The thing about grief is that it can hit you in unexpected ways at times you aren’t prepared for. Some days it’s a wave that washes over your every breath, and other days it’s just a brief stab of pain that then floats away. For mom and writer Stacey Skrysak, grief is a part of everyday life since having to say goodbye to two of her triplets four-and-a-half years ago.
The writer of Perfectly Peyton and mom to Peyton, Parker, and Abby (Peyton’s siblings who passed away as infants) has been an open book about her fertility struggles and the pain of child loss. And a Facebook post she shared on February 8 is no different, as it describes how something as simple as shopping for clothes can be a painful trigger for a grieving mom.
Written to Parker, who died 55 days after birth, her post reads:
“Dear Son, I thought of you today. I was walking through the store, looking at clothes for your sister, when this shirt caught my eye. It was size four, the perfect fit if you were alive today.”
Skrysak tells Babble that when she and her husband announced their pregnancy and the genders of their babies, they used a Polo onesie for Parker and Polo dresses for Abby and Peyton to do so. So seeing a shirt like this in the size her son would be today was an emotional experience.
She shares with Babble:
“My surviving triplet has so many Polo outfits and I always pictured Parker as a preppy little boy, wearing Polos to match his dad. I’d like to think it was a little sign from above — I was in a rush to get out of the store when I spotted that shirt on my way out. It just hit me — that’s exactly what I picture my son wearing.”
This message from Parker may have caused Skrysak a moment of pain and sadness, but it also made her think of her sweet boy, and for that, she is grateful.
“I thought of your angelic personality,” she says in her post, “evident even at only a few days old. I thought about the tremendous love your father and I could feel the moment we first met you and the lives you touched in those 55 days here on earth. I thought about how lucky I was to meet you and how so many parents never even get that chance, instead losing their children to miscarriage or stillbirth.”
One thing Skrysak focuses on in her writing is that even though she only had two hours with Abby and 55 days with Parker, she had a bond with them. She knew her babies, and they knew her. And she is grateful for the time she did have, as some parents don’t even get that.
“With Abby, we only spent two hours with her alive,” Skrysak tells Babble. “I had a special connection because I carried her and her siblings, but with her only alive for such a short time, we were left to wonder what she would be like. She is Peyton’s identical sister, so I can at least imagine what she would look like as I watch her sister grow up. With Parker, we were blessed with close to two months with him. It doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but when your baby’s life is being measured in hours (or even minutes), it’s enough time to gain a lifetime of memories.”
Skrysak knows that she will spend the rest of her life wondering what “could have been” and imagining Parker and Abby by Peyton’s side as she reaches each new milestone in life. She may never stop grieving, but it’s simple moments, like spotting like a shirt in a clothing store, that will remind her of her babies. And she’ll know they are looking down from heaven, cheering their sister Peyton on and holding her hand.
If you’d like to help other parents of NICU babies, visit the Skrysaks’ nonprofit organization Triple Heart Foundation.