Seven years

Dear Jillian,

Happy birthday, my sweet girl. Like last year, I feel like I’m at a loss for words. I’ve spent today reliving your birth. It’s a hard thing to relive because it was so scary, but it’s all I’ve been able to think about for most of the day. I keep thinking about the moment when I heard your tiny cries. I can’t hear them in my head anymore, but it’s a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Ian is in kindergarten. That kid. He’s the most empathetic person I’ve ever known, which is amazing considering he’s only five. He loves music and reading, and he’s hilarious. I told him one night at bedtime that he makes me so happy, and he said “I try to make you happy every day.” He’s so special.

Hannah is three and my little ray of sunshine. She’s as stubborn as she is sweet. She started ballet classes a few months ago and I can’t even handle how adorable she is. Her laughter is magical. She gives the best hugs ever and she’s already proven that she can charm anyone into pretty much anything.

They are the best of friends. They love each other so much that they want to share a room. Hannah’s been sleeping on the bunk in Ian’s room for weeks, and one night I discovered them moving Hannah’s clothes into Ian’s room because they wanted to be in the same room. Sometimes I watch them together and think about what things would be like with you here. Sometimes I have to turn those thoughts off because it causes too much sadness.

I love you, Jilly. You will never be forgotten and my love for you will never stop. I miss you.


Six Years

Dear Jillian,

Happy birthday, my sweet love. It’s hard to know what to write. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been six years. It’s hard to believe that six years later, my grief can still knock me down flat. It happens less often as time goes on, but it still happens. I still have moments of crying so hard that I feel like I can’t catch my breath. Part of me feels shocked that it still happens sometimes, but at the same time, part of me can’t believe that we’ve managed to keep living and become happy again.

Ian is starting to understand who you are, and that you’re gone. He says he misses you and wishes you were here, and he told me that he’s supposed to have two sisters. It’s heartbreaking to hear, but I don’t ever want him to feel like he can’t talk about you or ask questions. We have a framed picture of you in the basement (among others in the house), and he moved it from under the TV to next to his Lego table because he wants to be able to look at you whenever he wants. He’s an amazing little boy. One night during dinner, he asked what I did when you died. I said that I cried. He said “and then what?” I said I cried some more, and he said “and then what” again. Daddy said “cried some more.” He said “but did your heart break?” We said yes, and he said “but then you had me.” He is so sweet, smart, and sensitive, and he’s so loving that you already have a spot in his heart.

Hannah is amazing, too. She parrots a lot of what Ian says, but she’s too little to understand. Her giggle is the most amazing sound. She’s beautiful, smart, sweet, and funny, and I watch her and wonder if that’s what you would have been like. Watching her grow up is so exciting, but I wish I could slow time down.

Both kids bring so much joy and laughter to our lives. They make the hardest days bearable. I don’t know if they will ever understand how much light they’ve brought to us. Daddy is my rock, and I wouldn’t have made it without him.

We love you so much, Jilly. There’s not a day that goes by without you in my mind, and there’s not a moment that goes by without you in my heart. I think I’m a better person and mother because of you. You were the most precious gift, and I will never stop being thankful for the time you were with us, even though it was far too brief. I can’t say I love you enough. I can still close my eyes and feel where your head was on my chest. You are always, always with me. I love you.



The day I’ve been dreading since shortly after Jillian died has arrived. Today is the day she most likely would have started kindergarten. It occurred to me when walking by the elementary school in our old neighborhood that someday would be this day, and I’ve hated the idea ever since.

The past couple of weeks have been a little rough with daily posts on Facebook of friends’ kids starting in various places around the country, but today was the day our town started. Most milestones have been easier than the anticipation, but the opposite was true this time. I planned to stay off of Facebook because of what today is, but I clicked on it, maybe out of habit, and the first thing I saw was a picture of a kid who likely would have been her friend, excited for the first day.

I was gutted. Today has felt like she was left behind more than any other day so far. Other milestones have been her days: her birthday, her due date, the anniversary of her death, etc. Instead, today is everyone else’s day, and she could have, would have, should have been included.

