I was walking down stairs to get clothes for Lydia. She has finally grown into 2T clothes. Something we thought she would never do. She had pictures in two days and I knew that there were more clothes somewhere. After all, she is our third girl! I imagined a puffy tutu dress and a pretty color that would make her eyes sparkle. As I approached the bins downstairs, I saw that there were two large 2T totes. Surely there had to be something in there.
I picked one up and lugged it back up the stairs. All of the girls were eating and I sat in the living room to go through it, without any help! I opened it up and I saw two T-Shirts and tears immediately started running down my cheeks. I was over come with emotions and it seemed as though time had stood still. It seemed as though I completely loss track of how fast the years went by. And there was a sudden chill that overtook my body, I don't remember those years.
They were two T-Shirts that said Children's Hospital of Wisconsin on them. One was yellow and the other one was orange. My husband and I purchased them for Ellen and Allison the day I was discharged after one of the most horrific days in my life. I will never forget it. It was July 6, 2011. It was one day after my husband's birthday and also one day after our ultrasound that detected an extreme amount of amniotic fluid around our precious baby.
We never waited for the referral, we had to get to see the perinatologist as soon as we could. We must find out what is wrong with our baby. To our surprise, we were able to get into the doctor the very next day. Ellen and Allison went to stay with Eric's parents so we could focus on the news that we would find out. But nothing, nothing, quite prepared us for what we were about to endure.
Within moments of meeting my new doctor, we learned that our baby had a heart defect (AV Canal) and there was no stomach that they could detect. They also suggested that I should have an amniotic reduction and one of the side effects would be that I could meet my baby that night. Ugh! After prayer and council with very good people (mom's and Pastor's and friends) I under went the reduction. I was in labor for over eight hours. I was sick and they were trying to stop labor.
The next morning my eyes were so red and burned from crying literally all night long. I knew God had a plan, but I was not ready to take this journey. I knew that I should trust, but I was really fighting this new. Down syndrome we were prepared for, but not for these medical issues. We were actually super excited to welcome a little one with Down syndrome, but to have to watch our baby fight for their life, we were not prepared for that.
They wheeled me down to the Herma Heart Center where we would get a fetal echo done. I sat in the same waiting room that we sit today when we go for her heart check ups. I was a complete mess. Whenever I see a mom, who is in that ugly hospital gown, red burning eyes, rubbing their stomach as almost grasping and the growing life in their belly, I want to give them a hug and say it will be alright.
I remember when they came in and told me we were having a girl. I could not comprehend. In fact, she had to repeat it to me several times. I just could not process one more thing. I was pretty much convinced we were having a boy this time. But to my surprise and joy, we would be welcoming another girl. A girl who would have Down syndrome, a girl who would have to fight for her life. A girl who would change me as a mom, a person, a wife, a Christian, a daughter; change me entirely. (We also learned in fact, our little girl would have Down syndrome...it was suspected until this point, but not confirmed).
As they discharged me, they handed me a sheet with my next appointments. They said we will see you next week; this is going to become your new home away from home. I never knew how true those words would be until the coming months. As we walked off the unit I just held my stomach in the wheelchair and cried. As we passed the gift shop, I had my husband pull me in. I knew we were going to have to tell our girls. How could we prepare them? How would they handle it? I wanted to buy them anything to just make this all go away.
That is the very day, we picked up those two shirts. We thought they may enjoy them. Ellen's only fit for a bit so she handed it down to Allison who was thrilled to have it. She literally wore one of those shirts every single day. They had the blue babies on it, the bigger one was her and the smaller one was her sister Lydia; the little sister she would watch over and protect she would tell us. She wore it proudly!
As I grabbed the T-Shirt out of the tote the tears started to flow harder and harder. I could picture Allison in that shirt. I could see her beautiful blue eyes and her long blonde hair that would just wisp over the shoulders of the shirt. I remember that smile she always had. I remembered the tears that she had too when she had to say bye to mom for yet another night. I remember her begging and pleading with me to just stay one more minute. I also remember what a great big sister she was, that even though it was so hard, she would do it anyways.
I sat there wrapped in my emotions. I sat there sobbing now using the shirt to dry all of my fallen tears. Allison spoke up and said, mom do you remember when we went to the Children's Museum in that shirt and we worked on the cars. Mom do you remember that was the shirt I wore when I went into the salty pool and did not like it. Mom do you remember I wore that shirt at music therapy. Mom that was the shirt I use to wear when I helped in Ellen's classroom. Mom do you remember when I wore that shirt to the Brewer's Game?
No. No, I do not remember any of that! How can that be? How can she be three years older? How could I have missed so much? That moment is frozen in time. That image is pasted into my head. I remember so vividly the memories and images of getting that shirt. Of giving that shirt to them and telling them all about their new sister. I even remember Ellen and Allison both wearing their shirt when they picked out their sister's name...Lydia Ann.
I don't remember those things. I am her mom, I am suppose to. How could this be? There was a memory that was frozen still in time. I remember her being three years old, carefree and my little baby. I remember her just starting to learn many new skills and being mommy's little girl. I looked over at her and there she was, the starting of a big girl. Her features on her face developed so much more, her vocabulary amazing, her memories so much more than I have, her smile that can melt my heart. When did she grow up? How did she grow up? And how have I missed all of this.
The tears kept flowing as I kept digging. That moment became frozen even more so. There was the dress that Allison wore the first time she came to see her baby sister. Her eyes lit up and made the room so amazing. How can it be that I don't remember three years of life? I just saw Allison wearing the same dress and now we are ready to hand it over to Lydia. And where did it come from? I never bought it for her? As Allison filled me in, her aunt gave it to her because she was growing, mom was busy and Allison needed clothes.
Just a simple piece of clothing that brought me to tears. It made me realize how much I have missed. I didn't want to. If things went according to my plan, I would have been a very active participant in Allison's life during those times. I was presence in physical body, but emotionally I was completely attached to my daughter who lay in a hospital bed fighting for her life.
I was flooded with such sadness. I was taken back with what this all meant. I need to get those memories and unfreeze them. That is just not possible. I cannot travel back in time. I cannot undo the past. But then I was reminded of this beautiful girl that was sitting at the table calling me mom. I had done just as God wanted me to do. God placed grandma's and Ronald McDonald Jessica's and Lynda's and Tiffany's, Aunts and Uncles, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ to help when God said you needed to be with this child. And because of that, we are able to pass this clothing on to their sister. I realized in that moment, I was doing just as God wanted me to do, no matter how hard it was.
That moment will always be frozen in time for me. I am sure each time that Lydia wears a piece of clothing a part of me will ache. It is something that I can't quite explain. I missed a lot with my kids, but we are a complete family now because of those sacrifices. We are different people because of the journey we were chosen to walk. We are a strong family unit.
So with each piece of clothing we pick up that I feel like a moment that stands frozen, I will remember that we are stronger, we are better, we have Lydia because of it. I will try not to remember the rough stuff, the horrible things we endured, but I will celebrate how far we have come, I will praise God for the things He taught us and how far He has brought all of us. I will rejoice that my daughters have memories in those shirts that are good and that time never stood still for them.
And, by the way, I was able to find a perfect dress for pictures. It was actually a dress that neither of my other girls wore, but one that my nieces wore. It was perfect for her!