Knowing you less and less

photo by  Camille

photo by Camille

Hey, kid. I feel you drifting away. The girl you would have been right now is so different from the baby you were when I met you. That alternate reality in which you exist, the one I used to constantly inhabit, is going out of focus. I knew who you would be as an infant. I know less of who you would be today. I miss knowing you and knowing what I’m missing.

Certainly, there would be elements to raising you that are a given. You’d be testing our boundaries right about now and we’d be potty training and we’d invest energy in finding clothes for you that aren’t just glittery frilly pink-and-purply princess items. And your older brother would seem incredibly reasonable in comparison. And surely, we’d be a little softer on you than we were on him at your age. But your personality, your interests, that special mix that would make you exactly who you are and not anyone else… that eludes me.

I’m sure we’d have an easy relationship in the early days. Your Dad would comment how the first few months are slightly boring, just nappy changes and feeding and not much else, and I’d be surprised by the richness of communication he would be missing. I would know you better than you know yourself. I’d be able to read you and give you what you need before you got fussy. And then slowly, over time, the further you’d get from infancy, the more I would step back and observe you becoming your own little person. We would gently support you in becoming exactly who you are. And we’d find ourselves believing you’re the best kid ever, no matter what your particular set of features turned out to be. But I cannot step back, cannot observe you. I just know that as each day goes by I continue losing something more of who you would have been.

And here I am, back to the realization that I don’t know what it is that I love about you. The love came before, while you were inside me and I felt your every move. Seeing you was special and different, of course. It was one thing to know that an entire little human grew inside me, and quite another to see each little wrinkle on your fingers, each little eyelash, all your little body parts in place and looking perfect. But I believe that I am carrying you forward because I grew you inside me, not because I got to see you.

When we found out you were going to die, I decided to continue the pregnancy. I cherished the brief amount of time we had left. We had family outings, the three of us and you. I treated you to cookies. We’d go to bed together at night, you and me, lying under the same sheets, and you would wake me in the morning with your somersaults.

Right now, I am carrying another little girl. She is also a frequent wiggler. She is just as real and as mine as you were. But her presence is a reminder of your absence, and it brings fresh grief. Wigglette is confronting me with how little I got to know of you. Without a unique you beside me, I had to carve out a sense of ‘you’ for myself. And some of what I imagined has to do with you being a girl. I thought you’d be a bit more verbal than your brother, a bit more social, a bit less active. I imagined we’d let your hair grow long. I imagined that one day when you’re an adult, you and I would be the main force that gives this family a continued sense of community, the way women usually do. I compared you to your brother because your difference from him gave your identity something that is only yours. But now Wigglette will get a chance to play the role of the daughter that I always wanted to raise.

At first it was a comfort to know that some of this aching gap will be filled. Then came the pain from realizing that being my daughter will no longer be something that is only yours. Once I get to witness her developing into a little girl, I fear that my sense of you will become even more obscure, and that I will be forced to leave some more of you behind. There will not be much left, I worry, beyond the knowledge that you were an infant and that I would have cared for you and that I still miss you deeply.

Then again, as hard as it is to realize that I will have to re-create my sense of 'you' when she arrives, I will get to do it with one new person. Because even as you lose the exclusivity of that special mother-daughter bond with me, I will be passing on a severed bond to her. She will be one more person in the world who is part of your closest family, who will think about you and build her own sense of ‘you’. And while it might get harder and harder to match the 'you' in our minds to the person you would have really been, you will continue to have a place in this family, my unique and barely known second child.


How do you feel about time passing after your loss? Does it get harder as it gets easier? If you have had, or are planning, a new baby, how did you feel about its gender?