April 23rd, 2007

My Dear Simone –

You would have been three today. You would be doing all those things you never did: walking, running, talking, singing. Would you be ready for Montessori school? Would you have been a Montessori child, quintessentially so, like Sophia is? I don’t know, sometimes I doubt it. I often think of you and Sophia as opposites: her fair and you dark, her abstracted and intellectual while you embodied the present moment and the physical being, her alive and you dead.

Happy birthday, dear child. It is a beautiful day, with sunshine and breeze and birds singing. If you were here, we would have had cake. I don’t think we’ll be eating any cake without you. Not today. It is a hard day, and a long one, and there are no shortcuts through the minutes of it. And in ten weeks comes that other day, the one in which I usually write to you. Though perhaps I shall not have to this year.

We miss you still.

I haven’t yet moved on the tree I want to plant for you. I don’t know what I’m waiting for. I’ve realized something about myself, which is that I’m slow, slow, slow to absorb things and to do things. I have glimmers before I have ideas and I hold ideas for a long time before they become plans and I work plans through and through before I act on them or let them go. All gestations span extensive durations with me.

We had expected you on the journey with us for the foreseeable future, and the suddenness of your departure wouldn’t fit into my mind. I couldn’t explain it, and I still can’t. It is a mystery. However, it does clarify the futility of plans, doesn’t it? No future is foreseeable. And yet, planning is part of who I am. I think about almost everything I do before I do it. Visualization. Focus. These are held to be good things. I’m not so sure that they are, but I’m sure these qualities- whether they be helpful or sabotaging- are a part of my self.

Do you know that at one point in the hospital, before they told us you were dead, they told us you were moving to a pediatric intensive care unit? I wonder about that moment, about how you would have been if you had survived then. You probably would have been brain damaged in some way. Could I have handled that? It’s a place where my life (and yours) might have forked. Is it selfish that I sometimes prefer that potential to this reality? Do you mind that I wish for you at any cost, even the cost of your ability to think and live like the rest of us?

It is probably good that we are not given these choices.

Here is the choice that I am given: I can try, if I like, to have another child. Not for much longer is that choice available to me, but for the time being, it is. I’m afraid of that choice, Simone. I cannot replace you. I do not want to replace you. You and your space within our family are sacred and immutable. What I want, and I’m not sure I can even describe it in a way that will make sense to anyone not me, what I want is a chance to overlay the failure of having you die with the success of having a live baby. I am at war with my body. It was the last safe place for you, and somehow it was not enough. I know it is not my fault that you died. These things happen. But blame or blamelessness do not affect the aspect of failure. I failed to raise you. My body failed to nourish you. I don’t want that failure to be the last word on my physical self.

And I can think of no worse reason to have a baby. Because I was unsuccessful last time around? Because in order to fix my own self-image I need to mother again? WTF?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m too scared to have another kid. I am really scared; I won’t lie. The idea of it gives me headaches and stomachaches. What’s more, proving to myself that I can do this even if I’m scared seems like playing a game with stakes that are too high.

I have wanted all the kids I had. I planned for them. I expected them. I focused, I visualized, I foresaw. I failed, half of those times. Can I get up and try again? Should I get up and try again? I have never been more ambivalent about anything in my life.

And if I procrastinate long enough, the question will make itself moot. It will be out of my hands, and I won’t have to think about it. This too, seems like cowardice. In fact, it all seems like cowardice: having a baby to prove I can, not having one out of fear, taking precautions and leaving the whole thing aside until biology takes over.

There’s one more thing, Simone (two more, actually, but one is your father and he is responsible for his own decisions in this regard). I never wanted your sister to be an only child. I want her to have siblings, and I feel like she’s incomplete without them. But that’s what I want. I look at her and I think she needs siblings. But maybe she doesn’t. Maybe that’s just what I think she needs, and maybe I’m wrong. How am I to know, Simone, what’s the right thing to do for her, for me, for my husband, for you? How am I to know?

I carry all this love for you. Mostly, I carry it hidden. Once a year I bring it out, survey it, cry over it, then tuck it away again. But I can never put it down in this life, Simone. It’s meant for you, and since you are not here, I have to bear it still.

Happy birthday, dead daughter,

Your mother

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