Four months ago today we held our second daughter, kissed her, said goodbye. At the time I was so focused on my own pain, on my beautiful girl, that it seemed our whole world was funnelled into that hospital room. There was no world outside it, only me and R and our daughter in that quiet blue room, the lights low, nurses slipping silently in and out. Snow fell outside and later I would find that fitting, but that evening I didn’t know anything but that room, that dark little face.

A year ago today, I was bustling around getting things ready for a little birthday party I was throwing for R, when I realized my period was late. Just barely late, but still. And if I wanted to have a drink to celebrate with R then I’d better find out for sure. I dug a pregnancy test left over from the last (failed) pregnancy out of the cupboard, peed, waited. Two lines. I took a picture and sent it to R who was out keeping E busy before the party. ‘Holy shit. Here we go again.’ I was filled with hope. I’d read the statistics assuring me that it was rare to have consecutive miscarriages and thought maybe we’d had our bad luck. I told one friend at the party, who hugged me and beamed and I thought: a January baby. Another winter’s child. Two weeks later, I started spotting. Three weeks later that winter’s child, barely there, was already gone.

Except I did get another winter’s child. A January baby who was not supposed to be. My longed-for spring baby becoming my wisp of a winter ghost girl. It’s been a bewildering year and a half. All of these wished for pregnancies ending in different, terrible ways. I remember when I took my first pregnancy test after we started trying for a second child.  R was watching E so that I could work at the coffee shop. I was so sure I was pregnant and so excited that I bought a pregnancy test on the way there and stopped in at the bathroom at the community centre to take it. Pregnant. I was so happy and also a little sad, thinking I would never get to experience the thrill of a positive pregnancy test again. There would be no more children after E’s sibling was born. But I have seen other positive pregnancy tests since then and E still has no sibling and now, when I think of taking another test, the thrill I anticipate is an entirely different one, tinged with terror, with knowledge of all the ways a pregnancy can fail, with grief and longing for the babies that should have been, most especially our gorgeous little A.

Yesterday, it was Mother’s Day. I was spoiled. E insisted on breakfast in bed, including champagne and orange juice. My aunt was staying with us and took us to brunch at a lovely restaurant on the water, with a view of the mountains and the port and the park.  E dressed up in an outfit she concocted herself, and even I wore a skirt, which thrilled E, who thinks her mommy is never sufficiently fancy. We toasted each other, and ate seafood and croissants, and must have looked happy to those around us. But, I had to put my sunglasses on to hide my tears when ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ played over the speakers, and I caught the waiter’s quizzical look. Someone is missing, I wanted to tell him. The smallest one. The sweetest one.

Today it is summer here. I dropped E off at daycare and walked myself around the seawall. When I was first pregnant with A last summer I did this same walk every day after dropping E off and I missed her today. Of course, I miss her every day, but today her absence was sharper. I missed walking with her in my belly, before anyone knew she was there, and she was my secret hope, my quiet wish that things would be different this time. And I missed the baby she should’ve been today, snuggled against my body, a light blanket draped over her sleeping head to keep the sun off. We would’ve walked and walked, her body making mine hot, stirring at times, a little fist grazing my collarbone. We might’ve stopped at one of the benches for a feed, and I would’ve soaked up her contented milk noises and her blue-eyed stare, the deep blue of the ocean and the sun on its waves. I realized a few days ago that I have not been letting myself think too deeply about how my days should be right now, but today I did. I let myself sink down into that alternate world where she lived and this day was ours. To snuggle and wander and snooze and putter about until it was time to go back and pick up E, who would run out of the daycare yard, squealing for her little sister, wanting to show her off to her teacher, and the three of us would walk home, A in the snuggly, E’s hand in mine, talking about our days. God, I miss her. I miss that life we came so close to living.

She wasn’t with me today and I walked past landmark after landmark that reminded me of her, or of the other pregnancies, all the variations of our lives we’ve lost this last year and a bit. Third Beach where R and E and I played in January last year, a couple weeks before we lost the first, and where I imagined us coming back to in August with a newborn we’d have to keep out of the sun. The beach near Second Beach pool where early in my pregnancy with A, E and I collected sea glass and made patterns in the sand; I tried to think of each pattern as some kind of talisman, as some kind of pact with who I don’t know, to keep the new baby safe, to let her be. The bluff on the other side of that beach where R and I stood on the snowy Wednesday after A was born, dead, and we were struggling to understand what had happened to us.

Today I walk alone. My new tattoo, still healing, throbs when my arm hangs down and so I walk with it held up against my body, A’s daffodil resting against my heart. The seagulls call and call to me, plaintive and deranged. I know that call. It lives deep down inside me, too. Plaintive and deranged. Wanting and not getting. Wishing, still.