It happens every year. It starts with a few deep breaths, followed by tears. As the calendar creeps closer to June 23rd, the heartache grows deeper. The nights become long as my restless body thinks about the past. My heart pounds quickly as my mind travels back to five years ago. And the tears give way to quiet sobs of sadness. How can one day bring so much happiness, yet so much pain? As a grieving parent, I cherish every single memory of my children, even the heartbreaking moments.
Life never goes completely as planned, but you learn to adapt. After years of trying to conceive, my husband and I were ecstatic to be pregnant with triplets. My early pregnancy was blissful and we began to think that we would finally get the picture-perfect life we dreamed of. But nothing prepared us for the rocky road in front us. No parent ever plans to say goodbye to their child.
Our triplets were born in June, and at 22 weeks gestation, they arrived on the edge of viability. Our first daughter passed away two hours after birth. Our son spent his entire two months of life in the Nicu, before he passed away in our arms. It’s an outer body experience holding your child as they take their last breath on earth. It’s unfathomable and something only a parent who has lost a child could fully understand. As a parent, my motherly instincts pushed aside the grief as I gently rocked my baby boy. He only saw strength and love through my tears as he closed his eyes one final time.
As the summer months approach each year, I can’t help but replay every single moment leading up to my triplets’ birth. And while the season should be filled with pool parties, popsicles and lazy mornings, my days are a mix of fond memories riddled with pain and sadness. I cry as think back to July first, the day of my firstborn’s funeral. I smile as I think of the first time my children opened their eyes to see the world. And I feel nauseous as I replay the meeting doctors held when we found out the devastating news that our little boy was gravely.
It’s been nearly five years since my triplets were born, and even now, my memory hasn’t faded. So why would I torture myself with difficult memories? It’s easy—those are the only memories I have. For those us who have faced the unbearable experience of child loss, those heartbreaking moments are the few things we can embrace. We are given tangible keepsakes; the footprints, the tiny hats and hospital bracelets. But, it’s those few memories and pictures of our children that will have to last a lifetime.
As the years go by, I fear my memory will fade, and I pray to God those crystal clear moments will stay etched in my mind forever. While the early days were overpowered by emotional anguish, the pain and grief has lessened. No longer do I wonder if I could have done something to save my babies. No longer do I feel guilt that my body couldn’t protect my trio. Instead, I smile through the tears as I think of our amazing surviving triplet and her two siblings watching over us. As I watch my daughter so full of life and energy, I can’t help but think that a little part of them lives within her. I think back to the day my triplets were born and I’m reminded of the miracle of birth. All three of my babies existed, and that makes my heart swell with pride.