I finally have the time (I think) to write about Baby Grady's first birthday. It was not how I pictured it when I was pregnant with him, that's for sure! But it was a peaceful day filled with lots of emotion.
And I felt the love of many throughout the day.
First of all, let me show you what accompanied my day of remembering and baking. Call it a shrine, or whatever you like. I don't really care. I lit Grady's special candle and it burned all day. (except for when I went to get Emma Grace from school) I went through four tealights! I put his urn, his picture and the two beautiful flower arrangements on the corner of the island. I loved having them nearby, so I could see them all day.
I made the decision not to talk to anyone on the phone yesterday. I decided only to talk to those I had to see in person. I didn't answer the phone, texts or emails.
So, if you called and left me a message, thank you! Thanks for not putting pressure on me to call you back. Thanks for just letting me know you were thinking of me, praying for me and remembering Baby Grady.
If you texted me, thank you for taking the time to do so!
If you emailed me, thank you for taking the time to write me!
If you sent cards in the mail or came by and put them in my box, thank you!
If you left gifts on my door or gave them to me in person, thank you!
If you sent me flowers, Sally, thank you!
If you simply thought of and prayed for me, thank you! I definitely felt your prayers.
You will never know how loved I felt. It was a really hard day emotionally. My 'tear switch' turned off and on many times, some stronger than others, especially last night.
It was an odd sort of day. I woke up very sad knowing what was ahead.
Remembering and reliving memories can be emotionally exhausting.
But I also woke up knowing that I had already lived through the worst of it. The worst was when I found out there was no heartbeat. The worst was seeing him so perfect but silent. The worst was handing him over to the funeral home, knowing I wouldn't see him again until heaven. And if I lived through that, and the intense grief and heartache that followed, I knew I would get through his first birthday.
And I did.
When Gib kissed me goodbye at 4:45am, I remembered how, one year ago at that time, I told him that he needed to pray for the baby because he hadn't moved. He sat down on the bed and prayed with me while I cried. This year, he simply left the room and headed to work.
Around 8am, I remembered that it was about the time, one year ago, that Gib came home from work because he knew something was wrong. This year, I was starting to make Grady's cake.
While the cakes were baking, I straightened the house. I picked up, cleaned off the island in the kitchen and vacuumed.
I was then overcome with sadness around 10am. It was that time, one year ago, that we learned there was no heartbeat. I will never forget the conversation..."Dr. [Joe], I don't see a heartbeat" Dr. Joe's reply, as the life sucked out of him, "I don't see a heartbeat either". This year, I sat down and wrote him an email, thanking him for the wonderful doctor he is and letting him know that the long hours, hard work and many sacrifices he makes have a huge impact on the lives of his patients.
Around 11:20, I remembered that, one year ago, as we were driving home from the hospital, my friend, Annette, texted me to ask if I wanted her to bring lunch to me after she left work. I simply replied, "Not today". She asked if everything was okay and I couldn't reply... This year, I was trying to level the six layers of Grady's cake.
One year ago, at 1pm, Gib went to check Jessica out of school and Emma Grace came home from Lunch Bunch. I remembered how hard it was to tell them. I remembered how Jessica was in shock and said, "You mean Baby Grady died? Inside of you?" And I remembered how heartbroken Emma Grace was, crying, "I didn't want Baby Grady to die". Oh, how I didn't want him to die either... But, this year, I was mixing my first batch of homemade butter cream frosting. First batch, first time EVER!
A little after 2pm, I remembered how, one year ago, we took the girls next door. I was late leaving for the hospital but I didn't care. Emma Grace was too upset for me to leave any sooner. I comforted her until she was calm enough for me to leave her. I didn't want to leave her, but I had to go do the hardest thing I've ever done in my life...
We had no cash for parking and needed gas, so we stopped by Kroger. Gib dropped me off to go buy him a bottled water and get cash back. He went to get gas. I walked out of Kroger, literally, in a daze. A state of shock. I was trying to absorb what was about to happen and what had already taken place. I remembered that as I started walking to the gas pumps, I saw my friend, Annette, who texted me earlier in the day. She stopped, very cheery...I was a zombie. She asked what was wrong, and all I could say was, "It's the worst that you could imagine". (Her) "What?" (Me) "He died." (Her) "Who?" (Me) "The baby." She jerked her van into park, got out and gave me a huge hug. Just then Gib pulled up to get me. I know that my small town heard the news within five minutes of me seeing her. The prayers started, and I sure needed them.
This year, at that time, I was sitting in the car pool line, bawling my eyes out, waiting for Emma Grace to get out of school. I was writing in my Baby Grady journal. Remembering. Pouring out my heart to him. And God.
This year, once we were home, I made my second batch of icing and started on the side of the cake. Emma Grace had a great time watching, and licking one of the beaters! One year ago, we had just gotten to the hospital and I was hearing about Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) for the first time...
