Times like now. A warm, sunny, lovely Friday morning in later October. I have been feeling so pleased all morning as I go around the house, doing laundry and saying silly things to the dogs, and I’m puffed up with that pleasure, the headiness of it, since it is so hard-won: Always, lurking in the back of my mind, there is the consciousness of the pain, such pain, and the loss that my husband and family and I have endured these past 21 months and nine days since August died.
I guess that’s a measure of how far I’ve come in this process of grief, or more accurately, how far I still have to go: A really, really good morning still makes me goofy and proud of myself, because really, really good moods, good moments, still aren’t the norm.
Even though we have a lot to feel really, really good about now. Such as this little girl who is sleeping in my lap, her loosely clenched fist pressed against her cheek in the contemplative, “Hmm…” pose she often adopts in sleep. She has a little faux-hawk, a tuft of hair right on top of her head that is surrounded by baldness. I call the tuft her eternal flame since it is reddish and wild and ridiculous and jaunty and wavy, and will not lie flat. (Not that I want it to, at all. I don’t.)
She is my daughter, my second child. She is seven weeks and three days old. She was born right here at home, on the floor between our bed and the bathroom door, in an explosion of energy and noise (from me, screaming and hyperventilating as I pushed her out) and light (from the row of bulbs above the bathroom mirror, shining down on us, illuminating the moment of this miraculous girl’s miraculous entry into this miraculous, terrible, beautiful world).
Born right here at home, just like I wish her brother August could have been.
Born alive and healthy, just as I still, often, fervently wish August could have been.
Her personality is emerging. She is hardworking, and spunky, and mostly easygoing, but she also knows what she wants. She expresses her thoughts and needs in definite terms: short, loud little yells that sound like an indignant “Hey!!” or soft, cooing sighs when she nurses that sound as if she’s saying, “Ohhh, this is sooo gooooood…”
And I keep wishing I could have gotten to know her brother the way I am getting to know her.
I wish I could have seen him alive. Seen those bright, sky-blue eyes of his open on their own, instead of having to open them myself and feel shocked by their bright clarity and color, and forever after wonder if I’m misremembering their exact shade of blue. After all, this little girl in my lap, who shares the same DNA as August — her eyes are a much darker, more blueberry shade. Surely his weren’t so bright-blue-sky as I remember them being. I think they were, but there’s no way to know. I saw them once only, and only for one moment. Never again.
Seven weeks and three days of caring for this new, second baby, this little girl in my lap, has consumed my energy, attention, time and emotions. I haven’t thought about August quite so much since his little sister was born. I still think of him every day — I expect that will never change — but now I think most often of this new baby girl.
But then mornings like this come along. I was just going along, feeling so glad and pleased, and so pleased to be pleased, and then something made me Google a woman whose first baby was also stillborn at 41-plus weeks of pregnancy. I read her blog from time to time. I have no idea why reading it again this morning seemed like a good idea. Suddenly tears were welling up and spilling over; snot was dripping; I was trying not to sob out loud, not wanting to disturb this sleeping baby girl in my lap with my noises or my shaking, quaking body.
The sadness, the loss, the grief. Missing that first baby boy, August. Wishing so hard and so futilely that he were here now. All of it. Still so huge, still so deep, even when I forget, for moments at a time, that it’s all still there, a wound I will always carry. A person we love who will always be gone.