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dear effie, dear little girl,

     every year that i write these letters i feel further away from you. it’s so hard to believe that it has only been four years since you left us — i remember all too clearly, as if it were last week — and yet it feels so long ago. so many lifetimes ago. so much grief ago.

     today is a very different day from the last one we had with you. it was gray — rainy, then snowy — not the kind of winter day that draws you outside to play. i exercised, and my tummy is probably about the size it was when you were there, taking what would have been your last breaths. i was tired from being up with your brother during the night, and i half-wanted only to be home, snuggled in the house with my family. and then, of course, there is a family.

     such a very different day.

     i have learned so much in the years since you came, then went. changed so much. seen so much and loved so much. and through it all: you. my oldest daughter, my firstborn, the little girl who turned me into a mother, who helped shape me into the mother — the woman, the person — i am becoming, spend every day being.

     it is true that i don’t think of you as often as i used to. as often as i would like. as often as i think i should. but i like to believe i think of you exactly the right amount: as often as i need to, as often as i should. it’s strange — lovely in its own rough way — how you have woven yourself into the fabric of my life, of my being. how much you are part of the tension, the pull, that is my every day. how easy it is not even to notice. and how hard it can be, sometimes, when i do.

     i still haven’t learned how to talk about you to others. i still haven’t learned how to bring you up, how to hold people accountable for your memory. how much i wish in those moments that i had had the courage to name you. the courage to take a picture. the heart to create different memories than the ones i have. instead, what i have of you is so private: the moment of your delivery. your still body in my arms. your tiny perfection.

     there is, in all of that, an intimacy that i treasure for being mine. as i treasure you.

     your brother and sister are having rough nights. neither one wants to stay asleep. they both want to be held, to be snuggled in close. it’s fitting, somehow, that they are crying for me even as try to give you my undivided attention. this is how my days, without you, go by.

     i love you.  ~~scribblette

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long ago — the absolute ages and ages i spent in grad school — i started to hate february. after the post-holiday let-down and the beginning of a new term, february felt eternal: dark, dreary, and bitterly cold at a time when i wanted to feel all fresh and new. i could get through january with nary a blink, what with all that syllabus prep and paper writing to wrap up. but february? kicked me in the butt, year after year.

and so it goes. this february started with the premature birth of our friends’ twins, who are doing remarkably well in nicu. they’re doing well, their parents are holding up, their mother is recovering….

and yet i feel like an accident victim. i feel like a trauma patient. i feel like my heart has been yanked from my chest, kicked around a few blocks, and stuffed back in the wrong way up.

boo at my side, i lay awake from 3-5 this morning thinking about this.

mae was due this time last year. this time last year, i should have been nursing a newborn, bitsy should have been meeting her new baby sister. instead, this time last year i was laid low by  twin-induced morning sickness, only to learn that one twin had vanished.

effie was born this time four years ago. mac and i awoke in the hospital on a bright, bitter winter’s day and our tiny daughter was resting in my arms. i had slept all night cradling her shrouded body.

this year i should be celebrating my third daughter’s first birthday. cupcakes! balloons! in february! who’da thunk? barring that, this year i should be nursing twins. mine.

so.

i’m happy our friends and their twins are safe. truly, i am. i’m not sure i could bear it if they weren’t. but the babies’ safeness, and their tininess — their very breath — is a reminder of february’s cruelties. even with my lovely little boo, sleeping soundly next to me, breathing in and out all night long.

julia’s post at glow in the woods has really got me thinking. i was struck after mae’s death at the familiarity of the whole thing; i felt so flat, in so many ways, that i worried i was in denial or worse, that i was callous. i tried to cut myself some slack, remembering that it had only been two years since effie had died, and that i remembered all of that so very well, and this was in so many ways similar, that maybe i was developing some kind of (sick) skill at grieving my babies’ deaths. i also tried to remember that with bitsy running around (well, toddling as quickly as her chubby 13-month-legs could carry her) that i had a lot to distract me, and a lot that was beautiful and happy in my life, and maybe i was just in a different emotional space, having a different emotional response to a similar but different emotional experience.

but julia made me realize some things i hadn’t thought before.

for example, i have not yet had to return to the same hospital to deliver a live baby as i went to to deliver a dead baby. effie was delivered in a level iv hospital only because it was the nearest hospital whose emergency room we knew how to get to. bitsy was delivered in another state, with my own ob in attendance, in a quiet little hospital that delivers fewer than 400 babies per year. mae was delivered in yet another state, in a level ii hospital but not in a traditional l&d room, and i was sent for recovery to the “women’s floor” rather than the maternity floor. all of this change has meant, at the very least, that i haven’t been treated by the same nurses, in the same surroundings, by the same doctors, ever, for any of my deliveries. and i’m starting to think there is a sort of relief in that.

neither have i ever had remotely similar birthing experiences. with effie i was epidural-ed and pitocin-ed and fentanyl-ed out the eyeballs, and i wasn’t even aware that it was her when she came out of my body. with bitsy i went for a totally natural vaginal birth, only to find my brilliant plans waylaid when she refused to descend and i had a quick spinal and emergency c-section. mae was a fast vaginal delivery — there were only three hours between my calling the doctor to tell him i was having disorganized but identifiable contractions and her appearance. and, so far, boo is a scheduled c-section.  while these varying delivery modes have left me feeling a little cheated (not to mention anxious about how boo will actually be born), i have never actually gone through the same kind of delivery more than once. and perhaps there is a bit of peace in that.

and i’ve come out the other end of grief quite differently. with effie i felt lost and yet i craved anonymity; with mae i had more anonymity than was helpful, since i’d been in a new city, state and job for only 3 1/2 months. dozens of people openly mourned effie’s death with me. only a small handful bothered to grieve mae, or even to help me grieve her. but that sense of anonymity has, in some ways, served me well: it’s helped me reimagine who i want to be, who i might become.

maybe there is a kind of skill to grieving. i don’t want to be good at it, since that requires training, but i’ve certainly had plenty of that so it makes sense that it might get easier as i go. repetition can be a terrible thing — the deaths of many babies is truly awful. but…i wonder…is it so very awful to imagine that repetition might might have some positive sides? if mac and bitsy and boo and i all come out the other end happy, then isn’t that something? it’s not everything — it’s only everything minus a few very important somebodies — but still, it feels like something to me.

i hope i’m done repeating, at least this. but there is a kind of gentleness to thinking that the repetition gave me something in addition to — something other than — despair.

after effie died i found driving very difficult. in particular, there were a few roads i followed regularly that had curves requiring drivers either to slow down or slam into a concrete wall. i often fantasized about not slowing down, about slamming, and slamming, and slamming. i was never actually tempted, i never had to talk myself out of this act of self-destruction, but i thought about it every time i faced those curves.

this morning on the way to work i passed a car stalled on the shoulder of the highway. for the briefest instant i had a flash of brain-muscle memory and saw myself veering right and slamming into it. not that i wanted to, or would even have considered actually doing it. but my brain went there.

it’s in those flashes, when they hit, even though they’re rare, that i know my body and mind still miss my daughters, that i know my body and mind still have some healing left to do.

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Your Word is "Why"
You see life as complicated and intriguing. The only thing you know for sure is that you haven't figured it all out yet. You question everything and believe very little. And whatever you believe is likely to change. You are interested in theories, philosophies, and religions...even if you don't buy into any of them. You are also fascinated by how things work. You'd like to understand as much in the world as possible.

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