Give Me A Happy Ending

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When I was little my sister and I were obsessed with a 1982 rip-off of the Pirates of Penzance film called “The Pirate Movie”.  It’s a poorly acted, low-budget 80’s film that her and I both have a soft spot for even as adults.  We have both tried to get other people to watch it and love it as we do, but so far everyone thinks it’s terrible.  Still, we know all the songs and sometimes quote entire scenes to each other.  It’s one of those comforting memories from our childhood.

One of the things I love about that movie is that it is so happy.  It even ends with a song called “Give Me A Happy Ending”.  It’s exactly how I want movies to end, with a wedding and everyone being happy and healthy and friends forever.  It’s been a joke for everyone my whole life that “Mishi won’t watch movies or read books unless there’s a happy ending”.  My best friends know to vette movies for me and will say, “You won’t like it.  It doesn’t have a happy ending…”.  I’ve never enjoyed watching the nightly news because I always felt like it was all bad news.  Maybe I lived by the “ignorance is bliss” mantra.

When Stella was diagnosed with DIPG in June of 2011, along with the intense grief and heartache there was an ultimate feeling of injustice.  The “why is this happening?”…”how can this be happening?”… “what do you mean there is no cure?…  For someone like me who is fixated on happy endings and refused to watch “Titanic” or “The Notebook” because they were too sad for me, living my own story of heartbreak was incredibly difficult.  I still remember the feeling of wanting so badly to crawl out of my skin because I couldn’t stand the pain of living the reality of watching my daughter die.  I’ve never wanted to escape from my own life so badly.  It was at some points excruciating to be existing in a world where I knew there would be no happy ending for my daughter and I.  Eventually, Stella taught me to find the joy in the everyday, and I stopped focusing so much on the “ending” and tried to enjoy the journey instead.  Retrospectively, life is a series of beginnings and endings, a quilt of separate blocks all stitched together to create a life.  But not straight, organized blocks.  Ones that all run into each other where the threads cross over and the shapes are different and sometimes clash.  Like a “crazy quilt” I once saw at pioneer village made entirely of leftover fabric pieces.  There are natural starts and stops, but no true endings.  Even after someone dies, the story doesn’t necessarily end.

I am living life without my beautiful, funny, energetic and incredible daughter Stella, but I am not unhappy.  I laugh each and everyday.  I sleep at night.  I make plans for the future.

When I see photos of Stella, or videos of her, it almost feels like an out of body experience.  That life, that world, seems so distant from the one I am ensconced in now.  Sam and Hugo are extremely close as brothers and I have trouble imagining life any other way.  Sometimes I try to picture Stella there being a big sister to Sam, and no Hugo. But I find it nearly impossible to imagine because the two boys in front of me that are singing and laughing and jumping on the couch in their underwear are so real and three-dimensional whereas Stella is a colour photograph sitting on the mantle behind them.  She existed.  She lived and she mattered and she changed everything I thought I knew and wanted.  But she is not here being part of our daily routine of waffles for breakfast and packing backpacks for school.  I don’t even know if Stella ever ate a waffle.  She ate maple & brown sugar porridge.  That was a different block of the quilt.

Like most parents, Aimee and I are exhausted nearly all the time.  Between working full time and making dinners and lunches and cleaning the house and doing laundry, we always seem to be short on time and energy.  But last night Hugo and Sam asked us to be special guests at a show they were putting on.  They moved the kitchen chairs to in front of the couch, took the cushions off the couch to create their “stage” and invited us in.  With whispered plans to one another, they started strumming on their “canjo’s” (like a banjo, but made out of a can) and singing the Barenaked Ladies tune, “If I had a million dollars”.  Aimee and I were in stitches.   They were so funny and watching them interact was beautiful.  Aim turned to me and said, “Sometimes when I watch them like this my heart feels so full, I’m so happy”.

It’s moments like those that we treasure and cherish.  The non-public, non-planned, silly little family moments that take place within the walls of our tiny bungalow in East York.

it’s moments like those that made Aimee and I want to have one more child.  One more chance to create silly, funny memories.

