When I picture Lydie, I don't actually picture a baby. She's about two in mind. She was two last year and I think she'll be two next year too. I don't picture the baby I held while my tears fell.
It's hard for me, as Lydie's mama, to admit that the image of her, as she was, not as she would be, is blurry in my mind.
Her face was bruised. Her skin was peeling. Her nose was dripping blood. I vividly remember wiping her nose, asking myself what the point was as it just continued to drip. Then I told myself, I am her mother. I will wipe her nose.
I've been wiping Ben's nose for almost 4 years and Josie's nose for almost 18 months, but I only got 6 hours to wipe Lydie's nose.
Soon after Lydie's birth, I framed photos of her and spread them around our house. Less than a week later, I went around and collected them, and they are still sitting, framed, in her memory chest. It's hard to see the perfect little features through the bruised eye and ruby-red blood pooled lips. The bruising hurts my heart.
I can't picture what she really would have looked like.
So, after encouragement from a few BLM friends, I decided to get a sketch done of Lydia by Dana. As my friends told me, the artist has a knack for seeing babies as they should be. As Brooke wrote, she sees "past the stillness to the baby who is there."
Still, after finally making this decision, I still dragged my feet. And if you know me, you know I'm not a procrastinator. I get shit done.
I was just scared. Scared to see how perfect she really was. Scared that I wouldn't recognize her, that she wouldn't look like the baby I held in my arms. Scared that my mama heart wouldn't know my own daughter.
Comfortable knowing Lydie in the sunrises and sunsets and the wind on my face, but not as who she should have been.
Eventually I sucked it up. Took a deep breath, emailed photos of my bruised, dead, perfect girl. This week, I finally received Lydie's sketch. I was sitting in the student union when the email came through, and I quickly clicked my email closed. I know I needed to be behind closed doors in the privacy of my office. So I raced back there as soon as I could.
I opened the attachment and stared at the screen.
And felt nothing.
But huge disappointment.
Do I not recognize my own child?
Is this perfect baby Lydie?
I stared at the screen some more.
I leaned back.
My breath caught in my throat as I caught a glimpse of Josie.
(The artist has never seen a photo of Josie)
I pulled up photos of Lydia.
My heart flipped studying her nose.
So were detail of her lips, the curve of her jawline, the spacing between her eyes.
I started bawling.
I forwarded it to my closest confidents - my mom and sister, who were the only other to meet Lydia, a few BLM friends.
I stared some more.
I cried some more.
My mom said she had more hair. But that she sees more of Ben in the sketch.
(The artist had never seen a photo of Ben).
I examined her hands, not seeing the long slender fingers.
Eventually, I asked the artist to fix those two things: more hair on Lydie, thick and dark like her Dad's hair. Longer fingers, more slender. So big for her little body.
And the result?
I've started to believe that it's my girl, wrapped in the blanket I made her, the one I sleep with every night.
The longer I stare at this sketch, the more in love I am.