2nd of August 2016, we woke up and were unable to move from bed for a bit because I had another morning crying and Pierre comforted me but also joined me in the sadness/anger/desperation of the day. Normally I would've allowed myself to stay in bed however long I needed to in order to function; but that day was different because our family was going to arrive any second and we were going to make our way to Mortlake crematorium where we were holding Olivia's service and where her body was going to be cremated.
I remember talking to people and reading a lot of posts and books in the baby loss community about the day of the service. We all become so obsessed in all the little details (like organising a party) that adrenaline will carry you through the day. Everyone gave the warning that a sharp slap of new grief will come over towards the end of the day, and that made sense to me. I mean, that day, regardless of burial or cremation, you will no longer be able to see or hold your baby in the baby form ever again... I'm sorry if it sounds harsh, but I thought that all day I just never said it out loud.
Going back to when we started planning the service (yes, it took an insanely long time after she was born and it had to do with the hospital organising things and me not being able to do life). We decided that we wanted to make it as much of a joyous occasion as possible, just like Olivia's parties would've been. We asked all our friends and family to wear bright colours and some of my friends collected Celebration Snickers so we could give them as "favours" on the day. We went and met with the loveliest lady, Natasha, at Mortlake and she helped us carving out exactly what we needed/wanted to honour Olivia. We decided to have reverend Christina Beardsley lead the service with us as she was the same person who baptised Olivia and although she wasn't catholic, she was epic and I love the idea of women leading the service. Christina and I had many e-mail interactions deciding on music, format for the program and readings for the day. I was very invested in organising this and then at times I got a reality check of how incredibly messed up it was to be picking up an urn for my daughter's ashes and I would go down hard and be useless for a bit. Tip for anyone that has to go through this: Rely on the good friends that will do anything to help make that day (and your life) better, we would've never been able to do that day without them.
So, the day finally came and everything went as planned: Friends and family were there in all bright colours and brought yellow flowers to show love and support. We brought a BIG bag of mini Snickers that Olivia's grandmothers had neatly tied in pairs and I was holding firmly to my bag which contained a roll of toilet paper for all the crying, a sweater and a folder which contained a letter that I wrote and rewrote after Pierre's comments.
It was lovely seeing the people that could make it as the last time I saw most of them I was happily pregnant or on my way to the hospital to make sure everything was ok on the 16th of June. I'm sure they were as nervous as we were to see them, but it was therapeutic to be with them and to cry with a few of them. Some of our epic midwives even made the trip! The place was packed and it made me smile to think that people wanted to support us and show Olivia her love.
When it was time to enter the chapel I felt like I couldn't walk... We had a version of her song playing and I have no clue as to how we were able to walk to the front and breathe. We chose not to have Olivia's coffin on display as I don't think I could've handled it; I was also well aware that I might have tried to open it and run away with her, so we decided against it. Instead we had a big candle as Olivia's presence. Everyone sat down and the service began. Christina said a few words and then my sister and two of my closest friends read poems we had chosen for the day and they did a stellar job doing so. We then had Pierre's sister read a letter she wrote to Olivia and it was beautiful and her courage made me feel that I too could go up there and read something I had written for the day.
It was our turn next and to this day I have absolutely no clue how I managed to read everything and I apologise for everyone who heard only snorting from me on the microphone. One thing for sure, I don't remember anyone else's face except my own mom's when I was about to start reading and my friend Rich because I focused on looking up just to him as he was a direct line and normally has a super smiley face. I remember nothing except the laughs at something funny I might have said and Pierre being besides me.
After that we all went out and Natasha had organised all the flowers beautifully and a massive plate full of Snickers that nobody was touching. Because we are in England and the day had to match my mood, we had that typical rain that is just enough to get you soaking wet because you think you don't need an umbrella. I made it perfectly clear to all that I would not leave until people took the chocolates so they all went in and from then on it was a nice get together amongst friends. We went to The Tapestry nearby, had food and juice and then everyone went their separate ways. We went for lunch with our families and close friends and then a few came back to ours and we just coexisted and talked about everything, just like you do after any party.
