One is light and laughter; blond curls and blue eyes; strong legs that run and climb and jump and skip, higher and faster every day. One is still-chubby hands in mine and a soft mouth burrowed up against my neck, breathing warmth and three-year-old secrets in my ear. A ballerina and a comedienne, a storyteller, a ham. She is full tilt ahead all the time, and I kiss her all over, breathe her in, wish the mother’s wish that I could somehow be able to remember everything she ever is, has been, will be.
The other is dark and slight; cool skin and Snow White’s red-bow lips, waiting for a kiss to wake her. A riddle that can’t be solved. She will never be plump, never have dimpled knuckles and elbows, never have sour milk in the creases of her neck or have roly-poly thighs like her sister did. I can’t figure out how to think of her these days. I can’t say to myself, ‘I should have a 5-week-old baby in my arms,’ because she was born so many more than five weeks ago and I held her then and she was dead. She was tiny and perfect and dead and so I can’t imagine her here with me now, milk-drunk and sleepy-eyed. She is a perfect little ghost baby, a dark little wisp of a thing, whispering in my ear. ‘I won’t grow,’ she says, ‘I won’t be a ballerina, I won’t hold your hand or run mischievously down the path, watching to see if you follow. I won’t swing with my sister or pull her hair or stay up late with her into the night. Your memories of me are complete. There is nothing more.’
E goes quiet when a little girl on Elmo shows Dorothy how she helps her baby sister get dressed. She is always moving, talking, dancing, singing, but in the presence of small baby girls she is still, attentive, wary. She is learning what she’s lost. She cries easily and deeply and I know this is probably good for her, but my heart breaks over what she’s had to learn so young. I used to skip over the word ‘dead’ in story books; we own that word now and at such a cost to her innocence.
Last night the counsellor who leads my support group pulled me aside as every one else left: singled out for failure to cope. This morning the local hospital called to tell me that my doctor had made an urgent referral for me to the reproductive psychiatrist. I knew she’d made the referral, but didn’t know she’d made it ‘urgent.’ So, it’s obvious. I am not doing well. I am falling behind. It seems I am supposed to find some way to understand how Anja’s death can make me a better person, or find some way to honour her in the way I live. But, she was just a (dead) baby, and no matter how many times I try to tally the score, we all come up losers. There is nothing she should have had to teach me, nothing her sister needed that badly to learn. And honour…well, honour is too heavy a weight for such a little wisp of a thing to have to bear.