I want to scream at everyone that I’m sorry I didn’t comment on or like their pictures, but I just can’t. It hurts too much. But that would make their happy events about my heartache, so I won’t, and I feel isolated instead. I want to ask how kids’ days went, but I won’t. I hate that I’m having my own little pity party, but I can’t just turn it off. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Five Years

My sweet, sweet Jillian,

I’ve written and deleted and written and deleted. I feel like I don’t have the words to describe the conflicting feelings I have about today. I’ve started out the window crying, while also laughing at Ian forcing Hannah to participate in his imaginary Coronation Day (we’ve watched Frozen approximately 3000 times).

I want this to be a day to celebrate your life. I don’t want to focus on the bitterness I often feel because you’re not here. I hate feeling bitter when I have so much to be thankful for. I guess I just don’t know what or how to feel right now. I will never stop loving you with all of my heart. I always wish that you could somehow still be here, but mostly, you were a precious gift that somehow led to Ian and Hannah, which makes me more grateful for you and makes me feel like I shouldn’t long for things to be different.

My fear as I write that is that it sounds like I’m okay with you being gone. I’m not. There will always be an ache for you, and I’ll always wonder what you’d be like, what our life would be like, but I have to accept things the way they are in order to live my actual life.

Over the next few days, I’ll be replaying your entire life in my head. I will miss you and love you more than ever. My love for you will never wane. You are always in my heart, monkey. Always, always, always.


Four years

My sweet Jillian,

Happy birthday, my sweet baby girl. The past four years have gone by in a flash. It feels like yesterday that Daddy and I were having a normal Saturday morning, watching my belly move and looking forward to your arrival in a few months. What happened that night and the following days (months, really) still feels like a dream. My entire life is divided into two parts: before you were born and after.

We went back to the NICU a few weeks ago for a March of Dimes event, and you were on my mind the entire time. It was difficult because the other families had their preemies with them – living, healthy, beautiful children. It was hard to understand why their babies, some born as early as you, survived and you didn’t. But at lucky as they all are, I’m lucky in that I had you, no matter how brief your stay was. None of your nurses were there that day, but so many of the other nurses remembered our family and your story.

A few times over the past several months, people have called Hannah by your name. It seems like they’re mortified and they apologize profusely, but when I tell them it’s okay and not to apologize, I mean it. It makes me so, so happy to have proof that you’re on people’s minds. One of my biggest fears after you died was that people would forget about you, and that hasn’t happened. Four years later, you’re still present in their thoughts.

Ian and Hannah manage to make every day the best day of my life. There is so much laughter in our house, sometimes it doesn’t seem like it could possibly be real. Ian, aka the Mayor, is the sweetest little boy ever. He’s obsessed with cars, but I think snuggling with me might be his next favorite thing. And then there’s Hannah. Oh, Hannah. She’s not even 9 months old and I already know I’m in trouble with this one. She spent the first few months scowling at everyone but me, but now she’s making up with it with a smile that can melt any heart. Looking at her, I feel like I get a glimpse of what you would have looked like. Sometimes when I’m watching Ian and Hannah together, I feel a pang of sadness because you’re not with them, but I know you’re still here. I can close my eyes and feel the warm, gentle weight of you on my chest. You’re still a huge part of this family, and I’m as proud of you as I am of them.

I love you, Jilly Monkey. I love you and miss you more than I know how to say.


Seriously, seriously overdue update

I’ve been meaning to update here for almost 3 months now, but basically, if it isn’t a living creature, I’ve been neglecting it. Well, except our one plant. That’s been neglected. And probably can’t be considered a living creature anymore.

Hannah Marie was born on March 11. She’s wonderful. She’s adorable and beautiful and we are so in love. When we moved to our current home last year, I set a goal that for our next baby, I was going to walk to my scheduled c-section (the hospital is about a 5 minute walk from here). It was more about making it to my scheduled c-section than being able to walk, and I did it.

