I have learned so much about the person I was prior to June 2, 2019 and the person that I’ve since become. To some, those that didn’t know me before, the changes seem minor. To others, the ones closet to me, they are the reality that the person they once knew is gone. The changes can be easily overlooked and often just go unnoticed. After all, I don’t have a physical scar for the emotional pain I have endured and will endure for the rest of my life. I have scars all over my right leg that represent that I was broken and had to be put back together. They are a physical sign to the outside world that something happened. Emotional scars are not visible though. There is no sign to the outside world that you are broken and cannot be fixed. The pieces of my shattered heart cannot be put back together. The hardest part of this is that you can prepare yourself for the questions about your physical scars and disability, but you cannot prepare for all of the things and questions that are now emotional triggers. I have thought, many times, about how to handle the questions “how many children do you have?”, “do you have children?”, “are you married?”, “what do you do for a living?”. The honest truth is, no matter how many times I go over what to say when asked any of these questions, I am never prepared. Simple small talk quickly turns into horror when one of these questions gets asked. I am no longer the same person and all of my answers to these questions have changed.
The person I was prior to June 2, 2019, “the old me”, lived in a very black and white world. Questions like those could be answered with a simple fact. My whole life was very black and white. It’s only fitting that Adalyn would bring a whole new world of gray (and pink) to my life. Having a child is not a black and white world, at all. Losing a child isn’t a black and white world either. The gray area is not a place that I am comfortable living in, and I don’t think I ever will be. The gray area includes simple questions with hard answers. It includes a spouse with a brain injury that no doctor or specialist can give any direct answers about. It’s a world where the little things in life have room to become major things and things that were once certain in life have now become uncertain. I imagine that for anyone in my situation the gray area would be difficult, but it is exceptionally difficult if you once lived in a black and white world. I desperately want to live in that would again. That world had direct answers, it was factual. It was a world that made sense to me. An all or nothing world, it was once my comfort zone.
Since June 2nd of this year, I have struggled with “all or nothing”. I am a perfectionist by nature. I don’t know how to fail or when to quit. My nature is to be so determined to succeed at anything I take on and I simply avoid the things that don’t allow for perfection. Black or white. Success or failure. It had to be one or the other to the me that once was. The only time I was ever comfortable not living in that world was when it came to Adalyn. My determination to succeed didn’t go away but I also had to accept that I was a first-time mother, and I had no idea what I was doing. It’s been the same with losing her. I have no idea how to be a bereaved mother or how to survive her loss. Often times I feel like I just exist. When I started the Acts For Adalyn Foundation, I was determined to provide some kind of comfort to every toddler loss mama that was experiencing the same loss as I was. I know their pain, their sorrow, their suffering, and the agony of child loss. I had no idea how many toddler loss mothers there are in this world. As I approached Adalyn’s 2nd angelversary, I was overwhelmed by feelings of anger. I am angry that I am Adalyn’s legacy instead of her being mine one day. It’s not supposed to be this way. I started to think about all the toddler loss moms that have or will one day face this same milestone of grief. I started to panic because I realized that there was no way that I would ever be able to reach all the moms that experience toddler loss and there was no way that I could ever offer anything that would truly help to heal a broken mama heart. I started to withdrawal from this world and from Acts For Adalyn. I couldn’t help them all and it broke my, already broken, heart. It went on like this for weeks. I couldn’t find my way out of the fact that I could never truly succeed. I began to question if I was even making a difference in this world that I no longer understood. About 3 weeks later one of the moms in the Acts For Adalyn Mama Group posted a picture of her bunny that had recently arrived. She explained that she had taken naps with her bunny, sang lullabies, and talked to her bunny. Her bunny had helped her heart in some small way.
Her post reminded me of a story from Chicken Soup For The Soul that I had read many years ago. I was probably only in middle school when I read it. The story was about a boy that was walking along the shore. As he was walking, he was throwing starfish that had washed up back into the ocean. He was asked why he bothered because there were so many starfish, and he couldn’t possibly save them all. The boy replied by saying, “no, I can’t save them all”. As he threw the next starfish back, he said “but I made a difference to that one”.
Her words were the reminder that my heart needed. They reminded me that this world isn’t always black or white. It’s not always all or nothing, Her words reminded me that even though I will never be able help or fix every mama’s broken heart, I can still make a difference (in Adalyn’s name). It reminded me that it isn’t about being able to help every mother, it’s about helping one mama at a time. It’s about providing them with some small comfort even though it will not even come close to healing all that each of us has lost. It’s about making the dark path, of child loss, a little brighter by providing a safe place for mamas to grieve with other mothers that have experienced a similar loss. It’s about giving a grieving mother something to hold onto when her grief is overwhelming. Acts For Adalyn isn’t “all or nothing”, it’s one mama at a time.
I live in a very uncertain world. It’s a world full of unexpected triggers and a world where the answers to simple questions require thought because they aren’t really simple questions anymore. I am in a world where there is no physical scar for internal brokenness that can never be fixed. The “new” me is learning how to survive in this world. I am learning to look at things entirely different. I no longer live in a black or white world. I am learning to always be the kind of person that throws the starfish back one at a time. This is Adalyn’s Legacy. I am her mother and I still want to make her proud. She deserves the absolute best and she’s still teaching me lessons, one at a time.
When I get to Heaven I intend to meet and hug every one of the toddlers that made a difference in my life. 💕👼🏻💙👼🏻