To honour Isabel's birthday, I decided to take part in a 30 day writing challenge I found online. Each day took me somewhere new, reflecting on things I may have never had the opportunity to reflect on or share with you. It took me on a beautiful journey of memories, and sorrows. It was not always easy to reflect each day, but it was extremely healing and a wonderful tribute. So here's a little peak into my broken heart.
Day 1: My favorite clothing item I bought for you.
We didn’t buy much for you, as we pretty much had everything for a baby. I washed all of Ethan’s baby clothes and blankets and had them all ready. We didn’t know you were a girl, and our plan was to shop more for you once you were born. Ethan was born in the spring, so a lot of his baby clothing would have been out of season for you.
However, a few days before you were born, I happened to be out and bought three really pretty baby sleepers, so you could wear something nice from the hospital if you were a girl. I ended up returning those sleepers about a month after you left us, and that was so painful, but it was more painful to see them hanging in the closet. So I had to return them. I didn’t have the receipt, and one had no tags, so they wouldn’t take that it back. I was upset at the time, to be honest; if only they knew my story. In the end, it was bittersweet and I got to keep one. It hangs in my closet everyday between my clothes, and I love seeing it there now. Every so often when it gets lost in the mix, I bring it to the front of the closet again.
Sweet Isabel, you are part of our home in so many small ways.
Day 2: The meaning behind your name and why we chose it.
I just found out the meaning of your name is, devotion to God or gift from God.
At first we wanted to name you Bella, meaning beautiful. But instead we decided that we would call you Isabella and for short we would call you Bella. However, before you were born, I decided to shorten it to Isabel, because when I said it out loud my heart liked it better.
Day 3: Teddies and toys.
Your baba bought this stuffed lamb rattle for you. He brought it to the hospital to be with you always. Your nurses made a little swing for it to hang near your bed. And they took this picture of you holding it for us.
Every time I look at it I think of you, and how your sweet hands held it. I like to hold it the same way you held it. After losing you, I slept with it for a few weeks.
Day 4: My favorite photo with you.
Almost all the photos I have of you are my favorite. I’m lucky to have each one, because it’s all I will ever have of you. I love the beautiful photo of you on display in my home. But to choose another one, I would choose this one. I remember this moment being so peaceful. No sadness, just pure joy looking at you. And I felt so beautiful inside and out. I was glowing. I was filled with hope.
Day 5: How old you would be today…
If you were here today you would be 23 months. You would be walking, talking, and smiling. You would be beautiful, with your long dark hair I imagine you with. You would have the sweetest giggles like your brother. You would be so very loved by him. You would be his best friend.
If you were here today, I would be much happier. If you were here today, I would be much less confused about life and my identity. If you were here today, I would be happily mothering two children.
Day 6: My cravings during pregnancy.
Sleep. Sleep was my craving. Pregnancy is tiring. Pregnancy with a two year old, even more tiring. That’s all I wanted to do!
My food cravings were pasta, I couldn’t get enough of it, so delicious. Also macaroni and cheese, which really disgusts me now being vegan. I will never buy a box of that again. One big thing I feel guilty about eating while pregnant with you.
Day 7: When I visit you.
When I visit you, I often go alone or with Ethan. I like to take a scenic route, and I like to play particular songs on the way. I like to bring flowers that last long, usually lavender from my garden or carnations. I keep scissors to cut the flowers down and water for your vase in my car. I trim the grass growing around your stone, keeping it nice and neat. If the weather is nice, I like to sit with you long. Or eat lunch with you.
When I visit you, I get to visit my mama too, as you are both there with me. And when I leave you, I often go to a bakery nearby and bring snacks home. It’s my way of telling Beilal that I was with you. And when he sees them, he always asks how you are doing.
Day 8: Something I made for you.
The first thing I made for you was a chatbook photo album to keep all the memories of you in one place. There are pictures of me pregnant, ultrasound photos, and photos taken at the hospital. Each photo is dated and in chronological order of events. A short description of our love under each one. I also included a few special poems, and some pictures of your keepsakes we received in your memory box from the hospital. It’s a treasure I will have forever.
Once I’m done this challenge, I will be creating a book of it too.
Day 9: Something I wanted to teach you.
Many of the things I wanted to teach you are lessons that I have learnt while healing from losing you. However, I would have taught you to be kind, patient, and have an appreciation for the beauty all around us. Those things have brought so much to me.
But because of you, I am teaching Ethan all of these things through modeling them myself.
