Three Months

Dear Leah,

It is September 21, 2016. Today you would be three months old. Sometimes it feels like an eternity has passed since the fleeting moments we spent together in our grey hospital room, looking into each other’s eyes and saying our “hellos” and “goodbyes” all at once. Other times it feels like it was only yesterday. One thing has not changed, though: My arms and heart still ache for you every moment of every day.

If you were here, I imagine it would be readily apparent by now that I have very little knowledge and even less practical life experience when it comes to taking care of babies. I don’t really know how you would be spending the bulk of these crisp, late summer days or what sorts of milestones I would be anxiously anticipating. I imagine you would still be sleeping a lot, and that I would diligently come to your bassinet every hour or so to assure myself that you are still breathing. I expect our lives would feel like a perpetual carousel of feedings, diaper changes, crying fits, and naps, but I know that any frustrations on my part would dissipate each time I hold you close and see you smile.

Sometimes it’s difficult not to slip into an imaginary alternate universe where our lives are indeed unfolding this way. I long for this other life, one where I am not commended for being “brave” or “strong” or “inspirational,” and you are not the baby who “touched so many lives” during her brief existence. I don’t want us to be any of these thingsā€”I just want you. All I want is to be “just another mom” who is too frazzled to hold a coherent conversation and who elicits judgemental glares from strangers in the grocery store when her child won’t stop crying. More than anything I want you to be “just another baby” who will eventually grow into a demanding toddler that throws temper tantrums and leaves an unending trail of toys and cracker crumbs on the floor for me to clean. I want this mundane, messy, and thoroughly unremarkable life for both of us more than I can possibly say.

As the weeks continue to creep by and I continue to move forward simply because there is nowhere else to go, there is another thing that has not changed: I still see you everywhere. During the months that I carried you I saw you in every baby and young girl who crossed my path. I would smile to myself when I watched them, wondering if you would also grow into a bumbling toddler who dances with carefree abandon when a catchy pop song plays in the mall, or if you would perhaps be a shy girl who hides behind her parents and hesitates to introduce herself to strangers. I still see you when I cross paths with these children, but instead of imagining whether you will share their interests and dispositions, I blink back tears as I think about what will never be.

It pains me to no end that your life will always be a list of unanswered questions and a slew of unrealized potentials. Every day I wonder about the person you would be growing into before my eyes if we had been able to walk through this life together. I often have to remind myself that, no matter what, it was inevitable that you would break my heart. Had we shared the life that I hoped for, you would have broken it piece by piece as you grew slightly more self-sufficient and individuated yourself from me each day. The ache would have been subtle and perhaps unnoticeable most days, but it would have always been there. However, instead of this dull ache I have been inundated with a lifetime’s worth of pain all at once. It is the crushing, unnatural heartbreak that comes from an instantaneous and total separation between a mother and child.

I long for you every day, my darling girl. I cry for you every morning and pray for you every night. You will always be the person who taught me about the ferocious, soul-crushing reservoir of love that resides within me. You are also the one who made me acutely aware of the delicate and finite nature of this life. Because of you I no longer shrink away from whatever may or may not await me when I eventually breathe my last breath; if that is where you are, that is also where I want to be.

Still, I resent that you will never simply be the daughter I got to bring home from the hospital and raise into adulthood. You will never be the baby who throws food at me from your highchair or cries for my warm embrace in the middle of the night. You will never be the mischievous toddler who pulls the dog’s tail and sits on my lap to hear a bedtime story. You will never be the prepubescent girl who tells me how embarrassing I am when I try to joke with you and your friends, or the young woman who gets trapped in my barnacle hug when you pack up to move away from home.

It has been three months of a lifetime in which I will continue to miss you. While my days remain cold and bleak, I take comfort in knowing that each one brings me closer to you, wherever you happen to be.

All my love and a kiss,

Your Mama