Sometimes it feels like we disappeared her. When M was born, poof! she was gone again, gone differently than the first time, a goneness that sometimes feels more painful, more violent than the cause of her first goneness, her death.
Before M, it was so obvious that she was missing. Before M, everything that happened to our family should have happened to her, with her, too. I saw her always – or saw her absence always – running in the grass with E, sisters playing in the tub together, braiding two girls’ hair and snuggling two girls in bed. Immediately after M, I was disoriented by a second loss of her. Because to my mind, she and he could never be here together and he was incontrovertibly here, so she was incontrovertibly gone. They could never have existed, alive, together, so which one would I choose? Which one would I wish gone?
I get now that it doesn’t really work that way. My mind plays tricks. It bargains and denies and dreams and yearns. The simplest of truths is: she died – he lived – she is gone – he is here – and that’s how it is. It is what it is, as they always seem to say.
This is all clearer to me in my mind than it was then, but for others, for those outside our little family, the arrival of M signalled the almost total disappearance of Anja. A collective sigh of relief went up, I think. It was like M patched over the gaping hole Anja left in our family, and that patch helped everyone else feel better. They didn’t have to look into the hole anymore. They could even pretend it had never been there. Eventually, they forgot about it almost entirely, occasionally remembering, jarred out of their comfort zone by something I might have said: ‘when I was pregnant with Anja…;’ ‘when Anja died….;’ ‘when our baby died….’
It’s such a hard thing to have a dead child. That looks stupid, having written it. Anyone would agree. Except that I don’t feel it from other people. I barely have time to feel it myself anymore. I want sometimes to sink into the grief again, to go down deep and feel it all, and cry myself out. But when would I do that? If she had lived and I had three children now, I could not just ignore one – and if I did, there would be consequences; society would let me know how wrong I was – so why is it considered acceptable, normal even, for me to stuff my dead child into the past, push her aside, let everyone around me forget she ever existed?
It’s a hard thing to have a dead child. The cumulative strain of carrying on, getting on with things day in and day out…
There’s still so much mystery and in some ways, so little to say of it: My baby is gone. My baby died. Where did she go? Why did she go? I wish she was here.
I love you my little gone girl. I love you still and always.