But I can’t forget Heather or Mike or their beautiful baby girl, and like many of the people who have been following their story, at some point during each day since I’ve learned the news, I cry for each of them.
Naturally, because Heather is a mother and I am a mother, my thoughts often turn to her. I realize how arrogant it is to think there is something—anything—I can do to make what she has in front of her any easier, but each day I struggle with it. And since I have words, I would like to try to use them here to try to bring Heather even a moment of comfort when there is none to be given from a stranger like me.
I don’t want Heather, should she read this, to think that crying is all I do. I also watch Maddie’s videos and laugh as she learns to crawl or say “wowww.” I look at her pictures and smile at the tiny, perfect baby girl with the wide, impossibly blue eyes who had so many adventures in store for her. I read Heather’s words and am inspired by her grace and her strength during this untenable time—and I wonder if I could possibly muster as much courage if the tables were turned (I don’t think that I could). I want to sit with Heather, and I want to tell her it’s OK to be angry and bitter sometimes, if that she what she needs. Grieving can be ugly too, and it’s OK to be ugly online. The Internet will stand by her.
Maddie and my daughter have a few things in common, which is another reason Maddie’s story so selfishly resonates with me. Heather and I were pregnant at the same time (my daughter was born in September 2007). We nearly named our daughter Madeline but went with a family name instead, Eleanor for my husband’s great-aunt and Frances for my great-grandmother. Heather’s Maddie was also named for beloved family members. Maddie and Ellie often dressed the same, and now I can’t dress Ellie in yellow without thinking of this beautiful photograph of Madeline and her golden curls. Our daughter’s room is the same shade of purple as Maddie’s, and though I didn’t choose it—our landlord did—I will appreciate its strength more now. Maddie and Ellie even shared the same obsession with Abby and Elmo from Sesame Street.
However, by a trick of fate my daughter was induced at 41 weeks gestation, while Maddie was born at a mere 28. If I could split the difference with Heather, I so gladly would. How I wish it were an option.
But it is more than just what we have in common. It’s Heather and Mike themselves as well. Heather and Mike are young. They are personable. They are funny and attractive and they look like they’d be great fun to hang out with. They clearly love their daughter with every ounce of their beings. And they’ve opened up their lives on their blogs—and continue to do so—to all of us.
I don’t think I need to remind anybody who is reading this what makes Maddie so special—her happy toothy grin, her warm, giving nature, her sweet curls and even her diminutive doll-like size. Any mother would be proud to have a daughter like Madeline.
I’m not sure that I believe in Heaven—in fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t—but I like to picture Maddie finally shedding her breathing treatments and oxygen tank as her lungs fully inflate with glorious, life-giving oxygen. Then I picture growing to her full 17-month-old size and toddling off to frolic with all the other sweet, sweet children who were taken too soon. It is a happy image, and I hope it’s real. Regardless, Maddie and her parents are forever implanted in my brain and on my heart.
If it is what they want, I hope Heather and Mike will one day decide to give Maddie a sibling. Because people like Heather and Mike are the kind of people who should be parents.