PS. I am behind by five days writing this, and feel like I have failed the challenge only over a week in. So here I am catching up. Life sometimes sucks me in so much that I can’t find my breath to do the things I want. So today, I made a decision to go for a nature walk before work so that I can catch up on my writings to you. It’s so beautiful out here. The weather is cool and warm, a perfect end of summer day. I saw a raccoon as I was walking to find a quiet place. We both stopped and looked at each other for a minute. Then it slowly walked away then I slowly backed away too. And now I am sitting by the river, listening to the magical sounds of the stream and hearing the leaves fall all around me. The birds and crickets fill the rest, and I can faintly hear the street so close to me. Nature has a never ending list of benefits and it continues to amaze me. One minute I can be down, then I look up and see a raccoon or a deer, and it changes everything.
Day 10: If you could hear me, something I would tell you.
I would tell you how much I wish I could have saved you. I know you can hear me. I believe you are all around. I believe you are around me now as I write and the leaves fall from the trees behind me.
I feel you always. And I love you always.
Day 11: Something given to us by the hospital.
The hospital gave us many things. A memory box filled with everything you. Clay models of your little feet. Pictures of you. Your hospital bracelet, your birth card, a clipping of hair. So many things.
But one thing I loved receiving the most, is a receiving blanket that your nurse put on you when I held you for the first time. In the video I have, she is asking for her "rosebuds", which is the print on the blanket. They gave me a small sample of that material in your memory box. It was a beautiful surprise when I opened it, and so thoughtful. It immediately brought tears to my eyes. I now keep my rosebuds in my car and you are with me everywhere I go.
Day 12: Something that makes me think of you.
Many things make me think of you. The one that stands out the most is when I see a butterfly fly by. I feel in that moment you are that butterfly. It makes me stop and be mindful, and that brings me peace.
I never really noticed butterflies before I lost you. Now I always see them while driving. As small as they are and as fast as cars go, somehow I always find one pass by me.
Day 13: A photo of your urn or memorial site
When I saw your stone for the first time, it finally brought me comfort knowing there was a special place just for you with your name on it. We had to wait all winter until the spring for it to get installed. It felt special being there with you, it was your home away from home. I love that we chose a small heart for you, it’s perfect and simple. Exactly what we wanted.
I was always sad leaving you there. As a parent you always want to protect your child in every way possible. It may sound silly, and I know you are gone, but it always scared me leaving you there alone. I was sad thinking of you being cold throughout the winter, your little body buried deep underground. It was a very chilling and morbid feeling. But all I wanted to do was hold you, and keep you warm and safe, even knowing you were gone, even knowing I could never do that. It was like my heart was split wide open between two realities: you being gone and you being right here with me.
Day 14: A picture of you as an angel
Someone at work gave me this beautiful angel statue. It was his and his wife's when they lost their baby many many years ago, and they passed it onto me. It represents you as my angel. You are truly everywhere with me.
Day 15: A photo of my belly when I was pregnant with you.
I remember taking this photo. It was two years ago yesterday. It was the first time I wore a big comfy sweater while this big. It was starting to feel like fall, with weather like today: cool in the morning but really warm in the afternoon. Even though I knew that I didn’t care, because I wanted it to be fall and wearing big comfy sweaters! So I wore this to work and loved it. I loved my bump, I loved you in me.
I remember though, that I got so hot later in the day, that I had to go to the mall to buy a shirt to change into. I went to forever 21, parked in their pregnancy parking spot, and chose a nice loose white t-shirt, it actually looked so nice! I don’t remember where that shirt is now, it might be packed away with maternity clothes. It was so cute on me.
I crave for the chance to experience this all over again. My hope is running low these days, but I do still hope I get to carry a healthy baby to term and bring that baby home.
Day 16: A letter I wrote to you
I wrote this in February 2016 in my journal.
My darling Isabel, how I think of you so often. Your shiny, soft brown hair, my lovely little angel. I think about how old you would be, how I would have been carrying you close to my heart always, how Ethan would be snuggling you, my oh my does he love babies, he’s so excited and fascinated by them. He always points to them, and it breaks my heart, because he would have adored you.
I’m sitting here now at Starbucks, and as I’m writing this I began crying, the sun was beaming bright on me through the windows, and I felt you Isabel. I got interrupted from writing by Baba, he called to tell me I should build a snowman for you. I wanted to a few weeks ago, but the snow wasn’t packing and it’s been melting, so he said I should do it today. He told me to send him a picture after. After we hung up the phone, I realized that the both of us were thinking about you at the exact same time.
