Bitter or Better

By: Julie Linck

December 4, 2001 was a blessing for our family as we welcomed our 2nd child and first daughter, Mia Suzanne at 38 weeks. Little did we know how quickly our lives would change when she suddenly passed away five days later, to what we learned afterwards was meningitis along with a significant hole in her heart.

After she died, I didn’t think I could function. I had so many “what ifs” that played in my mind and wondered what I could have done differently to protect her. I remember there were days just lying in bed while others took care of my 1 ½ year old son.

One day, while flipping through a self help book that was gifted to me, I came across a quote that said “You can be bitter or you can be better.” Those words struck a chord.

I could be angry at the situation or angry at God for allowing others to have their babies, but instead took mine. I could keep lying in bed or I could get up and give my son the best version of myself. I didn’t want to miss out on his childhood too. So, that was the day that I got up and took my first step towards living again. That is not to say there haven’t been set backs. Two months after Mia passed away, when I had just returned to work, my son, Eric was sick. He too was diagnosed with meningitis, which our doctor said was like lightning striking the same place twice. We spent another five days in the hospital until the viral infection had run its course. I cried the entire way home because when I had left that hospital two months before I had left empty handed. I was so thankful that this time I had my child with me.

On December 9, 2002, I went into labor with my 3rd child, & second daughter, Molly Rene. This was the first anniversary of Mia’s passing.

Thankfully, the doctors were able to slow my labor enough to have her birth date the following day. But what were the odds that on Molly’s first birthday she would be in the hospital being tested for meningitis? Luckily, she didn’t have meningitis, but as you could imagine, this sent my anxiety through the roof. I would let my mind jump on the crazy train and always feared the worst. In my mind, a common cold would mean my children could lose their life.

Through the years, I’ve battled with my share of panic and anxiety attacks. But, I always kept those words “Bitter or Better” in my mind. How do I want my story to go? How do I want Mia’s story to go?  As parents, when we lose our children we grieve for the memories not made. Those milestones that they’ll never hit. We feel the loss but they’re still a part of our family. So it is up to us tell their story. Therefore, we chose to show our love and honor their life in our own special ways, such as memory walks, making their birthday cakes, we imagine their life in Heaven, we create missions and charities, we share them with family and friends and even through these celebrations, we make new friends along the way. We also meet others who have walked in these same shoes and create a forever bond….

As I look back and see the journey I’ve traveled, I see that I am further away from that pain that once kept me in bed, instead I’ve learned how to live with the pain.

Some years I cry, and some I don’t (although, there was a time I did think I would stop). However, I am so thankful to God for giving me Mia and making her a part of my story. Even though it is a heartbreaking and painful one, it’s the story God wrote for my life. I choose to look for the positive things her life brings to mine, even 17 years later. She’s led me to a deeper faith in God, allowing me to be stronger and more brave in new situations and has given me the ability to help others who wear these similar shoes.

Many of us have been written one of the most difficult stories to read. However, to remember and honor our beloved babies, let’s continue to take the step each day to live our best life, because it’s how we lead our life that will help tell our baby’s story. I pray that you find yourself living better instead of bitter this holiday season. Keep focus on all the positive ways your baby has impacted your life and I hope you will find peace and comfort in the new year ahead.

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