After years of negotiating, talking, saving and planning, we decided to try to have one more.  We doubted ourselves, doubted our ability to manage another child.  We questioned whether the want was part of a never-ending wish to fill the void left by Stella that we know can never be filled, but we live with everyday.  We talked about the financial strain, the exhaustion, how old we now are.  We discussed if the same sperm donor that we used for Stella, Sam and Hugo wasn’t available, was it a deal-breaker for us.  We talked and discussed and disagreed for over two years.  We went back and forth.  It was one of those decisions that makes no sense whatsoever on paper, that is completely illogical and maybe even a bit irresponsible.  But somehow, eventually, during one of those magical moments where the house was clean and the boys were sitting colouring quietly, it just felt like the right thing to do.

We said we would try once.  So we did, and it didn’t work.  When the pregnancy test came back negative, part of us was sad and part of us was relieved.  We thought maybe it was too crazy anyway.

It took 6 months to save up enough money to try again.  We agreed that if it didn’t work we would just be happy with our sons because we didn’t have the money to keep trying and we rationalized that maybe it was the universe— or more precisely Stella— telling us not to be selfish, and just be fulfilled with the incredible life that we already had.

So we tried one more time.  The LAST time, we said.

It worked.  Positive pregnancy test.

And then we waited to see if the pregnancy would be viable.  I was 37, my job was physical, so many things could go wrong.  So we waited.  And everything seemed to be fine.

So, if all goes well, I will be giving birth to our baby #4 in late April.

Our friends and family were surprised.  In fact, when we started sharing the news with people, there was a mixed bag of reactions.  Some people seemed thrilled, some people seemed cautiously excited and some people came right out and said they thought it was a bad idea.  Some of the comments hurt.  It was hard to feel judged and hard to remain strong in our conviction that this was the right thing to do when so many people seemed so judgemental.  It made me angry that people outside of our little private family unit thought they had a say in our decision.  “What gives them the right?” I raged at Aimee.  She, much calmer than me, rationalized that everyone loves us and was worried about us.  They weren’t privy to the two years of discussions we had, the therapy and the whispered conversations at night.  But still, it hurt.  Telling people we were pregnant was totally different from our other experiences.  When I was pregnant with Stella, everyone was absolutely over the moon excited.  Sam was the same.  When I got pregnant with Hugo, I think a lot of people thought we were being rash and crazy, but they didn’t say anything because Stella was dying and the pregnancy with Hugo was keeping me alive.  But with this one… we felt openly judged.  We know people were whispering behind our backs questioning our reasons and our sanity.  So we didn’t tell too many people.  It was an odd feeling to be so excited about something and yet afraid to tell people.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant we were able to have an ultrasound that would tell us if the baby looked healthy, and the sex.  For the most part, I wanted the sex to be a surprise because I really and truly didn’t care if it was a boy or a girl, but Aimee thought it was important that we know— she said if there was any emotional fallout based on sex, we should try to deal with it ahead of time.  So we went together to the ultrasound.  The night before I had a very vivid dream of Stella.  it was surprising to me because I never dream about Stella.  But there she was.  In my dream she was tiny like a little fairy with wings and she was flying around my head.  She said to me, “Mama…the new baby is a boy.  I don’t want you to be sad Mama, but I want to be your only girl”.  In my dream, I assured Stella that I wasn’t sad it was a boy.  I told her that I loved her brothers very much and that I loved how they were close to Xavier and the three boys do all their activities together, and since my sister just had another boy in May, I told her that it would be nice for the younger two boys to have each other too.  Then I reminded her that Gracie was like a little mother to all the boys, and would be happy to have another one to look after.

