I've decided that loss of a child will reveal two big things: you're more broken than you've ever imagined and you're stronger than you've ever imagined. Broken and strong: That's where I am. Hadley taught me, in six days, more than some people learn in a lifetime. While it pains me that I will never teach her how to ride a bike, read a book, to look both ways before crossing the street, to always order grande instead of tall, and that a little eye shadow goes a long way, I smile knowing she taught me lessons that I will spend a lifetime unpacking. I want to share some of those lessons with you.
These are the Princess Baby Lessons:
1. Be Full of Surprises: Hadley is a true Steele--a lover of surprises. We were surprised to find out that we were pregnant and also that we were having a girl. Of course we were surprised when my water broke so early. The best surprise Hadley had in store for us was on her last day on Earth with us and we were told by the medical team that she would be with us for a minute, maybe 5 or 10 if we were lucky. Well. She showed them. Our sweet girl allowed us all to be together for 5 hours. It was amazing. Never be so predictable that you won't have a few surprises up your sleeve. It keeps it interesting.
2. Groove: When the music calls for it, dance. Hadley loved to dance and wiggle to music when she lived in my belly. She kicked and moved and grooved during her time with us. I remember watching the Country Music Awards and feeling Hadley kick and kick while I listened to Carrie Underwood's "Black Cadillac." Your body can do amazing things and is a true gift. So, shake it, sister. Your body was made to move.
3. Give it your all: After Hadley was born and I learned how sick she was in utero, I was shocked that she was actually doing as well as she was. That girl was a fighter. Nothing was going to knock her down and even in her last moments of labored breathing, I have never met a stronger person and doubt I ever will. You never know when a moment might be lost so savor each second and never give up.
4. Dazzle: Hads was a glam girl. A star. A bundle of pink, sass, and energy. In our Hypnobirthing classes they had us choose a "birth color" to focus on during labor. The color we chose for Hadley? Glitter. Hadley was a ham during all of our ultrasounds and even prompted our doctor to say, "This one is a character." Live a life of shimmer and shine and always dazzle.
5. It's Ok to be a Rascal Sometimes: I was overjoyed to find out our baby's gender at our 16 week ultrasound. I practically begged for an ultrasound and my doctor obliged. "Okkkay," he said, running the wand over my round belly. He paused. I panicked. Then he laughed and muttered, "Why you little, ham" as he zoomed in and adjusted some things on the monitor. Not only did Hadley have her legs crossed tight, but she was darting in and out of the frame. There was no way to tell the gender that day. Always keep 'em guessing. Your true friends know (and love) your rascal side.
6. Point to your Maker: Hadley had (and still has) a way about her that brings people in touch with the divine. We would pray for her in the hospital and feel strong kicks when we mentioned her in our words. I've never been to a funeral or been around someone close to death or someone who has died before Hadley. The moment her tiny heart stopped was devastating, yes, but there was also a holy presence there that day. Her soul was pure and perfect and there is no doubt in my mind she's in heaven now. Her little life made a big impact on my faith. She points me to holiness, divinity, love, light, and joy. True love never ever ends. Connecting with others connects us with God.
7. Give Back: People were there for us in a big way during our pregnancy, birth, and loss. We experienced first hand the true spirit of a community of love that surrounded us. I often wonder where we'd be without being able to rely on others through it all. AJ and I knew instantly we needed to give back just some of what we had been given. We came up with the idea of the Baby Bow Bash to give to those experiencing NICU life and also to welcome sweet babies home with some bows created with love. In addition, we decided to be open and honest and share our story both in person and through this blog space. We have relied on our friends who have lost babies and they have relied on us. We are all in this together. Let's make it better for each other.
8. Keep looking for the love. It's there.: I never thought we'd feel ok again after we lost our daughter. And honestly, some days I don't feel ok. But I have looked for love in all of this and I have found it. Hadley, to me, represents my life's purpose and both my greatest joy and my ultimate goal: I want to be like her. I want to love like her, I want to reach people like her, I want to bring smiles like her, I want to be in touch with the holy like her. I can promise you love is there, never stop looking for it. Love is there even in the trials and tribulations and even when it feels like just a small sliver of light, open the shades and let it wash over you. It's the Princess Baby thing to do.