In two weeks and one day, I will go to the hospital to have this baby boy delivered. It feels so close and so far away. I had an ultrasound yesterday and could see his chubby cheeks, his closed eyes and pursed lips and another perfect nose, just like his two big sisters’. He is a real baby in there. He could come out any time. Instead of being reassured by this, I worry: if something happens to him now, it’s because I dropped the ball, because I was not vigilant enough.
On Tuesday, my doctor’s appointment was delayed due to a surgery and the receptionist suggested I go for a walk and she’d call me when it was time to come back. There is a Babies’R’Us up the street from the office and I thought I would go there and have a look around, that with just over two weeks left, I could probably manage. I couldn’t. I walked in, was immediately overwhelmed, took a quick tour, avoiding eye contact with any salesperson and was in and out in about 2.5 minutes. Maybe less. With two weeks to go, I’m still not ready for Babies’R’Us, so I guess I probably never will be. I’m okay with that.
I am having twice-weekly NSTs now and with those and other appointments, I’m at the hospital about three times a week. I have been going to the hospital at least once a week for months now, but in the last week and a half I have suddenly found it terribly sad to be there. I miss A. Getting so close to this baby’s birth, feeling like he just could make it, is making me realize again how gone she is, how cheated she was, how much we lost. I don’t want this baby to be her. I have come to love him as his own little self. I want to meet him, get to know him, mother a son, watch him grow. But I miss her. I ache for her. I see her little face; I remember the softness of her skin. When he is born, our family will be complete, in the sense that we will be done, there will be no more children, but she will always be missing, always be an absence in the middle of us. E and the baby will get bigger and bigger and she will stay always small, too small. At each NST, I lie on the bed, listen to his strong heart, and remember the room not so far away where his sister stayed. I think of Elizabeth McCracken: Someone is missing. And someone always will be.
On Saturday, R and I went out while my mom took E for a sleepover. We talked about a friend’s recent post on a website about taking your stillborn baby home to say goodbye. We talked about holding a dead baby, what it feels like. R told me something that I now think he’d told me before but that I’d forgotten. When A was born, I was too scared to look at her at first, terrified that she would be terribly disfigured or damaged. But R saw her right away. When she was handed to me, she had been wrapped in a blanket; her eyes were closed, her sweet bow lips, too: a sleeping baby face, the face I saw. But R saw her with her eyes wide open, her mouth too: an obviously and very dead baby face, the face he saw. And he said it was awful. He said, ‘I love her. She is my daughter. But I wish I didn’t see her that way.’ And for days, I have thought of her dead face. Of the emptiness of her eyes, the gape of her mouth, the glaring goneness of her. My baby died. My baby was dead. Of course, I have known this for months. I have known she wasn’t just sleeping, not just quiet. I have known that I held her and she was gone, but somehow thinking of her open eyes, I feel confronted all over. My poor baby. My poor girl. My little second daughter, the middle of us, the always and forever hole in us.