Not long after we brought Madeline home, I signed up for just about every parenting website under the sun. I was so excited about being a parent that I apparently wanted my inbox flooded with information about my child. I quickly grew frustrated with the “My Baby This Week” kind of emails because, as a preemie, Maddie was on a different schedule. I slowly unsubscribed from all of them, or so I thought.

A month before Maddie’s second birthday, I received an email that had slipped through the cracks. “Madeline’s second birthday is just around the corner!” It was a punch to the gut, but I couldn’t bring myself to unsubscribe. It felt like I was deleting her. Four and a half years later, I’m still on the mailing list.

I haven’t watched the TV show Glee regularly for a few seasons, but I watched it last week. It was the episode that dealt with the death of Cory Monteith and his character, Finn. I don’t know what I was expecting, but of course it was terribly sad. The part that resonated the most with me was the scene with Finn’s mother. She said something I know I’ve expressed often:

“You don’t get to stop waking up. You have to keep on being a parent even though you don’t have a child anymore.”

It’s true. But as you get further away from your child’s last moments, you cling to any opportunity to be her parent. Sometimes that opportunity is reading a form email about her birthday. Often, it’s the first time in weeks that someone other than yourself brings up her name.

Last week I received the email again. Madeline’s sixth birthday is just around the corner! It’s the fifth time I’ve received it since she died, and it still hurts…but I still read the email.

Maddie Ballerina and Mommy