Dear Baby of Long Ago,
Sometimes I feel you. Not so much in the ethereal, mystical, magical way of smelling the random scent of lavender or feeling a gentle breeze blow through a room with closed windows and knowing it’s you. That’s only happened once or twice, when seeing a rainbow or a butterfly in the most unexpected places, and even then I don’t know if it was you or my hope that it was you. I’m not sure the dead come back to us like that, or if they leave us, whom they love, alone so that we can move on in peace.
So it’s not you I feel precisely, but the absence of you. The ever-constant, gentle (and sometimes less gentle, more raw, stinging, pinching, punching, painful) knowing you are not here. You are not, and never will be again, here, in this very place, with me, with us, your family.
I go about my day just as I did before your short stay here on earth, except now I have two living little ones to look after, and I am more tired, busy, cranky and happy all at once. I don’t light your candle every night anymore or cry for you every day. And yet, your not-here-ness is here, drifting silently and invisibly around me, humming in my ear like a mosquito at times, fluttering through my thoughts like a hummingbird at others, and rattling me like an earthquake when things go really badly.
These days I feel free, mostly, and yet I am still somehow never quite free of you, which is OK because your memory doesn’t hurt me all the time now. On most days, there is a sweet nostalgia in thinking of you, the baby who has stayed a baby to me, the baby who never got to grow up and forever remains as small and precious as a tadpole.
There is something unique and uniquely painful about losing a barely there baby. It does not take long for people to feel justified in forgetting. And they start to expect you to forget too. And with time, you do—not entirely and not forever, but there are minutes and then hours and then maybe even days when you don’t think of your loss and what was and what could have been, and you start feeling guilty for that. I feel guilty for that and find myself grasping at moments, trying to prove I haven’t moved on, haven’t betrayed you, because that somehow means I’m the mom I want to be, the one you deserve.
But the truth is, no matter how often or how little you cross my thoughts, I will never move on, not fully. There is a part of me, the old, pre-miscarriage me, who lives with you in the past. And unlike everyone around me who doesn’t remember anything about you and your time here unless I forcefully bring it to their attention, you are always on my mind during the remembering days—the anniversaries of the day when I learned of your conception, and of your gone-ness, and of course I couldn’t forget your due date if I tried.
But your memory comes to me at other times too. I am reminded of your absence most when I watch your sisters for too long. They bring me such joy. Across years, I have seen their personalities evolve and unfold. I held them in their immediate, wet, oh-so-real newness, and with awe and some heartache, watched as they have each grown into a bigger, more independent, strikingly beautiful version of those babies they once were.
And now there is another baby on the way, and God willing, I will get to experience that with him too. But for you, I have none of that. I did not just lose a baby, but years and years of feeling your soft weight enfolded in my arms in a hug and watching your eyes widen under the same long lashes as you discover the world around you, and seeing all the ways you change and stay the same as decades tick by. You never got your chance to become anything, and it makes me sad for you and also for me because there is so much more than a kidney bean-sized embryo that I lost.
I often think of you as the Baby Who Almost Was, but even when I do, I know there is no truth in that name. Because there is no “almost” about the place you had here. You were. You existed. And in my past, and my memories and the empty space in my heart that no amount of babies or love can fill, you still do. You were. You are. In some ways, even if it’s only in the hole that you left behind, you still live among us.
So you’re not forgotten. I don’t always remember, but I can’t forget. I won’t, and I don’t want to. There’s not much I can give you now with me here and you in some not-here place, with me solid and alive and you a wisp-of-smoke ghost in my life, but I can promise you that I love you still, and I won’t forget you, and I won’t try to. You are still, and forever, mine.
And maybe that’s the best way to be.
With big love,