I rarely suffer from a lack of words. I use them to complain about the mundane. It’s too hot outside, or maybe too cold. I snagged my new tights, poor me I can’t run anymore, and how about those pet peeves? The restaurant down the street isn’t serving my favorite soup. Soccer practice every night is inconvenient to the working mom. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Then something happens and for one moment (or a sleepless night) you are reminded of how lucky you are. Suddenly you’re entirely grateful for the soccer schedule, snow or no snow.
Bad things inexplicably happen to good people, and it’s with this sense of bewilderment that my heart goes out to my little sister’s best friend Ashley. On Halloween, while many of us chased our costumed kids down the streets of our hometowns, as our kids approached houses to beg for candy (sometimes forgetting to say “trick or treat” and even more often forgetting to say thank you) Ashley gave birth two months too early to baby girl Harper. When I saw the news on Facebook, I did the math in my head and optimistically thought of the preemie babies I know (and know of) who were born that early and who are now thriving children.
It’ll be okay, I reassured myself. It’s Ashley. She is maybe one of the nicest young women I know. (I want to call her a kid because I’ve known her since she was a child.) Ashely has a fantastic sense of humor and radiates warmth. Ashley and Meghann came to DC for Inauguration weekend in 2009, and she might be my favorite guest I’ve ever hosted, which is why I felt especially bad that on the day before Inauguration she was awakened not by an alarm clock but by a string of cursing from me when I woke up that bitter cold morning to frozen pipes that had burst in the basement. Ashley is poised. Ashley is strong. Her baby will be fine.
Still, I hugged my kids extra tight (in front of their friends which makes Jack a little mad these days) as they left for school. I made a mental note to pick up baby Harper a little Capitol Hill tee shirt the next time go to at Eastern Market. But then baby Harper’s condition turned out to be worse than feared and a decision was made to fly her to Boston where she could receive medical care from a specialist. Sadly, for some reason I will never understand, Mother Nature had other plans. Freezing rains caused the pilots to have to turn the helicopter around and return to Bangor. Baby Harper died.
I can never imagine what Ashley, her husband, and their families are going through. In the last few weeks, my step-sister lost her beloved grandmother and my father his life-long best friend. But they were, to quote from a tale told in one of the Harry Potter books, greeting death as an old friend, after well-lived lives. To lose a baby, who in those short months of pregnancy comes to represent every hope and dream you have for the future, is a tragedy that no one can ever be prepared for and that will change Ashley’s outlook forever.
I wish so many things for Ashley. I wish she had carried baby Harper to term. I wish she’d had time to hold her baby close, coo over her, and count fingers and toes. I wish she’d had time to relax (albeit nervously) and enjoy those first few moments of motherhood instead of experiencing in the worst way the fear and panic aspects that go along with the job.
Whether it is too hot or too cold outside or we are too busy or annoyed at something menial, time is the one constant and sometimes the one thing we don’t have enough of. I wish for Ashley that she and Harper had had more of it together.