At this time last year, Zoey was 12 weeks old. But now we edge closer to a year without her. There are many things I haven’t said because I can’t find the words. A darkness too deep, a pain too penetrating. I often try to hide it. And from the outside it probably seems I’m okay. But I’ll never really be okay again. A part of me is missing.
What you don’t see are the restless nights. The ones I lay in bed, the thoughts unstoppable. Grief sitting on my chest. Struggling to breath.
You can’t see the lump in my throat as I walk past the baby section.
You don’t see the ache when I’m near another baby. The one that screams “your arms are empty!”
You can’t feel my heart skip a beat when I see her little footprints inked on the photo in the hall.
On the way home one evening, Joe and I pulled into the driveway and he mentioned that the fireflies were out. I recalled to him how my brother and I would chase them when we were little. I immediately saw Joe’s face fall. A wordless expression I’ve sadly come to recognize over the last few months. The one that in an instant says so much:
We’re going to miss out on that with her. I miss her. I long for her. I love her.
It’s not just the big things we miss. It’s everything. Everything has been taken. Summer nights chasing fireflies. A little girl riding on her daddy’s shoulders. Snow cones and snow ball fights. Gathering candy at the parade. Soccer games and sleepless nights.
These are the things others don’t see. The moments of searing pain that stay hidden.
I wonder if I showed the pain more if people would understand. If I refused to get out of bed one day, would they realize how much her life still matters? There are moments it looks like people have forgotten her. My life was torn to shreds. It hurts me and the other moms and dads who lost their babies before they took a breath, at three hours, three days, three months, three years, thirty. It hurts us all. Yes, I get up and I go to work. And go shopping. And do all of the things I used to do. But I am not the same. And every time I leave the house, I tell a photo of my daughter goodbye and that I love her. A photo.
I look at myself and know things are not the same. But a stranger on the street? They’d pass me and never know. There are moments I want to scream her name just so I can hear it. Just so people know she was here.
I’ve decided to run the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge this year. I started last year with the Princess half so decided to run both the 10k and the half this year. Running helped me so much last year. It gave me a goal. A purpose. It would have been very easy to just hide in my house last winter, but I wanted to do that race for Zoey. I wanted to help the hospitals that helped us both before her birth and after. And most importantly it’s a way for me to keep being her mom. To keep saying her name and telling her story. To break outside of my comfort zone and make other people uncomfortable too. Because I get it: nobody really wants to talk about dead children. It’s ridiculously depressing. It’s your worst nightmare. The one you want to hide from. I’ve heard it all: “I can’t imagine what that’s like”. “I’m glad I’m not you”. But this is my reality and the reality of so many other parents. We get to talk about our kids too. So please, tonight as you chase fireflies with your sweet kiddos, think about the parents like us who are missing that chance. And about the moms and dads who are spending the night in a hospital watching over their babies. Please don’t forget us.
If you’re interested in donating to Children’s Miracle Network, the link is below. I’ll be hosting a few fundraisers in the coming months too. Also, Zoey’s brick is now at the Zoo. It is at the north entrance by The Living World. Stop by to see it on your next visit. It is wonderful. I love knowing her name is there at the place we celebrated her life.