I need to express a tremendous thank you towards everyone who wished Aerilyn a happy birthday. From texts, to phone calls, to Facebook messages and more; Aerilyn’s birthday was celebrated and remembered by so many. It means the world to us that she was thought of and commemorated.
The Big Day— One Year Old
Thursday was a big day for us and Aerilyn. First birthdays are normally a big celebration full of cake, friends, presents and stress over the perfect decorations. We did all of those things in our own way. We started the day off in the exact same way we did last year, late. When I was supposed to be induced last year I was supposed to be at the Wentworth-Douglas at 8:00am, I didn’t show up until closer to 9:00am. Thankfully they were perfectly okay with that. This year Josh and I had planned on getting Kanin to daycare at 8:00am so we could do breakfast and get a start on our day. He didn’t get dropped off until 8:30am and we didn’t even eat until closer to 9:00am. I guess it goes to show you that even if it’s as something as mundane as daycare or as important as an induction; you can always be late. Haha!
Aerilyn’s birthday may have been Thursday, but preparations for her day started way before then; in typical birthday fashion, of course. Earlier in the week Josh ordered a bouquet of flowers for her birthday; we went with Tulips and Holly. The Tulips haven’t even bloomed yet! We figured they would, but nope, it’s been four days and still no blooming. At least they’ve kept well. I hope they bloom soon so we can see how pretty the bouquet ends up being. I also went shopping for another part of her birthday during the week and sought advice from my sister-in-law on what nurses would like for gifts.
You see, before I even left the hospital after giving birth, I knew I wanted to thank the nurses and staff at my hospital. I knew without a doubt that on her birthday, I’d deliver something to them and show just how much we appreciated all they did for us. Thursday that want and need came to fruition. Hence asking my sister-in-law for more ideas than I had. We created a huge gift basket for the nurses and they were beyond thankful for it. One of my nurses, Jocelyn was there and she was even thinking about us recently! We were bummed our other nurse, Jill, wasn’t there. However there was a nurse there that I hadn’t even recalled until I went back through pictures of Aerilyn’s birth. Yet she remembered us!
What Appeared In The Basket
- Bobby pins
- Hair ties
- Head bands
- Hand lotion (unscented of course)
- Hand sanitizer
- Gluten free white choclate macadmia nut blondies
- Gluten free chocolate chip brownies
- A thank you card
- Personalized note
I made the confectionaries naturally, but it was definitely a labor of love. Even Kanin got in on the action and helped bake them. He had a blast and as much as he made the process lengthy, at least he was part of the process. I also made gluten free chocolate and vanilla cupcakes for Kanin’s daycare to celebrate with them. He brought them with him when he was dropped off, and from everything we heard, they were delicious.
We bought a bunch of balloons for a symbolic release. We decided to do two realeases; one with just the two of us and one with Kanin involved. So, with a basket full of goodies, a balloon tied to Aerilyn’s urn, camera and scissors, we set out for the day. As I said, we had breakfast after Kanin was dropped off. After breakfast we headed to Wentworth-Douglas; the place where Aerilyn’s birth and death happened.
I hadn’t been back in the Maternity Ward since December 16th, 2015. It was very weird for me. I thought I’d be extremely choked up and full of tears; the opposite happened. I was full of smiles and joy. While we waited for a nurse to escort us back, I realized I hadn’t and still haven’t held a baby since the day we found out about Aerilyn’s Anencephaly diagnosis. It’s been over 570 days since I last held a baby. I couldn’t believe it. Over 570 days is an insane amount of time, especially when you have friends with young children. I don’t know when I’ll hold a baby next, or if I’m even emotionally able. It’s a hurdle I’ll have to face at some point, but for now, 570 days will continue to climb.
Once we were escorted back, our basket was received with a myriad of gratitude. Josh and I walked around the ward with Jocelyn after talking with the nurses for a while. We intended to see if Aerilyn’s brith room was able to view, however, someone was already making use of it.
We did go in the room next to it and it was flash backs. It’s crazy to think we spent two days in that hospital, majority of it with our daughter outside the womb. Once done, we said our goodbyes, hugs and thanks for everything they did. Walking to the car Josh pointed out that we never took pictures of dropping off the basket! Well, at least we have pictures of the basket and our memories to forever know what we did for them in honor of Aerilyn on her big day. It filled me with joy to do that small thing for those nurses.
Next part of our day was our balloon release. Now, if you’re not in Maine or New Hampshire, you don’t know what kind of weather we were having that day. Wind! There was a wind advisory for the whole day, factor in it was already 22° the windchill made it freezing! We decided to do it on the top of the parking garage at Wentworth-Douglas. It blocked “some” of the wind. However, it was pretty much constant gusts and not ideal conditions. As we found a spot and battled the wind, I took a good 100+ pictures just to get this one, that wasn’t sideways or completely hidden. I took a video of Josh cutting the string and you can see in the video the insane amount of wind whipping her ballon everywhere. What you can’t hear is Josh saying, “Happy birthday sweet pea”. It’s for the best that nothing can be heard because the wind would have been awful. We took pictures with her on her birthday, and then did goofy faces in the car as we attempted to warm up. Overall, it was a good balloon release. Hopefully next year it won’t be quiet so cold.
