We'll be celebrating our daughter's first birthday exactly 10 days from today. In six days, about 40 people will cram into our home to witness her baptism and first birthday festivities. Four days later (on her actual birthday!), we will be flying to Whistler for skiing, spa indulgences and fun with our good friends and fellow babyloss family who are also parents to Jack, Grace & Piper. Jack's fourth birthday was on New Year's Day. Who would've thought we'd be renting a ski condo in Canada with friends who also have a dead son, four years later? If you asked me on December 4, 2010, I would've called you a lunatic. But we're so grateful to have such close friends who literally carried us through some tough days in those first months of loss and still have so much support to offer.
Just a few days before Christmas, Andrew's print arrived in the mail. We decided on a professional pencil sketch for his 4th birthday. Like so many of our babyloss friends, we wanted something to display in our homes that would show the true beauty of our children while still keeping them sacred and protected from gawking and ill responses. We first caught a glimpse when I was sent the initial sketch two days after his birthday. I was so happy to receive this during his birth month.
When it first arrived in my inbox, I was underwhelmed. It was stunning and drawn with such care, but it wasn't the boy I held in that hospital room-- nothing one dimensional could possibly contain all that he was in our arms that evening. There were tiny changes I requested she make (space between fingers as I remember & skinnier nostril cartilage). It was beautiful, but I found myself underwhelmed because it wasn't really him, as if what I expected was to have him back in our arms for the cost of a pencil sketch. We will never have more of him and never another portrait or photograph or experience with him. This was it.
|This was shared on her facebook page, and now here. Andrew, spitting image of Claire.|
After a day or so, I kept staring at his portrait and just fell in love with it. We received the professional copy just a week or so later and had it professionally framed. We picked up the framed piece two days before Christmas and it now has a place among our family photos. It is a cherished piece. We also ordered four copies that will be given to our families when they arrive this week.
Now four years after losing Andrew, we're still trying to find our place in this mess of babyloss. We want to contribute and help others. In many ways, we've already done that. My husband has recently signed up to help as a liaison for NILMDTS. My friend Brooke (who is basically a babyloss celebrity and contributing author to Three Minus One and I've had many meals with her and she slept in my house! Are you jealous?) blogged about a company called Sevenly recently. One of their recent campaigns supported Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I bought up two shirts immediately and posted a picture of one of them on Instagram. They still have some available in four different prints, so check them out! They've raised over $19,000 in shirt sales for NILMDTS, donating $7 from each shirt to the organization.
We're just so passionate about supporting them and ones like it because it normalizes loss for everyone. It makes losing a child more bearable, less embarrassing and more accepted. It makes families like us feel like human beings with hearts and not looked at like charity cases and lepers. We gifted some local NILMDTS photographers gift cards during the holidays to encourage their efforts and thank them sincerely for all they have done for us and other families. I attempted and successfully managed to use my grant-writing skills to send $1k their way. We shop on Amazon Smile with with 0.5% of purchases going to the organization that is the sole reason we have images of our firstborn son and proof that he was real, ours, and is adored.
If we ever get the guts, we'll use a NILMDTS photographer to shoot family pictures. We're not ready. Four years and two kids after losing our firstborn child, we still haven't had another professional photo shoot. He's always missing. It still hurts and there's still a void.
I'm considering another volunteer opportunity (because I really do need more to gab about than potty trianing, amiright?), but that's just being discussed and nothing concrete yet. It will probably take a village and in an effort to keep Andrew's memory alive and well within me, it's something I'm seriously considering.
People are still losing babies. I can't do anything about that (and neither can they, sadly), but it's something that hits me hard and something no one should go at alone.