Ten months ago I was sitting by your cot, wondering in a daze how this had possibly happened, how my worst fears had come true, how you could possibly be so sick when none of the dreadful and dire things I had been warned of for 10 years and 4 births had happened.
Ten months on, your loss is something I am learning to live with, your presence and absence is pressed into the fabric of my flesh. People walk by me and they do not know, but I know. I’m learning to live a life slightly to the side of the one I used to have. Now we, all of us, choreograph our life with care; we talk of you gently, privately, we look slightly to the left of prams and slightly to the right of pictures of babies and racks of little blue clothes. The space that might have been yours at the table has begun to close back up and we’ve learned our answers to the questions people ask that used to mean we had to lie – or cry. When asked, Fran said this week that she has sisters; she says she just cannot think of you each day, so she has put you away in her heart. When people ask me how many children I have, I say “these are my four girls” and when they say “all girls?” I answer “4 girls now, yes”. I’m not lying, nor do I discount you, but I’ve learned a politic sidestep and a political polka that skips around the edge of the things that other people do not need to know, need to hear.
It doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten you. So many phases come and go; that phase when you had been gone for 4 months when I thought “I can do this, I can just not think and it will not have happened”. I’ve passed the stage at 8 months when I just could not think and at 9 months when I thought that I could not bear that I was proving I could live without you and proved, forthwith, that I could not. In one fell swoop I learned to live without you and learned that in doing so, I could not live without you.
We went out today. You are not so present, not strapped invisibly to my chest. We picked a place with no babies, no small children, carefully sidestepping the slice of life that makes you present, carefully ignoring the display which might, just might, have had pictures of birth and SCBU and death and medicines. Your Daddy has learned when to change the channel on tv and when we should talk loudly through an advert. We are clever now, all of us.
It is life, now, ten months on. But it isn’t that life, that one we had. Nor is it the one we wanted, or the one I wanted. I’m living out a life that has no hope of being fixed now and god alone knows how long that might go on. I’m not even scared of tube trains any more. The worst that can happen, if I’m on my own, is that life could be over quickly – and sometimes, that seems like it won’t be a bad thing. Unless there is a hell – and I’m going there – in which case the worst that can happen is I’ll get you whisked past me one more time, my little sample baby, just enough to remind me and wake the longing up again – but not long enough to have my fill or finish that part of my life.
That’s how you feel sometimes, my little sample baby. I begged for you and longed for you and looked forward to you – and the punishment for wanting more than what was right was to get exactly that – and absolutely nothing else.
I miss you little boy. I miss the chance to stroke your head and watch you grow. I miss seeing you become you. I’m not going to get to watch you become a person, I won’t ever take photos of your achievements or put you to bed in my own time, in your time. I won’t get to try out a different motherhood with you.
I miss all that. I miss the life I had, long ago, the certainty of the one thing I did and did well – to make beautiful babies who grew up into beautiful children. I miss the life we should have had.
But most of all, I just miss you. I miss your little head and your long legs and your froggy tummy and your frown of deep, deep sleep. I miss the way you curled your lip and I alone knew it was just fine, that you and all your sisters had done that. I miss washing your lips and making your milk and the firm grip of your hand, even when it made you tremble to do it. I miss holding your hand and saying your name. I just miss you. I miss looking forward to you. I miss worrying about you. I miss you.