28 June 2005 by Published in: Simone 4 comments

Dear Simone –

I had thought to be writing you this letter on your birthday. To write on your birthday would have made it more celebratory. Happier. It was a fine plan, but as it turns out, the major portion of my feelings about you remains sad.

I do remember your birth. I had stored up stories to relay to you about how the doctor turned over and went back to sleep for ten more minutes after I called her and missed it. About the capable, assured hands of the large nurse who delivered you. About how she called you, with a smile, “the bullet baby”. About how I gave birth to you without the epidural, with the anesthesiologist standing right there but unable to do anything because you were coming out already, barging into our lives without waiting for medical procedures. I never thought I would be able to withstand labor without drugs, knowing my low threshold for pain. And yet, you made me do that. The first thing you taught me, dear one, was “you are stronger than you know, mother”. It was a lesson I have more call to remember than I would like.

More vivid, however, is my memory of you – one year ago today – laid out on that adult-sized table in the emergency room. You were dwarfed by the sheet they’d used to cover you. Your lips looked bruised, and there was a small amount of dried blood at the corner of your mouth, where they’d been too rough in their attempts to revive you. When I touched you, you were as cold as you were colorless. I remember how strange it was holding your body, how limp it was. There was math there that didn’t compute. I knew that on a scale you would weigh no differently dead than alive, but it didn’t seem so because you didn’t wriggle or exude warmth or breathe. Can a soul have mass?

Afterwards, outside, the sun blazed down on me like I was in a desert. My head ached, and I was numb all over, and there was a brilliant glare wherever I tried to turn my eyes. It’s too easy to be there again, lost outside a suffocating parking lot, walking away from you and what had been your brief life. I’m still walking, along time, further and further away from you. Sometimes though, like today, the road doubles back again, and I’m feeling the heat like a hand pushing me to the ground and I’m disoriented and I wonder if I ever really get away from that harsh, unflinching light. I just want to make it to the end of today, and maybe tomorrow, it will rain.

In the afternoons, during the days in which I was home with you, it often rained. I would sit in the kitchen and eat some lunch, looking out at the slicked crepe myrtle. Sometimes you would sleep in the infant car seat, but other times I would have to hold you, or balance you along one leg, ankle over knee and you tucked into the crook and supported by the chair. It was kind of hard to eat that way, but I don’t remember minding much. The days would unfold themselves lazy and cool and grey. We had all the time in the world to watch them. I remember wrapping you into the sling, and taking you and Sergei for walks. We often met a woman with a stroller, walking her child or possibly her grandchild around the block. Many were the days after your death that seeing her with her stroller and its growing baby squeezed my insides until I cried.

One day I had miscalculated the darkness of the clouds and the density of the humidity, and it started to rain on us as we walked. You slept through the drops that pattered down on your head, like a baptismal sprinkling. I tried to shield you with my arms but it was kind of a hopeless effort, and I didn’t want to jostle you awake by running. All three of us got pretty damp. It was grey much like that at your funeral, which is mostly a blur, though I remember the rain. Then I went back to work, and the sun came out and shone for so many days in a row that I forgot about rain. About six weeks after you died it rained again. I thought I had mastered my endless bouts of weeping only to find that the weather had brought them back to me. It is so hard to face your absence every day. I do it, because I must, but it is a herculean task and I am not any kind of hero. The pain doesn’t lessen, I don’t think, but it doesn’t control me as much as it used to. I can walk down the baby aisle in the grocery store now. When I see other people’s infants I can make the approved social noises instead of fighting back tears. There are all sorts of people I know and talk to almost daily who have no idea that you ever were. I don’t see it as concealing you so much as protecting you, and me, from the voyeuristic impulses of others. I discovered, at your funeral, that there are a great many things people can say that aren’t terribly helpful while very few things people can say are really meaningful. I told you that the funeral was largely a blur, and I wasn’t lying, but I remember with sharp clarity a co-worker of mine whom I hadn’t even expected to come looking at your photographs and then saying, simply “She was a beautiful baby.” She expressed it so honestly and I am sure for those five words at that moment she gets laurels in heaven, or good karma, or a multitude of blessings, or whatever it is that people get for doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time for their fellow man. Most people are not like she is, and most people can’t help but say things that approximate large doses of salt into my wounds. It is not their fault. Very few are the people who can understand. This is one of the reasons I’m not all that interested in talking about you. Maybe one day it will get easier. When I’m ready to write you a letter on your birthday instead of your deathday, perhaps.

