It's 12:06 p.m.
Five years ago, at this very moment, I was at the grocery store. I was three days overdue with Mila and I knew that she might arrive at any moment. It was a hot, summer day and we needed a few things before the holiday weekend and/or before I went to the hospital and left Charlie and Sofie with my parents. Plus, we just needed to get out of the house.
I arrived home, put most of the groceries away and was texting Chris about his plans for the afternoon. As I was typing, my water broke. I was shaking with excitement . . . she’s coming! I called my parents to see if one of them could come over. Chris was on his way home and I was shoving towels in my pants as I tried to make my four year old twins some lunch before I left to have a baby. It was nuts.
My parents arrived, took over the lunch preparations, and Chris and I grabbed our bags for the hospital. My mom graciously told me not to worry about my soaked pants and the towels I had shoved in them. I threw them in the laundry and knew she would be washing them the minute I left. That's how she is.
I remember how we anxiously drove to the hospital, how hot it was, and how I couldn’t believe we would be meeting our baby girl so soon.
I think now about how surreal the rest of Mila’s birth story is, how no woman ever imagines she will check into the hospital in labor, and wake 13 days later from a coma, deeply aware that things will never be the same again.
I can’t breathe today.
I’m making lunch for my four, beautiful children, and I can’t breathe as I stand in the same place on the same day of the week that my labor began five years ago. My PTSD after losing Mila and almost dying from sepsis after her delivery is almost always well managed. Almost. It’s days like today, the day I went into labor and the day before what would have been her fifth birthday, when my chest feels tight, when my throat and eyes well up all day because I just can’t believe our baby died.
The anniversary of Mila’s death and the memories of that devastating summer always cut right into what would normally be a time of celebrating the 4th of July, enjoying time home with my kids, Chris’s relaxed work schedule, and taking advantage of Minnesota’s beautiful summers. I can’t press pause on soccer games, camps, appointments, or neighborhood parties. Heck, I can’t even sit here long enough to finish a thought before someone in the other room is crying, fighting, or just dumped a bowl of cereal on the floor. Most of the time I feel so fortunate to have these children and these distractions, but today, and tomorrow (on her birthday), I just want to be alone with my girl, with my memories, with my trauma, and with my self.
This year is also feeling especially tough because it is a milestone year. Mila would be turning five and going to kindergarten in the fall. I’ve held by breath this year as I’ve watched friends take their kids to kindergarten round ups, sob and reminisce that their babies are growing up too fast or that it’s their last kid to go off to kindergarten. Mila would be going too, and had she not died, she would probably have been our last.
I would be sending her to school with Charlie and Sofie and some my friends' kids, too. Sometimes I see Mila's shadow frolicking around with the other little siblings as if she's here, too. Then I blink, and she's gone. Sofie often tells me she wishes she had a little sister. I hate that I have to remind her that she does.
Every day, I see Mila's face in our home. Every day, I feel her loving, protective spirit. It's as if she's walking with us for the rest of our time here on earth. This is why we are participating this September in the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Remembrance Walk. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is an organization that provides free professional photography to families who have lost a baby. These photographers take beautiful pictures of the family and their child during the last moments of life or after the child has passed.
The pictures our NILMDTS volunteer photographer took of Mila are my memories of her. They are the reason I know what my daughter looks like. After doctors told us they could not revive Mila, I was rushed into surgery. I held her briefly, but I have no memory of what she looked like then. These photographs have saved me from a lifetime of agony, wondering what she may have looked like. Because of these amazing pictures, I know who Mila is.
Would you like to support this very important organization and our walk this September? Click on the link below to make a pledge for our team "Walking With Mila".
Would you like to walk with us? If so, please email me or sign up below.
Happy 5th birthday, dear Mila.
As long as I am living, my baby you'll be.