It is March 21, 2017. Today you would be nine months old. Nine months have passed since the nine months that I carried you came to a devastating end. Some days the pain of missing you is as raw and crushing as it was last summer, while other days it all feels like a bad dream.
It is surreal to think that, for half of this time, the body you and I shared for nine months has been home to your brother. Just as I “knew” you were my daughter from the early weeks of our time together, I had been certain since the beginning of this pregnancy that the newest member of our family was a boy. This was confirmed at the second trimester anatomy scan several weeks ago. Seeing him on the ultrasound screen filled me with a tumultuous mixture of relief, hope, sadness, and longing. I love him as I love you, but any semblance of joy I feel now is simply different. It’s a joy that is, and will always be, invariably tethered by grief.
While the kicks that he generously gives me throughout the days fill me with reassurance, they also make me ache for you. As my belly swells and his movements grow stronger, I think of every birthday, Christmas morning, and family photo that he will be a part of—and that you will be absent from—if he makes it into the world unscathed. Each day I look at your photos and wonder if he will look like you, and I also wonder if I will be comforted or disconcerted if this is the case. It pains me to think that he will spend the first years of his life completely unaware of the sister who came before him. If he joins me in this life before he joins you in the next, I promise to tell him all about you and the unfillable space you hold in our family.
People tell me that this new baby and pregnancy are completely distinct and separate from you, but this simply isn’t true. Every week I compare my changing body to the photos I took while I carried you. Because of you, I am far more likely to call my doctor or run to the hospital for reassurance if I fear something is amiss, rather than draw comfort from the generic wisdom that the female body’s natural capacities and the power of positive thinking can guarantee a baby’s safe arrival into the world. Simply put, it is easy to assume that things will always work out for the best if one has never experienced the worst. Because of you, I know that I and the people I love most are not immune to tragedy.
Last week I had a dream about you—the first and only dream I have had about you since the nine months that I carried you. Some time had passed since your birth, and you were still alive, still in the hospital, and still on life support. I was at home when I received a call from the doctor saying that they were going to remove your ventilator, and I should come say goodbye. My family drove me to the hospital, and I was desperate to get to you as quickly as I could. When we arrived, they became distracted in the lobby, and couldn’t hear me begging them to take me to the NICU. I finally started sobbing and screaming: “I have to see Leah! There’s so much I need to tell her before I say goodbye!” When I awoke, my face was drenched in tears. I have thought about this dream every day since—about all the things I wanted to tell you and show you, but never got the chance to.
Contrary to the platitude that time heals all wounds, each day I feel my loss wound swell larger as I continue to navigate life without the vital piece of my heart that died with you. It has been nine months of a lifetime in which my soul will continue to ache for you—the much-loved, much-missed girl who first made me a mother.
All my love and a kiss,