As I’ve been working on my March for Babies speech for this Saturday’s walk, I’ve thought a lot about the first year I spoke before the March. Because of the tremendous outpouring of attention and donations we received, the March of Dimes asked us to speak at their 2009 event. It was only 18 days after Maddie died. We said yes was because we wanted people to know her name. We wanted them to know that our Maddie was a fighter, and we’d cherished every moment we’d had with her. Still, I don’t know how I managed to stand up there and speak in front of all those people.
The March of Dimes usually asks families with surviving preemies to be Ambassador Families, so I feel very honored that they’ve asked us this year. I want to make my fellow bereaved families proud, and acknowledge that the families who walk in memory of a baby are often the most loyal marchers. We come every year, even though it hurts, because we don’t want any other families to feel this tremendous pain. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I know that there will be families in the audience this year who have lost their preemies in the last year. They’ll likely be numb and wonder why they came when they see all the surviving preemies running around. I hope that they’ll see Mike and the kids and me on stage and know that they will someday be okay. That if they keep putting one foot in front of the other, they’ll make it through this horrendous, unfathomable loss.
That first walk after Maddie died was a blur. I look at the pictures from that day and remember almost nothing – except one mom, who came up to me during the walk and told me her daughter had died, too. She told me I would eventually be okay, but I didn’t believe it. I looked at her and couldn’t comprehend how she was still able to breathe. But I never forgot her words (“Take it second by second, drink water, and cry whenever you want to. You’ll get through this.”), and I hope that I can do the same for other struggling parents.
Take it second by second. Drink lots of water. Cry whenever you want. You’ll get through this.
If you’d like to join our team or donate in Maddie’s memory, you can do so here.