35 weeks. The idea that we are here still feels surreal. Getting here at the same timing of when we commemorate Colette’s life is even more surreal.
We recently celebrated Colette’s birthday and my husband Mark said that the day Colette was born was the best day of his life. I would agree that the day Colette was born was the best day of my life and that the second and third spots would go to the day I married Mark and the Cubs winning the World Series, respectively and occasionally interchangeably.
But, the odd thing is that the day I would say without a doubt was the best day of my life is also a day that I honestly did not think I would survive.
The day before Colette was born, there had been some worry that I would have to deliver after Colette’s heartbeat slipped while I was on the fetal monitor. We took a trip down to labor and delivery so that I could be monitored and prepped if delivery happened. Right before the doctors gave us the permission to go back to my room, the anesthesiologist resident came in to talk to us about what the c-section would involve. He talked about an epidural and how that would be the first option and the option that we would really hope they could stick with because they were worried about the risk of general anesthesia given the preeclampsia and high blood pressure.
The next day, when the delivery was actually going to happen, they set me up with the epidural and delivered Colette. After a little while, Mark said he was going to go see Colette if that was okay with me. I of course said yes, go take care of our baby. He kissed me goodbye and we both expected it was just a matter of sewing me up and moving me out to recovery. After he left, I started to feel what the doctors were doing on my stomach and after I said ow, the anesthesiologist said we need to put her under. As they were injecting me to put me under general anesthesia, I remembered what we had been told the day before and honestly thought I would not wake up from this. Before I completely conked out, I had two thoughts: (1) if I didn’t wake up, the last moments between Mark and I had been sweet and loving and (2) I was so glad we had already chosen Colette’s name so that Mark wouldn’t choose a stupid name.
Obviously, I woke up and I survived, but as I think and talk about the fear of dying, I think about that day and I think about my own mortality. I so desperately wanted to be a mom, to raise my child, and yet, I was willing to die in order for my child to survive, knowing that I would miss out on the experience. But, that is what we are supposed to do as moms—we would put our lives on the line for our children, do whatever we needed to do up to and including risking our lives, to ensure the health, safety, and wellness of our children.
I would have and still wish that my life had been sacrificed for Colette’s because I am not supposed to bury my child.
It doesn’t feel right that when we celebrate Colette’s birthday, instead of spoiling her like crazy and having a huge party, we instead go to the cemetery and put up balloons and talk to her grave. We ordered a cake decorated with the words “Happy Birthday Colette,” but only Mark and I ate it, lighting Colette’s special candle in her memory. That is not fair. She should be here and we should celebrate together. We should be celebrating many years of birthdays, celebrations of her with decorations and screaming children and chaos and frosting and fun. Instead, we are celebrating among a small group of people and bringing Colette only through sitting by her grave or lighting a special candle.
This year’s birthday was even more bittersweet because Colette will not be here to celebrate her younger sibling’s arrival and that all future celebrations of Colette will also include us as parents to a living child and bringing our child into understanding the celebration, the concept of death, and of afterlife, of heaven, of celebrating life. Colette’s birthday will go from the small celebration that Mark and I engage in, but a celebration that includes a small child who will ask questions, will have an opinion of how the celebrations should go.
This year is also really bittersweet because while we had so many incredible family and friends reaching out to us, saying they were especially thinking of Colette, telling us what special things they were doing to memorialize Colette even in this Covid-19 world, and sending love. Playing off my greatest fear that people will forget Colette, I worry that next year, once LL Cool T is with us, that less people will remember and that the amount of people who reach out will continue to drop throughout the years.
So, I found that with each phone call, text message, email, social media comment, I smiled because of the love so many showed us and Colette and teared up because I fear those things slowly beginning to slip.
Best day of my life. I know that in a few weeks, I will add in a tied event for the number one spot in my list, but the addition of LL into our family does not negate or belittle the importance of Colette’s addition and position in our family. That is the struggle loss parents have—to parent both their living and angel children—in the best way they can.