I open this page, type her full name in as password, something I haven’t done in so long. I thought I would always write here. I thought it would always be a safe space, her space. Lately, I feel apart from the babyloss community. I have two beautiful, living children, just what everyone wants, right? I have a good job, a strong relationship with R, a comfortable home, some lovely friends, and most importantly of all, those two beautiful children. I don’t think I belong here anymore, though that makes me feel so very lonely. Because at the core of it all, at the core of that beautiful life I’ve described, is my dead daughter. The hole at the centre of things. That hole keeps me separate from a ‘normal’ life; my normal life keeps me separate from my grief life. I can’t complain. I have what everyone wants. I got my ‘rainbow.’ My happy ending.
There is no happy ending when a baby dies. There is joy. There is love. There is happiness. But there is no happy ending.
* * *
Fall has come to our neighbourhood again. There is something about fall, now. It was our season of sureness with her, the second trimester. Thanksgiving is this weekend and I am reminded of the Thanksgiving I was pregnant with her. It was just us that year, no extended family, and we cooked a wonderful meal and walked in the woods and played dolls at home. The perfect, cozy fall day.
On the way to school this morning, there was a mist hanging over our neighbourhood, just as there was at this time last year, and I think, another year of walking to school and noticing the change of season and her being still gone. I work late on Tuesdays, and E gets picked up after school by a good friend of mine. Today though, I explained to her that Heidi had to help her sister and it would be Gran picking her up. ‘I didn’t know Heidi had a sister,’ E said, and I told her she had two and one brother. There was that pause that always means she’s thinking of her own sister and then she said, ‘I don’t have a sister that’s alive; I just have a brother.’ Without much pause, she asked me, ‘Mommy, if Anja hadn’t died, would we have M?’ I understood at once what she was thinking: that she needed to choose between her sister and her brother because she couldn’t have both.
‘It’s hard to think about, isn’t it?’ I asked her. ‘I think about that a lot, too, because I think it seems like if Anja had been born then maybe we wouldn’t have had M – ‘ She interrupted me and said, ‘but I love M and I’m glad he’s here.’
‘I love him, too, sweets,’ I said. ‘I don’t know what would have happened if Anja hadn’t died. We can’t know for sure, but what we do know is that this is what happened in our family: we have a sister who died and a brother who lived and we don’t have to choose between them. We can love them both and be happy that M is here and wish that Anja was too.’
‘And if we could choose, I’d choose both,’ she said, firmly.
I thought about how she was only three when her sister died. I thought about how excited she had been to be a big sister. I thought about how she howled at her dad and I when we told her Baby Cheeses wasn’t going to come home from the hospital. I thought of how mad she was when she believed I’d left her sister at the doctor’s office. I thought of all the times she offered to use her magic wand to bring Baby Sister back to us. I thought about how in the last year, her wondering has turned to what colour her sister’s eyes would have been and would she have liked playing the same things as she did, and would she have missed her while she was at school. I thought about how my eldest daughter has now lived nearly half her life bereaved.
This morning, I listened to the Lumineers while I got dressed and ready to go. I listened to that album so many times when I was pregnant with M and have not listened to it much since. M heard it playing this morning and dropped the toys he was carrying around and began to dance. That boy loves to dance. His face beams and he rocks his hips side to side and holds one hand, one finger pointing, up above his head, and the other down low and slightly behind him. It is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. This morning I felt like it would break me. Hearing the songs that I had listened to in that unbearably intense time of anxiety and sorrow and seeing his face lit up with the joy of the music, his wild mop of curly hair, his delicious little body. He is here. He made it. He doesn’t understand the word ‘bereaved’ yet, but bereavement will affect him deeply, too, in ways I haven’t yet been able to figure.
* * *
I felt this way last October, too. So tired. Overwhelmed. Lonely.
I feel very lonely. So many of my friendships have changed. I thought those changes would all have occurred by now, maybe even years ago, when the trauma was completely fresh, but they continue to change, new and old friendships, in ways I haven’t expected.
I think I will always be lonely, at least a little bit, now that I truly understand that this grief is forever, and see clearly how treacherous it is to navigate.
* * *
She is part of our daily lives. We talk about her every day. I think about her little body, her bow lips, her delicate wrist, every night as I fall asleep. I wear a necklace with all three babies’ names on them, and have her tattoo on my left forearm. We collect rocks and shells and pretty trinkets for her. I cry for her on my way to and from work, when I’m alone in the car. I see her in her sister’s face.
She is part of our daily lives, though there is not much new to say about her. I am still so angry sometimes. Still bitter. Still bitterly protective of my living children. And I am happy, too. The four of us whom she left behind, we are happy together. My family is happy, despite the heartbreak of her death. We are sad, and we are happy, and we are learning every day how these feelings live together within us.
* * *
This is not a happy ending.
Thank you for reading.
Love to you and all your babies.