After our Walk to Remember was rained out last year, I was looking forward to this year’s event. The Walk raises money for the SHARE program that supports parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. While being the largest fundraiser for the program during the year, it is free to anyone who wants to participate.
I set up my personal fundraising page, helped organize packets before the event, and made the kids aware of our attendance as a family. Theo asked if our babies’ names would be “read at the END again” and I told him probably – the names are read in alphabetical order by last name.
He was remembering the last time we attended the event in 2016. I’m not even sure I was aware of the Walk in 2015, barely six weeks after losing Nelle. In 2016 we had lost both Nelle and Iris. I hadn’t even attended a single SHARE meeting at that point, but was aware of the Walk through the Facebook group. As a result, the sea of faces was unfamiliar to me. I saw parents greeting each other with big smiles, parents cradling infant rainbow babies and I felt alone – even amidst people who with a common experience. On top of that Ger was in a horrible funk and his attitude darkened my mood further. He later told me that he was very affected by the event and being surrounded by so many people who had experienced the loss of a baby. I softened when he shared that with me, but still would have been helpful to know at the time so I could have been more understanding.
I cried throughout most of the day. Each babies’ name was read aloud and a member of the family came forward to receive a white rose. Theo and Quentin walked with me to when Nelle and Iris’s names were called so that we could receive our roses. The walk began, but I was overwhelmed at that point. I saw only the happy faces in the crowd, and how dare they be happy when I was still so sad. We left, and didn’t walk.
Last year, torrential rain forced the Walk to be cancelled. The grounds at the park were flooded and it was unsafe. Even though the day didn’t contain the reading of babies’ names, the handing out of roses, or the actual walk, parents still arrived all morning at the park’s shelter to pick up their packets. Many said “I didn’t know where else to go this morning – so I came here.” I volunteered to help hand out the roses as parents continued to show up – for hours – that morning.
This would be the first year that we actually walked. We had our t-shirts and had to add long sleeved shirts underneath, thick jackets, hats and mittens when we woke up to 35 degrees (though sunny). Somehow we all managed to sleep later than normal and after getting the kids breakfast I finally shook Ger awake, telling him that we had barely an hour until we needed to leave: I would shower first, and he could shower after. Moments later, I could hear the shower running upstairs. I was furious – he takes the world’s longest showers and by jumping in ahead of me, it almost guaranteed that I would be rushed. It was true – I had to shower, dress, dry my hair, and complete the rest of my morning routine in a condensed fashion. I had set alarms for the kids to know to stop their morning screen time and start getting ready. By the time I emerged from the bathroom, the former had occurred, but not the latter. They were still moseying around in their pajamas. I kicked everyone into high gear but the result was leaving the house later than planned and needing to forego my (necessary) Starbucks visit in order to arrive at the park on time.
This year was so different. I knew dozens of families and greeted them with the smiles and hugs that I saw as a newcomer in 2016. I talked to women I have known for years now, and women I met only a few months ago. There were over 1,000 people in attendance, from large groups to parents who came alone to honor their babies.
My focus was pulled in a million directions. Kids who were cold, hungry, crying. Trying to make sure that I got photos and said hi to everyone I knew. Autumn fell asleep in the Ergo and I was supporting the top half of her body’s sleeping position with one arm. Quentin had to go to the bathroom minutes before our babies’ names were going to be called and it was a rush to get him back so we could all walk up together as a family to receive our roses.
By the time we arrived home, everyone was exhausted and took naps. It was in those quiet moments that I realized I hadn’t taken care of myself at all. I was so busy taking care of everyone else. Even walking forward to receive our roses had been “Ok – everyone walk forward – let’s go.” I had barely thought about Nelle and Iris and it was the opposite of the experience that I wanted, which was a day to focus on them.’
I was so unfocused that upon arriving home, I had left the two white roses on the kitchen table – not even rushing to get them into water. I found them later and quickly took care of them: cutting the stems and putting them in a thin crystal vase we had received as a wedding present.
It left me trying to figure out how to recapture that time for myself. My yoga studio had no available classes in the afternoon. We decided to go out to dinner which, while removing cooking from the equation, wasn’t exactly relaxing. I did take a nap, but all that did was remind me of how exhausted I was.
I woke during the night not feeling well – like a low fever was emerging. My muscles ached and I felt a mild heat/chill sensation that I associate with a fever. It felt like everything I had bottled up throughout the day was rushing back to flood me. I popped two Tylenol and dove back into bed, fully anticipating that waking the next morning would be worse.
It wasn’t. I awoke this morning feeling no hint of a fever, but beyond exhausted. I need to do our weekly grocery shopping, which means heading out into another chilly morning. The house never got picked up yesterday, which means kitchen and living room need some cleaning. And I need to pull out the next size and warming clothing for Autumn, which means a massive switch of her dresser.
But I am putting all of that aside for this morning. I am writing and I need some time alone. Autumn can nap, the big kids can entertain themselves. If I do not pick up groceries this morning we won’t starve. The house can be messy for a bit longer. I cannot reclaim the moments from yesterday, but I can take care of myself today.