We live in the West End of Vancouver, close to the park and the beach. It takes 15 minutes to walk right downtown, but one of E’s favourite things to do is to ride the bus and yesterday that’s what we did. We had an errand to run and then we spent the day ‘in the City.’ We shared a sandwich and a cookie at the café at the Art Gallery and then I asked E if she’d like to see the paintings. She was enthusiastic and so I paid the admission and in we went. I think what she liked best was the wide curving marble staircase and columned atrium. She pretended we were princesses in a castle, exploring different ballrooms. She was curious about the older kids in school groups sitting sketching on the floor in front of different paintings. She stopped to peer at a few of Emily Carr’s forest paintings, recognizing them maybe from our walks in the rainforest-y woods we live so close to: ‘I like this one best, Mommy. Which one is your favourite?’
It was a good day. I couldn’t help thinking how interesting it was to spend so much time with just my four year old and how we probably wouldn’t be doing these things with Anja here. These days are special; I only get to have E this way because her sister is not here.
After we left the art gallery E suggested we go to the Central Library. It was cozy at the library on a grey day and we snooped around looking for princess books and finding other interesting things along the way. I glanced over at the toddler play area and saw a woman I recognized. I don’t know her, but she has a blog and is a maternity nurse at the downtown hospital. She has been reading and commenting on a friend’s blog. On one post she mentioned that her daughter had been born (alive, healthy) just a few days after my friend’s son was stillborn, in the same hospital. I realized that meant her daughter must have been born about the same time Anja was born and I clicked over to her blog. Yep, her baby was born January 13, the day after Anja died, the day before she was born. I read her name, looked at her pictures, saw my own shadow baby on those pages. Now, here she was in the library with her brother, who must be about E’s age and her mother, who has no idea how much it hurts me to see her little family.
A librarian came and rounded us all up for storytime. E and the other kids sat on the floor and sang songs, listened to stories. At one point, the little baby girl crawled right over and sat next to E. My four-year-old girl and a little one-year-old baby: just as it should have been. Though this baby looked nothing like Anja would have, I couldn’t banish the thought: she should be mine. Mine should be here. E should have hers.
All morning the baby I do have, the boy growing inside, had been quiet. I knew it was because I’d been busy all morning on my feet and so I sat quietly on the benches at the back of the room, rubbing my belly, willing him to move, to wriggle and squirm and poke. And there is the contradiction, the bizarre reality: she should be here, but she isn’t. Because she isn’t, he is here. He is here now, but will he stay?
I’m sure I looked like any tired pregnant mother might look, sitting back, rubbing my belly and watching my eldest. No one would know what was missing. No one could guess how that baby hurt my heart. No one but me was happy, I’m sure, when her brother fell off a chair and hurt himself and they all had to leave. Storytime ended and E and I spent another hour reading books and then we took the bus home and did puzzles until supper.
There is nothing to say except this: I love her; I miss her; I love him; I’m terrified he’ll die, too. I want to write and write and write but it’s all the same.
There is joy these days, real happiness watching E grow and learn and laugh and be, and more tentative happiness feeling him grow and stretch and burrow himself into our lives. There are moments I have that I thought I would never have again: where I feel that happiness, the knowledge that I have made a family I love, despite how much it also hurts. I want to hang onto these moments, grasp at the joy, but I’m scared to, too. I’m scared to feel happy. In case.
I told a friend I’m always scared that he’ll die, too. She said, ‘of course you are, but you just have to ‘think love.” I know what she meant and that she meant well, but she doesn’t understand. I think love all the time. I live love, breathe love, sleep love, dream love. It’s not enough.