She just died. She was here, and then she was gone. 

E has an old disposable underwater camera she uses to ‘take pictures.’ This morning she carried it with her on the way to daycare. She stopped by a giant rhododendron tree, crowded with pale pink flowers, and peered through the viewfinder. When she was satisfied with her efforts, she said, ‘When I get home I will put that picture into my computer and send it to the past.’ ‘To the past?’ I asked her. ‘Yes. To Baby Sister in the past.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, taken aback by her understanding, ‘how will you do that? Where do you send it?’ ‘Into our hearts, Mommy. Where Baby Sister is. I will send it to the past and she will be in your tummy still and she will not be born too soon.’ ‘Oh my love,’ I said, barely able to speak. ‘But, Mommy, it will only be imaginary,’ she warned me and then she skipped off down the street to open the gate and see her friends.

She just died. She was going to be our Baby Sister and she still is, but not really, either.

I went to the doctor today to hear the results of all the blood work and testing I had done last month. There is nothing wrong with me. I think my doctor hoped I would be reassured, but instead I was devastated. If there is nothing wrong with me, and there was nothing wrong with her, then there is nothing to explain her death to me.

She just died. She just died.  

The doctor still wants to do some investigation into the shape of my uterus. An MRI is what’s needed, but the wait list is six months to a year. She suggested doing a hysteroscopy in her office as soon as possible. ‘And in the meantime,’ she said, ‘you can keep trying.’ ‘Keep trying what?’ I asked. ‘To get pregnant.’ What? Oh. Right. And it suddenly sank in that I will have to do this all over again with no answers, no reassurances, other than the statistics. ‘Even with recurrent loss, 75% of women will have a living baby,’ my doctor assures me. Yes, well. I’ve heard that one before, thanks. I’m 1 for 4, and the one that lived almost didn’t, so excuse me if my outlook is a little bleak.

She just died. She was almost here and then she was terribly, terribly gone. 

It’s the time of year where I have to complete an annual review of my progress on my dissertation. For a number of reasons, I live five hours by plane and three time zones away from the university where I study; this means that only a very few people in my faculty were aware of my pregnancy. On the review form, there is a section where you can explain any ‘additional factors’ that might have affected your progress. I wrote that my second daughter had been stillborn and that I had had a previous miscarriage that prevented me from attending the most important conference of the year, where I was to present two papers but didn’t. I submitted the form to my supervisor, who adds her comments and then submits it to the doctoral committee. After reading what I’d written, she made a point of telling me that if I didn’t want to disclose Anja’s death, I didn’t have to, that I could just say I was unable to make satisfactory progress for ‘tragic personal reasons.’ ‘But her death is not a shameful secret,’ I protested. ‘Of course it isn’t,’ my supervisor responded, and it was obvious that that wasn’t what she’d meant.

She just died. She just died.

I’ve wondered since that talk with my supervisor if I’m guilty myself of treating Anja’s death as a shameful secret. Something I shouldn’t disclose; something I should carry around deep inside me, unheard of and unspoken. But, how could that sweet perfect girl be a source of shame?

She just died. She just died and I am not ashamed. She just died and it is not a secret.

She just died. There is no explaining why. There is no comfort to be found in a cause and there is nothing to fix. There is no reason to think this will happen again and there is no reason to think it won’t. There are just the plain facts of her death and of her perfection. She just died, and today I was thrust back into the rawness and bewilderment of the first days: she just died and I will never understand.

She just died and I miss her. Oh, how I miss her. 

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