June 2nd was - for the most part - the best day. Sawyer was stable, I was able to visit for the first time. I could be there for him, hold his hand. Touch his soft skin. Stroke his fingers when he was in pain. I thought this was the beginning of our long road in the NICU. I never thought it would have ended so soon. This is my favorite memory though. The quiet hum of beeps and machines. Knowing he was safe with me. This moment. This memory, thank you God for giving it to me.
Snuggled up by the fire on the couch at bedtime...
Sadie sleepily asks me, "Momma? Do you see Sawyer?"
I answer, "Where, Sadie?"
And with a yawn in her voice she says, "Right there mommy. When you close your eyes."
A figurative artist from British Columbia named Kate Hansen, included Sawyer and I in her Madonna And Child Project in 2010. I was so honored that she represented the most painful experience of motherhood. One that too many women have sadly had to endure. In Kate's words: "Each portrait was combined with a birth story written by the mother in her own words. The use of contemporary women subverts the classical theme of the Madonna and Child, but also honours the relationship between mother and child."
I didn't have a baby shower or a blessing for Sawyer. I was on bedrest at 24 weeks and since he was our second child, I don't think anyone thought to have another shower. I had everything I needed. But, I did receive a few small gifts as his arrival approached. My favorite is a baby book Erik gave me for Mothers Day that year. I spent a lot of my time on bedrest filling out the pages, I had nothing else to do. I'm so glad I had this and wrote down my thoughts and love for Sawyer before his arrival.
University of Chicago Hospital is where Sawyer was born. Comer Children's Hospital - connected by a long bridge - is where Sawyer died in our arms. Every time I am there I am reminded of how powerful a single place can be. When I see the bridge that connects the hospital to Comer, I cry - remembering Erik pushing me in a wheelchair at 4 a.m. on June 3rd toward the NICU. The last time we'd go there.
We have a baby-blue trunk that we had ready for Sawyer before his arrival. It was going to be his toy box. Instead, it has become the place where we have placed all of his things and most precious gifts. I don't go inside of his box very much, because it is too hard - but knowing it is right there, whenever I need to feel his clothes or smell his blanket - brings so much comfort. This is absolutely my sacred place for him.
When Sawyer died, I knew nothing about CHDs. I knew no other mother like me - who did not know before their baby was born, that their heart was broken. One of the first people to reach out to me was Kristine Brite McCormick of Cora's Story. I have learned and continue to learn so much from Kristine and Cora. I am so fortunate to have found a close friendship with Kristine too. I will always be thankful to her and am so proud of all she has done for so many families in the CHD community and for so many grieving mothers.
His due date held so much for me. It was everything. It was the day he was supposed to arrive, and stay. It was the day we were supposed to be so happy. It was going to be a day filled with tears of joy, first diaper changes and proud announcements of his arrival...
Instead, we spent the day in the cemetery. Just our small family. We brought him flowers and we sent balloons "high in the sky" for Sadie's little brother. We had ice cream and smiled through the tears at our daughter, bursting with love and life - knowing she was a wonderful big sister.
To me, the infant loss community is what continues to get me through each day of my life after Sawyer's death. This photo is from our annual "Walk To Remember" held each year in my hometown. I would never have had the strength to plan our annual remembrance ceremony if it wasn't for the dozens of other families I have met along the way, just like mine - who give me such strength. I would not be who I am today without my community.
The baby shampoo and lotion with the basin we had filled with water and used to bathe and clean Sawyer. The smell of these...an instant trigger. His blanket and clothes still smell like these, and him. I rarely take them out. I want to preserve the scent forever.
The day of Sawyer's funeral this hawk was perched in a tree, toward the back of the cemetery, singing his song. A lot of people told us about it, I didn't see it that day - but almost every visit to the cemetery after that, we would see "Sawyer's hawk." Seeing a hawk, always reminds me of his spirit, wings spread - soaring against the blue sky.
Reliving the days that Sawyer was alive are incredibly painful. Every year since his death, we leave on his birthday and head to Lake Michigan as a family. There is a peace in the waters. Every night, the sun sets but every morning it rises again, giving us hope. And bringing us one day closer to holding him in our arms again.
Sawyer's footprints in a heart-shaped plaster mold. If my house was on fire and I could only choose one thing to save from the flames, this would be it. I am forever thankful for this gift and memory we were able to make with him - it is also the inspiration behind Sawyer's Heart Project.
This picture was taken in early May 2010. I wanted a "belly" picture with Sawyer and Sadie before heading off to the doctor in Chicago. I feel like this was the last day we were truly happy and innocent. Later that morning, we were told something was wrong with our baby. We were very scared - yet so incredibly hopeful. We never thought he would die.