today, 1/31

My sister calls to tell me being an adult sucks. She says, You’d think things like addiction, losing your job, and babies dying were rare events. But they’re not. They happen all the fucking time.

Her dog is dying. Died. Today.

Today, your due date, Little One.

Due date, shmoo date, my brain retorts. It shouldn’t mean anything. This date was always hypothetical. My sentences cycle into the conditional tense of some parallel life that I can barely imagine. Yet I try. You would have been two, if you’d been born today. We would have already experienced these firsts I have with your sister. I would have been a different kind of mother. I might have—maybe, probably—been pregnant again, or you might have even had a brother or sister that could not now possibly exist.

It feels as far away from now as a distant star. Something incomprehensible, like how we see its light even if it died millions of years ago.

Two years ago today we drove ourselves to the butterfly house and stood, fragile creatures that we were, among them and saw your paper kite butterfly for the first time.

This morning as I am getting dressed your sister fingers the black lacy lines of your butterfly tattoo on my shoulder. But it just feels like skin and she quickly turns her attention to the more interesting bumps and moles on my chest.

Your new cousin was born this morning. Another little girl. We get the news at lunch, and a picture. I search her face for you.

I will always be doing this. Looking for you. Wondering. The way expectant parents do, only your gestation has become my whole life.

It could just be a day, A says. I think she is trying to say today doesn’t have to mean anything.

But it’s too late.

Today, already, a birth, a death. When two years ago there was nothing. It was all over by then, your birth, your death. Our lives, already derailed onto those parallel tracks, and us, already hurtling here, away from you.

I realized last night I no longer relive your death every day.

But I do say good morning to you every day, and you and I, we say goodnight to your sister each night. I think of you, not so much as you would have been, but as you were, so briefly.

A faint glimmer of starlight still reaching me.

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Who is ‘me’?

It’s hard to write with a living baby in my life. Aside from the obvious–that there’s just no time–I’m just not sure what I need to say. What I need. What I want. Who I am.

“How are you?” a friend asked, a few weeks after Margot was born. And I jokingly responded, “Who is ‘me’?”

I’m struggling with my sense of myself. I’m struggling with my sense of Joseph. Who am I, now that I’m a mother, when I was a mother before but this is so clearly a different animal altogether? Who is Joseph in my life now, now that I watch his sister grow and every day become more and more a part of our lives while Joseph stays still, always no days old, in the past?

This is what I always wanted. This motherhood.

I’m having trouble squaring that with the fact that Joseph was what I always wanted. My firstborn. My first baby.

His death has changed who I thought I’d be as a mother. Small ways I am uncovering little by little. Once, twice, three times a day I look at Margot and go cold with fear, sure she isn’t breathing, certain she has died.

Another loss–who I thought I would become.

One, two, three days go by when I don’t think of Joseph. Not that I forget him, but that he is not in my present. I don’t sit in the glider and look at his urn or his butterfly or the photo of me eight months pregnant, a few days before he died–we moved his ashes. I don’t clasp his name around my neck every morning–Margot is grabbing; she rubs her face against the chain, too, pushing it hard into my skin. I don’t go out the back door much anymore–I park in the front–so I don’t see his bench and his camellia and the arbor every day.

Who are you, Joseph? Who are you to me, now?

A says when she reads about new losses on the Glow forums, when she hears the shock and confusion and despair of those early days, she wants to say, “Trust the process.” Grief comes and lives differently in each of us. You’ll find your way. Things will become clear, in their own time.

So that’s what we are doing. Trying to trust that Joseph’s place, his new shape, will become clear in our lives now that Margot is here.

 

© Burning Eye