Once we were warm, we went and picked up her cake. It was vanilla swirled with chocolate with strawberry in the middle. It was elegant, pretty and just like her. While we picked up Aerilyn’s cake, we finally found her and Kanin their Christmas ornaments for this year. However, that’s for another post. After this short trip, we went home to decide what to do next.
Lunch was next after a brief call from Aerilyn’s grandma telling me she wished her a happy birthday and kissed her picture that morning. Lunch was exactly what I
ate tried to eat that day while giving birth; a turkey BLT. Carl’s Meat Market has marvelous sandwiches and that’s where we decided to go. While driving there the weight of the day started to settle on me. By the time we got to Carl’s, I was in full blown tears. Josh was pretty surprised that it took so long and that going to get a sandwich is what provoked the waterworks. Thankfully it didn’t last long, at least that time. By the time we got home, ate our food and I calmed down, it was time to go pick up Kanin.
Once home from picking up the kiddo, we embarked on another round of weather battling and a balloon release. With the second balloon tied to Aerilyn, another pair of scissors, camera and hope that the wind wouldn’t cause it to be so freezing, we headed outside. Too bad that hope was short lived. It was so cold! The dramatic temperature change caused this balloon to collapse in a little; it was that cold. Once we put Aerilyn in the snow, I realized that was the first time she’s even been in it! Obviously I had to capture this “first” moment. Once the prerequisite photos were taken —family photo and Aerilyn with her balloon— we gathered Kanin to cut her last balloon for this year. Once cut, he said, “Happy birthday to you”, “Bye bye Aerilyn” and “Come back!” to her balloon. It was adorable and sad all at the same time. For the rest of the night Kanin kept asking why her balloon was gone and that it needed to come back.
After taking pictures and freezing our tushies off, we set off to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. All of us had a light and quick dinner, eager to get home to finish off the celebration. Kanin was over the moon about the prospect of cake, especially since he’d already had a cupcake earlier that day at daycare. Once home, I had to, again, capture these fleeting moments and her first birthday cake. We put a number one candle on it, sang her happy birthday and all three of us blew out her candle. Once again, a bittersweet moment.
By the time all of this was finished, it was Kanin’s bedtime. After he was in bed, the day hit me even more. I just sang to a cake, not my daughter, a cake! That is not how Aerilyn’s first birthday should be. It hit me hard. As much as we glorified her day, and made sure she was apart of it as much as possible, it wasn’t enough. It could never be enough. No matter how many baskets we give, candles we blow out, balloons that go up to her; I’ll never feel like I’ve done enough. Since I’m celebrating without Aerilyn, it will be empty cakes, sad symbolic balloons, and small things like putting her urn in the snow as a “first” for her. I’m not sure I’ll always feel that way, and I certainly don’t while we’re doing those things to honor her. But afterwards, when the day has ended and there’s nothing more I can do, I feel the gaping hole where she should be.
I cried for over five hours that night, barely sleeping because I was distraught over not having her. The days that have followed, tears have been easy to come by. It’s simply not fair and although I know that nothing anyone can do will bring her back and nothing I do will subsitute for her, I can’t help but feel the injustice of not celebrating her first birthday with her. Not Fair.
This past year I have worked extremely hard on not thinking about fairness and instead of thinking about what she’s done for me. I’m okay that these past few days and her birthday especially, I’ve thought about the fairness of this and how sad I am. Soon I’ll pick myself back up and go back to my logical self and know that life isn’t fair. However, today is not that day.
It was so hard to decide what to do for her birthday and how to memorialize her. I didn’t know everything we were doing until last minute. I couldn’t decide if Kanin was going to daycare or not. I couldn’t decide what balloons to get. I couldn’t decide on flowers. It was painstakingly slow and it came together so quickly. I’m just glad it all worked out.
Some of you may think it weird that I didn’t want to spend the whole day with my other child. I felt like I had to include him in everything and that he deserved to be there for everything we did that day. Be that as it may, I needed part of the day without Kanin. I needed the time to myself, to be with Josh and just focus on Aerilyn. Maybe when he’s a bit older we’ll include him in everything. Four years old is not the age for that; at least for me. The night before her birthday I asked my friend if I was wrong for wanting the day without him. Thankfully she told me that grief is a personal thing and to do what I felt right. That doing what feels right for me will make me a better mother, wife and ultimately a better me. Even though I had guilt eating me that I didn’t want to include Kanin, I knew that I couldn’t. Thanks to Stacy, that guilt was eased and I was at peace with Josh and I doing our own thing without him, then doing another balloon with him. So if you’re struggling with that same battle, take Stacy’s advice, do what feels right to you. Only you know what will ease your heart that day.
I’m going to wrap this up since it’s gone on long enough. I’m going to end it with some happy moments we had with our darling Aerilyn Grace with some pictures below. I cannot thank you all enough for all the support, kind words and encouragement you’ve given me and family.