BY MIA FREEDMAN
To my darling girl,
Today should have been your 12th birthday. I wonder what we would have been doing today had I ever got to meet you? Probably discussing The Hunger Games at length but who knows?
I think that’s one of the toughest parts of losing a baby during pregnancy or shortly afterwards.
You never know who you’re grieving for. So when I think of you, there’s….a blank. A sad black hole in my heart. Nothing for my mind to latch onto for solace or comfort. I do have two memories actually. There’s the way my body looked when you were nestled safely inside it.
And the image of you on the ultrasound screen. Frozen. No heartbeat. Just floating. Inside my body and out of my life.
It’s always a funny day, the anniversary of the day you were meant to be born. Those first few years were very raw although I had so many different significant days, it was ameliorated a bit between them in a sort of confusing spread of grief.
There was the day I found out you’d died, about halfway through my pregnancy.
Then there was the day you left my body, at the hospital.
And your ‘birth’ day. The day you were never born. The day I didn’t get to hold you, to look into your little face and make that connection between the baby I’d felt moving inside me and the little person whose life would unfold before me. With me.
I can’t get a handle on what you would have been like, what you would have looked like and that breaks my heart in a way that’s really hard to explain. It’s a very strange grief, grieving for someone you never knew. I have no memories of our times together, no images of your smile or your smell or all the precious details you keep locked tightly in your heart after someone has gone.
For a while there, I thought I’d reached ‘closure’. What an absurd word that is. As if grief was a door that opens for a time and then shuts. The intensity may subside but so many things remain and morph into less extreme but still achingly potent emotions. Like dust settling. It’s no longer flying around in the air but it’s still there, lightly coating your life.
I was so busy in the years after I lost you. Busy blaming myself for not being able to keep you alive. Busy trying to get pregnant again, to fill the space in my life and my body where you were meant to be. Busy welcoming two more children who I love with all my heart. Busy watching all three of my children grow and growing with them. Busy growing away from you.
Because even though that intense period of grief is one I was relieved to leave behind, it was also a way to be close to you in the only way that was left for us, as mother and daughter who never got to meet.
Shifting from that dark dark place and coming back into the light felt like a betrayal.
You know, as I’ve watched my dear friend Bec – your Godmother – grapple with the pain of losing her daughter Georgie 18 months ago, I’ve felt so calm in my relationship with you – if I can call it that. While she continues to ride the rawness of the rollercoaster, I’ve been able to contemplate how far I am from that place. Although I must confess to feeling a flash of envy when she’s able to burst into tears and cry for her daughter. Because I haven’t cried for you for a long time and sometimes I want to.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t get to you. That you’re locked too deeply inside me.
Bec has certainly caused a shift in me. Our friendship was built on a shared understanding of loss and some very intense, unexpectedly funny conversations about our lost daughters. There’s nobody else who understands like her and we have decided you and Georgie are hanging out together somewhere which makes us smile. Bec and I give each other little things to commemorate you both and that has helped more than I can explain to unlock my connection to you.
I’ve certainly come to a place of understanding about why you weren’t born. A very wise woman once told me to stop blaming myself, stop making it about me because it’s not. It was about you and your journey, short as it was. That’s why I never got to hold you or tell you I loved you except in my head and through my tears after you’d gone.
I understand that had you been born, your younger brother and sister wouldn’t have been. I may have gone on to have other children but it wouldn’t have been them. That makes some small sense to me, gives me some small solace.
But I always find myself unexpectedly melancholy at this time of year. And like the goldfish I am, it rarely occurs to me that I’m missing you. Your father always has to gently remind me that it would have been your birthday and then it make sense.
So happy birthday little girl. I feel particularly close to you this year, particularly connected. I hope you are somewhere hanging out with Georgie, your god-mother’s daughter, discussing who is your favourite member of One Direction (I think it would be Harry or maybe I’m projecting) and rolling your eyes at your embarrassing parents.
Because we’re thinking of you. Today and always.