So, here it is. Jillian’s due date. It’s a day that we once looked forward to more than any other day of our lives. We knew that we would either be at home with a brand new baby girl, marveling at the amazing life we created, or in the process of wearing a ditch into our block’s sidewalk by walking back and forth, trying to get labor to start. In an instant, on December 9, it became a day that will forever fill my soul with dread. It is now a day that means more to me than any holiday or birthday, only overshadowed by Jillian’s birthday and the day of her death. I know that for the rest of our lives, March 24 will remind us of the lives that are gone forever: not just Jillian’s, but also our own lives that existed until the moment our precious daughter slipped way.
I remember a few times during our hospital stay when we weren’t sure that Jillian would make it. These moments were caused by her initial brain bleed, being told she would likely need heart surgery (that issue ended up fixing itself pretty quickly and filled us with so much optimism), and waiting for the meeting with the neurosurgeon that the doctors had requested, which we knew could not be a good thing. I remember crying to Dave that we could not lose her. I was positive that I would not survive. While it was a very real possibility that she wouldn’t survive, I couldn’t fathom it. I did not understand how I could possibly go on without her. It didn’t make sense. That wasn’t something that could happen to us. That kind of thing happens to other people, and I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
Amazingly, as terrified as I was of a life without her, at that time, I totally underestimated how devastating it would actually be. The pain that comes from losing a child is completely unimaginable until it actually happens. It is a physical pain unlike any other. Somehow, though, I have survived. I know our promises to Jillian are a big reason I’ve been able to go on with my life, but it’s also because of Dave. I’ve been so independent for as long as I can remember, but now I don’t know how I’d live without him. When we got married, we promised to be there during the bad times, but neither of us realized how bad it could be. We have a bond formed by something that most people are fortunate enough to avoid during their lives, and it has made us realize how strong we are together.
In addition to today being Jillian’s due date, we’ve also been thinking about the fact that if she had survived, we would hopefully be preparing to bring her home around this time. We were told during one of our first meetings with the neonatalogists that we could expect Jillian to be in the NICU until around her due date. Having her in the hospital for at least three and a half months felt like an eternity. I look back on our four days in the hospital and remember how terrified we were of the idea of leaving her there, knowing that being ten minutes away instead of a floor away would mean an even worse inability to fall asleep at night, jumping ten feet in the air every time the phone rang, feeling an ache in our hearts every time we left her bedside to go home for a shower, meal or work, and waking up before dawn to call for status check, relieved that the phone had not rung in the middle of the night. At the time, it seemed like the scariest thing in the world, but I’d obviously take it over our reality.
I felt a strong need to look at Jillian’s face the other night, so we looked at our pictures from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. They’ve been very difficult to view because of the pain in our faces, so we hadn’t looked at them in months. I realized as I stared at them that it was the first time I’d really looked at them, and they overwhelmed me. I know parents tend to be biased about their children, but my goodness, she was beautiful. Seeing these pictures – really looking at them – makes my heart overflow with so much love. As much as I think about Jillian every day, I hadn’t felt that feeling since I handed her to the doctor after she died. I am so happy that I decided to ignore my fear of these pictures and look at them. It made me realize that my connection with Jillian will never go away and I am so lucky that I get to experience that.
I know that we’ll get through today, but it’s not going to be easy. We are trying so hard to be optimistic and focus on the future, but that’s not easy either. We have so much to be thankful for, but it’s not enough. We’d give up everything to have our sweet Jillian back. I’d give it all up for just another moment with her. I’d do anything for the chance to hold her, to kiss her perfect little nose, and to feel her heartbeat against mine again. I know none of this can happen, but it’s so nice to think about how wonderful that would be.
One of my internet friends, who sadly lost one of her daughters last year, recently added this to her signature: “Some people only dream of angels… I held one in my arms.” I smile every time I read it because I held one, too. Before Jillian, I didn’t really believe in angels. Now I do believe in them, and I have one of my very own.
Daddy and I love you so much, Jilly bear. We love you so much that I can’t even put it into words. You are our sweet, beautiful, amazing little girl, and we miss you more than ever. One of the books we read to you has a line that reads “I love you to the moon and back.” While that line will always remind me of you, it doesn’t suffice. The universe isn’t big enough to measure how much I love you.