My Daughter Died, And I Have A Message For Other Parents

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Caila Smith

Trigger warning: child loss

60 days before my daughter died, I wrote this Facebook post reminding us all to slow down. I remember everything about this night. The weight and warmth of her against my chest, that scrumptious Baby Magic smell fragranced into her fine hairs, gently brushing the drool from her chin as she dreamt, her eyelashes fluttering… I remember it all.

I still have the couch we were laying on, I still have the sleep sack she was wrapped in, and I can pull her footie pajamas out anytime I want. They are all tangible to me — but she will never be.

I’ve spent many nights since then, wishing I could merely feel sad because she was growing up and not gone forever. But she will never grow up. In my heart is where she stays, eternally frozen as my four-month-old baby.

Ironically and horribly enough, SIDS claimed her life the day after Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. And on that night, posts like, “Hold your babies a little tighter and a little longer,” flooded my news feed on social media, consuming my heart with ache for these hurting parents.

And in that moment, I thought something that I hear so often nowadays: I cannot imagine.

So even though my sweet girl was already sound asleep, sang to, and loved on, I picked her up once more. And I’ll always thank God that I did.

Because without knowing it would be the last time, I ignored my chaotic mess of a house and loved on my little girl like it was the last time.

Call it fate or what have you, but we metaphorically had a “stop and smell the roses” type of moment, which was fiercer and more intimate than anything I’ve ever experienced.

And it destroys me in every way imaginable to say, she drew her final breath just seven hours later.

Never in a million years would I imagine having to live through something like this. I’m only 24, but my heart feels so much older. I’m not as carefree or oblivious as I once was, but that’s okay. I would never expect to be. My daughter died, and it’s given me this unasked for type of early wisdom.

So I’m urging you to slow down, Mama.

Slow down, and measure your days in tiny human smiles, messes made, and togetherness accounted for.

I won’t tell you to enjoy every second because even I will admit, not every moment is enjoyable. But the moments that are worthwhile, eat them up whole, and throw your entire being into them.

Put the stupid phone down, because there really is nothing to show from reaching a certain number of followers on Instagram. But there is something to show from being an ever-present mother.

Don’t allow yesterday’s guilt to rob you of today’s joy. Rise up, we are all flawed.

Take pictures to remember, but also, put the camera down. Join in on the memories when the opportunity is just too enjoyable to let pass behind a lens.

Don’t grow sad as your children outgrow you. My dear, growing up is what they are meant to do. Instead, radiate joy. For it was you cheering them on every step of the way.

Leave the dishes where they are piled. I swear, they will be there tomorrow, unscathed and just as they were. But your kids will not, they will be a day older and a day taller.

Don’t forget, we only get so many days. But we will never get this time (this moment) back once it has passed.

I don’t say this to strike fear or sorrow into your heart. But rather, I hope to broaden your minds. Live in oblivion of what’s to come, the good and the bad. But be painfully aware, even the liveliest in this world are not promised tomorrow.

I speak with the utmost experience when I say, a messy house does not matter. At my daughter’s funeral, I spoke these very words, “If I would’ve known our time would be so brief, we would’ve had the messiest house in the world.”

And it’s true. The dishes would’ve waited until it was damn-near a tragedy, we would’ve ran around in our skivvies while laundry piled high, and we would’ve embraced each chaotic moment just a little more than we already did.

My life is textbook proof that life is far too short. So grab it by the reins and go wild.

Love fiercely, speak kindly, apologize when needed, get on your hands and knees with your kids and wholeheartedly P-L-A-Y.

When appropriate, throw the flipping schedule out the back door. Let your kids be kids, and find contentment in the simplicity of family snuggles, spontaneous zoo days, dinosaur recitations, and slobber-covered kisses.

Do it for you, do it for your kids, and most importantly, do it because there’s only one shot at this journey called motherhood.

Don’t get so swooped up in the worries of living that you forget to enjoy the good life.

Please, just slow down, Mama.

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