|Leaf, at around 3 months, UWMC NICU.|
Today is the 16th anniversary of the death of my first child. Leaf was born at 25 weeks old and his lungs were always sick. I just spent the morning rereading my journal of letters to him while he was alive. All the ups and down of the oxygen saturations levels and O2% being raised and lowered, morphine levels increased and decreased, heart surgery, blood transfusions. Disappointments and hope beyond hope. I’ve always been someone that believes in the best outcome, no matter how big or small the stakes are. I stand and cheer when the stadium is empty and it’s the 14th inning. I keep clapping and hollering for an encore, even when the lights have come on. And I never gave up hope that he would pull through…every day of his life. I really got to feel that again in reading over my letters to him.
Through the years, some people have told me that I didn’t grieve his death properly. That I still had a “lot of work to do” to get past the pain. The thing is, I have always, since the beautiful and sunny day that he died, been incredibly grateful. If this tiny, perfect soul had only a short time to spend here on earth, how lucky am I that he chose me to be his Mama? I got to spend every day, hours upon hours in the NICU surrounded by his pure love. I treasured being there with him. I miss it, every single bit of it. Sure, there is pain, but it’s the kind of pain that you don’t “get past”, but instead, through gratitude for the time you had with that person, transforms into the most beautiful love. Like a rare diamond grows out of a lump of coal. Or a pearl from a grain of sand.
On this last day of gratitude month, I wanted to share one of the things I am most grateful for in my life, Leaf Haddon Terry, born October 15th, 1998. It’s not something I talk about a lot, because honestly, I find that it makes others uncomfortable. I’m done taking care of the assumed feelings or reactions that others might have by editing myself. I’m going to be me, speak my truth, and keep cheering for the best outcome. And trusting that just because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, doesn’t mean that I can’t be grateful for the experience.