It’s weird how one day can simultaneously be the worst and best day of your life. The worst day because it’s the only one we got with you. The best day because it’s the only one we got with you. We got to count your ten perfect little toes and your ten perfect little fingers and hold you and kiss you and tell you how much we love you.
The thing is, there’s no way to give a lifetime of hugs and kisses in one afternoon.
The thing is, you were already gone.
I always wanted a daughter. Not for the reasons that most women want daughters. I hate those baby headbands. And I said you were never allowed to be a cheerleader. But because I am so close with my mom, your Oma Jo. I joke that when times get tough, I ask myself not “What would Jesus do?” But “What would Joanne do?” I am named after her, and so are you, my Lydie Jo. I wanted that third generation of strong Lammers and Johnston women. I wanted you to call me everyday when I am 60, just because we liked to talk. I wanted you and I to have the relationship that Oma Jo and I do.
I wanted you long before I got pregnant with you last March. I wanted you always. I hope you know that, I hope you felt that. I hope you knew how much I loved you, even when I was tired and overwhelmed.
At first, I was so convinced that you were a boy. I wanted myself to be okay if I was always surrounded by boys – your Dad, your brother, and Ozzie and Jimmie too. And in July, I was so thrilled when I found out that you were a girl. Completely thrilled. It felt too good to be true. You always seemed to good to be true. Sometimes I wonder if you were never really ours. Sometimes you feel like a figment of my imagination.
After a regular doctor’s appointment, when you were doing just fine, I let your dad know. Dad said he was glad his girls were doing well. He said he was going to have to get used to saying “his girls.” He liked the sound of it. So did I.
We always check on Benjamin before we go to bed, and Dad said we’d have to get used to making two stops – checking on both our babies. Now, your room sits empty, but I say goodnight to you there anyway.
I wonder if your hair would have stayed dark like your Dad’s, or if was going to lighten up in the sun the way that Ben’s and mine do. I wonder what your cry sounds like, what your voice sounds like. I wonder if you would have been the tomboy in my mind or whether you would have surprised us all and delighted your Aunt Laura by being a girly girl. I wonder who you would have become.
I wonder so many things about you, my daughter that I never actually got to meet. I would give anything to meet you, to know you, to watch you grow up.
We got so used to the idea of you that it’s really tough to imagine life without you now. I can’t quite picture our lives without you. I hate trying to picture our lives without you.
I wish so many things, Lydie. I wish today was your birthday, like we planned. I wish we were celebrating your arrival right now, instead of celebrating you in this way we never imagined. I wish your first birthday party, not your memorial, brought all our family together. I wish you got to grow up with your big brother. He would have teased you mercilessly, but that’s what brothers do. He would have been a really good big brother. I hope you felt all his kisses, all his raspberries, all his love.
I wish I could have kissed you and made it all better. I wish our lifeline hadn’t failed us both. I wish you were here with us.
I’m sorry that we don’t get to witness your first smile, camera ready to capture the moment. I’m sorry that I don’t get to tuck you in with the blanket I made you and kiss you good night. I’m sorry that you don’t get to splash in the waves at the cottage, or go on your first kayak ride, or share a bath with your cousins. I’m sorry that I don’t get to teach you how to ski and hope you love it as much as I do. I’m sorry that I don’t get to take you to the pool, spending my summer days chasing you around, leaving exhausted and happy. I’m sorry that we don’t get to live through your moody teenage years, arguing about your curfew. I’m sorry that we don’t get to tour colleges with you, figure out where our Lydie fits best. I’m sorry I don’t get to help you mend a broken heart, tell you that everything happens for a reason. I’m sorry I don’t get to watch you fall in love, witness your wedding day, and be my own Oma Jo to your children.
And most of all, I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to take better care of you. I’ve heard many times that what happened to you wasn’t my fault, that I shouldn’t blame myself, but the truth is, I’m your mother. It was my job to take care of you and to protect you. And I’ll never stop being sorry that I wasn’t able to do that. I’ll never stop being sorry that I don’t get to mother you here on earth.
I’m sorry that we have to go on without you.
I’ve learned that life is fragile, it is delicate. It is precious. You’ve taught me that, my girl. You’ve taught me never to take the people I love for granted, not for one minute. You’re teaching me, everyday, not to look too far ahead and instead to be grateful for what I have. I have a lot, Lydie. You’re reminding me how deeply I love your dad and your brother. And how deeply I love you.
You are a part of me, Lydia Joanne. You were a part of me for 34 weeks and you’re a part of me now. I hope you can feel that. I hope you could always feel my love for you. I hope you still can.
And I promise you that we’ll carry you with us always. We won’t leave you behind, Lydie Girl. There won’t be a day, not even an hour, when we’re not thinking about you and missing you and wishing you were with us. And I can’t wait to see you again. I will cover you with kisses. You’re going to be so sick of my kisses.
I love you always.