It feels like I took a breath and found myself here. One minute holding my beautiful sleeping baby girl, Sadie Rose, in my arms, eyes closed tightly trying to imagine how life would move forward without her. Now finding myself, 5 years later, same eyes but a very different outlook on life.

It’s not lost on me that this should have been the year I was preparing my girl for her first day of school. I wonder if she would’ve wanted a Frozen backpack and matching lunchbox. Or what she would have thought about the notes I drew her and stashed in her lunch only for her to find as a midday reminder that, mommy loves you.

The last 5 years have come and gone, each a little different than the one before, but year 5 tugs at my heart a little harder. Don’t get me wrong, Sadie’s little sisters keep me busy, but there are times between the laughter and the tantrums when my mind wanders back to a quiet hospital room where motherhood started for me. It was there that I held my sleeping angel and wondered how it would all shake out.

Photograph courtesy of the Sisemore family

It’s so cliché to say, If I would’ve known then what I do now, but it’s so true for me. 5 years ago, I was struggling to pick myself up off the ground, obsessing over getting pregnant again and reevaluating my entire life. Finding a new purpose after the loss of a child is something so many long for, for me, it was my obsession. I threw myself into fundraising for organizations like Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep while distracting myself from monthly reminders that I was not yet pregnant again.

The following December, 16 months, that at the time felt like 3 years, after losing Sadie we found ourselves welcoming another baby girl into the world. She was healthy and happy and for the first time in over a year, I truly smiled. Just 3 months later I found myself leaving my 9 to 5 and taking a leap of faith, agreeing to a position with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I had found my purpose and a tangible way to mother Sadie on a daily basis all while looking after her little sister.

Just shy of 2 years after welcoming our rainbow, we welcomed another healthy happy baby girl that I loving refer to as our sunshine. This baby marked the end of our pregnancy journey, 5 years of ups and downs, tears and smiles, and a lot of holding my breath.

This season of motherhood is coming to a close, as I transition from pregnancy tests to wrangling toddlers and all while continuing to mourn the loss of a child for as many years as there are fingers on my hand. As I pack up baby clothes for the last time and decide what to donate or sell, I can’t help but feel like a part of Sadie is being left behind.

Before there were reminders of her all around me as her sisters wore her hand-me-downs or slept in her crib that lay empty for far too long. But now, year 5 is a visual push for me to start making new memories of Sadie. Through my work, saying her name, or sharing my story with a fellow loss mom, these are all ways I’ve come to find I can keep her memory alive.

Photograph courtesy of the Sisemore family

As those all too familiar reminders of Sadie are packed away, I challenge myself to let go of the breath I have held so tightly and lift my head a little higher as I continue to walk my path of grief. I have made it, 5 years, one hand’s worth of time, without her. Something I never would have believed to be possible as I sat in that hospital room holding her in my arms, far too long ago. But here I am, stronger, wiser, and with a greater appreciation for the precious priceless gifts in my life.

Some may read my story and assume my wounds are healed, bandaged, and repaired by the two healthy girls that followed Sadie’s death. But that is far from my truth. Each day I wake up to the unfading reality that I am a loss mother, and while it does not define my entire identity, it is and will always be a permanent reminder of where motherhood began for me.

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