When I woke up that morning, I told Aimee about my dream and felt completely and totally relaxed going into the ultrasound.  I felt very at peace and very excited at the thought of having another boy.  The technician was very quiet though out the ultrasound and then he invited Aimee in to see the baby at the end.  Aimee asked the technician whether he could tell if it was a boy or a girl.  He nodded that he did and asked if we wanted to know.  Aimee said, “yes, what is it?”  He pulled up a fuzzy black and white ultrasound image, pointed at a blurry part near the middle and said, “it’s a girl”.  “It’s a girl!??” Aimee practically shouted.  I felt numb, immediately going in to complete shock.  My pulse quickened and I felt a bit lightheaded.  “Are you sure?” I stuttered.  He pointed at the picture and said with a straight face…”well, I’m not totally sure but there is definitely no penis, so…”   I got up off the table and went into the change room leaving Aimee excitedly texting her parents in the other room.  As I bent over to put my pants on, I saw tears hitting the worn blue carpet beneath my feet.  I hadn’t realized it, but I was crying.  I kept wiping the tears away as I dressed, but they just kept coming.  The wave of emotions was totally overwhelming.  I felt happy, but also sad.  I was shaking a bit.  I was so sure it would be a boy, I had’t really let myself consider that it was a girl.  “a daughter…girl…a daughter…”  I was almost completely quiet on the car ride back home.  Aimee kept saying to me, “what’s wrong with you?” but I couldn’t find the words to explain it.  I was happy, but I was also truly shocked and I couldn’t understand why I would dream of Stella telling me it was a boy, when it wasn’t.  My friend Omo said to me when I told her the story later, “What do you mean, that’s SO Stella…she was totally messing with you!”.  I laughed ruefully at that.  True.  I could so see Stella thinking that was a really funny joke to play on me.

When we told the boys they were excited, but slightly indifferent as well.  Not too surprising.  At 4 and 5, they are way more focused on lego and sword fights than a new baby.  It’s a bit abstract for them.  As more people were told or heart we were pregnant, we kept getting asked, “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?”.    It amazes me how many people when told it’s a girl react in a very relieved and “oh, that’s amazing…you needed a girl”.  It makes me think that if this baby was a boy people would be disappointed or upset by it.  My favourite reaction was an acquaintance who said, “Oh my God, it’s a girl!?  That’s amazing!  if your life was a movie, this would be the happy ending!”  As often happens in my life now, this seemingly innocent and very well-meant comment really bothered me.  She may be right—- if my life was a movie, it would probably end with a close up shot of Aimee and I cradling a new baby girl with a picture of smiling Stella just over our shoulders in the background.  But my life isn’t a movie, and having a baby girl isn’t the “happy ending” of Stella’s story.  Like everything else in life, it’s just another piece of the story that continues to unfold.  It is neither an ending nor a beginning, but simply a continuation of a life that is full of joy, pain, grief, stress, love and hope.

I still don’t like to watch movies or tv shoes that are sad.  I still prefer to believe in, and want to see and experience, happiness in the stories I read and watch.

Sometimes late at night when I’m lying in bed and the baby is moving around, I put my hands on my stomach and sing her the lyrics of the Pirate Movie song, “Give Me a Happy Ending”

No more sad times, mad, or bad times,

No more minor keys

Life’s for living, sharing, giving,

Life’s for you and me

When the going’s rough and you’ve had enough,

Leave your troubles and your woes

Turn the other cheek and forget your grief,

Make a friend out of your foe

Give me a happy ending every time

We’ll kiss and make up, 

That’s a very peaceful sign

Give me a happy ending every time

Don’t be unhappy, everything will work out fine. 

Grief is so complicated, even Aimee and I don’t always expect or understand how we feel.  But I know for absolute certain that I am excited to welcome a new baby to our amazing circle of family and friends.  I know that she will be different from Stella and I never want her to feel like she is living in the shadow of her dead sister.  We have no plans to name this baby after Stella, or put her in any of Stella’s old baby clothes.  This is a different child.  She is not a replacement child, she is a new member of our family.  She isn’t our happy ending, but she is certainly a happy part of our life.  And we can’t wait to meet her!!!

 

See you soon little baby!

