We (finally) picked her headstone.

After months of indecision and overcoming a lot of emotional hurdles, we finally ordered Aria’s headstone.

This was a really tough decision for us, as it felt like the last thing we could do for her. But we have realized there are still so many things we can do in memory of her, and this is not the end of our role as parents.

The design was important to us, and we wanted to be very involved in the creation of it. We opted not to use a template, and designed the entire thing ourselves, then gave our design to the manufacturer. Everything from the image, font, wording, and layout was completely created by us. It’s simple, but we feel it suits Aria very well.

I’m grateful to have this decision behind us because it is one less thing weighing on my heart. I am so excited to see the finished product – finally marking Aria’s grave in a way we will be proud of.

I’ll be sure to share a picture in about two weeks, once it has been placed!

A few days shy of my birthday…

My birthday is a few days away, and it is bringing so many unexpected emotions my way. My birthday was once a day I looked forward to. I would excitedly proclaim that all of September be a celebration. I always said my birthday was my favorite holiday because I didn’t have to share it with anyone else.

I remember last year being the best birthday yet. We announced we were expecting our first child the day before, and had just arrived home from vacation. On the big day, my intense battle with morning sickness eased up just enough for me to put away six tacos. This was obviously a wonderful way for a pregnant woman nearing her second trimester to celebrate.

I remember thinking this was going to be the best year yet. This year was going to give me Aria, and would be filled with so much joy.

I didn’t see any of it coming. Aria’s diagnosis, her premature birth and her passing were all completely off my radar. I was expecting such a different outcome.

And now, as I beg God to bring me a better year this time around, I can’t help but fear that I’m missing something again. Is the suffering over, or am I in store for even more? My emotions are such a stark contrast to what they were just one year ago.

It’s a scary thing to live life after loss. It’s a huge leap of faith. I’m trusting that things will get better. I am choosing to cling to hope. But none of it is without fear.

All I intend to wish for as I blow out my candles in a few days, is that this year is a better year than the last.

I’m scared of feeling relief.

I posted two days ago about picking the day we would pack up Aria’s room. I haven’t been able to stop the topic from swirling through my mind ever since.

I felt strange after setting the date. I liked the certainty in knowing when that day would come. I could prepare and brace for it, and that felt like a good thing. There was also a lot of sadness as I thought about the reality of never seeing Aria’s room again. It’s the place I run to when the sadness overwhelms me and I need to feel close to her. It is the only place on this earth that I feel totally surrounded by her, and to lose it is incredibly tough.

There is some part of me that looks forward to the day we will pack everything up. I have known for over eight months that this day was going to come. I have spent a really long time dreading this day. It’s been a huge dark cloud that looms over me every time I walk past her room, or spend a few minutes sitting in her rocking chair. I have to constantly remind myself that much like Aria, this room would not be here forever. So a part of me looks forward to no longer having to walk through life fearing this day. I want to let go of this because I have carried it on my back for so long and I just want to feel a little lighter.

But how can I want this? Seeing all the hope we had poured into her room get packed up into cardboard boxes is going to shatter my heart. How could this ever be a good thing?

I guess what I am trying to say is, I feel like letting go of her room is a lot like letting go of her. I know that is far from the truth, but it’s a tough feeling to shake. I don’t want to dishonor Aria’s memory, and I don’t want to distance myself from her. I don’t want to be happy about letting go of something so connected to my memories of her.

And yet… I have hope. I have hope that packing up and starting over in our new house will bring us a lot of joy. I have hope in the possibility of a few of Aria’s things eventually finding their way back into our home, to be used for her future siblings. I have hope that doing all of these hard things will bring us one step closer to a brighter future.

We’ve set a date.

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October 2, 2016. The nine month anniversary of Aria’s birth and death, or “Aria’s Day” as we like to call it. We have decided that this will be the day we dismantle and pack up Aria’s room.

Packing up her room isn’t the hardest part, knowing that it isn’t going to be unpacked is the part that really hurts. We always knew we would move one day, and her room would be packed up along with the rest of our house. But we never imagined that it wouldn’t need to be unpacked once we got to our new house.

I’m sure the memories will come flooding back as soon as we begin to unscrew the crib and place her onesies into cardboard boxes. All those beautiful moments of joyful anticipation as we prepared for our sweet girl’s arrival. Such wonderfully, bittersweet moments.

October 2nd is not going to be my favorite day. It certainly will not be an easy day. But it’s a day that has to happen, and unfortunately there’s no getting around it.

I’m trying to remember that this difficult task has to be done so we can continue on, and begin our next chapter. I am going to trust that this is a good thing. I’m also trying to remind myself that Aria’s legacy still exists beyond those four walls. This room’s existence does not impact the love and connection I have to my sweet little girl.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers that day, I am sure we will need them.

Aria’s Story: The day we left the hospital.

I was discharged from the hospital four days after delivering Aria. I needed to be closely monitored to make sure all of my symptoms of mirror syndrome had resolved, so I was in the hospital a bit longer than normal. Once my labs showed my liver was functioning again and my blood pressure was in a normal range, we were free to go.

Honestly, I was really afraid of leaving. The doctor on call that morning commented that I was probably sick of being stuck in the hospital, but I would have stayed longer if I could. Stepping out of the hospital doors meant I couldn’t hide anymore. I had to face reality and I wasn’t sure I could.

