A year ago today, I found a website. By chance, by fluke, by following a series of links clicked aimlessly when there was nothing on TV. Through an email, to a post blog, to a website.
I found a website about a little girl who shared my name. Madeline. Maddie. Spelt exactly the same, both in our full names and abbreviated, that has never happened to me before. I’d only ever met 8 Madelines, Madelaines, Madalaines or Madeleines before – full stop.
I found a website about a two year old girl that had lit up her family with a cheeky, happy sunny smile. Born a preemie baby, she defied expectations, making life her own and winning battle after battle, until one day a chest infection just got too much and she passed away.
This website is now read regularly by thousands of people all over the world. People all over the United States are marching for preemie babies, in her name, joining together raising funds and supporting babies that are going to get a better chance because Maddie passed. A charity has been set up in her name, where people can buy cotton bags filled with useful items for shell shocked parents whose child has been born early and is now in an NICU unit.
For the past year, I’ve lit a candle every night for a little girl I’ve never met, travelling with night lights and matches when I have to spend the night away. I list the website wherever I can, to try to get as many people as possible to read it. To make people see that no matter what shit life throws at you, you are not having a bad day. Having a bad day is what Mike and Heather Spohr had, watching doctors fight to save their child in horrific circumstances, then by speaking at her funeral a few days later. That is having a bad day. Heather has written nearly every weekday for a year. Sharing their unspeakable, palpable grief, their multitude of bad days. The disbelief that their planned for second child showed up on schedule, Annabel was conceived in the maelstrom of devastation, they were then vilified for announcing the pregancy. Regular readers of the blog rallied round, shouting support from the roof tops. Everyone’s journey through grief is their own. Who are we to say what is right or wrong, how to cope or not to cope? There are no instructions books to buy when your child dies in front of you. You keep breathing, hoping that each day you can function a little better than the last.
A year ago today, my life changed when I found a name sake that has put what I have achieved so far to shame. Madeline Alice Spohr may have only been here for two short years. But she’s known around the world as a fighter. She fights for premature babies, for families, for unrequited love. We are members of the Human Family. If a two year old child can show that to people all over the globe, imagine what the world could be like if we all learnt it?