Xavier, Sam, Hugo & Gracie visit Santa:

Our Valentines:

Showtime… Hugo, Gracie and Sam:

Winter Fun with Xavier, Sam and Hugo:

The boys play the “Canjo’s” at an impromptu concert:

Happy…

 

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48 thoughts on “Give Me A Happy Ending

  1. CONGRATULATIONS…….Tears of Joy and Excitement for you all. A most precious little baby sister for Stella, Sam & Hugo. John and I are beyond Happy and sending lots of blessings your way for a smooth delivery. HUGS to Mishi & Aimee

  2. I can’t express the happiness this imparted in me to read. I followed along the entire time with Stella…..your strength and grace and the amazing and beautiful family support that you received was something that came through with every post. I check your blog quite often when I think of Sweet Stella. I’m loving the trick she played. I hope you soon are playing dolls, and buying ugly crocs and frilly dresses for the sweetness you are carrying. CONGRATULATIONS to you Mishi and Aimee, I am over the moon excited to hear this and can’t wait to see Stellie’s baby sister Thank you for sharing your babies with us that love your family from afar!

  3. I have followed your blog since the first article came out in The Star and I am so happy for you. I wish you a fast and safe delivery and a very happy lives together.

  4. Hi Mishi,
    I still read your blog all the time, and often return to re-read as well. Stella’s story, and your family’s story, continues to touch me and move me. I have re-read this particular post many times. I am so happy for you all. What a gift to welcome a new baby. I am sorry about some of the judgement you received. This new little one could not be coming into a more loving family.

    Regarding your dream that the baby was a boy, somehow I cannot help but think the dream was something Stella and her little sister cooked up together to mess with her Mama, that in some mystical wonderful way, your first born has met this precious new baby.

    Congratulations to you all as your journey continues.

  5. CONGRATULATIONS! This is amazing, wonderful, joyous news and I am so happy I checked your blog tonight! My heart was pounding reading this, the build up was intense and I confess that I had to skip and scan to see what the ultrasound results were and then go back and read it all over again. I am openly crying tears of joy for you and Aimee. A girl! A new baby! A GIRL! How truly fantastic and this little girl is going to have the most wonderful life full of so much love. You sound so good and so ready for another life changing event. Of course she will not replace Stella and she will not live in Stella’s shadow. You are far too aware and conscientious for that to happen. The one thing I am thrilled about that is connected to Stella is you wrote months ago about all of the people in their life that have daughters and how upset you were to not have a daughter physical present in your life anymore. That really stuck with me. So I am thrilled that you will now have a girl for all of the reasons that you have shared that are important to you and that you love about having a daughter. I will cross my fingers that she will want to look at those Maplelea doll catalogues with you, Mishi!!! Heck, if this little girl is not interested in doll catalogues call me up and I’ll come look at them if you will indulge my dollhouse obsession!! If I were to have had children, I would have hoped to have a daughter because I always wanted a dollhouse to decorate with tiny wall paper and tiny furniture and tiny everything. Yes, I know that I could possibly have done that with a son, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way very often. So, I understand your love of the Maplelea dolls and I am a fan of the American Girl dolls too, and I don’t care what anyone thinks! I am so sorry for those who have been rude, thoughtless or hurtful in their poor judgment when sharing those “inside thoughts” that are best kept to themselves. It’s a shame people cannot trust that the two of you are thoughtful, intentional people who don’t take such big decisions lightly and just rejoice in your joy and happiness along with you. I am truly excited and thrilled for you and your families! Honestly, I would have been equally thrilled if you were having a boy. I think it is wonderful when people who are so clearly meant to parent are given the opportunity to do so with as many children as they can manage. Yes, you will be tired but you will be blissfully tired. You are so good at keeping “secrets”, I can’t believe this child will arrive in a few short weeks. I’m sure there are things that are on your mind, and I just want to remind you of a few things. You have a wonderful support system, please continue to reach out to them when you need them. Remember to breathe, if you feel “floaty” or detached, put your bare feet (if possible) firmly on the ground and put one hand on the top of your head and gently press down, and take some deep breaths while playing a game of “I see _____, I feel ______, I smell ______, I hear ______, I taste ______” (you fill in the blanks) to ground yourself. I hope that you are able to be present and as peaceful as possible during labour, and that everything goes perfectly for you and the baby. I cannot wait to hear the good news when this little one enters the world! Please be sure to give Auntie Heather extra big hugs from me and I still have the same phone number but my email address has changed. If there is anything I can do to support any of you, please do get in touch. Honestly, this wonderful news has just filled my heart with such joy! Take very good care of yourselves and I look forward to sweet photos of Sam and Hugo holding their new baby sister! Sending you our very best wishes, Andrea & Trish (who I am so tempted to wake up but I’ll tell her in the morning). CONGRATULATIONS (again)!!!!!! p.s. totally agree with Omo, Stella was messing with you big time and probably laughed her butt off during that ultrasound. She will be the best guardian angel for her little sister!

