I remember exactly where I was when I heard about Kallie Mae. It was January 22nd, and I was at my friend Kerri's house, after work. I had stopped by to wish her son, the birthday boy, a very happy birthday. He had turned six that day. It was supposed to be a happy day! But something was bugging me, and I needed to confront Ker about it.
Our mutual friend Sarah (who, in full disclosure, was her friend first, but over the years has become very dear to me) had been posting cryptic Facebook statuses all week. Things like, "If you pray, please pray," and "Asking God for a miracle!" and "I'm praying so hard, and I don't even know what I'm asking for! Please keep my family in your prayers."
I had asked Kerri several times throughout the week what was going on, and she was vague. Super vague. MEGA vague. Finally we were face-to-face and I demanded, "Ker, please tell me what's going on Sarah. I'm worried sick."
Kerri hesitated. I could tell she didn't want to tell me, but couldn't figure out why. Finally she said it.
"So....you know Kia, Sarah's sister-in-law? Well...she had her baby. But...things aren't good. I didn't want to tell you, because...." She didn't have to explain. She didn't want to tell me because I was in the thick of first trimester pregnancy. Hardly anyone knew. That "dangerous" time where you don't want to be too public because "something might happen." You don't want to get too attached to the idea of pregnancy. Not yet. Not until that magical point after 12 weeks where you can breathe easy. Because everything is fine when you're out of the first trimester, right?
Kerri went on to tell me the details. I'm not going to share Kallie's birth story here on my blog because, well frankly it's not my story to tell. That's Kia's. But I will say that Kallie was born on January 17th, and then passed away on January 22nd. She lived on this Earth for five precious days.
I remember so clearly everything about that day. I remember what I was wearing. I remember exactly where I was sitting when Kerri told me. I don't know why I remember those details so clearly. Maybe because it was the last time I could say, "that poor Mama...I can't imagine what she's feeling right now," and truly mean it.
I didn't know what that felt like. I could guess, I could TRY to put myself in her shoes...but the truth is, you absolutely have no idea what its like to lose a child until you've experienced it yourself. You just don't. And that's okay. Because the last thing I'd ever want is for MORE people to know this feeling. Especially not people I know and love.
Back then I didn't know Kia that well. I knew she was married to the twin brother of Sarah's husband. And I knew she was a Redskins fan. Other than that, she was "Sarah's sister-in-law" in my head.
But that night after I went home, I couldn't stop thinking about her. Admittedly, I was a little hyper emotional, with the new pregnancy hormones I was battling, but this just STAYED with me. I had trouble sleeping because I kept thinking over and over again how distraught her and her husband must be. I thought about Sarah and her family and how excited they were for this new addition to the family. I just remember asking God, WHY are these things allowed to happen? Only three weeks prior, a good mama friend of mine had lost her twin nieces at 20 weeks gestation. I didn't get it. I thought about my friend Debi who's daughter Sydney was born, full term, but stillborn just a little over a year prior. I thought once you were past the scary first trimester you were safe? It just didn't make sense. My thoughts were as disjointed as this paragraph. Spinning through my head all night.
I'm not sure why I remember that night in such detail. Maybe it was because I was pregnant, and it was easy to feel empathetic to a fellow mommy. Or maybe it was because it was the last time I experienced that side of the fence.
Three months later I felt it for myself. When Reece died, I could no longer say, "I can't imagine how that mama feels." In fact I knew EXACTLY how she felt. As the world around me crumbled I processed my own loss, so much became clear to me. I regretted so many things that I had said previously to mom friends of mine who had lost babies during their pregnancies. I wished I could go back in time and say the only thing that REALLY mattered: "I am so so sorry this happened to you. I don't even have the words, just know my heart aches for you." I thought about Kia, and wanted to reach out to her, but didn't want to burden her with my loss when I was sure she was still navigating her own.
Fortunately I didn't have to think about that for too long, because she reached out to me just three days later.
I know we have never met in person but my heart breaks for you to hear about the loss of your precious baby boy. As you may know my husband and I lost our daughter Kallie this past January. The pain is still very raw and we are trying our best to work through our grief, but I wanted to reach out to you. I know there are a lot of people that love and care for you that may not understand the depth of your loss, may not know what to say, or may not say the right things. I'm not saying I have all the answers but do have a truly empathetic ear to listen. I have a friend that also lost a baby girl and she has been such a great help through all of this. I have found that there really are no words that will ease your pain, and losing a child can be very lonely and isolating. Know that I am here if and whenever you are ready. These next few weeks will be a whirlwind of emotions so please don't feel obligated to respond until you are ready. For now my advice would be to lean on your friends and family through this terrible time. Communicate exactly what you need...whether it's cooking, cleaning, or grocery shopping. Cry whenever you feel you need to. It's normal to feel angry or resentful or question your faith or be angry at God. Don't let anyone tell you how or how long to grieve. Know your limitations...if you feel like you're incapable of doing something speak up and have someone else do it for you. Our loved ones may not have words but they are willing to take some of the burden from us. I have such a high regard for Kerri and Sean and of course my sister Sarah and I consider any friend of theirs a friend of mine. Again...feel free to respond whenever you're ready...I know from my own experience it can be tough to look at Facebook during such a difficult time. Please know that in the meantime you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Even for me some days it is hard to believe...But we will get through this...
