Most people that know me know I am a “Boy Mom” who absolutely adores her sons and her Boy Mom adventures. I truly do. However, there is an almost unspoken reality that I live with daily.
I had a daughter.
I gave birth to Charlotte, my “official” second child, too early and she died. She was born, yet never took a breath of air. She has a name, but she didn’t live. I held her but she didn’t move. Being pregnant with her is the only memory she and I will ever have together.
Most well-meaning friends and family don’t acknowledge her existence, I am sure, out of fear of hurting me. I don’t publicly acknowledge my love for her on a daily basis for fear of the inevitable (and uncomfortable) conversations. We live in a “Suck it up, Buttercup” society and I suppose that society is sometimes righteous in its efforts to trample emotions and abolish sadness. People have to move on and while there are not many things that are certain in life, life moving on is unavoidable. However, I think of her often and love her, still.
This morning I saw the cutest little girl in our neighborhood riding her pink and white bike to school, her loose curls flying behind her with the most adorable bow perched on the top of her head. She smiled and waved at me as I drove by. I suppose it’s strange, but for a moment … I thought she WAS my daughter. My heart skipped a beat and I almost rolled down the window to call out that I loved her and hoped she had a great day. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but as I watched her cross the street I was struck by the realization that my daughter could have looked like this little girl had she lived. She had brown hair and brown eyes like I do. As I write this, I say the word “almost” aloud to myself and wonder how it is even possible that one can be a parent to an “almost could have been” child.
Sometimes whenever I leave my house with my boys in tow – I strap them in, load up our gear, adjust the rearview mirrors and … suddenly, I pause. A nagging panic blindsides me and I force myself to double check everything. I wonder to myself, “What on Earth am I forgetting?” and I realize then that there should be a fourth. I will glance at the third backseat of my Honda Pilot and it feels empty, it feels wrong. I’ll immediately play some music or talk to the boys to cover up the feeling that might take over, that despondency that shows up in the third backseat instead of a sweet-faced girl with brown curls. Today, after seeing the girl who “almost could have been” my daughter, I realized how much I miss her. She was my Charlotte Laine, my daughter who almost lived. I felt like I should set my fear of vulnerability aside and write her a letter including things I wish I could tell her.
1.) Sometimes it hurts to think about you. It brings me back to the night in the hospital whenever Mommy had to say goodbye, crying in your Grandpa and brother’s arms, begging God not to take you from me. When I think of you, my heart feels like it may stop right then (and your brothers need me so I can’t let that happen). I see, all over again, the nurse’s tearful face telling me the unfathomable … that you weren’t breathing. I go back in time and feel you in my arms again, I see your tiny, blue little face that I stare at, memorizing every inch of it before the staff comes to take you out of the room. Losing you was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced in my human life and revisiting that night is a torturous reminder that I will never know you as long as I live.
2.) I still feel Mom Guilt whenever I say I am a “Boy Mom” even though this is true. Formality says that I am a mom of 3 boys but there is an inner voice within me screaming, “But you have a daughter, too!” Whenever I was pregnant with your baby brother, Griffin, last year I was on the receiving end of many comments such as “You need a girl.” I feel guilty for not correcting them and I feel guilty that I don’t call myself a “Girl Mom, too” because you are not here. I still feel like it’s my fault that you aren’t here though the doctors have stated otherwise.
3.) Just because I don’t talk about you every day doesn’t mean I don’t think of you every single day. Because I do, and I pray for you often – even when I don’t know how to pray for you.
4.) I feel like I don’t have the right to be a grieving parent. There are many parents who have it worse. They were able to watch their living child grow and develop a personality. They were able to create precious memories only to have to bear the heartbreak of saying Goodbye. It seems easier for me because I said Goodbye before any of that happened. I feel like I can’t publicly grieve for you in order to avoid hurting other Mommies and Daddies. I also grieve even more at times for fear that you are somehow watching your family’s lives play out and I am, in a way, hurting YOUR feelings by hiding my grief.
5.) Sometimes I catch myself feeling like I know you though I was never given the chance. I “just know” you’d have confidence and you’d be so brave with your life. I just have this feeling you’d be able to do a split, love dancing and want everything you’d wear to be purple. I’ll walk through a bookstore thinking, “I bet Charlotte would read that,” and I immediately stop myself because it seems crazy. I hope, if you ARE watching Mommy’s life play out, that you think I am the “good crazy.’
6.) There are times that I think about your death in a positive light because it has taught me the importance of empathy and hope. It has caused me to endure the raw and brutal suffering that only a parent who’s lost a child would understand. Like Mommy, there are other grown-ups who miss their children like I miss you and if they ever need understanding, Mommy would be able to help them. I treasure your brothers and our time together even more now after our loss of you. Time is the most precious commodity for any of us and losing you taught me this. In this way, I get to hope to be stronger and better. I hope for the future. I look forward to seeing you again and telling you in person how much I love you.