“We’re pregnant! Due in September, she’s six weeks along already,” my brother saw fit to tell me and Steve when Ella was about a week old.
It was lovely news. Just wonderful for my brother and dear sister in-law. I felt a familiar pang but brushed it off – I didn’t have to feel that envy now! We finally had a baby of our very own after four failed attempts.
Of course, little did we all know but three weeks later there would be tragedy beyond any measure in our family when our own daughter, Ellanor, died suddenly before ever making it home.
Now, of course, each year on this day in September our focus is on our beautiful, sweet niece as she celebrates her birthday. She is a classic of a kid, sharp as a tack, quick-witted, cheeky, all those things that make her deliciously unique. She will also forever remind me of the age our daughter would have been turning – seven this year – and it is this connection that both tugs at my heart and brings a wide smile to my face at the same time. The cousin she would have loved who lived and died before she herself drew breath.
How do we possibly instill in these boisterous, life-full children the bittersweetness of their very existence? We don’t. Of course, we don’t. But I, Ella’s mother, can hold that thought. Perhaps when my nieces are adults, with or without babes of their own, they might want to learn more. For now, the presence of Ellanor’s name in our family, her pictures on our walls, her name on our lips occasionally, are enough sign-posts for them to be used to the very tricky concept of the death of a cousin. So young, before they met. One day, if it’s ordained, I will be so happy and proud (of my nieces and of my daughter) to have that chat with them.
We are reminded in ever more subtle ways of our lost baby daughter, Steve and I, on days like these where it would be considered unnecessary or impolite or otherwise self-focused of us to mention what the day means to us.
Instead, I mention it here, where my family may look but is not likely to. Where it might strike a cord of familiarity in those who are my peers – other bereaved parents, at varying points (weeks, months, years) in their own journey of life without one of their precious children. Where it is more useful a moment shared, both for me and perhaps just one reader going through something similar.
So, whomever you are, I tip my cap at you in solidarity and just want to say, I get it. Get me?