This picture. It’s all I have of my daughter who died. No videos, no precious pictures of her tiny feet or even a picture with her triplet siblings. Nope. This is all I have. And while I often put myself out there, knowing the internet is not always a kind place, I am usually greeted with heartfelt support. That is until now. I’m used to the criticism that comes with my career in television, but this one comment hurt me to the core. And as a parent of child loss, I feel the need to speak up in support of every parent who has lost a child, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or child loss.
“I don’t understand how she can smile. It’s cruel!”
It’s a comment that stuck out like a sore thumb while I scrolled through Instagram. As I reread the comment, I stopped in my tracks, as if I had been kicked in the gut. Yes, I am smiling in this picture. Yes, my child is alive in this picture. Yes, my child was about to die in my arms.
As I stared at this picture, the tears fell quickly. It may have been 5 years ago, but the memory of this fateful day will always be fresh in my mind. After going into labor at 22 weeks gestation, my firstborn triplet arrived in the wee hours of the morning. I hadn’t showered in days, my husband hadn’t slept as he wore a stained In-N-Out shirt, and we were just told that our daughter would not survive. Our strongest triplet in the womb, Abigail is the one who kept her siblings tight, long enough to give them a chance to live. Doctors intubated her and tried to save her, but she was too weak. They handed her to me and we held onto her as she lived for only two hours.
In the pain and chaos of that morning, we didn’t think to take any videos. The shock of our impending loss took over and we spent our time looking at our sweet girl as we sobbed at our reality. We were first time parents and our firstborn couldn’t be saved. We snapped a few pictures and the doctor eventually called her time of death.
As I think back to that comment, my heart physically aches. Sure, I know this woman knows nothing about my family and I doubt that she’s ever experienced the unimaginable loss of a child. And that’s what makes me cringe. This woman has no right to tell me how I should grieve or what I should or shouldn’t be doing when my child is born.
When I look at this picture, I see so much love. I see a husband, a wife and a beautiful baby. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a child. It’s something we never planned, but life doesn’t always go as planned. As we held our baby girl, knowing that doctors couldn’t save her, we talked to her and watched her in awe. We created this tiny little human, who was absolutely perfect, even more than 17 weeks premature. Her perfect little nose matched her perfect lips and tiny toes. She was perfection in a one pound body.
As we smiled for the camera, you can see the heartache on our faces. My cheeks were tear stained and my eyes were red from the pain we were experiencing. But those smiles were pure and genuine. Through those tears you can see so much love; two parents proud of the little baby that touched their lives in a profound way.
To the woman who called me cruel for smiling, my heart goes out to you. I hope you never have to endure the loss of a child. Yes, I was smiling, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. These few pictures are all that we have to hold onto; tangible memories that will last a lifetime. And as I look back at this special moment, I smile through the tears. My daughter felt comfort and love during her short time on earth…and as a parent, that’s what I’m proud of the most.