Gib came home from work early this year, too. He went to get Jessica from her service organization meeting at school while I had my friend next door, Nicole, come show me how to attach a coupler and tip to a frosting bag because I was getting VERY, VERY frustrated! She showed me that and also taught me how to make starbursts around the cake.
Jessica came home and made a few starbursts around the bottom of the cake. She had commented on how cool she thought the icing bags were, and I just had to let her help. The girls, together, made a rainbow out of Skittles on top of the cake. (I think the same amount that went on the cake also went into their mouths!)
I got brave and wrote his name and a heart.
Gib blew up some balloons and we wrote messages to Grady on them.
One year ago, from 3:20 - 5:30, I was doing admission paperwork and being "prepped" for my c-section. I made the decision with the anesthesiologist to have a spinal instead of an epidural. I also made the decision to remain awake for the procedure...it was the least I could do. My friend, Suzanne (from the NICU), approached me again about NILMDTS photos, which I thankfully agreed to, with the stipulation that they were to be of just him (HUGE REGRET!). Lori (my other friend from NICU) came in to visit me before heading to the OR, and so did Dr. Joe.
Promptly at 5:30, one year ago, I made the long, dreaded walk to the OR. It was the coldest room that I ever remember being in. I got my spinal and started having a VERY fast heart rate. I was nauseous and felt miserable. The surgery started. I remember just apologizing to Gib over and over. Hearing nothing but instruments clanking, machines beeping and sniffles, lots of sniffles.
Around 5:30, this year, my friend and mentor, Alice, brought dinner for our family. My friend and neighbor, Jenny, brought over a gift.
And she took this family picture before we released our balloons. It was a cool, crisp, sunny fall day this year, just as it was one year ago.
I remember during my c-section wanting so badly to know when Dr. Joe had the baby out. The nurse anesthetist told me she would let me know. At 6:14pm, one year ago, she gently put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Dr. [Joe] has the baby out." The silence was deafening. I didn't know it could be so. Suzanne asked if we wanted to see him then or wait until recovery. We agreed to wait until recovery.
This year, at 6:14pm, we acknowledged his birth at the dinner table. I lost my appetite and suddenly became EXTREMELY sad. I remembered the hope I had that the ultrasound was wrong. That the stillness inside of me was a mistake... Shortly after, we put Grady's cake on the table with a bowl of Skittles.
We took turns putting a Skittle into the side of the cake while telling something we missed about Baby Grady or wished that we could have done with him, as a baby or as he would have gotten older. We didn't make it all the way around the cake which was okay. The girls were just ready to eat some. And I was anxious to see what the inside looked like!
We put one candle on the cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to him. The girls stood in their chairs and made a big production of it. I was so glad they did!
We blew out the candle together and cut the cake. It turned out beautifully!
My orange layer looked a little peach and my red wasn't as vibrant as I wanted, but I don't think it turned out too bad. Especially considering the extent of my cake baking until now was in a 9x13 glass dish with icing just on the top! It was so good to have something to do for him. I'll be honest...there were a few times that I wanted to stop and give up. But I didn't. I couldn't give up on the only thing that I could actually *do* for my baby, besides remember.
As we were finishing the cake around 7:30, I remembered, one year ago, that was about the time that I first laid my eyes on my angel on earth. I held him for the first time and asked him what happened...why he had to leave so soon? Gib left for home around 9pm. Suzanne was on-call for the NICU that night so she stayed with me until around 11pm. I asked if the midwife who delivered Jessica was there and she was...she came in for a short visit, too. I couldn't sleep. I stared at his bassinet all night. Wishing he wasn't so quiet...
This year, during that time, I read a bedtime story with Emma Grace and got her in bed. I then read one of the sweetest, kindest letters from my friend, Mary Beth. She wrote four pages of her perspective of what happened 'one year ago'. It was so interesting to read, and I cried at the heart of a true friend...the sadness and brokenness that she felt. And if she felt that, she could only imagine what I was feeling. Honestly, no one has EVER said or written anything so kind and touching to me before. Thank you, MB! I love you so much!
I had planned for us to watch Grady's NILMDTS dvd and read the book "Tear Soup" that my sweet blog friend, Sara, sent me. But the girls were tired and Jessica still had homework to finish and two tests to study for. I was disappointed at first but realized we had spent some beautiful time remembering and honoring him. We can watch the dvd and read the book any time. It's all about putting things into perspective...
I went to bed completely exhausted and emotionally spent. I wanted to spend time in his room, just me and him. But I just couldn't. I couldn't remember anymore. I was drained and simply needed to go to sleep. I grabbed his blue crochet blanket that I still sleep with and held it as close to me as I could.
His first birthday was a day of peace. A day of remembering. A day filled with love and tears. It was a day I'll never forget. Another day where God carried me through.
Thanks for remembering with me.