Clara’s First Birthday Celebration {and a Thank You}

Clara’s first birthday celebration was quiet and beautiful. We gathered at her gravestone – the four of us and my mama, papa, step-mom and sister – and we were so grateful to have their love and support on such a difficult day.

During a trip to Party City to pick up supplies for Lakin’s upcoming 12th birthday party, the girls spotted a 1st birthday party hat with fluffy pink trim and insisted that we buy it for Clara, so of course we did. Addah placed it carefully atop Clara’s gravestone. The girls each carried one of our special stuffed animals — Cubby, a leopard that David brought home for her in the weeks before she was born, and our Molly Bear, gifted with love by the ladies in one of my due date groups.

Clara's First Birthday Celebration

I carried the pink bunny that left the hospital in my arms. I also carried Clara’s urn. We’re not at a point yet where we’re ready to spread her ashes, and to be honest, I’m not sure if we ever will be. I can’t explain our reasons in a way that makes much logical sense, but I guess it doesn’t have to make sense. It is what it is. That said, we carried her ashes with us, because she needed to be there for her first birthday celebration.

We brought along two photo boards as well. I printed out all of the beautiful name photographs and drawings that we have been given by family, friends, blog readers and fellow loss parents and affixed them to thick backboards so that we could all enjoy them. I realized later that evening that I missed a couple of them — they were hiding in a different download folder — so if you don’t see yours, please know that it was not intentionally left out.

Clara's First Birthday Celebration

We wrote letters to Clara on the balloons and then read them out loud. My balloon said, “I love you forever, I’ll love you ’til always. Always, forever, my baby you’ll be. Love, Mama.” David’s balloon said, “Daddy loves you!”

Clara's First Birthday Celebration

Addah and Lakin decorated their balloons with bright flowers and smiley sunshine faces, and my parents and sister each wrote their own sweet note to baby Clara.

Clara's First Birthday Celebration

We released them all into the tree canopy and clear sky overhead, and watched as the wind caught them and rushed them off into the clouds. A couple of balloons got caught in the tree canopy at first – my mama said, “she wasn’t ready for those ones to go yet” – but once the wind picked up, it swept those off into the sky as well.

Clara's First Birthday Celebration

As we began to gather our mementos and get ready to leave, a fine cold mist of rain began. It rained on July 1st last year too, starting right after Clara was born, so it was perfect and poignant. She is not with us… yet she is.

When we got home, I baked a birthday cake. After dinner, we sang “Happy Birthday” and enjoyed pink cake and vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t the most beautiful of cakes — our decorating icing ran a little too much — but it was very special to us.

Clara's First Birthday Celebration

It has been a trying and emotional week for our family. David was able to take vacation time, so he has been home with us. It’s been wonderful, having him here all day, to help with the emotional breakdowns (ours) and outbursts (the girls). We are all healing, but the healing takes time, and one year isn’t much time at all.

Thank you for sharing our grief and giving us your support and love over the past year. This past couple of weeks has been particularly difficult, and I appreciate every comment and private email that I have received.

From the bottom of my wounded heart, I thank you.

16 Replies to “Clara’s First Birthday Celebration {and a Thank You}”

    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes! Isn’t it funny how something can seem like it just happened yesterday… but also feel like it happened decades ago? Time makes fools of us all.

  1. Happy Birthday to Clara and looked like and beautiful and fitting celebration for your special little girl. I am glad that David was able to be at home and that you both could be there for each other this week. You know my heart is with you both and seriously if you need anything just say the word!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences with others. The daughter of a friend just delivered a FT stillborn daughter. While such a loss s always devastating, in her case, it was a first child/grandchild, carried to FT after difficulties getting pregnant and subsequent miscarriages. All was well until the day she delivered — right at her due date. Suddenly there was no movement and after an emergency C-section, they discovered low amniotic fluid, detaching placenta, meconium. At this time, there is no apparent reason why. You have shown me that there are no “right” words to say but that providing comfort, love and support can go a long way toward healing. You have also helped me understand that this will always be there firstborn child and a part of their lives. I am so sorry for your loss. From reading these posts, you have turned your tragedy into a vehicle to help so many others. Thank you.

    1. I am so sorry for your friend’s devastating loss. Thank you for your words, which make me feel grateful that our story, our loss, has helped in some microscopic way to help you help your friend through this terrible journey.

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