Right. Where am I? One year, five months, six days. I find it hard to say for certain.
I type one-handed, while I nurse M, feel his sweet little belly rise and fall against mine. He is seven weeks and four days old. He is starting to smile. He grunts and farts like an old man. He scrunches up his face and wails whenever he is put down. He likes closeness, comfort, to be quiet with me in the green chair, nursing and sleeping and staring into my eyes. He is undeniably himself, unquestionably here.
And where is she? My gone girl. Unquestionably gone.
I feel like the last few weeks have been about processing my pregnancy with M. I have written about the shock of having a living baby; I never once took it for granted that M would be born alive. I thought about this the other day at E’s daycare where a number of other parents are having or have recently had new babies. I know most of the people around me just assumed my baby would be fine, probably thought I was worrying far too much, being morbid, but I honestly felt I had no reason to believe we would get to keep him. Why should I have believed that when she was gone? What was so different? Believing he would be fine meant believing something was incontrovertibly wrong with her, or else why wouldn’t she have lived, just as easily, just as surely?
So, I never took it for granted he would be here; that he is continues to feel incredible, miraculous. To me, he is and always will be a miracle baby.
I went to the hospital yesterday, for the first time since M was born. I drove the same route I drove at least once a week while pregnant with him, heard the same songs on the radio, cursed the same shitty Vancouver drivers, took a ticket from the same dispenser, parked in the same lot. But that same knot of anxiety is gone. I felt, while I was pregnant, that I always had one eye and one ear pressed up to my belly, a constant surveillance: what’s going on? did he just move? is he there? will he stay? He is here now, and there is a calm in my head that I hadn’t realized I was missing. I had become so used to the anxiety, the stress. And I am only just realizing the extent of the anxiety and stress, now that it is gone. The hospital looks different now and I know I do, too; I could see it in the psychiatrist’s eyes yesterday: I am new again. He – his miraculous presence – has made me new again.
But then again.
It was four-thirty when I left my appointment and people were coming off shift so there was a line up to get out of the parking lot. My car idled outside labour and delivery and I thought about the morning we arrived, April 28, to meet M. And I thought about the other times. The night the cab pulled silently up to the door and I climbed out, my hand clutching at my silent belly. Please move please move please move please move. And there is the window where I stood when I called R to say, ‘the baby is dead. She is dead.’ Where I heard him yell, ‘No. No. No.’ Where I tried to call friends to start making arrangements. ‘I am going to deliver a dead baby. My baby is dead. My baby is dead.’ That refrain looping over and over for weeks afterwards – my baby is dead, my baby is dead, my baby is dead – while I grocery shopped, while I brushed E’s teeth, bathed her, tucked her in, while I cried and keened and walked my spring neighbourhood, wondering and wishing and crying, always crying.
My gone girl.
Where is she?
I don’t know how to miss her, now. I miss her. Oh, I miss her. But can I wish her here now? Now that her brother is here? I can’t believe, though I wish I could, that they both could have lived. If she hadn’t died, he wouldn’t be here. That is it. That is the story. And he is here, and I love him with everything in me, and I love her the same way, but because he is here, I cannot wish her here, too. I can’t imagine her growing, can’t say, ‘she would’ve been, should’ve been, toddling around now,’ because he is here. His being here has cancelled out her imaginary life, that parallel world where she grows and lives and does all the things she should have and our family is sisters, two little girls holding hands and giggling together and fighting over dolls. I used to take so much comfort in the parallel world, but now it feels treacherous, traitorous, even: to imagine her here is to imagine him gone.
One of my children is gone and always will be. One of my children exists only in the past. A small bag of ashes; stones and shells we collect on the beach for her; drawings of flowers by her big sister. Our Baby Sister, Baby Cheeses. My second daughter. E’s little sister. She is gone, gone, gone.
And I hate it. I hate it. I hesitate to say it, but I am happy these days. I am a different kind of happy than I used to know, but still, happy. But I am also still so mad. So mad that she died. That she doesn’t get to grow. That E doesn’t get to have a sister. That this is our story.
But our story ends with him. And so I suppress some of the anger. Because it is not his fault. He is here and she is not and it is an equation that never balances, never makes sense.
I love all my children.
I miss one, and will miss her forever.