I’ve never really been the type of girl who loves flowers. In fact, when Kevin and I started dating I told him from the get go, “No flowers necessary.” You might be surprised to learn it really is possible to kill a dozen beautiful flowers within three days. I was a champion flower killer back in those days.
Something changed a few years into our marriage. I began to linger in the floral section of local grocery stores. Every now and then I’d pick up a gorgeous arrangement, usually something bright with a wide array of colors, and say to Kevin, “Aren’t these pretty?” And then they would come home to live with us and I would manage to keep them alive for four or five days. This was surely a sign of growth. While they weren’t frequent guests in our home, I began looking forward to having them over for more than special occasions.
A couple of months ago we were on a trek back home from vacation with a couple of our friends. As we were munching on sunflower seeds I asked (out loud unfortunately), “Where do sunflower seeds come from?” After about 30 seconds of complete silence, Kevin reluctantly answered first: SUNFLOWERS. I’m not sure how long we all laughed, but I do remember it was the kind of laughing that makes you grab your stomach because it hurts so much after it’s all over.
It was on that very night a heart-breaking journey began for me. After an ultrasound, multiple blood tests, and an endless amount of waiting, on August 23, just five days before what was supposed to be my first prenatal appointment, I received confirmation I had miscarried. It was just the beginning of what would be days, weeks, and months of tears, and tears, and more tears.
On the day of the ultrasound, upon learning that there was no baby or heartbeat to be found, I felt like I had died. I remember everything from that day. I remember I was wearing a lavender top, shorts and flip flops. I remember the exact time I called the doctor’s office. I remember I was supposed to give a presentation at work and that I felt extremely guilty having to call in sick. I remember Kevin stopped to get a disgusting croissant breakfast sandwich on our way to the Emergency Room. I remember I had to drink so much water before the ultrasound I thought I would wet my pants. I remember the hospital felt particularly cold that day and everyone in it looked absolutely miserable. I remember thinking all of this couldn’t possibly be happening and all I wanted to do was to wake up from this nightmare.
I remember I couldn’t do anything that day. I remember being a zombie and I had cried so hard that even getting up to go to the bathroom required tremendous effort. I remember thinking I should feed my husband and wondering what we would eat for dinner. I remember Kevin leaving to go get groceries for dinner and bringing home just what I needed – a beautiful bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers.
I remember laughing when I saw the sunflowers in his hand. I was in so much pain, I didn’t think it was possible, but I laughed hard. I remember staring into the center of the flower, skeptical and wondering, “Do sunflower seeds really come from sunflowers?” I remember staring at those sunflowers up and down and sideways and hopping onto the internet to find out just exactly how these bad boys were made.
And so for that week, every time I passed by the kitchen table and looked at my sunflowers, I smiled. I smiled because of my husband, who knows just the thing to make me smile when I am feeling absolutely wrecked. I smiled because for six weeks, I was blessed to carry our baby. I smiled because I was reminded of all of the love and the amazing friends we have in our lives, without whom I am sure I would have fallen apart. I smiled for all of these reminders that even in the midst of chaos, I was definitely not alone.
The other night I was chatting with a dear friend who is coming upon the one year anniversary of her father’s sudden passing. She shared with me how her dad always used to tell her sunflowers were the best flowers because they were always facing towards the sun. I thought that was beautiful, and it gave me even more reason to love my sunflowers.
LIGHT in the midst of DARKNESS
HOPE in the midst of PAIN
JOY in the midst of SORROW
LIFE after DEATH
For all of these reminders and more, I am thankful for my sunflowers.
I originally wrote this essay in the fall of 2010 just weeks after I miscarried my baby at six weeks. I found writing about my experience to be therapeutic and healing for me. Writing was a way for me to celebrate and remember the baby I lost, and I hope those of you who have recently experienced losses of your own know you are not alone.