Love you beautiful girl, always and forever.
Day 17: My handwriting of your name.
I don’t often hand write your name on paper. So this was pretty special.
I love the way your name looks written. The way the letters just flow, it is so pretty. Any time I am shopping somewhere and they have point of sale donations, I always donate just so I can write you and your brothers name together knowing that they will tape it to their wall for everyone to see.
As I write your name here, I think of the many times I have to write Ethan’s name, on forms, on clothing tags, on cards, etc. Writing his name is such a privilege, and I’m thankful for that.
I read somewhere, that having a healthy baby is a miracle. And that we don’t get to choose when that miracle happens.
Day 18: A special day that made me think of you.
It was February 2016, it was still winter. I had the day to myself, Ethan was at daycare. I had just gotten my hair cut, which always made me feel so good. I went and visited you. Then went for a joy ride. I didn’t know where I was going, but I ended up at Heemans garden centre. Because it was mid-winter, the garden centre wasn’t really open, but the little shop they have was. I’m not sure how it happened, but a staff member mentioned something about seeking green during the cold gray season. And took me outside to show me their greenhouse where they babysit customers exotic and summer plants. She pointed it out to me and told me I could check it out. So on my own I went inside, no staff, and no other people. Just me and this huge jungle of fresh green life. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was truly peaceful.
I don’t know if people often get to visit that area. But it felt like a sign sent from above for me only. So that I could see beauty and life and have my spirit restored. I thought of you that day, and how I long for more days like that.
Day 19: Something I learned because of you.
There is beauty everywhere and that showing love and kindness is the essence of life.
Sept 20: Your birthday and what it means to me.
Your birthday is a special day that honors the beautiful and short life you had. Even though you are no longer here, what you left was beautiful. Your birthday is a day to celebrate our life, and love. Last year, your birthday was very private and healing, and we honored you by getting away together as a family. This year your birthday is a celebration. A celebration of spreading love and kindness for you.
I love you sweet baby girl. Can’t believe it will be two years soon.
Day 21: A short poem about you.
I found this poem last year right before your birthday. It's a guiding light that allows me to always honour and remember you. And a reminder to us all that you will always be a very important part of this world.
I Remember You.
The world will never notice
If a rosebud doesn’t bloom
Or even pause to wonder
If the petals fall too soon.
But every life that ever forms
Or ever comes to be
Touches the world in some small way
For all eternity
The little ones we longed for
Were swiftly here and gone
But the love that was then planted
Is a light that still shines on
And though our arms are empty
Our hearts know what to do
Every beat of our heart says
I remember you.
Day 22: Somewhere I always wanted to take you.
Home. I never wanted to take you to any other place. No beautiful destination, just home. To your family. To start your new life. That’s all I ever wanted.
I wanted to share the beautiful fall season with you. I wanted to sit with you outside on the porch on a cool and sunny day. And I wanted to walk with you in our neighbourhood.
I wanted Ethan to be right beside you taking in all your beauty. I wanted you to bathe together, eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks together. I wanted you to hold his hand.
I wanted to see Beilal holding his little girl in his arms. Rocking you side to side. And falling asleep together on the couch.
I only wanted you to be home with your family. But you had another home waiting for you.
Day 23: Something that reminds me of you.
Many things remind me of you, as I have created a connection to you in so many ways. But the scar your birth left on me, that’s what reminds me the most. It’s there because of you, and when I see or feel it, I will be reminded of our enduring connection. A reminder that you are always a part of me, and nothing will ever change that.
Day 24: If you were alive today…
You would have started the day with breakfast at the kitchen counter with Mr. Ethan. You would have sat and watched Big Hero 6 together while Mama and Baba cleaned up.
You would have said bye to Baba with us at the window and then helped me and Ethan gather toys to take with us to the beach with your grandparents and uncle. You would have had so much fun, and you would have loved the water, the sun and the sand. You would have played with Jido in the water and Sito in the sand. And you would have dug a big hole with Ethan.
After at home, you would have had a bath with Mr. Ethan to get all the sand out of your beautiful brown hair. Then we would have walked to your other grandparents for dinner in the double stroller and play with your two cousins.
At dinner, I would have shared the plans for your special 2nd birthday. It’s been really hot out so it would have been a beautiful outdoor party with the sprinkler going with lots of kids running around. I imagine the big beautiful smile you would have had on your face running around with your brother. Then we would have ended the day snuggling all together as we said a goodnight prayer.
