Natalia Michaella

27 August 2012

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the day I delivered my 3rd child, our daughter.  Her full name is Natalia Michaella Woods-Quigley, but we mostly call her Natalie.

She died in my womb sometime during the early morning of 26 August 2010.  I was 34 weeks (8 ½ months) pregnant.  Because 26 August was the last day she was alive, it is ingrained in my mind as her celebration day, even though she wasn’t stillborn until the next evening.

I’ve always thought of birthdays as the most important day to celebrate.  I feel it is important to celebrate not only the fact that one was born on that day, but the amazing blessing of completing a year of life.  I remember being beyond exhausted after birthday celebrations for Gabriel and Brandon (one year, we took 40+ kids to see “Batman” (with Michael Keaton) because it debuted on Gabriel’s birthday.  Later that year, we threw a big “Where the Wild Things Are” party for Brandon …complete with a “Max” costume for Brandon and life-sized Wild Things …again, 40+kids) …because I felt it was important for them to understand how important they are to me.

I also remember that I’d get sick around my birthday every year as a child because I felt such pressure …a day dedicated to celebrating me.  “Wow!” I remember thinking, “I’m being celebrated.” It felt daunting.

As I write this, I understand why I’ve been so panicked celebrating our Natalie.  It’s a way for me to honor her importance in my life …in our lives.

It’s my way to say that my daughter matters – even if she was stillborn.

My mind plays with those words …still born.  Sometimes I hate them with everything I am, sometimes they reflect an accuracy that humbles me. Still born. Born still. Still, born.

So, I freaked out yesterday when we weren’t celebrating Natalia in a big way.  I wanted to do everything she enjoyed in her short time with us – in me.  I wanted to eat all of her favorite foods in one day {omitting completely that actually doing that would have had me gaining 10 lbs …she had a rich palette, our Natalie}.  I wanted to sing along to all of her favorite music, I wanted to tell every story I had about what it was to carry her in my womb – from the horrible projectile vomiting of morning sickness to the joyous way she danced inside me.

I wanted monuments erected …helicopters flying by with her name in huge pink letters on a banner trailing behind …I wanted a huge party in her honor.  I want the world to know she lived …she lived in me and therefore she is important.  She healed so many in a very short time.  She was strong – her long legs were all muscle and she kicked with all her might.  She was musical – surprising her mother and perfect strangers alike with her ability to tap in rhythm with music.

I want the world to know all about my Natalia, to celebrate her …in the same way that I know the world (or at least, their worlds) celebrate my Gabriel and my Brandon.

I know that my children are my greatest gifts to the world and feel that, as such, they are to be celebrated in every second of their existence.

To that end, Natalia is no different than Gabriel and Brandon. She is my child.

Yet, the reality is that there is a difference.  Natalia is not here – sadly, there is no 2-year-old in our home, going through the joyful-terribleness of being two.  There is no child to celebrate.

But, I’m done mourning her …and I don’t want to simply “forget” her or “not-mention-her” the way the rest of the world does …she is not “taboo”, she is my child.  So what do I do now?

There is no rulebook for this.  There are no guidelines on societal acceptable ways to celebrate the dead.  There is a ridiculous societal-fucking-joke of an idea that I’ll “get over it” and “move on”, “let go” or “move past this” …Whoever came up with that idea was a fuckin’ robot.  Once you have loved, you never stop loving …we – in our own time and in our own ways – learn to keep living without the person we love …and perhaps, because we’re told that we “should”*, we bury our feelings and call it “moving on” …

Here’s my reality …I’ve never stopped missing my grandmother.  I accept that she is dead, and my life continues (and is well-lived) without her physical presence.  I no longer mourn her passing.  However, if she knocked on my front door right now, I’d hug her so hard, I’d take her breath away …and, every day, in some way, through my existence, I celebrate her life – I celebrate the love she gave me.

The same is true – but bigger – with my daughter.  To those in my world who keep wondering when I’m going to get over her death, the answer is never.  Though I may not say the words to anyone (except my amazing baby-loss friends and a few select friends who I talk to about everything), I will always celebrate her …my life is a celebration of the fact that she lived and that her life was important to Bryan and me.  And, while Bryan has a different take on celebrating birthdays …on celebrating in general, I know that, in his own way, he never forgets our baby-girl.

I am grateful – beyond my capacity to express with words – to and for those people in my life who graciously allow me to speak freely about Natalia in conversations.  Know that you are rare and beautiful and that I never take y’all for granted.

I just looked up and saw a ladybug dancing on my ceiling …I’m choosing to see that as a sign …life lives on.

I wish you all love, light, joy and peace …and send hugs and love.


*I’ve been saying for months now that if I could create my own bumper sticker, it would say, “FUCK Should” … it’s one of those words I’d eliminate from language if I could …like “normal” …but that’s a different tangent for a different day.