Growing up, I was one of the best dressed little girls around. My mother made sure of that.
When I was in elementary school, each outfit was picked out the night before (complete with matching hair bow) and every afternoon when Mama picked me up the question was the same, "Did anybody tell you how cute you looked?" I would roll my eyes and say no (although 9 times out of 10 they had), to which she would reply, "Well, they were thinking it."
As I grew older and came to appreciate the power of looking good, my mother went right on making sure that "they were thinking it." Each milestone in my life was marked with the perfect outfit. My friends were in amazement when I was the only person that they knew that still got a "trousseau" when I got married (which was really just a bunch of cute clothes).
When I was pregnant and on bed rest in the hospital, Mama rushed down each week with Old Navy Maternity bags bulging because as she put it, "nobody ever feels better from looking bad." And it was true, I was the cutest girl on the Labor and Delivery ward.
One of the hardest parts for me after Rip was born was how little I got to do for him. Even before he got sick, the nursery changed his diapers and fed him and even when I got to hold him there were so many wires that he never really felt like mine.
When things got bad and we knew we were going to lose him, I'd done very little that made me feel like his Mama. That last day in the NICU, our wonderful nurse gave me the best opportunity. She let me pick out his outfit. I went through bags and bags of clothes at the hospital, making sure to find something comfortable, cute, and just a little trendy. When I held him that day, he finally felt like mine. I knew that I'd done something for him that showed how much I loved him, something only the best mothers did.
After we lost Rip, I still looked like I just had a baby. My swollen chest and pouchy stomach were just a constant painful reminder. Getting dressed and finding something that fit left me sobbing.
The day before the funeral, my mom and sister took a very sedated me, put me in a dressing room and went to work finding the most figure flattering dress TJ Maxx had to offer, complete with sky high heels.
To say I was dreading the day of the funeral would be an understatement. Somehow I got up and in to my new dress. I made it through the service and to the receiving line. The weather was perfect and as I stood there with the sun on my face, I felt peaceful. I felt like myself, even a little pretty.
I know that clothes and outfits are just materials and all of this may sound a little petty. But behind each outfit is the security of my mother's love. That is what she taught me, and what I tried to give to Rip on that last day. Because I know that is what a good mama does.