August 1st marked three years since we said hello and goodbye to William Edward. Sometimes it seems like it has been an eternity since we held him in our arms; other days it seems like it was just yesterday. On his birthday, we took Noah (and, for the first time, Will’s urn) to a local beach and released roses into the Bay – it’s a tradition we started on his first birthday. This year, as our water-loving 21-month old rainbow gleefully splashed in the water (and tried to eat sand – we’re still working on learning that not everything that we can shove in our mouth belongs there), I couldn’t help but think about how profoundly my oldest son’s life – and death – has changed *my* life.
I truly believe that I am a better person because of my late son. I love deeper, laugh harder, fret less, and appreciate life so much more than I did before my son’s death; I am a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend – a better human being – then I was before I had to say goodbye to my child.
Will’s life may have been tragically short, but I am doing my best to live up to the promise I made him on the day he was born: That I would never, ever forget him, and that the world would know about the little boy that made me a mother. I have invested a lot of time and energy into doing things that I would likely have never done had I not experienced child loss: I help moderate Facebook groups for women who suffer the same medical condition that caused me to deliver Will too prematurely for him to survive (I couldn’t save my son, but I can help – I *have* helped – other women save theirs by assisting them with gathering information about possible treatment protocols) and speak openly and candidly about my struggles with infertility, child loss, and pregnancy/parenting after loss. My husband and I donate bereavement packages containing a handmade blanket, hat, and burial/cremation outfit, books on grieving for both mothers (You Are the Mother of All Mothers: A Message of Hope for the Grieving Heart by Angela Miller, which I took great comfort from in the immediate aftermath of Will’s death) and fathers (Emily Long’s From Father to Father: Letters from Loss Dad to Loss Dad by Emily Long, which my husband contributed to), and information on resources for grieving parents. Most recently, I have enrolled in a course (through Stillbirthday) to become a Birth and Bereavement doula; I feel called to help other mothers whose pregnancies do not end the way they imagined. The death of my son has been a guiding force in my life – while his life was tragically short, through me (and my husband and family) the impact of his life will be long-lasting.
Will’s death also changed how I mother my living child. I am acutely aware of how blessed I am to have been given the chance to not only mother a child, but to *raise* one as well. Even on the rough days (and there *are* rough days – he’s a toddler 😊), I cannot help but reflect on what a tremendous gift it is that we were able to conceive and successfully carry a child – neither of those things looked possible not so long ago, and they may not happen again. I only get to remember Will – I get to *raise* Noah. And it’s important to me that I mother both of my sons to the best of my ability.
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