2nd of August 2017, we had an Olivia day. We woke up and had breakfast and then I had an unexpected breakdown on the kitchen counter looking at the only video I have of Olivia kicking my belly... The weather matched our moods perfectly so it was grey and raining for the most part of the day. We stopped to buy flowers, one bouquet for Olivia and her friends at Mortlake and one for Natasha, the lovely person who made the day work. We took our time to get to Mortlake and stayed there for a while in the lovely garden they have for babies. Pierre had his own breakdown and we both just hugged in silence because there is nothing that we can say to each other at this point as we know what the other is thinking and nothing makes us feel better. We then went to visit Natasha at her office and talked to her for a bit before we headed back home were we had a great rest of the day eating, talking and watching movies.
Thinking back on the day I have to say I think everything went great and that it was as lovely as a service can be. Specially when the service is for your daughter... but I did miss friends and a lot of our families that couldn't be there on the day, so I've decided to share the letter that I read on the day so that those of you who missed it can also take part on the day.
"Most of you didn't get a chance to physically meet Olivia, but all of you knew her through me from the day you found out she existed... But, just in case you weren't paying attention for the last almost 10 months, I want to tell you a bit more about who our awesome daughter was:
She clearly loved exercise as we ran the NYC marathon together and she was always up for a walk and preferred when I stood up (we both hate being still or sitting down for long periods of time) so she jammed her little foot in my ribs when I sat for what she deemed as too long.
Like her mom, she LOVED food and would always do a little dance when we had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like her dad, she had a big sweet tooth but since I don't, I tried to fight it and give her fruits… She fell for oranges for a bit but as a lot of you know, all she really wanted was a tiny mini snickers from the celebration box... I think that actually was her favourite food!
She was more patient than both her parents and I remember losing my temper and Olivia kicking me to relax. She also didn't like when her dad sounded stressed and would very sharply let me know with the same kicks! But then Pierre would talk to her about the day's adventures and all was ok with the world again.
Our Chiquita loved music and thankfully never reacted to when I played Justin Bieber, instead, she always danced to the songs her Papi played for her (she had an intelligent music taste, as I call it). She even has her own song: De Bussy's Clair de Lune in piano, which we played when she was born and when her grandmothers and one of her aunt's met her.
She liked to sleep, as she never kicked me hard enough to wake me up at night. Olivia was actually a morning person just like me and would be very happy when we jumped out of bed and started our day with smiles.
When she was born, we could see so much more of us in her than we ever thought possible. She unfortunately had my nose (although everything looked perfect on her), the top of my mouth (the M that her aunt and grandmother also have) and Pierre keeps saying that the rest of the mouth was his (still up for debate). The length of her hands and feet were 100% from her Mami, but her actual hands where her dad's in a tiny scale... I'm still in awe of how much I can see her hands when I look at Pierre's. She was perfect, all 51 centimeters of her... Oh, she had the longest legs!!!
We keep saying that there was something in her expression the few hours we had together, which made it clear that she was going to make us work hard and that she could've ruled the world in her sleep... Unfortunately, the world wasn't ready for that much power, so she went straight to heaven, where she is taking care of very important Angel business.
Sadly, we will never get to see our daughter's eyes or smile, we will never hear her cry or her voice calling us Mami and Papi and there are millions of firsts that we will never be able to have with her. But, she will always be our first daughter and we will love her every day for the rest of our lives as if she was here and we would have had the chance to presence her life! I constantly thank Pierre for giving me Olivia. She was and is everything I've ever dreamed of and more and the time that we spent as a family was and is the best hours of our lives.
Everyone has kindly asked what they can do to help and we are thankful beyond words for everything all of your have already done. However, there is something that I actually want to ask everyone: Please, let us talk about our daughter forever. Never act like she didn't exist and like I didn't share almost nine magical months with her. Don't forget that I also gave birth to her and had the honour of meeting the tiny human that turned me into a mother. Don't shy away from the subject of her life thinking it would make us sad, instead celebrate her and the family that we were and know that we are the happiest when we hear her name and get to share and talk about the joy she gave and gives us. Yes, we will sometimes cry and that is just because not a second of our lives go by when we don't miss her.
We were physically together for a few hours and that will never be enough but we will ALWAYS be a family and she will ALWAYS be our first Chiquita and we are infinitely proud to be her parents."
Thank you to everyone that came on the day and to those that have helped us survive this new life. Thank you to those who understand that grief for your child is not a phase but something that you live with so there is no expiration date or a day where we can say: it's all great now! Of course some days are easier than others and the bad days are thankfully fewer than before, but the sharp pain and reality can still sneak up on you when and where you least expect it. It will be like that for life, thank you to those that understand that and know that a year is nothing when it means living without one of your children, regardless of how long they lived.