It finally came…Kenley’s first birthday.
The days that followed Halloween were brutal. It was like the Holidays were taunting me. I knew where we were at each moment in time last year (How far I was at Thanksgiving/how many days until she was born etc etc…) and so going through each day up until her birthday was really rough. When we went to get our Christmas tree this year, the place we normally go closed before we could get there (Landon started Kindergarten so we didn’t have enough time to get there after he got off school). We had to go to a new place; It was nice, but far less exciting than our normal place.
It felt good to do something different than we had the year before, though– the year when Kenley was safely tucked inside of me, growing and thriving like she should have been. When we put up the tree, I was overcome with intense grief. I cried, and I cried hard. No, let me rephrase that, I sobbed. That deep sob, you know? The one that you have no real idea where it comes from except you know deep down that it comes from a place of pain that no human being should ever have to feel.
Having to put an ornament on my tree in memory of my daughter, instead of having her there to clumsily hang hers (read: tear down the lights/tree/decor) was extremely hard. I was transported back to the Hospital when they told me she wasn’t alive anymore. I felt THAT level of sadness. It wasn’t just that she wasn’t here anymore, it was also the fact that she would NEVER be here. Maybe a realization occurred? I’m not sure.
She will never be able to hang an ornament, instead, for the rest of my life, I will be hanging her memorial ornaments. Do I buy a new one each year? Do I only hang the one that I bought specifically for her? How does a mother handle Christmas decorations when one of her children is no longer with her? There isn’t a guide for how to handle these types of things.
I avoided Christmas music VERY well this year; I think I listened to it maybe 2 times? I’m pretty happy about that, to be honest. I started listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween in 2015 and soon found out that Kenley loved it. She would dance around while it played. Avoidance was my only coping mechanism re: xmas music this year.
Every Christmas Eve, we go to Shane’s family’s get together. We went last year, and I was about to burst- 38 weeks exactly. It was SUCH a great day. I remember people giving us gifts for Kenley, telling me they were so excited for her to get here, asking how I was feeling/how things were going/next doctors appt/squeeing that her C-section date was literally a week away. A week. Like…ouch. It still stings so deep when I think of that. It stings extra bad when I remember that I asked to have a c-section at 38 weeks 1 day- the day after Christmas- and my doctors told me no. It stings really badly when I remember that the day after Christmas last year I called my obgyn and told them I was having contractions that were able to be timed pretty close together, but the OB thought I “sounded ok”, and advised me that she didn’t think I needed to be seen, but if it made me feel better that I could go.
What kind of bullshit doctor says that? “You sound ok”. Oh good, I’m glad you can register what is happening inside my uterus by the tone of my voice. And for someone to pretty much patronize me by saying “if it makes you feel better, you can go in”, is just something that I will never EVER be able to live down. I hope that this Doctor feels extreme regret for not telling me to go to L&D that night, because who knows what could have been done…
Anyway, this year I didn’t want to go to the annual Christmas Eve get together…but I went for my Landon. I know he needed things to feel as normal as possible. When we got there, I lost it. People hugged us, and I just couldn’t handle it. It was like everything from last year just washed over me. All in all it ended up being a decent night, and I am thankful we went. Landon had an incredible time, and that is what really counts.
Christmas morning wasn’t too bad for me either. I’m not sure why…Maybe it’s because Landon’s joy just overshadowed my sorrow. Seeing him smile is the greatest gift to me, and hearing how excited he was about all of the gifts that Santa got him really really made me genuinely happy. And also, maybe I was actively blocking my feelings out; not thinking that I should have two children on Christmas morning. I should have a little girl crawling all over and being amazing. I’m pretty sure it was 50/50 (ok …70/30).
As the days ticked down to her birthday, I could feel my anxiety ramping up. The plan was to have immediate family over, have lunch, a cake, and a balloon release. I had been talking with Shane for a few weeks about what he wanted to do to “celebrate” (side note- I hate this term. I hate it so much. I’m not celebrating her birthday, for fucks sake, she’s not here. I’m mourning her, and all the things I lost when she died) her day. He’s pretty easy going so he ultimately said “whatever you wanna do”, which I sometimes hate. So, the day before he admits to me that he was surprised I wanted to have people over, and thought it would be nice to just have him, myself and Landon together on the day.
I told him that he needs to tell me these things when I’m asking him for a few weeks at a time. It was too late to cancel everything, and we ended up going forward with my plans. At the end of the night when everyone left, he hugged me tight, told me he was so happy we went through with it and that he had a really nice day. I’m so thankful that I can trust my gut sometimes, and strong arm him into things that I know are ultimately better for us.
We had a christmas gift exchange with my Dad and Sister before everyone showed up at 2 for the “party”. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do this, as it felt like it was taking away from her, but ultimately I’m glad we did. Then, around 2, Shane’s family showed up. We all just kind of hung out for a little bit, then had lunch. We ate, and decided that we would do the balloon release. Everyone wrote or drew on their balloons (only popped 2!) and then we made our way outside. It was extremely windy, but so clear. Landon counted to 3, and we all let them go. It felt good to watch them float away. I kept my message short and simple. She knows how much I love her, so my balloon was just a small reminder of that.
After, we came inside, and had cake and ice cream. My sister brought a flower arrangement that is so beautiful and reminds me of Kenley in so many ways. My mom bought her a gift which I love. It’s a stuffed fox with a tutu on it, and I plan to keep it in her memory box. A wonderful friend sent over birthday balloons.
After all the commotion was done, we just hung out and talked for a bit. Slowly people started to leave one by one.
All throughout the day I was getting texts from people all over letting me know that she was on their minds, and that she was missed. I woke up to a specific Instagram tag from a woman who lost her son last year about a week or two before we lost Kenley. I don’t know what specifically about her words struck a chord with me, but it sort of set my tone for the day. I think it was what I was meant to see on the morning of her first birthday.
The love and support from everyone really made the day better- not easier by any means- just better.
I missed her more than I could ever explain to anyone, yet, I was so thankful there were so many people thinking of her and our family. Knowing she was and is so loved on her birthday, even after all this time, made my heart heal a little, I think.
I want to thank every single person who got in contact with me somehow yesterday. Your love and support means the world to us, and I believe it is what helped us through yesterday with a little less pain than I expected.
Our lives will never be the same, and I wouldn’t ever want them to be. If they were, I wouldn’t know my sweet girl’s face. I wouldn’t have ever known her hair color, or how her lips looked just like her brothers. I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
I am her Mother; she chose me to be that for her. It’s all that I can do to love her like she deserves, and honor her memory like she deserves.
I love you my sweet girl. Happy First Birthday.
I will hold space in my heart for you until I can hold you in my arms again.