If you are new here or have stumbled across this page, welcome. You may be unfamiliar with our story. At the end of June 2013, our beautiful baby girl Shaundi was born and she was perfect and such a joy! In early September, my husband found her unresponsive and not breathing. Life with one of our babies gone has been hard. I’ve shared our journey here.

I can’t even remember if I’ve already titled a blog “We Survived,” but that’s the mantra today on Shaundi’s 5th birthday. We survived another year. I should have a baby celebrating her 5th year on earth, the big Kindergarten year, her 5th year of life. Instead, we’re missing her on her 5th missed birthday.

The years are flying by — and not because they are easy. Sometimes I don’t even know where the week went, it’s like I’m still living in that numb blur of grief and it’s painful. Sometimes it’s physically painful and you just limp through the pain of heartache and sadness and pray that you survive. That you get out okay on the other side. (But where is that “other side” that everyone speaks of?)

This is a milestone birthday, a special one, where we should be getting ready for her to ride the school bus with her two big sisters, where we should be celebrating with ice cream and pony rides. Maybe there would be a Paw Patrol theme or a unicorn theme. Maybe she would want her own American Girl doll so she would stop stealing her sister’s dolls. Or maybe she would want a scooter.

We should be celebrating with joy and laughter.

Instead we’re surviving.

We’re trying to keep the joy and the laughter and celebration. Each year, we buy seven balloons, one for each of our family members and we let them go. And then we have donuts and play as a family.

But we’re celebrating what should have been. We’re celebrating survival.

Today, when we stood at a favorite park and let those beautiful balloons fly, no one cried. Every year the babies cry because they don’t want to let that balloon go. The big girls talk about how we’re sending them to heaven. In the years past there have been notes attached, pictures. The babies don’t care that the balloons are a gift or tribute to a sister that they never met, a sister that they never knew.

This year there were no tears, the babies willingly let go of their strings and sent those balloons upward.

This year we got it right with the balloons. Every single year it has been a disaster. The balloons don’t fly or they get blown into trees and never make it (to heaven.) The strings get all tangled and turn into a mess AND THEN get tangled into a tree and never make it (to heaven.)

But this year they were individual balloons and they ascended together but separately. After 5 years of frustration over wanted to have a perfect moment, a perfect tribute, we finally got it right.

I don’t know why it even matters. It changes nothing. Maybe there was a part of me that wants to get it right since we couldn’t get her life right. We owe her. We owe her balloons and kisses and hugs and laughter. We owe her the kind of family that celebrates. We owe her a life. And birthdays, so many birthdays.

There aren’t enough balloons in the world to bring her back. There isn’t enough of anything to bring her back and that kills me every second of every day. I’m surviving, but I’m dying. I want there to be a price to pay, a solution. I want the answer to be there, I would make it happen.

I don’t know if what we’re doing is okay. I don’t know if it helps our kids or hurts them, but I’m surviving and it’s the only thing I know to do. I’ll probably do this every June 25th until the day I die. I know that the balloons aren’t going to heaven, and my kids will understand that one day soon, but for now, it’s helping us survive.