November 20, 2015
Today is my son Riley’s 6th birthday. It really is such a happy occasion, exactly as it should be, and I love to see his joy every year. He is full of life and love and has a huge personality. I don’t know a single person who knows him who doesn’t just adore him.
It is also the anniversary of the day (exactly one year before Riley was born) that we discovered our son, Andrew, had died at 17 weeks gestation. I struggle on this day every year. I spend a lot of energy trying to get through the day with only smiles and happiness for my boy. I don’t want him to know I feel pain on this day. The pain isn’t for him. I’m so in love with him. He is a miracle to me for a lot of different reasons and I am so very grateful for him, but I cannot seem to erase the gut wrenching ache that this day brings every single year.
Tonight I sit here in the dark, all of my family asleep, and remember. I remember waking up in the morning and being so excited for my doctor’s appointment. We were going to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. My husband could not leave work to go with me. He felt terrible, but I told him it was no big deal. Fourth kid, no problem! Then, I remember the soul deep shock and rage I felt when I saw on the ultrasound that my baby’s heart had stopped beating. The immediate pain and guilt, for I was sure I had done something wrong. It was my responsibility and purpose to keep him safe. The shock lasted until I got to my car. I couldn’t reach my husband on the phone. I remember screaming in my car. Just screaming and crying and beating the steering wheel. Oh, what passing drivers must have thought. My grief was instant and I lost my mind in it for awhile.
At this time, after midnight seven years ago, I was sitting up trying to process all that had happened since the morning, waiting for the medicine to start my labor. I did not want a D&C. I couldn’t do it. I wanted to have my child. I swear I kept thinking a miracle would happen. Oh, God, no, please no. Tonight, I am still trying to process all that has happened. Trying to understand the loss of one son and the gift of another so soon after.
Tomorrow, I will relive every moment. Not because I want to, but because my mother’s heart will not let me forget. I had only one birthday ever to spend with Andrew and even though there was no laughter, joy or innocent excitement, I will honor that day. I will cherish what I do have of the one day I held my tiny, sweet, perfect son. My boy whose smile I never saw, whose breath I never felt. I will remember the first moment I saw him. I will hold his pictures, remember how he looked, how he felt, so small in my hands. I will never forget.
I pray that as the years pass I can keep Riley’s birthday free of sadness and that he will only know love and laughter on his special day. I wish I could hold them both, hug them both, see two smiles and two sets of shining eyes on these two days. Instead, I will try to preserve one’s innocence, but still honor the other for the gift whose life, however fleeting, changed me forever.
Andrew Daniel 11/21/2008
Riley Andrew 11/20/2009