It didn’t go completely without a hitch, but nothing major. Hannah didn’t cry as soon as she came out, and when she did, she sounded like a dying cat. I knew something was wrong from the way she sounded, and it turned out to be some fluid in her lungs, which she worked out within a few hours under the oxygen hood. Looking back, it’s kind of funny how the pediatrician came over and very gently told me that they would be taking her to the NICU for observation. I may have cut him off when he started explaining what the NICU was. My OB said later she was impressed with my restraint when I didn’t scream at him about how very familiar I am with what the NICU is.

It was more disappointing than worrisome, really. This was going to be my one chance to have a baby in recovery with me, and that didn’t happen, but really was no big deal. She was back with us after a few hours and the rest of the stay was uneventful.

My uterus proved to not be holding up too well and my OB was relieved in hindsight that we scheduled the c-section for when we did. The pediatrician on call from our practice was less than thrilled that Hannah was intentionally born at 36w6d, but things could have gotten very dangerous very quickly if I’d gone into labor, so I’m glad we did it then. The fluid in her lungs had nothing to do with that and could have happened at any point, so I wouldn’t change it.

So things are good. I didn’t prepare myself for how emotional having another girl would be, but I’m not sure how I would have done that if I’d thought to do it. There have been moments when I walk up to Hannah when she’s sleeping and have been totally taken aback by how much she looks like Jillian. It’s bittersweet. They looked so similar at birth that I feel like I know what Jillian would have looked like as she grew.

Ian has been amazing with her. I was worried that he was going to have a hard time with going from the center of the universe to being half the center of the universe, but it doesn’t seem to have fazed him. He has his moments, for sure, but I think that has more to do with being a 2-year old than getting a baby sister. He’s so helpful and sweet with her. He did tell us to put her back when he first met her, but he quickly came to adore her.

So things are wonderful. Not too long ago, I was certain I’d never feel anything but emptiness ever again, and that’s certainly not the case. There are still moments of sadness, of course, and Jillian will always be missed, but things are good.

Three years

Dear Jillian,

Oh, my sweet girl. Somehow, it’s already been three years since you came into this world. Some things are different, but some things haven’t changed at all. My heart still aches for you. I still forget sometimes that you’ve already come and gone. It’s like there’s a part of my brain that just can’t process something so unbelievable.

Daddy and I are doing as well as we possibly can. We still talk about you all the time. Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible to miss someone who was here for such a short time so much, but that’s how it is. A part of us will always be missing, and I’m not sure the pain will ever be gone.

But there’s Ian. As I watch him grow, I think of you. I wonder what each milestone would have been like with you. He’s so funny, smart, adorable, loving, snuggly, stubborn, outgoing, determined, gentle, impatient, curious, independent, kind, joyful, and friendly. When I look into his almost black eyes, I wonder what you would look like now, and what qualities you would possess. He’s exactly what our hearts needed. He’s not a replacement, nobody could be, but the healing he has provided is amazing.

The other day, I was thinking about what a great big brother he’s going to be, and then it occurred to me that he would have been a great little brother, too. I burst into tears – those heaving sobs that I have only ever cried for you – and Ian said, “mama, okay?” I started sobbing harder and laughing at the same time. He’s such a sweet kid, and it hurts to know you won’t grow up together.

And your sister. Your little sister, due only 8 days after your due date. I’m excited but terrified. So terrified. Being pregnant with another girl, at the same time of year, expected in late March. There’s a part of me that’s frozen. I can’t make plans or daydream. I can’t talk about “when she’s born.” I’m so scared that it will all be taken away again. Things have been going well, and we’re taking so many precautions. But despite my brave face, I’m scared.

Having another girl is more bittersweet than I ever anticipated. It stirs up so many memories. I wonder if you would have been best friends. I hate that she won’t know you. Not too long ago, I hung your clothes in her closet. I knew that if for some reason I had to pack them up again, I couldn’t handle it, but I did it anyway. I was so sad but hopeful. As I hung each item, I remembered picturing you in it, not knowing what you would look like, but so excited for my little girl. I felt that again as I hung them for her. It won’t be the same, and I know I’ll be sad seeing someone else in your clothes, but still. I feel like we’re getting another chance.

