Last Monday marked 5 years since I gave birth to Poppy Quinn Smith – our little angel in heaven! She arrived on her due date, but not in the way we had imagined 9 months earlier. She came into the world silently after a painful induction and subsequent epidural, somewhere after 2am as we had discovered 2 days earlier that she had passed away. And so, the 16th of September is always filled with very deep feelings, reflection and wonderings of “what if”. It is a day of both celebration for her birthday and remembering the day we held her, but it is also a day that is very much filled with heartache and a lot of missing. We were grateful this year for friends and family who each helped to make it a gentle experience and allowed us to celebrate her day!
We love celebrating each one of our children and what they bring to our lives. And, whilst Poppy Quinn doesn’t get to experience day to day life with us, it does not remove the parenting desire to want to celebrate her too.
Like each of our children on the approach to their birthdays, we reflect on the first time we met them and their birth. And, whilst Poppy’s story is filled with heartache and sadness, we cannot remove the memory of that day she was born and the sacred moment I held her in my arms and we met another one of our special daughters (it is engraven upon our hearts). Yes she wasn’t alive, and not many people met her either, but she was a fully formed perfect little mix of us – despite her physical illnesses. A beautiful little girl weighing 4lb 5oz with 10 beautiful little fingers and toes ike Alices, and who had grown for 9 months like her siblings in my tummy.
She was ours and we loved her just as much as the others – only our hearts broke that day and have never quite mended.
Those memories and feelings, and those moments of holding and meeting your child. Those hours after spent with her both at the hospital and hospice…seeing her in her beautiful hand made white dress and knitted white hat and cardi – so perfect and beautiful – they are life changing and powerful memories that cannot be forgotten. They are precious, just like any birth is and first meetings are with your child. Death may separate us now, and leave us with this awful ache and wondering. It may cause us to feel despair and longing sometimes, but it cannot erase the love we feel for one of our kids. It cannot erase the memory of her birth or the desire to do things to celebrate her and to remember her year after year. It cannot break the bond of family.
The 16th of September will always be her day in our eyes. Not in a possessive way, but more as a tangible and acceptable day in the eyes of the world that we get to expel all of our love and celebrate the day we met and held our 2nd daughter and 3rd child. It is the day set aside to celebrate her birthday and the day we feel extra grateful that families are forever.
With our other kids we get everyday – the ordinary and extraordinary moments. We celebrate their endeavours, their accomplishments and everything in between. Their birthdays last for days and it almost doesn’t matter if the real celebrations are a day or 5 later! But with Poppy, whilst we talk of her daily, we feel bound to one day that we can really do something and mark it for her and we embrace that in any way we can.
This year I wanted to get away for her birthday and do something different. Each one in some ways feels more intense and whilst we created a tradition to go to the lighthouse and release balloons on her birthday eve (with whoever was available), this Summer I realised that there are many places we can feel close to her, and I wanted to try a weekend away in the dales or something. But instead it worked out that Nath’s brother was coming home the same weekend from his mission in Switzerland and so, we shelved that idea for another year and embraced time with family – it was emotional and lovely to have him home and our hearts felt so full from being with everyone.
On the Sunday (the eve before her birthday) we left a floral arrangement at her grave and sat for a while as a couple. On the Monday, one of my best friends kindly met me for lunch and helped me to be able to get doughnuts for the day and a balloon – it was so nice and refreshing to not be alone and talk about Poppy (amongst other things). And then, in the evening we met friends and family at the lighthouse and released beautiful (and eco friendly) red heart lanterns. This was Nathan’s idea, and it was ideal. As always it was therapeutic, fun and everything I could have hoped for to make it a special evening for our little girl.
I have spent this last week since just feeling pretty naff and drained to be honest. I try each day as my feet hit the floor to be determined that I will live positively and feel joy (which I do), but the fog of grief is still very much lingering from last weekend and puling at me. It takes me a while to bounce back from reliving that day, but at the same time we have such strong desires to have an annual memorial and celebration of her that we know it is part and parcel of being bereaved parents – joys and sadnesses intertwined. She has blessed our lives immensely and I could share all of those ways, but many have been quite special and personal. And so whilst to the outside world it might have seen like a small moment and horrific thing 5 years ago, we cannot forget her special place in our family or the little girl we had but never brought home. She is and will always be our daughter and continues to bless our lives.
We have also had the anniversary of her funeral this last week too, and it is something I never draw attention to or that we even talk to each other about – it was just a really horrific moment in our lives to bury our new born and neither of us like to remember that. But, I think subconsciously it lingers at this time of year as we cannot remember her birthday without remembering the difficult week that followed it.
It is never easy to have a birthday of a child in heaven, but we take the sorrow with the joys of being together because it is simply the way we can be parents to her and share our love as a family. This year I am grateful for eager kids to celebrate their sister, for amazing friends that carried me through, for family that remembered and hugged me, text me, acknowledged her, laughed with me and gave us chocolate and the assurance that other bereaved families were helped in her memory. I am grateful to finally have seen how wonderful it is to have family close at this time of year – to laugh with and find comfort with. I am thankful we could celebrate my brother in laws homecoming – it was filled with joy and lessons to fill my heart, and loved ones to cherish. And I am thankful that year 5 in many ways felt a lot more gentle!
Happy 5th Birthday Poppy Quinn – your spirit continues to light our way and the lives of many!