Wishing you Peace and Strength...
I read this over and over and over again. At least a dozen times. Maybe more. I was desperate for the guidance and advice from a fellow mom who had "been there." There are tons of babyloss blogs out here on the internet, but in those early days I couldn't even look for them. I couldn't put myself out there, because searching for help, searching for those like me, would mean that I've admitted that my son was dead, and I was no longer pregnant. I couldn't think about that in those early days. I could barely function. Navigating society outside of my home felt like walking onto a foreign planet. There were triggers everywhere, too much stimulus, too many memories of my old life---which had just been a week ago!--to be able to go out with any bit of success. I did better when I stayed home, talking to the people that loved me, crying a TON, and reading messages of support from my family and friends, and from fellow mothers like Kia.
I don't know if I've ever expressed to Kia just how much it meant to me that she reached out that day.
I don't know if I've ever explained to her just how alone I felt, even though I was SURROUNDED by well intentioned friends and family.
I don't think I've ever really thanked her for being brave enough to reach out...because here's the thing, I KNOW Kia now, and while she talks openly about Kallie and Kallie's presence is evident when you are around Kia, she has not yet been ready to tell Kallie's story to the rest of the world. It's still too overwhelming. And she might never be ready. And that's okay, because that might need to remain something sacred between her and her family. But suffice it to say, that for Kia to reach out to me, so lovingly and kind in the manner that she did, was tremendous. For me and for her.
Thank you, Kia. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.
Last weekend I got to see Kia. We met at Sarah's, with Kerri, and the kids, to celebrate Sean's 7th birthday, and Kallie's 1st birthday. It was just our small group, and I knew it would be an emotional day, but I had no idea how HEALING it would be.
Within minutes of walking in the door, I had to hug Kia, and we just couldn't let each other go. It felt like meeting a long lost family member, because that's exactly what she is to me now. I was expecting it to be emotional, but I wasn't expecting that. We have exchanged many Facebook messages when we're having "our moments," and have leaned on one another when those bad days come, and the bear roars louder than we handle. She is very very dear to me.
The first thing that immediately strikes you about Kia, is that Kallie's presence is everywhere. From her license plate ("KALLIE") to her necklace (Kallie's name and hand print) to her "Team Kallie" bracelet from the Race for Every Child she participated in, to the way she talks about Kallie. It is obvious that she has an incredibly strong bond with her daughter that goes beyond this life. You feel that baby girl with you when you are with Kia. It's stunning, actually.
The second thing you notice about Kia is that she is a natural mother. From the way she interacted with the kids who were there, laughing and playing, but disciplining when necessary, it is clear that Kia is meant to be a mother. There is no doubt. I believe wholeheartedly that she will have the opportunity to be a mother to a baby here on earth. I know it. I feel it in my soul. Because it's who she is. She is a mother, through and through.
I don't know if that's a quality that she had before last year, or if that is something that came from having Kallie, but regardless its obvious and apparent. She is a wonderful mother.
Throughout the day we laughed, ate, told stories, drank, danced around the house, ate and drank (see a pattern?) and of course, there were tears. But the beautiful thing is, for ONCE I wasn't the only one explaining how it feels from this side. Kia and I could practically finish one another sentences when it came to describing how this loss feels. It was awesome. And we were with women who have been two of our biggest supporters and cheerleaders during this entire process. Being able to talk openly about our children and about our experience as being moms to angel babies without it feeling "weird" or like we're bringing everyone else down was such a GIFT! And we were so happy.
I had originally only intended to stay a few hours, but as the hours passed, we stayed. And before we knew it, it was midnight. Ten hours had passed! And I left feeling like it wasn't enough time.
It was a great day. A wonderful birthday celebration for an awesome little boy, and a beautiful baby girl.
I am committed to helping Kia honor Kallie's memory in whatever way possible. So it's highly likely that their names will reappear on this blog in the future. While my method of honoring my son is to share my Anchors for Reece, Kia has expressed interest in doing a Five Day Project, a kindness project of sorts, in honor of the five precious days Kallie spent here on Earth.
I will help her with this project in any way that she needs.
Kia, in your words: We are still here.