As Brian packed up the room, the lead doctor on our case came in to say goodbye. She hugged me tightly and reassured us that we were not going through this alone. Then she said the most important, and meaningful thing anyone has ever said to me.

I want you to always listen to your heart. You followed your heart with every decision you made for Aria, and every time, you were right. Trust your heart.

I have replayed those words in my head a million times since that day. They have brought me through so many moments of doubt.

After she left, Brian and I stood in the room and wept. For the first time, we understood that Aria was gone, and we had to keep going without her. We looked around the room, replaying each memory of our daughter’s brief life. Once we got ourselves together, and started to exit the room, Brian stopped. “I want to pray for the next family who uses this room.”

The Special Delivery Unit at CHOP is only used by mothers carrying babies with birth defects that need specialized and intensive care or fetal surgeries. Although they perform life saving miracles on a daily basis, they endure many losses. We were just one of many grieving families during our stay. We knew my hospital room would house more families in our situation in the future, and we prayed they would find peace. Our hearts ached as we thought about the parents who would soon know the pain we were feeling. We wished it could be different for them, and their precious babies.

As we walked out of my room and into the hallway, I cradled a colorful bouquet of flowers in my arms. I had decided that if I wasn’t walking out of here holding Aria, I was going to carry something beautiful in her honor. We were stopped every few feet by nurses, given tearful goodbyes, and warm hugs. We were told to send Christmas cards, and repeatedly reminded that we were not alone.

Somehow, we managed to walk out of the hospital and to the car without completely breaking down. Brian started the car and said “Ok, Aria. We are going to do this. We are going to be strong for you.”

As we drove away from the hospital, the sun shined on my face. It felt like a warm embrace, and it was then that I fully realized that Aria was still with me, and always would be.

When past and present collide: On new beginnings and old wounds.

Brian and I spent all of Labor Day weekend on a mission to find a house in Texas ahead of our move in a few short weeks. We went from house to house, trying to shorten our long list of prospects. Finally, we brought our list of over twenty homes down to two. They both had pros and cons, and were such similar houses that it made the choice incredibly tough. Brian loved certain things about one house, and I loved certain things about the other. We had reached a fork in the road.

As we picked each house apart, room by room, trying to determine which would be the one, the stress of the entire weekend began to well up inside me. I was so afraid of choosing the wrong house. This is such a big commitment, and a huge decision. I didn’t want to do the wrong thing. There was something so familiar about this feeling. I had been here before, only a million times worse.

The last few times we made major, life changing decisions we were sitting at a conference table across from our team of doctors and nurses, while I was nearly seven months pregnant. We were sifting through so many different options, trying to save our daughter all while protecting her from any unnecessary suffering. We tried to make the best decisions we could as we fought for her life, but despite our best efforts – we still lost her.

So here I was, sitting across from my husband talking about floor plans and paint colors, trying to tell myself this wasn’t the same, but the stress felt so familiar. I looked Brian in the eyes and asked if we were doing the right thing as tears began to form in my eyes. He immediately began to change his tone to a happy, confident one. He told me he was excited, this was good, and we were going to make the right choice.

I tried to stop the next sentence from escaping my lips, but I couldn’t hold it back. “But the last time we thought we were doing the right thing, Aria didn’t make it.” I knew this wasn’t the same, and I didn’t want to ruin Brian’s joy by bringing it up, but I felt like I was sitting in that conference room all over again.

With the utmost understanding and compassion, Brian grabbed onto my hands, and assured me this was not the same. He said it multiple times as the tears fell from my eyes until he could make sure I was really hearing him. This was not the same. Our story was not going to take another horrible, unimaginable turn.

The next day, after a much needed night of rest, we both agreed on a home and confidently put in an offer. The nervous hesitation still lingered around me, but as soon as we heard that the sellers had accepted our offer, joy exploded.

I’m excited that we will soon be the owners of our first home. I can’t wait to start unpacking, decorating, and making it our own. This home will soon be a place filled with many wonderful memories, and I am so ready to begin.

I have heard it said before, that there will come a day when the pain and trauma of your past will coexist with the joy of your future without negating it. I have a much better understanding of that phenomenon now, and I’m grateful for it.

It’s still tough to leave Florida, because we began our journey with Aria here, and this place holds so many memories of her life. But we will always carry her with us, and leaving here does not mean leaving her behind. She is still just as much a part of this new chapter as she would have been, if she were still in our arms.

We are still the Rose family of three. Two on earth, and one in heaven, ready to take on Texas.

I’m losing track of the weeks, and that’s ok.

I have stopped being able to instantly recall how many weeks have passed since we said goodbye to Aria. I used to wake up each Saturday knowing it had been 4, 8, or 12 weeks and so forth. But somewhere around 20 weeks, I lost count.

At first, there was guilt. I thought clinging on to every measure of time without Aria was a testament to my love. No longer being able to recall the number weeks that had passed often felt as if I wasn’t devoting enough of my memory to her.

But that just isn’t true. Keeping a perfect mental record book does not make me a better mother. Losing track of the days does not lessen my love for Aria.

Right now, the months are easy for me to recall, and it will be eight months exactly tomorrow. Eventually, as the years pass, I am sure the months will also be tough to track. But I know we will always celebrate her birthday each year, and that is less likely to fade.

There will even come a day when her hat and blanket will loose her scent, and it will become more difficult to recall how she felt in my arms. We may not always remember exactly what we said to her when she was with us, or the specifics of each moment. But she will always be our daughter, and we will always have our love for her. No measure of time can take that away.