Today you should be nine months old. Today marks the day when you should have been a person in your own right for as long as you were part of me. Today you have been out for as long as you were in. Today is the day when, some say, pregnancy for a mothering body has ended, 9 months to make a baby and nine months to recover.
I should be recovered.
Oh, little boy.
I am so different because of you. I am so marked by you and changed by you. better, I think, because of you, but tinged with bitterness and a grief I can see on my face, loss that is drawn in tattered lines on my features. I’m alone without you. There is no place, no moment, no circumstance which would not be better with you in it, no time when you would have been absent anyway where I can breathe and know you would not have been there anyway.
We play games loudly, watch films with a child on each side of each adult. We tidy up and there are no baby toys, stay up late or sleep early without allowing for your needs.
I cannot believe I ever moaned about wakeful babies or babies that needed me when I wanted my own time.
I cannot believe that you should already be beginning to move outside being ‘just a baby’. We’d have called you that anyway, I know, until you were big. It should be your title.
This last week, walking through Christmas without you in my arms, by my foot, on my knee, you finally made your way back into my dreams. I dreamed of you and how and when you came, I dreamed of labouring again and knowing it was a baby who came after you. I dreamed of you as a child, mingled with a future, as yet unmade baby and also your cousin, left behind, not quite formed, renamed, lost and nearly found.
I have wept for parents in the news knowing the relief, for a moment, of knowing for sure their child is truly dead. I have wept for women still blaming themselves for the death of their son some 40 years ago.
I have held your blanket, and called for you, touched your face in a picture, hung ornaments for you and drifted through some of the worst hours since you left me.
This month Freddie, is the last time I can say I had you longer than I did not have you. When the date passes, again, that marks your death, you will have been gone longer than you were ever alive – as a cell, a squiggle, a bump, a baby.
Not gone. Not really. Just not here.
I am better for having had you. I cannot regret you. You were good for me.
I still do not understand. I do not understand why I had to learn this, watch your sisters learn this, see your daddy go through loss again. I do not understand what was wrong, what I missed, or where you went. Or why.
There are moments when I can remember you held on my chest, your soft, half bald little head and the fingers that squeezed mine, the eyes that tried to see me. You tried so hard. I think perhaps I should have tried harder to keep you.
I’m so sorry.