My beautiful Stella Mae is one month old today.
I wish that I would be taking pictures holding her to commemorate this occasion. She would be dressed in a pretty pink dress with a big pink or white flower headband on. I may even be wearing a matching pink shirt. Instead after a long drive back to Kentucky from Pennsylvania we opened several more sympathy cards. I've snapped at John (more than once) for no reason other than I'm unable to appropriately express emotions. And I'm now sitting on our bed crying and writing a blog entry. This is NOT the way things are supposed to be!!
Saturday (February 26, 2011) we held the service for Stella in Greensburg, PA. Close to 100 friends and family showed up to celebrate Stella's short life with us, in the church that I grew up in and John and I were married in. It was truly amazing to see so many people there. After the service, many people whispered into my ear "you are so strong", "beautiful eulogy", "that must have taken so much courage", and even one of John's friends proclaimed "you are the strongest person I know." The truth is... I was not able to get up and read my eulogy because I'm strong or courageous. I got up in front of all of our friends and family because that is what you do when you are a mother. Did I have a choice? Was I really going to sit there and not say anything to all of these special people, who came to mourn with us, who came to celebrate with us, who came to support us? I saw getting up and reading my eulogy as MY JOB AS A MOTHER. It really was as simple as that.
For those of you were not at either service to hear my eulogy
I thought I would include it here:
As you all could imagine, calling this a "difficult time" is a serious understatement! No one ever expects to have to bury a child, let alone a newborn - yet it does happen. But to us... did it really happen to us? Sometimes I wake up and think: it was all a dream, then I look down and see that my stomach is no longer round, I don't feel those little flutters of life, the nursery is empty and I know that it wasn't a dream but a living nightmare.
We tried for three long years to conceive Stella, so you could imagine our excitement when we finally did! However, the excitement was almost immediately overtaken by worry and anxiety. I had several early complications with the pregnancy. Even though I was running in and out of my doctors office almost every other day, John and I still found joy and excitement through all the worry. We were able to bond with Stella and really form a connection with this little person who was slowly developing inside me. Every Monday night we read from "What to Expect when you are expecting" so that we knew exactly what our little Peanut was up to in there. We found it so fascinating that fingerprints develop from the baby moving their hands around in the amniotic fluid or that her little fingernails were already growing. My happiest memories during those five months were of John and I laying in bed, with my stomach exposed, talking, reading, or playing music for our girl. One time we were a little tired of reading children's books and our doctor told us that we could read anything we wanted to her, it's not like she knew what we were saying she only recognized our voices. So John opened up the computer, pulled up Pensblog and read the recap of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game to Stella. I'm not sure if she heard anything because I think I laughed the whole time.
Stella and I also had our time alone - two hours each day, my commute to work and then back home. I spent much of this time talking to Stella about anything and everything. I felt like she knew this was our special time. We also listened to music and sang. I was much happier riding to work everyday as soon as I found out that I had this special partner.
As soon as we found out how serious Stella's condition was my motherly determination kicked into high gear. There was NO way that we were not saving our girl. We were going to do everything that it took to get her here safe and sound. The doctors, nurses, and staff at Norton hospital were amazing and truly sent to us from God. Each one of the nurses told me about the many miracles that they had seen at the hospital. They gave me hope. Each night when my doctor made his rounds he reminded me of the seriousness of Stella's condition but then he would always remind us to pray because miracles do happen. Praying is one thing we never forgot to do. John and I prayed from the moment we got up to the moment before I feel asleep in my hospital bed. The prayers were coming from all around us as well. From the lovely nurses that took care of me to our friends and family to complete strangers who had heard about our struggle and were following our story on Stella's blog. John and I felt overwhelmed with love and support.
The two weeks that I spent on hospital bedrest were filled with so many emotions: excitement, when we heard her on the monitor twice a day. Sadness, for the seriousness of her condition. Anxiety, for the unknown. Loneliness, being so far from our family. John and I's ability to lean on each other and to lean on God is what got us through those two weeks. In addition, our determination as parents to do what we needed to do for Stella provided us with the strength we needed to get out of bed and keep going.
The day that Stella's neonatologist walked into my room and told me that he was going to recommend to my doctor that I deliver Stella asap, was the scariest day of my life. We had no idea what to expect. There was a possibility that Stella would be too small to intubate, in which case there would have been nothing that they could have done. We had no idea how developed her little lungs would be. There was just so much unknown. One thing that we held strong to was the belief that she would fight... boy were we right!
Stella came out kicking and surprised everyone. She was a little 12 ouncer who would not let the doctor put in her IVs, who routinely pulled off her temperature monitor, and who would wave her little hand in the air when she wanted a finger to grab onto. My daughter was a STAR! Doctors and nurses from all over Norton Hospital came to visit the 12 ounce baby who was doing so well. Stella had five amazing days of life, filled with hope and determination.
Stella was beautiful. She had perfectly developed features, the most beautiful little nose (that looked just like my mom's), tiny little ears, and the sweetest lips. For only being 26weeks, she had a full head of dark hair. Stella had a spunky little personality that cause each one of her nurses and doctors to fall in love with her right along with her parents. She was a lucky little girl to have so many who loved her - even those who never met her.
When I think back in my life I can not think of a more peaceful time than when I was sitting on the recliner in Stella's room just looking at my beautiful daughter. It was so amazing to me to watch this little tiny being, who was supposed to still be inside me, fight so hard to stay alive. I felt truly peaceful when I was with my daughter.
I'm not sure that I will ever, ever be more proud of anyone in my life. Every time I talk about my daughter I feel the need to tell people how strong and how hard she fought. I can't wait to tell our future children about Stella's fight. And when I feel that I can't make it without her - I think about her fight and how she never gave up. My strength comes from God, I receive strength from John too... but when I've lost all hope and the world seems too overwhelming, I gather all the strength and fight that Stella had in her and I use it to face the day.
My amazing friend Lydia sent me this book while I was in the hospital, called "Acceptance The way to serenity and peace of mind". I found this quote in there: "You live only a split second at a time; that's right this minute. You can think of only one thing at a time, do only one thing at a time; you actually live only one breath at a time. Stop living for a tomorrow that may never come, and start living one day at a time-today. Plan for tomorrow, but live only till bedtime tonight... This you can handle-at least today."
Living without Stella has proved to be the hardest thing that I have ever had to do... and I have to keep doing this horribly hard thing until the day I die. So I try to take it minute by minute, day by day. Just today I have to live without Stella - I can't think any farther than that.