Today is a significant date for us with regards to our journey with Hannah. It’s not the 29th, the date we celebrate how many months old she would be, nor is it the 4th which reminds us how many months she has been gone for. June 2nd is significant for a different reason.
Today marks 38 weeks and 6 days since we said goodbye. 38 weeks and 6 days since we have held our beautiful daughter, seen her gorgeous eyes looking up at us, and heard her voice. Why is this significant? Because 38 weeks and 6 days was how long we had with Hannah Grace; 38 weeks pregnant with her, then 6 days with her in our arms. What a priceless gift.
So today means we have now had as long without her as we did with her.
I’m not sure how to process this anniversary. It makes me sad to think that as of tomorrow, we have spent longer missing and grieving Hannah than we did expecting and enjoying her. My mind struggles to comprehend that.
It is amazing to think of how much Hannah accomplished in that time, and the impact that her short life has had and is having. Most of us take 90ish years to accomplish what God has set us here on earth to do, but Hannah did it in 38 weeks and 6 days. In that time I am sure she fulfilled God’s purposes for her. She radiated the love and joy of the God she is now with, and I’m so thankful that God is using my daughter in such big ways. Her life has had the kind of impact many of us dream of and aspire to. It inspires me to not only continue her legacy, but also to encourage others to achieve what God has created them to do.
Sometimes I look at her photos and smile. Sometimes I look at them and cry. Often I do both, like I did today. But I always look at them with so much love and thankfulness. I will always treasure every one of the memories I have of our time with her. Every day we had her here. All 272 days - give or take a couple maybe!
My love for our baby grew exponentially through the pregnancy; even through all the morning sickness, tiredness, and sore ribs and back. It was far from easy, but she was so worth sacrificing for. I treasured every kick, which there were never a shortage of! I treasured how she ‘danced’ to music, especially during the worship at church every Sunday. I enjoyed going on trips all around NZ and knowing that she was visiting those places with us. I loved the fact that because I was carrying her, she was always with me.
And then after 38 weeks, we got to meet this baby that we were anticipating with so much joy. There was anxiety too, as we didn’t know for sure how her health would be or how long we would have with her. If I wasn’t totally bonded already, I certainly was from the first time I saw her face :)
Once Hannah Grace was born, I treasured every moment that I got to spend with her. I spent as much time in the NICU as possible, only leaving for as short periods as I could to sleep and eat; as I couldn’t bear to be apart from her. My heart just melted when Hannah was in my arms. I’ll never forget the feeling of her lying in my arms or against my body. I loved sitting watching Jeremy hold her too, and it was so awesome to see the special bond that they shared. The image of her gorgeous eyes gazing up into mine will never leave my mind. Nor will the feel against my fingers of her smooth olive skin and dark brown hair. We loved hearing her voice as she talked to us, and also when she cried, or screamed – we treasured that too! When she got unsettled about something she would screw up her face and get a little ‘furrowed brow’ as her Daddy would say. I didn’t know what that meant, but he said she got it from her Mummy ;) It didn’t take much to settle her though; holding her close and rocking her usually did the trick. If she was in bed and we were trying to get her to sleep, we would put our hand around the top of her head or over her body and talk to her in hushed tones. She loved to know that we were close by.
Saying goodbye after 6 days was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. We lived every parents worst nightmare.
Now that Hannah is gone, we desperately miss all of these things. Sometimes I hold her blanket close and remember what it felt like when I was holding her wrapped up in it. When I see her photo on our shelf I wish that I could reach out and touch her soft skin and see her wake up. Whenever I see other Mums with their babies, I wonder what it would be like to still be holding mine. I wish that I could hold Hannah again. I sit by her grave and wonder how the body of the baby that I carried for 38 weeks can now be buried deep in the ground. I still don’t understand how she was here one day, and gone the next. I do understand that I will miss her every day for the rest of my life, until we are reunited in heaven.
We talk about Hannah every day. Sometimes it’s little comments like “I’m sure Hannah would have enjoyed doing this with us”, or “Hannah would have looked cute in that”. Other times I cry and tell Jeremy over and over again that I just want my baby back. I know there’s nothing he can do, but it’s the reality of how I feel. When we talk about our family, we include Hannah. We already tell our new baby about his/her big sister too, and will continue to do so as this baby grows up.
I’m no longer the same person I was 38 weeks and 6 days ago, or before I got pregnant with Hannah. I still smile and laugh, but not without hidden pain. My perspective on situations has changed – some things I value more, but other things seem irrelevant and I just feel like I don’t care about them. I wonder why I every cared or stressed about so many insignificant decisions. Another big change is that I no longer take anything, or anyone, for granted. I have experienced first hand how fragile life is, and how important it is to treasure every moment. I’ve always been sympathetic towards people who are struggling, but now I understand their pain so much more, and I feel more able to encourage them.
I love Hannah’s Daddy even more, and have a deeper appreciation of his love for me and our family. And I love and treasure Hannah’s little brother or sister so much more than I would have had I not experienced loss. There isn’t a day of this pregnancy that I take for granted.
Above all, my relationship with God has changed. I’ve never cried out to Him so desperately before. I now know what it is to rely on Him for strength when I literally have none of my own. And I’m learning, slowly, how to trust Him even though I have so many doubts and don’t understand His ways.
Don’t ask me how I got through the past 38 weeks and 6 days. Or the pain that we went through before them. I don’t know the answer to be honest. Nor do I know how we will get through the next 38 weeks and 6 days. Or the days and weeks after that.
All I know is that as we take one day at a time, God gives us the strength we need to face each moment. And for that I am very grateful.