  6. I have followed you for a long time. What amazing news! Hearts and hugs to all of you. Your new little person will carry her dear sister in her heart, and Stella’s light will radiate from within her. She will not live in her sister’s shadow, because there will be no shadow. Just light.

  7. What wonderful news for your family! Girl or boy, a new baby brings new life and tons of love to a family. I am so happy for you all and I am sure that Stella must be dancing in the stars with excitement 🙂

  8. I have been reading your blog from the beginning. I have never commented before today. I am so absolutely thrilled for you and your sweet family. Thank you for sharing your lives with us, even still today!
    p.s.. I loved that Pirate movie too! I might search for it tonight.

  9. This is happy news!!! I carry my Stella star in my purse and haven’t been able to part with it still. All the very best birthing vibes to you and can’t wait to see photos of your new little bean when she arrives. Loved the crazy quilt analogy as my mom has been saving scraps for hers since I was little. Of course our lives, as expected, have lots of sections both good and bad and we honour them all. Love to you both and your boys.

  10. I have followed your family story since reading the article in the Star. I have to say any child born to such beautiful, caring, loving mothers is a very special child. Every conception of a child is a miracle and anyone who questions your choice should keep their opinions to themselves. She will be so blessed. Your story has made be a better mother, knowing your loss , your ability to move forward with grief and loss and making the most of every day has inspired me. Thank you..thank you for sharing your story and continuing the story to be able to share in your JOY has made my day! Thank You…for sharing ..looking forward to seeing the photos of the new arrival when she gets here! Melanie

  11. HUUUGE congrats Aims and Mishi! How thrilling. Another sweet baby girl. We went through the same debate, back and forth (and went through one m/c), about a #4… had her at 38…. would not change a single thing even though on a lot of levels our decision to have a 4th didn’t make sense to the rest of the world! Nothing is more fulfilling than another baby and you guys have so much love to give. Please post pics and updates when baby girl arrives!! xoxo

  12. Congrats, Ladies!

    And the timing is perfect: the boys are old enough to amuse themselves but not old enough to get into too much trouble.

    My wife’s mom was 45 when she had her. When she found out she was pregnant, she cried and cried. The doctor said to her, “Now, now Mother. When you get old, you’ll have someone young to look after you.”

    She lived to be 88. And the doctor was, ‘ as right as rain’. ( :

  13. Congratulations and best wishes to you all! This made my heart happy, and I happened to check your site as I sat down to plan our first family trip to Great Wolf Lodge. Sometimes, serendipity is awesome.

  14. Mishi and Aimee – I am so happy to hear your positive and exciting news! You both have to much love to give 🙂 Sending positive thoughts for a smooth rest of pregnancy and labour/delivery!

  15. Your beautiful daughter Stella was very much in my thoughts all day … due to the blizzard names STELLA. So I came here to see how you both and your boys were doing. I’m am beyond thrilled to read about your new addition to your family. congratulations !
    Our stories are very similar. I lost my first born baby girl to DIPG when my second born was 25 days old. Then we went on to have Zoey’s second brother 18 months later. So yes zoey will be my only girl forever.
    Hugs and lots of love to you and your boys.
    Suman
    Zoey’s mom

    • And I’m so excited for your new bundle of joy soon to join you guys , who happens to be a girl. Stella can never be replaced but this child will that super cute baby sister to your boys. Love to the little one as well.

  16. Rosie and I are so super excited about another baby in the family 🙂 and OMG I can’t believe you guys love this movie too !!! It’s my favourite movie ever 🙂 I use to pretend I was mable and sing first love ❤️ I show it to anyone that comes into my house lol
    We love you all and your always in our hearts and prayers.

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