E was a monster today. Yelling, kicking, scratching, biting, slamming doors. She is sleep deprived. She must be, because she is up every night for long stretches, and I’m up with her and if I feel as terrible as I do, she must feel at least as bad. She screams at R and me, lashes out at us, is sweet as pie to everyone else and then when we get home, all hell breaks loose. She just fell asleep in my arms after an incredible tantrum that sent R out the door for a walk by himself around the neighbourhood.
I went into her room to find her rocking back and forth on the bed, repeating: ‘I didn’t do that. I didn’t do any bad things today’. I picked her up and carried her to the chair, sat her on my lap and rocked her like I used to, back and forth, back and forth, smoothing her hair, until she fell asleep. I felt sleep take her over, her long body relax into mine, her skin sticking to mine, her hot palm on my chest. I thought about the last time I nursed her, in the same chair, just over a year and a half ago, just after my first miscarriage. She was still a bit of a baby then, but she is all girl now. Tall and strong and defiant, with opinions and ideas and an imagination as big as the ocean outside her window.
And I thought about the last 7 months. How all that time she’s had only half a mom. How half her mother’s attention lies always elsewhere, but not on another baby she can see, can be jealous of and act out against. Not on a baby she can love, help to take care of, proudly sister. No, her mother also mothers a ghost baby, has one foot in the ghost world, where she can’t follow and which she can’t understand. Her mother sings her songs, and reads her stories, and plays princesses and dancers, but is always, always only half there for her. No wonder she screams at me. No wonder she fights against sleep and has nightmares.
She doesn’t want me to cry, so I don’t anymore. I don’t cry and I try so hard to make sure she knows she’s loved, is always loved, and I wonder why she had to have this fate. My sweet, my lovely, my perfect baby. I will never understand. I will never stop wondering why. I will look back always on January 10, 2012, see her sitting next to me on the bus, singing Frosty the Snowman, beaming, looking at me with complete innocence and trust, absolutely full of joy, and I will wonder why her baby sister had to die, why our family had to suffer this way, why she had to learn so early how hard, how terrible, how unfair the world can be.
She is asleep now in the toddler bed she is quickly outgrowing, my firstborn, Anja’s big sister, and I hope she is having sweet dreams. I hope she knows there is nothing I want more than that for her. This blog is one long, longing elegy for my youngest, lost ghost-daughter; it is also for my eldest daughter, who lives and breathes and yells her joy and pain and fear and frustration. Who has been, in her own way, lost, too.