I about choke on the words, saying them. Nine months is supposed to mark the time one counts until their baby is born, not what I count to determine how long I've been without mine. Yet, here we are, nine months to the day of delivering Harlynn in that all too quiet hospital room. As time goes on I have various flashbacks of that night. The physical pain. The heartache. Holding her. I remember at one point her mouth opened as I moved her head, and my heart raced in that very instant, she's alive!, only to realize she hadn't come back to life. And she wasn't going to. I remember her chubby cheeks. Her dark hair. How much she looked like Haley. How I had felt her kick a mere 16 hours before.
Oh sweet baby girl - what I wouldn't give to hold you again.
It still is surreal to me that we have to drive to a cemetery, one I didn't even realize existed, to visit Harlynn. I remember that first spring day I was able to get to her grave site, and clutching the dirt as I wept over her. Gathering myself together to read her a children's Bible. Telling her things I wouldn't ordinarily share with my child, let alone an infant.
These memories - these things that others find inexplicable, dark, even morbid - are what I have to draw on as experiences with my daughter. I don't ever regret thinking about her, remembering her, talking about her, or missing her. She was full of life within me one moment. She was gone the next. I remember feeling God weeping with us in that hospital room. I didn't understand any of it then. I didn't understand why the One powerful enough to change it, didn't. I still don't, but I understand enough to know why death happens, and that none of us are immune from it. Even precious babies.
Now, as I feel her little brother moving within me, I feel such a tug-of-war with my emotions. I want so badly for Haley to always remember Harlynn. Always consider her as her little sister. I want so badly for this little man to learn of and know and acknowledge he has two older sisters. Not just one. I don't want to force it on either of them, though. My desire is that they want to allow Harlynn to be a part of their lives. Not just because Mommy and Daddy always remember her, but because they want to know who she would have been, what she means to them, and that they have a sibling who is gone, yes, but not forgotten. Yet I also want Haley and this little man to thoroughly enjoy one another, and bond as only a brother and sister can.
These nine months have been everything other than what we expected. We lost our daughter. Our home didn't sell. I've quit the job I've held the last five years. I met some incredible people I wouldn't know otherwise. I met Michelle. We started a non-profit. I'm expecting again. A boy.
I would give anything to change Harlynn's story, and have her home with us. But knowing that I can't change it, no matter how much I miss her, long for her, ache for her, I'm blessed in how things have happened since losing her. People I needed to connect with, I've connected with. Helping others has helped me tremendously. I will now have a job that will allow me to be a mom all of the time. To all three of my children. I've developed empathy for people and situations I wouldn't otherwise have it for. I'm trying to listen to the whispers of God as He directs me in ways I never would have ventured on my own. I have relationships with dear, dear people I never would have met had we not shared this tragedy in our lives.
As I grieve these nine months without Harlynn, I also find myself trying - ever so delicately - to celebrate the joy, people, and circumstances her short life led me to. My heart will never be whole, but without my brokenness, I wouldn't be where I am today, doing what I'm doing. Losing Harlynn devastated me, but it also ignited a passion within me I wouldn't have found otherwise. With all I've been through and continue to face, I'm constantly learning lessons. Constantly shifting perspective. Slowly, (ever so slowly) but surely, I'm becoming the woman I trusted God to create me to be.
It's been nine gruesome months. I've said it before, and I'll utter it until my last breath: I wouldn't change being Harlynn's mommy. I'm blessed to have been the one to carry her. My love for her didn't die when she did. I'm grateful to be the one to carry that love with me still.
I love you, Harlynn Renae Kleppen.