40 weeks ago, from this very day, a tiny miracle happened. Her name was Tory. She was to be my second born. She was a miracle from the onset because despite us being told many times over that it was going to be impossible to conceive without assistance, we beat the odds. We got pregnant. And this time, she was, what we like to call – our unexpected surprise. It was the very reason we named her Victoria. In so many ways – it was somewhat of a victory – knowing that through faith, perseverance, and plain ol’ stubbornness – we were going to keep trying until we succeeded. And we did.
But let’s turn the clocks back a bit. Prior to 40 weeks ago, we already had a miracle. She’s the reason I am who I am, I do what I do, and hope to be what I can potentially be. LD is my miracle. As soon as we introduced LD to the world 2 years ago, we knew we were in for an amazing adventure. Our lives were flipped upside down, and as a family, we took risks, jumped hoops, and reached for the impossible – just so we could find a better life for our precious little girl. You can say we are wrapped around her chubby little finger. All we did… we did for her. Among these changes was leaving a life we knew so well. Ruffling the feathers of familiarity, leaving the very place we called home, and making our way across the continent building our brand and coming up with something tangible so we could make our little miracle proud. We travelled, hopping from couch to couch, taking all our experiences along the way and carefully folding them up and tucking them away into our back pockets. We did all we could to eventually bring security to our family of three (4, if you count our jetsetting Pomeranian).
We were definitely on our way to a brighter day – but it didn’t come without its share of bumps and bruises. From days of unrelenting tension, sleepless nights tossing and turning – our minds filled with uncertainty, and a severe bout of depression on my end. But what surprised us more than our own feelings of hopelessness and worry – was the smile that greeted us every morning from our sweet toddler, blissfully enjoying these adventures of the unknown, ignorant of the unsettling panic that drove the very people responsible for her well-being.
Unbeknownst to us, this period of 4.5 months involved another human being. Yet another innocent bystander who knew nothing of the struggle, and just enjoyed the ride as our family bounced from situation to situation, in search of greener pastures. When we finally settled down after months of travel and an emotional rollercoaster that we just could not jump out of – we made an appointment with the doctor. To our amazement – we found out that we were pregnant. Approaching our 5th month, and well into our second trimester (keep in mind – for reasons I need not bore you with, ovulation is not an every month occurrence, as far as I have been diagnosed) – we were delighted to welcome a new little jetsetter into our family.
However, after a week of blood tests, back to back appointments, and our first ultrasound – we discovered the tragic news that in the last 6 weeks, I have been carrying a fetus that no longer had a heartbeat. If it was possible for us to feel any lower than we already did – this was that moment. It was the final kick in the gut that knocked us right out. And this time – we didn’t want to get up and try again. Losing a baby at 20 weeks, with the heartbreaking news that I have been carrying her weeks past the end of her life, isn’t something I ever would have imagined experiencing first hand. It was like this entire half year was just a bad dream.
But after the D&C procedure, I woke up from that bad dream. Within a couple weeks, the depression eased (turns out it was almost entirely hormone-related), and I was starting to see the light at the end of this dark, lonely tunnel. I started to respond to LD‘s sweet smiles and giggles again, and would even surprise myself with accompanying laughter. And after doing some math, I had realized that my darling baby went to heaven the very same weekend the sweet angels of Sandy Hook, whose lives were ended far too quickly, entered the gates of heaven.
I came across this poem dedicated to the young victims of Sandy Hook, written flawlessly by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA:
Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
those children all flew into the arms of their King
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“Come now my children, let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”
These were the very words that gave me comfort. I suddenly realized that everything was going to be okay. Tory was going to be okay. I imagined a sweet school-aged child was holding her precious hand as they entered paradise. Kevin, our pug, who we lost earlier this year (indeed – it has truly been a year of loss for us), greeted Tory with his curly tail wagging behind him. She was in good hands (and in good paws), and our family has now gained a guardian angel. We were all going to be okay.
LD even adopted a build-a-bear adorned in disco sequin (naturally!), and named her after her baby angel sis, Tory.
Poor Tory Bear was forced to surrender to a loving big sis headlock like I imagine every little sister would, while mama wasn’t looking:
But where we really started to experience miracles unfold was during our recent trip to New York for Kids Fashion Week this past spring.
I was in my element and was reasonably back to my old fashion-crazed self, LD was soaking in all the attention, as per usual, and Big Daddy was taking notes on East Coast men’s street fashion (which consisted of formal fitted pin stripe suits while riding a bike – quite fascinating, really). We were definitely taking a bite from the big apple and loving every second of it. But what really blew us away was literally stumbling upon L’il Moses (so appropriately named), our sweet Kevin‘s NY doppleganger who appeared out of NOWHERE, on what would have been Kevin‘s 13th birthday. Moses was also 13 years old.
Since we were on a roll (of sweet miraculous surprises), we decided to head over to the Church of the Holy Innocents.
This inspiring shrine is where Tory’s name has been inscribed in the Book of Life where a candle is always lit, and a special mass is celebrated every Monday, to honor the lives of the unborn.
Today would have been her birth day. Every couple minutes, I stop to think how life would have been this very moment had I been given the chance to bring her into this world. It still hurts my heart. There’s a quote from Six Feet Under that rings so true (Of course I’ll have to paraphrase it and keep it PG13):
If you lose a spouse, you’re called a widow, or a widower.
If you’re a child and you lose your parents, then you’re an orphan.
But what’s the word to describe a parent who loses a child?
I guess that’s just too <xxxx> awful to even have a name.
Having said all this – I do believe that we are given only as much as we can handle. And we handled it, in the best way we can. We allowed ourselves to heal. We continue to heal. As we go through this day, some moments with sheer joy (can’t help but laugh at LD‘s antics), other moments with blurry eyes and a heavy heart – we know that we have a little someone watching over us. She’s watching me now, as I type this, sharing with the world the story of our tiny miracle, and how her short physical presence in our lives taught us so much. Even the brief knowledge of her existence taught us that no matter the hardships we face, no matter how trying our lives seem, there is always hope and happiness found at the end of that long stretch. We just have to hang in there, keep the faith, and wait patiently for our miracles to come to us.
In the meantime, I have stopped blaming myself for her untimely death. I have learned to accept that Tory’s place is just not on earth, at this very moment. I have embraced the idea that LD will always have an angel baby sister that will hold her hand and guide her as she walks through this crazy adventure we call life.
And I have completely accepted the fact that Tory is presently in a wonderful place taking Kevin on long walks and causing some delightful chaos that would have otherwise been in my home.
Thank you my dear friends, for allowing me to express myself, in the most raw and rather unstylish way I can. I’m sure it will come as a surprise to many, even to some of my close friends. (Sorry, you had to find out this way)… But today was THE day to bring to light, the story of my sweet Tory. She is our guardian angel, after all.
A special thank you to Big Daddy who effortlessly captured an immaculate rendition of how we envision our two angel kiddos running around paradise causing all kinds of wonderful havoc. Check out more of these two illustrated by their amazingly talented daddy at www.georgebalino.com. We’re about to breathe some life into these two troublemakers, so watch out world!
Wherever you are sweet Tory, we love you. We loved you the moment we knew of you, and we will love you until we meet you again.
With a heavy, but accepting heart,
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