A conversation with a couple of my friends prompted me to think about what I would say to myself at the start of this journey, now that I know how it all ended. I decided to write those thoughts down in a letter.
Dear 23-year-old me,
Take a deep breath and repeat after me: This is not the end of the world.
It's going to feel that way for a long time. You are going to go through the stages of grief more than once. You will be angry for no apparent reason. You will cry so many tears. Some will be tears of joy, but mostly you will shed tears of sorrow. You will be physically and mentally tested in ways that you never thought possible. Your marriage will be tested, as well, in ways that most couples will never experience.
You will grow up faster than you wanted to. You will endure more than you ever bargained for. But, in the end, you will be better for this. I'm here to tell you that you will make it through this intact.
In fact, you will come out of this a better person – a person who is more resilient, more caring, and more passionate about your beliefs. You will be a better friend, a better wife, and, yes, a better parent because of this experience.
You will learn to rely on each other. It's just you and your husband. No one else. You will learn how to love through the pain. You will learn that sometimes words aren't necessary. You will be better partners in life because of this.
You will find your passion and calling in bringing a voice to this disease. You will learn that silence isn't the answer. And although it feels like you are alone, you will learn that others who are going down the same path surround you.
You will make amazing friends along this journey. Relationships with women that will stand the test of time because you have a common bond. You will lose friends, too. Some people will not be able to stay by your side. You will not be able to stay by their side, either – for whatever reason. That's okay. You will learn that each person in your life is there for a reason.
Perhaps the biggest thing to understand is this: things will not go the way you want or expect them to go. Plans? Throw those out the window. Go into this with no expectations, no fears, and hold no regrets when it's all said and done.
Because when you reach your final destination, you WILL become a mother. It's not the way you believed you would be, but it's better. Because the life you will hold in your arms was meant to be yours. She will bring so much joy into your heart. Joy that you don't feel today because it's all too fresh, too soon. She will be the relief to your pain. She will be worth every needle, every ultrasound, every penny, and every tear that this journey will bear.
And when you become a parent, it won't be easy. Things will not be perfect. There will be obstacles, but they won't be anything like what you go through over the next four years. You will be exhausted, yet you will be forever grateful for the gift this journey is going to give you.
So buck up, dry your eyes, and get ready for what lies ahead. The road is bumpy, but your daughter is waiting for you at the end of it.
Your 27-year-old self