Blank Spaces and Birth Stories

Baby books.  I stink at them.  Some people love them and some people even don’t have them.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I love the nostalgia of them and I do have them; but I have failed to document each tooth that came in and on what date, and I did not always write down milestones as they happened.  I have the family information wrote down, the first pictures (most just loosely placed inside), footprints (at least one of the girl’s), what a package of diapers currently cost, and what they came home from the hospital in and first haircut locks that may or may not be in the incorrect child’s book. I went to work on the girls’ baby books the other day, and realized that I have recorded most of the girls’ milestones on this blog because it is the only place I can keep things organized without little hands scrambling it all up.

I think baby books are important for our kids too–a piece of their own history they can look back on and an awesome way to know themselves better.  But there is one space at the beginning of Tessa’s baby book that remains blank, and every time I open her book I see it. There are three lines given for me to share her birth story. Three whole lines.  Ever since I started filling in her baby book, I have intentionally left that spot wordless to avoid feeling a bit of pain; always telling myself that some day I would fill it in–just not that day.

To be honest, I am not entirely sure how to write it for her.  And sometimes when I see it sit empty, I have to catch my breath because I so badly want to fill the space. Tessa’s birth was a mix of typical and non-typical experiences, but I can’t possibly sum it all up in three little lines.  I know because I tried.  Maybe that is all most people need–just a few short lines to describe the splendor of welcoming a child into the world.  But what about those of us who need more space.  What about the births that did not go as planned?  The surprises, the heartaches, the fears and the unexpected; where love and loss simmer silently together in the melting pot of birth stories. Because there are many of us out there who need a whole page, not just a few lines so that we can share with our children how they entered this world.  Or remind ourselves of the time when we became parents.

Tessa’s birth was the most defining moment in my life.  I went to the hospital in the middle of the night to deliver my first child.  My daughter was on her way, and I was blissfully unprepared for traumatic delivery and the diagnosis that would all happen within that twelve hours; forever changing me from that point forward.  And looking back, I prefer it that way.  I would not change a thing.

I know there are more of me out there; who had a birth that did not go quite as we planned.  Those who struggle to write out their stories when they can’t rewrite history; to relive those moments and to feel it all over again.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel fair and that is because sometimes it just isn’t.  It stays with you forever.  You will encounter people who will not fully understand how you choose to get through it, and that is okay.  It is your experience and it deserves to explanation to anyone.  We grow from our own experiences and navigate multiple levels of joy and grief in many different ways.  But as for me, I am one of the lucky ones.  After two non-typical birth experiences–one quite serious–I brought both of my girls home.

Now please understand that I am not on some quest, shaking my fists and calling out baby book printers across the globe to increase the lines given for birth stories.  Seriously.  I just want other parents to know that each birth story is beautiful and meaningful; and reliving each of mine is an awesome trip down memory lane.  So I relive them by writing them out and reading them; remembering the moments in my life where time literally stood still.

If you want to write out your story but you were only allowed a few lines in that baby book, then I have two words you can start with:   See attached.  

That is how I am starting Tessa’s.

meeting

I Said Goodbye To My Wedding Dress

I said goodbye to my wedding dress earlier this week. Just like that, it was gone from the back of my closet and into the hands of someone else.  It was a relatively easy decision for me to make, especially when I considered what my plans for my dress were.

I remember shopping for my wedding dress.  It was at a small boutique that was close to home.  I did not take many people with me.  I wanted the experience to be intimate and personal. I tried on at least twenty dresses that night before narrowing it down to three. But something kept pulling me back to my dress.  Ironically enough, it was the very first one I had tried on.  I remember how I felt when I had it on in that fitting room–beautiful, graceful and timeless.  It was the one. And I got that feeling that brides so often speak of when they know they’ve found their dress.

It was all white, in full lace and adorned with elegant lace flower and bead appliques.  The dress hugged my curvy figure and allowed me to feel confident in my own beauty.

Photo credit:  S.Cole Photography
Photo credit: S.Cole Photography
Photo credit:  S. Cole Photgraphy
Photo credit: S. Cole Photgraphy

The day after we got married I put my wedding dress back into its bag and tucked in into the back of my closet.  I always planned on preserving it and maybe someday, you know, giving it to one of my daughters. Although let’s be honest, I don’t think I can name person who has ever done that.  Life moved on quickly and my dress became a forgotten treasure.

A couple of years ago, I had heard of women donating their dresses to be transformed into gowns of a different kind; gowns for babies who would not return home from the hospital with their families.  Hearing of this idea after I had Tessa, I knew I wanted my dress to do this.  After Tessa’s dramatic entrance into the world (resuscitation and all) and at the ripe age of 24, I learned how fragile the birth experience really is…how fragile life is.  I know how fortunate I am to have brought both of my babies home.  But it doesn’t escape me knowing that all too often there are people who will leave the hospital empty handed and heartbroken. And for the life of me, mom or not, I cannot fathom that kind of tragedy–nor do I wish to.

My searches for local organizations who did this kind of work repeatedly came up short, even though there are numerous organizations across the country.  I was on the hunt for over eighteen months until I finally found one.  I contacted them on Monday and they picked up my dress later that day.  Their suddenness caught me off guard, but I grabbed my dress bag from the back of the closet and unzipped it for the first time since I wore it. Five years of neglect had started to turns parts of the dress yellow, making me regret never having it preserved.  Shoot.  But it was still beautiful.  I held it in my hands, reminiscing our wedding day and recalling just how much I loved my dress.

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I knew in that moment that someone else deserved this dress more than I did.  It had served its purpose for me, and it was time to let it breathe a second life elsewhere. Although no dress can certainly heal that hurt, I only hope it can soften the pain–even if it is for the tiniest moment.  I hope that my dress preserves a delicate moment and honors a precious life in true grace, elegance and beauty; the way it is deserved.

I met her at the gas station in my town, with both of my daughters in their carseats singing along to the Frozen CD. We got out of our vehicles and exchanged smiles.  I handed her my dress without hesitation.  She assured me that she would have the seamstress send me photos of the finished gown(s).  That was it.  I walked back to my car feeling bittersweet.  When I sat in the drivers seat, I was greated excitedly by both Kendal and Tessa.  I watched them sing some more and giggle at one another.  As I drove away, listening to the backseat chatter, my heart was full.

I am so glad about my choice.