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How I Choose to Survive Mother's Day After Losing My Children

Gavin and Kate/Kate Gallagher Leong

They placed her in my arms just hours before the clock struck Mother's Day. My first daughter, whom we named Darcy Claire, was born still from a cord accident. I was able to hold her for 5 1/2 hours before we had to hand her over to a hospital chaplain who delivered her to the funeral director.

I memorized her tiny hands and mourned the days I would never hold them. I stared at her face and her little nose that looked just like her brother's. I was crushed that I would never get to see her eyes light up when her daddy walked in the room. It was all too much. I thought, in that moment, that Mother's Day would never be the same. Life would never be the same. What I couldn't have known then was that getting through each day would be about choosing to live my life in a way that honored the child I lost. I hope in sharing my story I can inspire you to do the same.

That realization began when I came home from the hospital to two little boys whose eyes lit up when I walked into the room. I looked across the dinner table to see a hurting husband who loved me and loved our children so much. I looked into our backyard to see spring—a yearly reminder in flowers and leaves that life goes on.

It was devastating to lose my daughter and to see daily reminders of what would have been and to look at her brothers, whose eyes were filled with hope for a sister. We thought this was it. Our family had experienced the worst thing any family could—the death of a child. Surely, it would be smooth sailing from there!

My husband and I decided to continue to try for a third child, and it would not be easy. But, as they say, when the world says to give up, hope whispers "try one more time." We exhausted every avenue and then finally ended our quest for another baby—almost three years after Darcy was born.

Just a few months after that, on a beautiful spring day, tragedy would strike again. Our oldest son, Gavin, died suddenly at the age of 5 1/2 years old. He passed away on my 43rd birthday. In a twist of fate, I realized I was pregnant that same day. Her name is Hope.

I am still Gavin and Darcy's mom, and I still parent them even though they are not physically here. I do that by taking care of their mommy. On any given day that could look like dancing around the kitchen to Gavin's favorite song with his brother and sister or throwing empty boxes violently around my garage when everyone's asleep. I do that by loving their daddy and giving him room to grieve, even if his process differs from mine. I do that by making sure my living children see my eyes light up when they walk into the room. I don't want them to feel they are growing up in anyone's shadow, so I say Gavin and Darcy's names casually in our conversations. We do fun things as a family on the anniversaries of their deaths or their birthdays.

The deaths of my two children could have easily destroyed me. And I suppose people wouldn't blame me for shutting down on Mother's Day, birthdays or any holiday. But each day, I choose joy. I choose life. I am sure that Gavin and Darcy are with us, so I strive to parent their brother and sister in a way that would make them proud. This Mother's Day, and every day thereafter, I will vow to honor their lives by living and by never losing hope.