Half of my heart is in heaven…

I was a mother for four years before loosing Hayden. Like any other holiday, I would look forward to Mother’s Day with happiness and excitement- to spend the day with Jackson and maybe if I was lucky, not have to cook or clean for the day! I never thought about the pain others could possibly be experiencing on that day. That somewhere there were mothers with empty arms, broken hearts and shattered dreams. Until loosing Hayden, I was naive and I guess I thought I lived in this world where bad things like this would never really happen to me or anyone I was close with. Loosing a child just seemed wrong. Impossible. Unnatural.  The whole world seems confused by child loss- what to say, how to handle it- what to even call it. There are words for every other type of immediate loss- when your parents die you are considered an orphan, when your spouse dies you are a widow. But when your child dies, there are just no words to even express the pain, the unnaturalness of it is so great that a word for it doesn’t even exist.

When I was growing up and before I had my own children I knew three kids that died. One was preteen and died in a car accident. The second was in his twenties and died of an overdose. The third was a 5-month-old baby who died of SIDS. All excruciatingly tragic and I remember being at their funerals wondering how that mother was still standing?? I just couldn’t grasp the loss of a child and again thought it completely rare and unnatural- knowing it would never happen to me or anyone I was close with. And even after having Hayden and his heart condition, I was still living in a naive world where I truly with all I had never imagined he would die.

Mother's Day was one of the only holidays we actually spent with Hayden. That year, we had been inpatient for exactly a month. Mother's Day morning the charge nurse, Colleen, came in and asked me if I want to go home! I was in utter shock- we were still in the CICU and discharge rarely happened there. We had no warning during rounds that we might go home on Sunday, as they rarely discharge on weekends. But, after being in the hospital unexpectedly for a month, and only having been home with my newborn for 10 days before we were readmitted, missing my three-year-old, and returning to some sort of normalcy of life I of course immediately started crying and packed my bags!

A couple hours later we packed the car with all of our belongings which happened to be a lot because we weren’t planning on going home, and being there for a month I had all kinds of clothes, toiletries, bed stuff etc. Luckily, we ended up fitting everything in the car along with our family of four. I remember riding home in the back seat between my two sons thinking it just doesn't get any better than this. I remember thinking at that moment that I probably will never experience another Mother's Day as powerful as this one. And, four years later, that still stands true. We got home that afternoon and I remember going out on our deck holding Hayden and watching Jackson play. The neighbors all came over to meet him and it all just felt so magical and perfect. The image of that day is etched in my mind forever and I am so thankful to have had one Mother’s Day with Hayden that I will always cherish.

The last three Mother's Day since loosing Hayden have been so tough. I want so badly to enjoy the day with my three living children- and trust me I truly do give it my all. But, for the past three Mother's Day's, I have woken up sad, with tears flowing. I will forever be thankful and grateful for my three living sons who make sure those tears and sadness don’t last long but throughout the day my chest aches for Hayden- my mind can’t help but fixate on what life would be like with him still here. I struggle with being around anyone else but my boys and Rob- not knowing throughout the day when I won’t be able to hid my pain and the tears will escape my eyes again.

For me, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate my children, my greatest accomplishments. I want nothing more than to be surrounded by my kids, being thankful to have been given the greatest gift of becoming a mother where I learned what true unconditional love really means. I was 21 when my sister had her first son and I remember saying ‘How can I love someone so much I just met?’ I remember my sister saying ‘Wait till you have your own’. And she was right- the love I have for Jackson, Hayden, Hudson and Greyson started way before I even met them. The minute I knew I was pregnant my love began to grow. By the time I finally held them in my arms, my heart was already bursting with so much love- and every day it somehow grows stronger.

So how does a grieving mother survive a day of honoring and celebrating her motherhood when her heart is bleeding at the absence of one of her babies? For me, I do the same things I do on other tough days and holidays- I allow myself some time to grieve, find a way to honor and remember him, and smile through my tears through the rest of it.  

The first Mother’s Day without Hayden we started a garden in our backyard and every year since, Jackson and I have gone together to buy the flowers for his garden and we spend Mother’s Day planting his flowers and grooming his garden. It feels nice to be near him in that sense and doing something that will be a beautiful sight for the next few months.

Having a void of Hayden not here to wrap my arms around is a pain that unless you are a grieving mother you just can't understand or describe it. My heart bleeds for all who are suffering the loss of our children this Mother's Day and every day. My hope for you is that you know that whether your angel is your only child, or one with siblings, you were, are still, and always will be a mother. That as mothers we do everything in our power to protect them, care for them, and love them and although our babies aren’t with us, that doesn’t mean we didn’t do our job to the fullest. They left this earth knowing how much they were loved while they were with us and that alone is the greatest gift we could have given them. I hope you can use this day to celebrate you- to instead of just nurturing your children, take care of yourself, too. Let your heart bleed, but look after and care for it.

There is no greater mother than that who had to say goodbye to one of her babies- a mother who watched her child take their last breath- a mother who has to walk this earth with half of her heart in heaven. If you know someone who is grieving on this Mother’s Day, I hope you will take the time to honor them and reach out to them- say their child’s name- hug them a little tighter- and acknowledge their pain because sometimes all we want is for our child and our pain to be recognized and remembered.