Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In Memory of Ellie

I realize I never update this blog anymore, and I probably have no readers left.  But I wanted to share something that has been a really big break through for me, and I hope others will share it with their friends, particularly if you know anyone who has lost a baby.

Monday morning I spent the morning crying over this box:


Last year it was this box:

That's the 177 oz of milk I pumped & donated to the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio.  My beautiful daughter, Eliana Marie, was stillborn last summer.  I was in labor for only 3 hours, she was perfectly healthy, and then just as she was crowning, her heartbeat just stopped.  It turns out there was some unknown infection in my placenta.  I had no symptoms and she had a strong heartbeat & was measuring normally all through my pregnancy. 

This is her scrapbook page that is kept at the milk bank.

I have always felt like I haven't done enough in my daughter's memory, that I haven't found what it is I need to do so other people will know her, so they will recognize that I am in fact a mother of 3, that my daughter is still a very real part of my family.  I am blessed to have true friends who still mention Ellie & remember her with me, but I still always had this feeling I wasn't doing enough.  I know people who have started foundations in their child's name.  It makes me feel like I am doing nothing for my daughter.
Truth is, I am obsessed with keeping her memory alive.  I have spent so much time, and possibly more money than I should on keeping her memory alive. Actually, some of it was purchased with a very generous gift card from a wonderful group of friends who got together and gave us a bunch of wonderful gifts, including a bench that was dedicated to her at our church, which we used in our Christmas card this year.

 (It was actually my mom's was on her Christmas card first!)

I had some jewelry made from  The woman who runs it lost a baby herself, and makes the most beautiful custom mother's jewelry, with many items specifically for those of us who've suffered the loss of a child. 

 The bracelet includes a locket with some of Ellie's hair in it, so I have her with me wherever I go.  I recently purchased the little swarovski crystals with all my babies' birth stones to go on the necklace. 

Every year, we add a decoration (or twenty!) for Ellie to the Christmas tree.  It makes me feel better to make things for her.  Friends have purchased ornaments for us too.  The butterfly at the bottom is from my wonderful friend Stacy, who, probably more than anyone, regularly mentions Ellie & includes her some way in gifts she gives us.  The crystal "e" was made by my friend Sese, with crystals from her wedding veil.  My son made the 2 gingerbread men at a Christmas party- one for him & one for his new baby brother, so I made one for Ellie.  I'm now working on some simple ornaments with each child's name & birthdate.

So finally this week, almost a year and a half later, I realized what it is I needed to do for my daughter, and that I've been doing it all along.  It started with this little bear.  My mom runs a charity knitting group, and they did a project for a new veteran's shelter that just opened near them.  (You can read about it here). One of the ladies there is pregnant, and my mom asked if I'd knit one of my little stuffed animals for her baby shower.  (which you can read about here).  I had to send it late, so it wouldn't ruin the surprise of the shower.  My mom called and told me it turned out she was having a girl, so I thought I'd also send the blanket I made when I was pregnant with my youngest son, before I knew he was a boy.  But then I thought, I have so many special items I made for my daughter, and I have been waiting for just the right thing to do with them.  I felt God was telling me that this lady & her baby were the perfect recipients for the clothing I had lovingly made for my baby girl.  I pulled the bins of my daughter's clothes out from under the bed, and with tears pouring out of my eyes, I started pulling out the handmade items, and then I thought "heck, why not give her everything that will fit in the box?"  So I filled it with onesies & dresses & outfits I'd collected over the course of my pregnancy, as well as these things I'd handmade:

This was the first (successful) sweater I ever knitted (the leg warmers got lost in the shuffle, so unfortunately they didn't get sent with the sweater)

This little set was made with leftover yarn my mom gave me when I first became a knitting junkie. It was JUST enough to make this little shrug & bonnet.

The blanket (which I don't have a picture of) matches the little vest on the right, and the vest on the left was made out of the left over from the first sweater.  There are matching booties as well (also not photographed- I was really eager to send this stuff out- even though I had to wait for my little guy to wake up before I could go to the post office).

I sat on the couch hugging the box crying, and trying to pray through my tears that the woman receiving the box would be blessed by it, and understand how much it meant to me to be able share my daughter's things with her.  These weren't just clothes, they were the hopes & dreams I had for my baby girl. There was love poured into every stitch of every item.  I couldn't even find the words to pray that prayer, I just sobbed and said "God, you know what I'm trying to say".  

So I realized that my way of remembering my baby is to take what I would have given her, and use it to make other people's lives better.  Even every hand knit gift I make keeps her memory alive.  It was during my pregnancy with her that I learned to really knit, not just scarves & blankets, but sweaters, bonnets, lace even. I may not have a foundation that can change tons of people's lives, but one person at a time, people will hear Eliana's story, and I pray they are being blessed because of her.  Nothing will ever bring Ellie back, but this makes me feel a whole lot better.  And maybe some other mom who feels like she can't do enough to honor her baby's memory will read this and realize she is honoring her baby in her own way, and that is all she needs to do.

Eliana Marie Collins 7.28.2010


laura Moskowitz-Vaccaro said...

Mandy you are an amazing person!

Suzie said...

You are an amazing woman. Many hugs to you. Xoxo

Leah said...

Oh Mandy... That is beautiful and touching and I just don't know how you do it. You are so strong and I know that Ellie would be so proud to know that her mama is such a strong woman!

Mandy said...

thank you so much you guys!

Knittingchick said...

As I said on your Facebook page I am so proud of the wonderful mother and woman you are. My prayers for you from even before you were born have been answered. You are the loving and caring, intelligent, strong woman I prayed you would be. God bless you Sweetheart. I love you more than you will ever know...Mom

Margaret said...

Mandy, that was a wonderful post. You honor Ellie in so many ways. Thank you for sharing her and your love for her with us.

EmmasMOM said...

No no words can express how grateful and blessed I am....I knew the minute I read your letter you were crying..but don't worry I was with you. I have lost several children and have a 6 yr old boy going on 35....(yeah he is very old in spirit)and my little girl emma....Its appropriate to say you touched me in a way that no one has been ablt to...I mean your mom coming here was wonderful and I didn't know what to expect,let alone recieve something as so precious and personal as ellie's belongings..GOD knows I was thrown back...but once I started going through the stuff all I could think about is how I would have felt had I actually had time to buy clothes and everything for my daughter I lost. God is working on you in a most serious way and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I pray you keep in touch and I am trying to figure out how I can ever repay you..but to take care of those items is number one on my list. I vow never to get rid of them and to keep them in wearable condition so that when emma grows out of them I will pass them foward to someone GOD puts in my life who needs them and will do the same..who knows maybe we can start a chain of events....mothers taking care of other mothers...
Sending my love...and prayers to you and yours..