She was this close

photo by  Katrina Y

photo by Katrina Y

In June of 2012, Janet and her partner learned there was something wrong with their baby. On July 6, they ended the pregnancy to spare their daughter's suffering. "I struggle with the decision," she writes. "I struggle with talking to our living children about her and about death. And I struggle with the universe." Please welcome Janet as our guest writer today.

Let me go, mama, she whispers. If I were your living daughter, you would be letting go.

That's true, I think. She would be nearly four.
She would no longer cling to my hand or hide behind me when she feels shy.
She would grab my hand less, I think, but would not pull away when I reached for hers.
She would still fit in my lap. But she would be off at pre-K—learning and exploring and chiming it at dinner about her adventures away from me.

I read once that parenting is the ultimate exercise in letting go. 

I know, baby girl. You cannot stay my baby forever, can you? Yet ...

The imaginary would-haves, could-haves and heart-breaking-should-haves are gathering dust. I simply don't pick them up any more. It feels almost silly or indulgent to wonder if she would have liked art or music or getting dirty. To think about her first day of kindergarten.

My grief no longer tears through my like a tornado. Its edges have been filed down and it lands more with a heavy thud. This grief has aged. I still cry. When I do, she feels close. But what used to choke me has mellowed. Parenting a dead child is, at best, impossible. So how is it possible to let go? Perhaps it is about healing and breathing and letting her memory shift into something new. Not to fade. Never to fade. For this grief to move to the shadows and the broken parts of me to fuse in lumpy crooked lines.

There are days I miss that early grief. She was this close. She was.

But she is right.

I blow a kiss to the sky.


We had a yard sale the day I took the pregnancy test. I squirrelled away the things we would still need for you, our third child.

Having grown up with two older brothers, I had always romanticized a house of women and girls. We would be that house, and I was thrilled. Dominating bathroom counters and get-ready times. Un-shy about tampons and maxi-pads and midol. Borrowing clothes and scents and make-up secrets while the bewildered males looked on.

Instead, you died.

A baby boy took your place as the punctuated end of our family. We are dominated by baseball gloves and cars and trucks, fart jokes and light sabers.

I miss the us you would have been.


"Nothing good can come from continuing this pregnancy." —our fetal echocardiogram

The anniversaries of you line up like dominoes.

The bad ultrasound
The genetic results
The fetal echocardiogram
The decision
The end


We lived in a community with a renowned 4th of July parade. The kind where you leave your lawn chairs out at 5:00 AM to claim your curbside spot. Fire trucks, locals chucking tootsie rolls and suckers into the crowds, unicycles, boy/girl scout troops, high school marching bands, squirt guns, neighborhood floats.

We went that year, after getting your death sentence the day before from the head of pediatric cardiology. Nothing good can come from continuing this pregnancy. I went to the to get the luminaria insertion for my "Termination for Medical Reasons" (TFMR) the very next day.

I am still astounded that tragedy didn't stop the clock. That, as you face the unimaginable, there are hours and days to pass, to fill and refill and refill. Years later, the summer and the cycle of loss make the days into scabs to be scraped, revealing the rough edges of my hardened scars.

I know, baby girl. You cannot stay my baby forever, can you? Yet ...


Is your grief linked with a season? Do the dates line up like dominoes? And your anxiety too? Do you feel relief when the dates marking your loss are over?