She was here. She was here, and she lived, loved, and was loved.
And being an angel mommy means you make it one of the primary purposes of your life to celebrate and remember that indeed, your precious baby was here. And my daughter Hadley was here and she was beautiful. In the year following our loss my husband and I found all kinds of ways to honor our daughter. From making a photo book on Shutterfly, enjoying pumpkin spice lattes and reading stories at her graveside in the fall, to adding a pink lily to a floral arrangement in our bedroom as a subtle reminder of her, we made it our business to honor our baby girl in the traditions we began and the physical things that we surrounded ourselves with.
Additionally, we lovingly referred to our Hadley as “Princess Baby” and every item with a crown we could find somehow ended up in our possession that year. There’s nothing wrong with this way of honoring our baby. This was a form of grief and in walking through it, it did help with healing. But eventually, we hit a wall.
No amount of “things” could honor Hadley in a way we felt she deserved.
I quickly moved to a new tactic: I became obsessed with finding out the “why.” We knew our daughter passed away due to sepsis from Group B Strep, but the how and why she developed her sickness baffled even our doctors. Here I was, zero medical background, but armed with a google search bar and a broken heart thinking I could find the why, the missing link, and maybe I could use Hadley’s story to prevent this nightmare from happening to anyone else. But that wasn’t the solution either. I ended up a frustrated mess and grappled with the reality that the “why” might never be clear.
Honoring Hadley didn’t come from pictures and trinkets (although they did soothe), and it didn’t come from answering the elusive “why” (although it, too, did heal in its own way). The way to honor Hadley, the way we could remember her and honor her and shout out that she was here was simple: to serve.
I came up with the idea for The Baby Bow Bash one winter morning when I was missing my baby girl especially a lot. I wished I could have dolled up my girl, picked out coordinating bows and matching outfits. I shuddered remembering how my husband and I went into the baby store hurriedly, holding back tears, while our daughter laid in the NICU, choosing the dress she’d pass away in. It still crushes my heart in a million pieces. I chose a lace headband for her, but it was way too big for my 3 pound tiny girl. I remembered how a cheery nurse once let us choose from a small assortment of ribbon bows that we could attach to her head during her NICU stay. I remembered how even with all the wires and tubes coming from her tiny body, her cute little bow added a touch of normalcy to this unnatural situation. And suddenly, I knew how we could honor Hadley.
We planned the event for a week before Hadley’s birthday, so we could deliver the bows on her actual birthday to 7 NICU’s across the Salt Lake Valley. Along with the support and hard work of loved ones, we planned the event with energy, passion, and love. No detail was too small. My husband and I even designed a logo and T-shirts. I hold the event as one of my fondest memories. Family and friends chipped in, came together, and created over 1000 bows to donate to sweet princesses in the hospital. Friends I knew in college but hadn’t really kept in touch with sent in ribbons, monetary donations, and well wishes. Colleagues, church friends, neighbors, and family members chipped in.
We laughed, we smiled, we served. I have never been more honored to be Hadley’s mom.
It makes my soul leap with joy to think of the babies looking glam in their hospital beds all thanks to the community coming together to serve in Hadley’s name. People have asked if we’ll do the event again, and honestly, I’m not quite sure. We celebrated Hadley’s 2nd birthday a few months ago in a more quiet manner: an angel statue and birthday crown (of course) at her grave side, a reading of the book Princess Baby, lighting our special birthday candle and wearing pink. The Baby Bow Bash was what we felt called to do that first year. So we did. If we feel, in the future, we’re meant to do something like that again, we certainly will.
Honoring an angel baby doesn’t necessarily mean holding a big celebration, finding the “why”, or even surrounding yourself with memories.
But those things all played a part in our family honoring our daughter. So much healing came when we looked beyond our grief and pain and reframed our tragedy into a celebration of Hadley-ness. Loving. Laughing. Coming together. Serving. Those were Hadley traits. Those were things we could all work together on to honor her.
When my son was born about a year and half later, I spotted some of the bows at a nurse’s station in the baby nursery and got choked up.
She’s here, I thought. She’s still here. And I am so thankful to be her mom.