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Lessons My Daughter Taught Me After She Passed

I was 27 years old, married with a one-year-old little boy and expecting our second. My life was perfect and I didn't even realize it. Don’t get me wrong, it's not that we didn't have struggles. Money was tight, we were a young couple just starting our family, we had our arguments like any other couple, my husband was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease several years earlier that left him with chronic pain and I had herniated discs that also resulted in me having chronic back pain. However, I also had a loving husband, a healthy child, a home and a job which allowed me ample time off, to get to enjoy a wonderful work life balance. But day-to-day life becomes monotonous and it's easy to overlook our blessings, especially when we become accustomed to the good things in our lives.

April 2014 I had attended my 20 week scan; something seemed off. The technician was taking a very long time, picture after picture. She went and got a colleague to see if she had gotten everything she needed. I left that appointment feeling very anxious while my husband reassured me everything was fine. “She is probably just new at her job and that's why it took her a long time to get the pictures she needed”. As much as I tried and wanted to believe he was right, I could not shake this horrible feeling that something was very wrong. The next morning while at work, my phone rang and I saw my OBGYN’s name. Instantly, my heart sank. She said they had found something in the ultrasound and I needed to come in to see her today. I immediately called my husband and burst into tears telling him something was wrong with the baby. My forever optimist of a husband reassured me that it could be anything, not to panic and just wait until we get more information from the Dr. I composed myself and thought maybe I am working myself up over nothing.

Through fetal MRI’s, genetic testing and meetings with the head of neurosurgery at Sick Kids hospital, we learned just how sick our daughter was. She was born May 13th, 2014.

Upon returning home from the hospital, I was a shell of the person I was just weeks before. I was completely broken. I had never felt such pain in my life. A sadness so profound it is indescribable. Then came anger. I was so mad at everything. I resented people who smoked, drank and engaged with drugs during pregnancy and went on to have healthy babies. I became obsessed with finding out how this could have happened. Maybe there was something environmentally in my house that caused this. I had mold testing done, asbestos testing, anything to get an answer of how to prevent this from ever happening again. I developed severe anxiety in regards to something happening to my son. I couldn't sleep, I needed to check on him multiple times throughout the night. If I left him with family and they didn't answer my text or call immediately, I would absolutely lose it.

My life and mental health was affected in more ways than I could have ever imagined. All I wanted was my baby and I couldn’t have that. I lived in this cycle for a couple of years. Over time I decided I could be angry, resentful and bitter for the rest of my life or I could attempt to find meaning in my loss and live in a way that would honour my daughter and her siblings who didn't deserve an angry, resentful and bitter mother and so, the soul searching began.

The very first change I noticed in myself after the loss of my daughter was I began to reflect on who was there and who was not. Who attempted to understand my pain and stuck by me through what probably seemed like never ending anger and grief. I made a conscious effort to invest more of my time in those people. The people who made me feel good in my soul even when I wasn't.

Lesson Number 1 - My daughter taught me who I want to spend my time with. I don't know how much time I have on this Earth so do I want to spend my time with friends or family who were not very supportive of my struggle or do I want to spend more time with my family and very best friends who never left my side and believed in me when I didn't believe in myself? The answer was the latter.

The second thing I noticed was I did not want to miss out on experiences with my children and those who were most important to me in my life.

Lesson number 2 - My daughter taught me the fragility of life. It takes just one split second to have your entire world crumble. The realization of how perfect my life was before that phone call in April 2014 made me hyper aware that every second of boring, uneventful life is a blessing. I wanted to appreciate slow days at home but also teach my kids to take advantage of all this life has to offer. I wanted to take them to concerts, go on hikes, take them to sporting events, and have picnics at the park. I didn't want to ever take for granted the time I was given to make memories with my children.

The next change I noticed was the gratitude I began to feel for things I had taken for granted in the past. I never wanted to take for granted the little things ever again.

Lesson number 3 - My daughter taught me to practice gratitude. I began to realize health is wealth. You are among the richest people in the world if you and your children have their health. I started to really appreciate the little things. The privilege of a birthday, getting to be here another year. The gift of getting to see my children grow up. The blessing of supportive friends and family. I try to focus on all the reasons I am so blessed instead of the reasons I’m not.

Lastly, I realized life does not go as planned. Some problems are catastrophic and some are not. I needed to change my mindset when little things go wrong and learn how to adapt and make the most of the situation.

Lesson number 4 - My daughter taught me to go with the flow. This one does not have to do with grief but other minor inconveniences in life. You can’t always control the outcome but you can control how you respond. There are so many times life doesn't go as planned. Things get cancelled, you get a flat tire or you break your phone. None of these seemed quite as big a deal as they used to. I could get mad and let it ruin my day or I could change my plan. Book something different, take an uber/train/bus, use an old phone/buy a used phone. I know just how much worse things can be so it helped me put things in perspective.

My infant daughter taught me more about life than any other person ever could have. I truly believe I am living such a fulfilled life because of her. She helped me realize what is most important in life and I am so thankful to her for that. My children have a mother who lives life to the fullest and tries to find beauty and appreciation in everything. I want to make her proud in everything I do and I want my children to see it is possible to recover from very dark times. The person I am today I owe completely to my daughter and I will forever be thankful to her for changing the course of my life.

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