Our Catherine has two sisters, Madeline and Hannah. Madeline is older than Catherine. Hannah is younger. Madeline has vivid memories of Catherine. At this point, Hannah is still too young to understand that she even has another sister despite the fact she replies with “yeah” when we talk about Catherine. (Maybe on some level she really does know about her sweet sister in heaven though.)
Madeline and Hannah’s experiences with their sister, Catherine, are drastically different. Madeline is a major part of Catherine’s story. Someday we will explain to Madeline what an important role she played throughout my pregnancy with Catherine from the “ignorance is bliss” first half of the pregnancy to the growth ultrasound which completely devastated our world to the day Catherine was born and passed an hour later. Madeline gave us purpose. Madeline kept us smiling. Madeline gave the best hugs when we were sad. Madeline reassured us that we were capable of being good, attentive parents despite our broken hearts. Madeline did all of this at just a year old. Madeline was a key player during Catherine’s journey. We needed her as much as she needed us.
Even though Hannah never met Catherine here on earth, Hannah’s position in the family is no less important. As our rainbow baby, Hannah gives hope. You can feel it in her outgoing, silly, headstrong personality. She is determined to insure her role is not overlooked and greatly appreciated. She brings quite a smile to all of our faces. She, too, gives some really spectacular hugs! And Hannah is only a year old.
Madeline was 22nd months and 5 days old on the day Catherine was born and passed. Over the last month, as Hannah has been approaching this exact age, I’m shocked at how much younger Hannah seems to me compared to Madeline at the same age. Maybe it’s because Hannah is my baby and I wish I could keep her little as long as possible. Or maybe it’s because Madeline was forced to grow up a little quicker due to the grief and sadness she witnessed at such a tender age.
Regardless of the reasons, today Hannah is 22 months and 5 days old. Today is September 22nd. Today is the 5th anniversary of my growth ultrasound with Catherine alerting us to all of the doctor’s worries for our baby girl. Five years ago today our unexpected and devastating journey with Catherine began. I vividly remember on this exact date 5 years ago rocking in the living room, crying while staring into space, rubbing my belly feeling physically sick from my broken heart. I remember wishing I was months if not years removed from that very moment so the intensity of the physical ache was softened. So all of our questions were answered. So our baby’s story had played out. So all of our worries were no more. The burden felt so so heavy that night. It felt impossible to deal with and yet deep down I knew I could. I just didn’t know how yet. I had a lot to process that night.
This is a sad anniversary for us. Having said that, I can’t help but notice the incredible connection between Hannah’s age today on this anniversary and Madeline’s age on Catherine’s birthday. It’s these connections, these realizations, these subtle nods that give me hope. They give me comfort. They give me reassurance. And now that I am five years removed from that very night, I notice that the pain is still there. It has softened. Our questions were answered. Catherine’s journey was short but her positive impact on this world continues every day through Catherine Cares. We did find joy again especially in our little girls. But I think often about that mom rocking in her living room on the night she learned her unborn baby is not well. I want to hug her and remind her she is strong. She is capable. It won’t always be easy, but she can do this. And she is most certainly not alone.