I hate thinking that other people don’t think of Anja as a ‘real’ baby. I hate it so much. But today I watched a beautiful, moving video made by another bereaved mom and I suddenly felt that, oh shit, I am guilty of the same thing. I did not treat her as a real baby when she was born.

I am a very private person. R is even more private. We held her too close, and we held ourselves in too severely. We didn’t want to make a spectacle. We didn’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves. We didn’t want to have to be at the centre of a number of people watching us for cues, wondering what to do. We didn’t say any of this to each other, but we knew it, instinctively. And so it was just us in that room. We didn’t invite anyone in to share in our grief, and – and this is what tortures me now – by not doing so, we didn’t allow any one to celebrate our daughter. To see her and to acknowledge her life, her death, her beauty, our love for her.

Why didn’t we take a thousand photos? Why didn’t we take even one? A niggling, treacherous doubt worms its way into my mind: were we ashamed? Were we trying to hide her? Did we treat her like a dirty secret? I want to deny it, but I’m scared it’s true, too. I don’t really think shame plays a part in it, but that intense need for privacy – we cut ourselves off. Did we deny ourselves so much potential comfort, so much potential acknowledgement, all for fear of making a scene?

I know people think it is morbid to hold a dead baby, give her a bath, take photographs, kiss her. Did I think it was morbid? Did I? I know I loved her. I know that during those hours I held her I was keenly aware that it didn’t matter that she was dead, that she was beautiful and loved and wanted and cherished, and dead didn’t make a difference. But then why, why, why didn’t I make R take photos of me holding her? Why didn’t I unwrap her blanket and take photos of her feet? Why don’t I have a photo of me kissing her sweet cheek?

Why didn’t we have a memorial? I didn’t want to ask people to come. I didn’t want to have to introduce people who didn’t know each other. I didn’t want to sob in front of everyone at the same time. I didn’t want to have to plan everything and I didn’t want to have to ask someone else to do it for me. But, oh, how I wish now that we’d had one. I wish I’d chosen music, written a eulogy, gathered everyone together, shown them her picture, made them all cry with me…made them all cry with me for the loss of this beautiful girl, who, though gone forever from our world, had once really been here.

We did everything wrong.

This morning, I am torturing myself with these thoughts. On most days I think we did the best we could in such a deep state of shock and sorrow. But today, I am so angry at myself, and angry at R. We didn’t treat her like a real baby. And we allowed everybody else we know to follow our own example.