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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

bitsy: mommy, i’m so happy!
scribblette: why are you so happy, honey?
bitsy: because i love you and my shoes are dirty!

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.

thanks to writing maternity for pointing me to this article (in the new yorker) on breastfeeding & pumping. it’s both amusing and bemusing, and none too cheery about current attitudes about how best to breastfeed in america.

appropriately (and sadly) enough, i pumped while i read it.

from jen, at glow in the woods:

Do you associate a certain place with your lost child, be it a city, home, or otherwise? How has that relationship changed since your loss?

effie died on a cold, crisp winter’s day. it was months before we saw signs of spring: rhododendron buds starting to color, bulbs nosing their way through the dregs of snow. but within days of her death i was craving grass. all i wanted was to sit on a patch of grass somewhere, somewhere in the sunlight. 

spring came with its rains and blossoms. snow melted to reveal greening grass underneath, but it was still wet and cold. muddy. i needed grass. i needed to sit in my little patch of earth.

i found this patch far from home a few months later when i went to a professional conference. i went to the conference’s opening activities and felt on the verge of a panic attack. i couldn’t introduce myself to all these people — to any of these people — without talking about effie, and maybe only about effie. but i couldn’t bear to open myself up like that, and i didn’t really think it would be appropriate anyway, and soon i felt like i would suffocate. so i gave up on the conference, and  instead spent a week with mac, hiking and sitting in the sun on gravel, on rocky mountaintops, in snow. and on grass. i found my grass.

and anonymity. nobody knew who i was and what had just happened to me, and nobody was failing to show me sympathy or care. we walked the city streets, invisible. at home we felt our loss was invisible, but here we were invisible. anonymity was more healing than i thought was possible.  it helped me step outside of myself, it helped me remember other versions of myself, it helped me not to burst into tears every time someone tried to talk to me.

between the anonymity and the grass i finally felt at home, at home in a place where neither i nor my children were known, at home in a way i could not have found anywhere else. and that sense of home will make that city very special to me, always.

August 2017
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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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