Somehow, you're two.
Two years in, and I still haven't found the words to tell you how much I love and miss you.
On the day of your birth, it's hard not to relive every single moment over again. Sometimes I want to relive those moments and sometimes I want to think about anything but.
I remember when I was in labor with you, I snapped at anyone who referred to you being "born." It didn't seem right to be using that word when you were already dead, so I kept saying, "not born. Not born. Delivered."
I'm sorry for that.
I'm sorry I was trying to cheat you out of your birth.
Because you were born, my girl. You were born like every other two-year-old boy or girl. And I'll never forget that moment, and I'm so sorry it was tainted by some awful doctor's unsympathetic statements and by my own weeping.
The day was overcast and gray. I watched the rain fall from my hospital bed, and I thought the weather was mourning with us.
And you were born. Still and beautiful.
Two years later, I've actually been trying to teach myself to use that word more often. Instead of saying, "after Lydie died..." I say, "after Lydie was born..." It helps me focus on the love rather than the grief. It helps the people I'm speaking to remember that you're a person, and honestly, it keeps them more comfortable too.
In fact, just a couple weeks ago, I ordered a birth announcement for you. Ignoring the options reading "Introducing..." or "Welcome....," I choose one that read "LOVE." When it arrived, I framed it and placed it on the mantle next to your big brother's and your little sister's. Your rightful place.
I like having all three of my babies framed in a row, just as it should be.
I think about how I kissed you one final time and left the hospital without you. I would do anything to see your face again. I would do anything to sharpen my hazy memory, fuzzy from drugs and shock and grief. Next week, I'm meeting Beth and Amanda to talk through details of your birth. I want to hear what they remember, I want to fill in the hazy spots. I want to learn new things about you.
I warned them that I'm going to be a mess, but it will be really good for me.
I'm learning more of your story.
I don't watch the video of your memorial too often. It's hard to go back to such a raw place. Last time I watched it, I grimaced listening to myself talk about you in the past tense.
I want to shake the Heather of December 2014 and tell her, "Your relationship with your daughter is not over."
I'm still learning; you're still teaching me. You continue to teach me how a person can feel the duality of emotions, how the moments I feel the most joy are also the moments when my heart hurts the most. You teach me me how a person may leave this world, but the love for them does not. And you you teach me how our relationship, of mother and child, continues even when physically separated.
What I want to tell myself, when leaving the hospital without you, the most heartbreaking walk and car ride of my life, is it's not over.
All those plans I had for you, for us? They don't get to happen, not in this lifetime.
And I know I will grieve that for the rest of my life.
But your story is far from over.
When I say I miss you, I miss you in the physical sense. I miss those big flipper feet and the perfect fingernails and that dark head of hair and the cutest little nose. I feel cheated that I don't know if your hair would stay that dark or turn lighter. I watch Ben and Josephine play and giggle together and I imagine you right there with them.
I miss you.
But I feel you with me in so many ways.
From our new house, we drive by the Reservoir every morning. This time of year, we watch the sunrise over the water. That beauty, it makes me think of you, and I often say good morning to you out loud. Benji has learned to say good morning to you there as well. The other day, Dad took Ben and Jos to school. An out-of-the-ordinary morning for us. As I was buckling Ben into his carseat, I told him it looked like a good Lydie sky. Ben replied, "I'll tell Lydie 'good morning' for you." A few minutes later, Dad sent me a photo text of that sky. Ben asked him to send it to me, telling Dad he knows how much I miss you.
I like knowing that Ben feels you too. That you're not only a part of me, and of Dad, but of your brother and your sister too. He has been making a birthday card for you, and he just told me that we had to send it to you with balloons. But we have to wait until it's dark, until the stars are out.
Your siblings? Their understanding of you is going to continue to change, but I promise you that we'll hold your space sacred always. But I also know that your space will grow and change, just as you would have. So those times that Dad doesn't reach into his pocket to hold up his Lydie stone, or I don't flip my wrist around in teasing but in truth, or Ben's not clutching Lydie Bear, or we're not standing in front of your garden? You are still in that photo as much as any other one.
I'm still wrestling with how other people see us. The cutting innocent comments. But I know the truth. And I sure as hell hope you do too.
On ordinary mornings, after I drop off Ben and Josephine at school in the morning and get into the van without them to continue on my way, I sometimes breathe a sigh of relief. Then during the day, I'll glance at the clock and wonder how they're doing. I know when they'll be getting their lunch, when they'll be settling in for quiet time. But I also know they are in good hands and I may go for a while without wondering how they are doing. Still, every single day, I look forward to our reunion at 5 pm. I curse the colleagues or the traffic if they make me even three minutes late. I can't wait for the moment when your younger sister's face lights up when she sees me and knee-walks over to me and when your big brother races around his classroom like a madman, showing off. I can't wait to get those kids in my arms again.
I don't get that sweet reunion with you at the end of a workday, because I never leave you behind. When I drop off your brother and sister, you come with me in a way they don't. I may go several hours without wondering how they are doing, but I don't go five minutes without thinking about you.
It's hard to explain what that feels like to other people, how you've always been a part of me. How you feel engrained in the deepest part of my soul.
Two years later, and I'm still learning. I'm still learning how to carry you.
I am starting to feel more confident.
I told you once that I heard this can make me bitter, or make me better.
At the time, the idea of becoming better seemed ludicrous. Laughable. Absurd. I had no idea how to take this devastation, this crippling grief, and turn myself into a better person.
Two years later, and I feel like I might be starting to figure it out.
It's not the grief that's going to make me better.
You are turning me into a better person. You are.
You are not grief.
You are my daughter, my second child, my much-anticipated, much-loved, much wanted beautiful girl.
I will always grieve because I don't get to watch you grow up. I don't get to mother you in the way I want.
I wish I knew what two looked like for you. I wish I knew your favorite breakfast and the shirt you always choose and the way you like to snuggle and what toy you steal of your sister's and the way you copycat your cousins. I wish I knew your reaction when you saw me at the end of every school day.
But as I watch that sunrise every morning, I can feel you making me stronger, more compassionate, more patient. Better.
I still get to mother you. You are still mine.
And though I hate the cards that life has dealt us, and I would do anything to turn back time and bring you back, I also wouldn't trade you for anything.
I am yours and you are mine.
Happy second birthday, little girl. Stay with me.
I love you.