But, you’re not here today....
...so, instead of getting ready for the beach with Ethan, we took a picture with you when we were ready to leave.
Instead of you being there with us, we saw you as a butterfly greeting us as we arrived. And so we played in the sand thinking of you.
Instead of playing with your cousins, your other Sito talked about how close in age you would be to the youngest (who is 1), and how you two would have had each other to play with. Instead of you being there with us, she talked about how at this age she would be braiding your hair all the time.
Instead of planning your birthday party, I shared what time we will all visit the cemetery together to bring you flowers.
Instead of snuggling with you, I snuggled with your brother until he fell asleep.
Instead of you being here with me today, I write about you.
Day 25: A family photo of us.
We had a maternity family shoot with you at home. This was in late July, the pictures were so beautiful. I’m glad we decided to take them, as without them I may have not had many photos of you in me.
I felt so beautiful that day. And I love how Ethan is looking at us both.
Day 26: My favorite ultrasound
This ultrasound was taken just about 3 weeks before you were born to make sure you were head down and ready for birth soon.
It was early in the morning as you can see. And the technician was really sweet, and there was a student with her so they took their time looking at you. I remember us watching you blow bubbles on the monitor, and I wanted to record it. You can see the bubbles in this picture.
Because we didn’t know your gender, we only got pictures of mostly your head and torso. And they gave me so many.
Day 27: Baby blankie
After a few days of being in the NICU, they told me that we could bring a baby item from home for you. So we chose this big swaddle muslin blanket. It was a gift given to me by someone at work when you brother was born. I used everyday with him, so it was only fitting to choose it for you too. It was so nice having a little piece of home on you.
I held you in that blanket as you passed away on October 9, 2015.
Day 28: Jewelry I wear in memory of you.
After we lost you I searched for a necklace I could wear that was just for you. After sometime I finally found what I wanted. Your name on an angel charm, and “I’ll meet you in my dreams” engraved on a second charm.
A short while after I decided what I wanted, without mentioning anything to any one, my sister in law told me she wanted to get one made for me. It was like she read my mind. She asked me what I wanted, so I told her exactly.
When I received it, it was beautiful. I love it and wear it often.
I still haven’t met you in my dreams, but I’m hopeful that I will one day.
Day 29: A baby loss quote I love.
How very softy you tiptoed into my world
Almost silently, only a moment you stayed.
But, what an imprint your footprints have left on our hearts.
Day 30: 5 reasons you deserve to be remembered.
Peace & love always.
Today I'm sharing a journal entry I wrote last July. I always like to go back and reflect on what I've written. It's incredible how much things can really change over a year, a few months and even days. It is true that all things pass. But it is not just time that allows things to pass, it's what you do in that time. Writing for me helps a lot with this process, it's a place where I can safely unload everything, and it allows a little bit of weight to be lifted off my shoulders. It often doesn't fix anything, but I really do get a small sense of relief after. And looking back at it all makes me appreciate just how far I've come, because it's often hard to recognize that.
This post is about anxiety, something that never really impacted my life until after losing Isabel. I can't say that I don't have anxiety anymore, but I'm having less of it, and I have learned how to manage.
I am sitting here by the window, it looks beautiful, the sun is shining right on me. But I don't feel beautiful inside, I feel empty and anxious. I'm waiting for an appointment to adjust my return to work schedule again, it's just not working. I also need to talk to a professional again, now that things have changed, and I'm finding myself dealing with new issues. I need help organizing all these new thoughts and anxieties.
I feel like every week I come into work I am so emotional and want to cry. It's a feeling that I can't control. I don't know what it is. I'm comfortable enough being there now, but doing the work that is supposed to be really easy for me, is proving to be so hard. It shouldn't be this hard. I can't remember anything anymore and I'm really struggling with finding my rhythm again, I guess this is life after loss. I'm easily confused. I'm having trouble with my memory. And I cannot concentrate.
I've never really felt anxiety like I have these past few weeks, I've felt anxious many times, but nothing like this. It's terrible and I wish it on no one. Sometimes it just gets me, it hits me from behind without me knowing, my heart starts beating faster, and I can't think. I don't know what to do. I know where and when I feel safe, but I don't know how to get that feeling when those options aren't available.
I crave for easy, I crave for how easy it was before. I can't manage my time, my thoughts are so unorganized, and I can't figure out how to get myself back, or at least the parts of me that I need back.