By: Julie Shapiro
On September 29, 2020 my world stopped when I heard the words “Your daughter no longer has a heartbeat.” At 38 weeks and 2 days, Aubrey Rae’s pending birth was my family’s glimmer of happiness during what had been a confusing and dark year, as the world battled a pandemic, quarantine, time apart, social distancing and living in uncertain times. As if the eight months leading up to the day of her delivery was not confusing enough, we were now faced with something even more terrifying: how would we be expected to get through the future without her?
As if the universe has not wreaked enough havoc on my life as is, the timing of her “Angelversary” could have not been worse. Each day that I began to feel somewhat stronger, the days neared the holiday season. The feeling of dread that I felt every time I looked at the calendar continued to build, and suddenly I realized that it was up to me to devise a plan of how I would get myself from November 1st through December 26th, as mentally unscathed as I could as a newly bereaved mother. Nothing was going to be easy, but only I would be able to make sure that I could get up each morning and honor my daughter during what would have been her first holiday season as best I could. I was going to do this because her legacy is too precious to be that of a scorned woman during the holiday season.
Since making that decision, no day has been the same. The highs and the lows are so incredibly real. There are days when I wake up feeling energized, and eagerly look through the numerous resources I have on ways to donate and celebrate her, only to find myself unable to get out of bed a few hours later when the realness of my loss has hit me again. I had made plans to donate maternity clothing and baby items to a women and baby shelter in her name, and then ran out of the store fast as light the moment I entered the aisle with the items I had planned to purchase. I filled an entire amazon cart up with toys that I would be purchasing for her this year, with plans to donate them to a family in need, but then deleted the entire list. I even forced my husband to decorate our house for Christmas, and then had a complete panic attack when it came time to put the ornaments on the tree, realizing that we would be putting “Angel Baby” on the tree instead of “Baby’s First Christmas”. Each time I open my mailbox, I get excited when I see a Christmas Card from one of our friend’s who was lucky enough to have a baby this year… and then I proceed to rip it up immediately and put it in the trash when I see how happy their child is sitting with Santa. But at the end of each day, I lay my head down and know that my daughter is proud of me for doing what I can to keep her memory and legacy alive. I have come to realize that it is not necessarily the acts that matter, but the thought and the effort. My way of celebrating Aubrey’s legacy right now is simply SURVIVING, not necessarily THRIVING.
Through each day, there are a few things that have remained consistent as I journey through this holiday season walking without my heart inside of my body. Daily FaceTimes with my family members to talk about life, Friday nights snuggled on the couch with my husband and dog watching Christmas movies, and spending time doing normal things, like reading home improvement blogs and cooking dinner with my husband, all feel normal and good to me. I’ve realized that I do not have to do anything extra this year to ensure that Aubrey is remembered or prove how much she is missed; the world knows it and feels it too. As long as I feel close to her, then I am doing the right thing to honor both of us.