There is a little girl in E’s kindergarten class who’s been waiting eagerly to become a big sister. Her mother was scheduled to be induced this morning, so when she still hadn’t had the baby yesterday afternoon, we knew it would be sometime today. E and I talked about it on the way to school today. ‘I think it’s a sister,’ she said. ‘Sisters are better, anyway.’
‘Why do think so?’ I asked.
‘Because a sister would be just like me,’ E said. And then after a little pause, ‘A sister wouldn’t be so grabby.’
We held hands and started to talk about other things.
We were sitting on the world map carpet reading a Franklin book when R and her dad arrived. R rushed in, shouting out, ‘I’m a big sister! My baby is here!’
We smiled at her, and I asked, ‘Is is a boy or a girl, R? What’s the baby’s name?’
‘It’s a girl! A baby girl! Her name is…’ R told us all about the baby girl, her baby sister, and I smiled and then looked at E. My poor little E. She’d gone quiet, her face turned in on itself. She held her body still. Her eyes were sad. I put my arm around her, asked, ‘Are you ok, sweetie?’
‘Yes, Mommy,’ she said. She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to tell me how she was feeling. She wanted to be hugged and she didn’t want to join her friends, but she didn’t want to talk.
Sometimes I worry that I project my grief onto her. I think this is because people have actually told me that I do, or told me to be careful that I don’t. Not very many people in this world seem to understand children’s grief. They seem to assume that children don’t feel very deeply or for very long. So many people have insinuated that I read into E’s reactions, or that she reads mine and follows my lead. Sometimes I believe them, and that is actually the worst part of it all.
I know my daughter. I saw her face today. And it was sad, so very sad. And lonely. And she is there today at kindergarten, with all her friends, and she is the only one with a dead baby sister all locked up inside her.
I wish I’d talked to her teacher before I left, but I am ashamed to say that I didn’t want to face the possibility of being brushed off. I feel fragile, too, these days.
I was drawn into conversation with some of the other parents after putting M into his stroller. Conversation about labour and newborns and pregnancy and I wonder if my face looks like E’s did earlier, that withdrawn, still, sad face. My daughter’s. Mine.
I have to do better by her. I can’t abandon her to her grief because mine hurts, too. I will talk to her teacher after school today. I will hold her close this afternoon. We’ll do something quiet together, huddle into ourselves, create the safe space we need.
It has been two years, two months, and 25 days since she died. I wonder when this gets easier.