This morning, I was cleaning out my daughter’s closet in preparation for the warmer weather. Out went the winter dresses and sweaters, and in went the sundress and tank tops.
For some reason, just as I finished, I reached high up on to a shelf that is barely used and shuddered when my fingertips grazed a small unopened box.
I pulled the box down. There sat Gus the turtle, an adorable little nightlight.
I remember when I got Gus. It was at my baby shower. I was about 34 weeks pregnant, and all my family and friends gathered for my party. There was cake and food and more presents than the house could hold. We had to put some of the larger items in the garage. My mom, the hostess, was grinning ear to ear. She was on cloud nine. Her son and his wife were pregnant at the same time that my husband and I were expecting and she was going to go from “mom” to “grand mom” two times over in less than a month.
Except that it did not happen that way. A few weeks later, shortly before my due date, I felt like something was wrong. I didn’t feel my daughter kick anymore. I didn’t feel right.
We called the doctor and eventually rushed to the hospital and while there, learned that our baby had stopped breathing. There was nothing to be done but to deliver her stillborn. It was not my fault; it was not the doctor’s fault, it just happened. An autopsy later revealed the same thing. There was no reason.
While I was in the hospital, some family drove to our house and put all my baby gifts away. They took bags and bins and quickly and efficiently wiped any traces of my daughter from the house. They left the nursery intact for us to handle when we were ready.
To say that was a dark time in my life is an understatement. I was the saddest I had ever been. My husband made sure I got up every morning and bathed myself and saw my friends and family. They all held me together, the glue I did not even know I needed. We both went to grief counseling, and I joined a support group.
Eventually, we healed. We learned to live with our daughter in our hearts, and we strived to make smart choices and decisions that would make her proud of us. One of those decisions was to adopt her baby sister a little less than two years later.
When our second child came along, we were able to reuse much of what we already had from her sister. We reassembled the crib. We dug out bags and bins from the basement. We put the nursery back together and installed her car seat back in our car.
Every once and a while, though, I would find something that made me think of my first daughter, and I would put it in her memory box. It is comforting to have a place where I can go to see trinkets and items that remind me of her. Although, to be honest, I do not look in that box all that often. It is still so very hard.
This turtle, however, discovered six years after the darkest days of my life, was somehow meant to be found by me today because it was meant for my second child to enjoy. I can’t explain why, it’s just a feeling I have.
I know she will squeal with delight when she sees it. I can almost picture her face now. Moments laden with memory like these have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect them. I guess, I so want to believe, that it’s how you deal with the surprises that make you who you are.