July is my rainy season.
As a bereaved parent, my summer is spent living through milestones. First, my anniversary, where, on my wedding day, I was seven months pregnant and my daughter happily bumped around in my belly. One week later I began bedrest for preeclampsia. Sometimes I joke, “Some honeymoon that was, huh?” The next four weeks were spent in ultrasounds, doctor’s offices, and laying on my couch.
July 22nd marks my last ultrasound, the day we found out my blood pressure was affecting her.
July 23rd, my last non-stress test where she wasn’t moving much and we were told to come back after the weekend, delivery was coming near.
July 24th, when she would never move again.
July 25th, when we said our first hellos and then good-bye.
Janell Victory changed my life forever, from the moment I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test and every day after. I never could have imagined it would be like this though. Sometimes I try to picture what life would have been like if there was no rain in July, and instead we were planning a birthday party for a curly haired five year old.
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that my life would never be the same. I spent nearly a year and a half trying to get back to normal, trying to find myself again. When Janell died, she took a piece of me and it took me a long time to recognize that I would never be myself again, at least not the me I remembered. Now, I refer to my life as before Janell and after, my own personal BC and AD.
I’ve been living in after for five years now. Five years since I last kissed her face or felt her weight in my arms. Through all this, through the waves and current, through the monsoons, I have found my “new normal.” My life, and everything I do, is now a living tribute to Janell. I have found myself again, but I am different; changed for the better.
If I could go back, if I couldn’t save her, it would be to hold her a little longer and tell her how much I love her a thousand times over. I am proud of the person I have become. I am proud of Janell for all that we have learned from her. I am proud of my living children for knowing who their big sister is. Further, I am proud that, even though she was here for such a short time, Janell and the projects we have done in her memory have touched so many others. Through that Janell has changed the world.
After the greatest storms, there is devastation. After this devastation there is a period of rebuilding. This is the time to consider who you are, who you were and who you want to be. Rebuilding may take years, it may take decades, you may feel as if you are never finished. There will be setbacks and new storms brewing on the horizon but it will get easier.
The waves of grief are always here, I can feel them lapping at my ankles and calves. The rains of July may knock me down but, because of Janell, I have learned to stand up again.