Yesterday someone asked me that question, about having other kids. I think of your dark hair and sweet-smelling skin whenever someone asks me about a bigger family. I did alright, I suppose, and answered, “No, I don’t think so.” It’s hard not to say I’ve already had another and she was taken. Can you imagine the utter standstill that would bring to the conversation? This is another thing you have taught me, Simone. Everyone has a past with hurts in it, so anything you say could be twisting a knife into someone’s pain, no matter how inconsequential what you’re saying seems. I can’t say that knowing this has changed my impulsive and direct manner of speaking, but I understand the lesson, if not how to act on it.

I was so fooled by you, my little bunny. I thought you were strong, much stronger than your elder sister, in fact. So much more active in the womb than she, so much quicker to master holding your head up, such a fierce reflex grip in your tiny hand. I didn’t think there was anything that could take you down, much less out. I could not have been more wrong. Something learned about the damage of expectations, there. I had visualized so many happy moments in our life together as a family. There’d be first words and sibling squabbles and mastering walking and Montessori school and all sorts of wonderful things to come. There’d be life, with its glittering necklace of strung together moments. But there wasn’t, see, at least not for you. And all these things I had not only imagined but pretty much banked on: whoof. Gone. Up in smoke. They’ll never happen now. I suppose this is the sort of life experience that creates people who shelter themselves from investment in others and in themselves. Maybe that’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn here, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I continue to invest and dream and hope, as fully as ever, aware now that this is an extremely dangerous thing to be doing, instead of thinking my faith actually has the power to bring my future to fruition. I know exactly how far it is to fall, and I fear it, but I carry on. Do you think that’s foolish? I do too.

I miss you. The you that was and the you that will never get to be. I still find it hard and hurtful that I have never heard your laughter. Smiles you had started to give, but not laughter. It was something I was anticipating so eagerly. I was ready to relish your joy. I have all this love for you, stored up in my heart, that I cannot deliver to you. It sears me. There is no safe place to leave it. I must carry it until the day I, too, can die.

Have I told you that our new house and our new neighborhood is brimming with rabbits? I think you would enjoy watching them darting across the yard or the street, or sometimes frozen in place and staring intently to divine whether they have been noticed. They remind me of you, with their quick motions and their little white tails that vanish too quickly into the bushes.

Goodbye for now, Simone. Thank you for letting me write to you,

Your Mother


If you are a relative newcomer to my blog and would like to read more about Simone, here is her birth announcement and here is something I wrote when she died. My co-worker was right, she was a beautiful baby.

Thanks to all of you, friends and relations, who have me in their thoughts and prayers today. My need for your support is very great.


Big Bro
Wed 29th Jun 2005 at 9:27 am

Sigh. Tears to go with yours. Your faith is indeed strong, little sister…

Wed 29th Jun 2005 at 10:13 am

Oh, Anna. I know you didn’t post this for us, but thank you.

Thu 30th Jun 2005 at 10:19 pm

I knew you would have written something, but only tonight could I bring myself to look. It, of course, is wonderfully done and like Merrie, I thank you. And like Big Bro, I contribute my tears. It’s strange how the tears sneak up on me. My outstanding memory of Simone — of which I seem to have all too few — is the soft, warm, sleeping-little-girl ball in the sling while I do laundry. I have no tactile memory at all of Rebeca — only the picture of the little white casket in my mind’s eye. She would be 20 this year. Sometimes those sneaky tears begin for one and sometime for the other, but they always express loving and longing for them both. What if they hadn’t existed? Perhaps that would be easier, but somehow I can’t believe it would be better.

Fri 10th Feb 2006 at 8:39 am

Everytime I read something like this from you Anna, I still cry for you too. I haven’t talked to you in a while, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking about any of you.

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