I miss you, my monkey. There’s a pang in my heart every time I hear Ian say “key-key.” You brought Daddy and me so much joy in your short life. There are people we wouldn’t otherwise know, and I will never stop being grateful to you bringing such wonderful people into our lives.

I love you, Jillian. I love you, I love you, I love you. Happy birthday, sweet girl.



We’re moving in a couple of weeks. Our new place is about two miles from here, and conveniently very close to the hospital where both kids were born. We’ve said that if we moved before we were finished having kids, we couldn’t live any further from the hospital than we do now. I think people thought we were kidding, but we were 100% serious. It’s not why we chose this new place, but we certainly took it into consideration.

Getting ready to move has brought up some unexpected emotions. I had worried before that if we did eventually move, I would have trouble leaving this place. I found out I was pregnant with Jillian the day before we closed, so most of my pregnancy was in this condo, and this was were we hibernated and tried to pick up the pieces after we lost her. We’re renting this place out instead of selling it, so I think knowing that we could come back if necessary has helped.

Other things have been hard. Twice, my breath has been taken away when coming across yarn that were supposed to become sweaters for her. The box of her clothes in the top of Ian’s closet is looming over me. I’m okay with seeing it, but I have to decide if we’re going to store it in the garage or somewhere in the house. The practical side of me says to put it in the garage, but the other part of me feels like I’m giving up or something by putting it down there. I have a feeling it will end up in my closet, but I’ve already shed tears over trying to figure it out.

I was going through my shoes the other night, weeding out pairs that I never wear anymore, including two pairs that are way too big on me. I put one in the donation pile, and then as I looked at the second pair, I had a flashback of buying both pairs. I was traveling for work, pregnant with Jillian, and desperate for new shoes because my feet were so swollen. I thought of the two adorable dresses I bought for her that night. Then I remembered putting these shoes into a plastic bag at the hospital the night she was born. I put the shoes away and grabbed the other pair from the donation pile while I completely broke down. I can’t let them go. It annoys me because I can’t wear them, and I hate holding onto stuff I don’t need, but I have to keep them. In a way, I feel like I only have so many things related to her, and if it means keeping these stupid shoes, I guess I have to do it. But like I told Dave through my tears, this is how hoarding starts. Oh, well.

There have been other things, too. The current owners of our new place have a little girl, and I’m not going to be able to turn her room into a boy room fast enough. When they still had their belongings there, I felt a knife in my heart every time I walked in there or saw a picture of it. I know I’ll feel better once Ian’s things are in there, but it’s hard not to think of the what-ifs.

I hate all of these feelings. I feel so… I don’t know what word I’m looking for. As I’ve been typing, I’ve been thinking that I need to get a grip and stop crying over yarn and too-big shoes and the fact that the little girl who lived there until recently had a dollhouse, and Jillian was supposed to get my childhood dollhouse, and that never happened and never will. I want to stop feeling sorry for myself, but I know I’m allowed to feel sorry for myself because there’s a good reason for it. I’ve been so happy in general, but these moments knock me down, then I beat myself up. I should probably try to be more patient with myself.


I’ve been neglecting this blog, obviously. I feel bad about it, because it’s for Jillian, but I just haven’t had much to say. We’re doing well. Ian is growing and I swear he’s bigger every day. The amount of happiness he brings to us is immeasurable. He is such a goof, so adorable, and we love everything about him.

The holidays were fun, but nothing too exciting. Ian didn’t really know what was going on, and I felt moments of sadness. We hung Jillian’s stocking for Christmas, and sometimes seeing it made me happy because we were including and remembering her, but there were other moments that I wanted to take it down and hide it forever because I knew it would be empty on Christmas morning.

