Because it took us a little while to have faith in my pregnancy with A, we did not fall easily into the habit of documenting it, of taking belly photos or keeping track of what her heartbeat was at different pre-natal appointments. We were haphazard in our attempts to record my pregnancy with E; with A, we were downright neglectful. After she died, I scoured our computers for photos where my belly was obvious, where she could be clearly seen, where her existence as part of our family was undeniable, but there were so few of these and, to be honest, none that were as obvious, clear and undeniable as I needed. I wanted evidence that she was here and I could never find enough.
This morning, E and I browsed through photographs from around this time last year and then kept browsing forward into the fall. There was a short video of E in her room, playing with R. It was Thanksgiving and I was preparing a feast for just us three (four). A cozy day of puttering, organizing, cooking. Not much happens in the video. E shows R how she has put her babies to sleep on the floor and then suggests they pack all the babies up and go on a long trip. As they turn to leave the room, I appear in the doorway, my head cut off, turning from the side to face toward them.
It is such a short shot of me, but from the side, you can see the roundness of my belly and then, as I turn to face E and R, my hand goes to my stomach. When I saw this I knew right away: she kicked. She was kicking and my hand went automatically, as it always did, to my stomach, to stroke her, to respond to her, to feel her there, to love her.
The video stops there, my hand on my tummy. R would have turned the camera off to follow E out of the room, on their imaginary holiday, never thinking (of course, how could he?) that 10 months later I would sit here longing for just a few more seconds, to watch my hand on my stomach, to see how it was when she was here.
She was alive, once; she was alive and she kicked and she is there in that video, as she was in our lives, for such a fleeting, ephemeral moment, and it will never be enough. This is the riddle with which I know I will struggle for the rest of my life: she was here, really here, and then she was gone, poof! Into thin air. Disappeared. A magic trick.
In those few seconds of video I see the incontrovertible evidence of her existence. I can almost feel her kick and my hand goes to my stomach again each time I watch and re-watch. Instinct. Habit. My body remembering her. But I know the ending now too: intrauterine fetal demise. A magic trick, then, to rewind and rewind and rewind and find her there again, alive still and so taken for granted that R could turn the camera off, probably not even notice the habitual gesture, the small sign of her existence that has turned out to be one of the very few we have.