I had tea tonight with a new friend. Her son died a few days before he was born on January 6, just days before Anja, and we met at our local support group. I am so grateful to have met a few women who I can really talk with, who understand what it is to grieve, to birth and hold your own dead child. After a weekend away with two other families where we all pretended nothing had ever happened, tonight was something I needed very badly. To know I am not crazy. I am not morbid for continuing to mourn Anja. I am not alone. We talked and talked and talked, for nearly four hours, about our babies, our living daughters, our larger families and what we can imagine of our futures.

I walked home down Davie Street, past the hospital where I spent one horrible night miscarrying my second pregnancy and where we saw Anja wave her little arms and legs around on the ultrasound screen, where we learned she was a girl, a sister for E, where I sobbed at the relief of learning that everything looked fine, was normal, that she would be okay. (Until she wasn’t. This is the real mystery of Anja: she was okay and then she wasn’t. She was here and then she was gone. She is my unsolvable riddle, my incompletable puzzle.)

The streets were crowded for a Tuesday night. People lined up outside bars and restaurants and walking and talking tipsy together in threes and fours down the sidewalk. A (probably crazy and drunk) guy called me beautiful. It’s been a long time since a guy on the street has called me beautiful. I don’t feel beautiful. I feel old and broken. I felt like I walked in a bubble, only me inside and that throb so familiar from the very early days of grief – an endless looping refrain, ‘My baby died. My baby died. My baby died.’ It is a horror story. It is unthinkably sad. It happened to me, to her, to us. It is our story.

This is my life.

During the first week after Anja died I was hyperaware of the fact that I was in shock. That things were going to get so much worse than they already were. And they did. And sometimes I realize again that a part of me is still in shock, that there are layers and layers and layers of shock and disbelief still waiting to peel – or be peeled – off, one by one by one. I am a bereaved mother today and I will be for all the rest of my life. There are endless days ahead of me of wondering why this happened to me, to us, of numbly repeating to myself: my baby died. My baby died. My baby died. Yes, I have happy days, too, and sweet memories of my time with Anja and I know there will be many more happy days ahead, but that shocking wound at the centre of me will always be there, too, and tonight it was good to feel like I am not alone in this and that someone understands.

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