We had Ian’s birthday party in mid-January. I’m pretty sure he thought it was the best day of his life so far. He was surrounded by people who love him and they were all paying attention to him. It’s what he lives for. It was a great day to think about the amazing year we’ve had, but at the same time, there was no escaping the thoughts that it was something we never got to do with Jillian. I kept thinking that she should have been there, playing on the floor with her little brother and his new toys. My heart was filled with joy, but aching at the same time.

A couple of weeks ago, Ian and I were leaving our playgroup, and as we were coming out of our room, new moms and babies were coming down the hallway to go to their group for the first time. I was enamored with all the little babies, trying to remember Ian being that little – and probably much smaller. I was looking at a baby girl with her legs tucked under her body on her mom’s chest. I thought to myself that I’ve come so far. I could see a baby girl without my heart shattering into a million pieces again. Then, naively, I looked at the mother’s name tag to see what the baby girl’s name was. You guessed it. Jillian. I felt like someone kicked me in the gut.

A few moments later, another mom, one I don’t know well and who doesn’t know about my Jillian, asked me if I was okay. Thankful that I didn’t have lunch plans for that day, I hurried home, calling Dave in tears on the way. I felt like I was falling back into the abyss. The one where it feels like I will never be okay, and that I will be lost in profound grief during every moment for the rest of my life. When I’m not feeling like that, I realize that it’s not the case, but when I’m in the middle of it, it seems like there’s no escape. I tried to keep my composure on the walk home, but I realized I was failing when an old woman in the park we cut through stopped me to ask if I was okay.

Eventually, after some crying and feeling sorry for myself, I was fine, but I’m still haunted by the encounter. I want to go back to find that mother, and tell her about my Jillian. I want to know why she chose the name. I want to know their story. Fortunately for them (and probably me), I haven’t seen them since that day. As much as I’d love to tell my beautiful girl’s story, I’m pretty sure it would be best not to tell a brand new mother about my baby dying.

So life is going on. There isn’t a day that passes that we don’t talk about Jillian and how lucky we are to have Ian. Life is going as well as it possibly can, which is very, very well. I still miss my monkey so much that it’s sometimes unbearable, but we’re living the best life we can for her.

Two Years

Dear Jillian,

Happy Birthday, sweet girl. I’m sitting here with a lump in my throat, not sure what to say, but at the same time, not sure how I can cover everything I want to say to you. I can’t believe how quickly the past two years have gone. It seems like just yesterday that we were still waiting for your arrival, which was supposed to be months away.

So much has changed since you came into our world. The biggest change, of course, is Ian. He’s amazing, Jilly, and I don’t know where we’d be without him. He’s adorable, he’s hilarious, he’s smart, and he’s as sweet as can be. He has brought so much healing to Daddy and me, but I hate that you two will never know each other. Every time he does something new, I wonder what it would have been like to see you do all these new things. When his eyes sparkle as he smiles, I wonder if you would have been as joyful as he is.

We went out to dinner with one of your sets of grandparents last weekend, and while we were there, Ian set his sights on a little girl sitting at a table next to us. She was a little older than you, but as we watched them interact, I had to fight back tears, because I wondered if that’s how the two of you would have been together. I’m sure Ian would have adored you the way he adored this little girl.

I’ve had two dreams about you recently. In the first one, I was wearing my blue topaz ring – your birthstone – that I wear every day. I was talking to a little girl in my dream who was wearing a smaller version of my ring. I asked her if it was her birthstone, and she said yes. I asked when her birthday was, and she told me December 5. I woke up immediately, and then I was kicking myself because I realized as I woke that it was you. A few nights later, I had another dream about you, and though I can’t remember any details of the dream, I remember thinking in my sleep that I shouldn’t wake up. I have to believe that you’re visiting me.

We love you so much, baby girl. That hasn’t changed for one second. Even though our lives have gotten so much better, there’s not an hour that passes when my heart doesn’t ache for you. I just want to hold you again and feel the warmth of your little body. I want to give you a thousand more kisses and read you a hundred more stories. I want to sing to you and make sure you know that you’re the most loved baby girl in the entire world.

We miss you, Monkey. We’ll never stop missing you or wishing you were here with us. You are my heart.

Love, Mommy