminded me of the emptiness of my own arms. I can only imagine how her mom and dad feel right now. They’ll always feel the loss of Hattie. But through the darkness there is light. There is a rainbow.
Rainbow Babies are the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean that the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and the clouds. Storm clouds may still loom over but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy, and much needed hope.
And Matilda is amazing. Beautiful. Wonderful. 8.9 pounds of hope. Hope for joy again. Hope to smile. Hope to watch her grow.
I cried on the way home. And as I reached up to wipe the tears, I noticed my hands smelled like baby—that sweet, pure smell. And at that moment, the song I often sang to Zoey came on the radio.
I just wanna make you laugh
I just wanna see that smile
Babe, we’re only here for a little while
I just wanna hold you till we fall asleep
I want love. I want us. I want you. I want me. I want peace.
It was a beautiful day. Warm, sunny. Perfect for time outside. After work I opened the back door and almost stepped out to sit on the patio until Joe got home. But I stopped myself. Because that’s what Zoey and I would have done. It’s how we spent many evenings last summer.
There are many things I haven’t done since she left us. I slept in “our” chair for about a week after she died, but I haven’t sat down in it since. I haven’t walked the neighborhood like the three of us did so many times. I haven’t sat outside waiting for Joe to get home.
I read my friend’s blog about her daughter’s life. And about her last moments. And I thought about “the last time” with Zoey. The last time we walked with her. The last time we bathed her. The last time I sat outside with her. The last time I looked in those beautiful blue eyes. The last time I felt her heart beat.
I’m kicking myself for not journaling more during her life. I took photos every day, but I didn’t write notes about what we did or the little things that made her who she was or just about our daily life together for those four months. It’s now my mission to write down as many memories as I can. I want to remember the firsts, the lasts and everything in between.