In over two year of blogging, this is the second time I’ve written a post that has nothing to do with OCD:
It’s happened for twenty-five years now and I’m still caught off-guard. March rolls around, and as it gets underway, a sadness and uneasiness envelop me. Something is wrong; things are not as they should be. A short pause and it’s all clear. Of course, it’s March again.
My daughter Leah would have been twenty-five years old this month. She was born prematurely, fought like crazy to live, and suffered. She died in my arms on Mother’s Day at the age of six weeks. Never in my life had I experienced such profound loss. Intense grief seared through me, tearing my heart apart and bruising my soul.
When someone you love passes away, everyone tells you to cherish the good memories, but honestly, there are no good memories. However, there are lessons:
The first one that likely comes to everyone’s mind is that you truly appreciate what’s important in life when something like this occurs. While this is true, I have to admit I already had my priorities in order before Leah was born. I didn’t need a crisis to set me straight. My family and loved ones always came first. I knew what mattered. Her life and death just confirmed it.
Life is not fair. While I certainly was aware of this at some level, on another level I actually believed if I did everything right (throughout my pregnancy, for example) then all would be well. Those women whose babies were in the NICU? They probably didn’t take care of themselves in some way, shape, or form. I’ll cut myself some slack as I was very young. Needless to say, this old belief of mine has been blown out of the water more times than I can count. I no longer judge others.
Time really is precious. Books have been written on different parenting techniques, and how we can do right by our children. To me, it’s quite simple. Just be there. Give them your time. Give them you. Because at the end of the day, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.
We need each other. Genuine concern from the doctors and nurses who cared for Leah made the unbearable bearable. The support and love of my parents and immediate family kept me away from that edge I was so dangerously close to. Friends who continued to call even when I could not bring myself to talk to them let me know I was in their hearts. I learned the worst thing you can do when someone is hurting is stay away. I don’t care how uncomfortable the situation might be; we need to show each other we care. Call, send a note, drop by with food, flowers, a hug. You don’t know what to say? Don’t say anything. Words are overrated anyway. Just be there.
Don’t underestimate the mother-child bond. There were many times during our six week ordeal that the only place I found comfort was by Leah’s side. I was rarely allowed to hold her, but I always felt her love and spirit. Her strength and courage were palpable, and I knew when she was fighting with every ounce of her being to survive. I also knew, before anyone else, when she could fight no more.
Don’t underestimate children. My not yet three-year-old daughter took in what she could, which was a lot. What she lacked in understanding, she made up in empathy. After Leah died, she gave me a long hug, and then kissed me on the cheek. “That’s from Leah,” she said simply.
Don’t underestimate husbands. I already knew I had a gem, but I’m talking fifty carat diamond here. He took care of me, never once criticizing my inability to keep it all together at times. He loved me, understood me, and allowed me to feel whatever I was feeling, never judging. He kept our family afloat while also juggling work obligations. With the patience of a saint, he became the family spokesman, updating everyone on Leah’s daily ordeals, which were many. He was suffering deeply too; he just never let on.
Life goes on. I consider myself lucky, as over time my heartbreak evolved into acceptance. I was able to move on from my grief, though a part of me is gone forever. My husband and I took a leap of faith, and after nine months clouded with fear, found joy again: Our son Dan was born one year after Leah died. Our youngest daughter arrived four years later. Our family of five was complete…almost.
She’s always missing. I think of Leah every day, yet it has taken me twenty-five years to be able to write about her. I often wonder what might have been. Her short life, filled with lessons and love, shaped my own life in countless ways. Though she lived for only six weeks, Leah will be with me always.