People often ask how I'm doing and I'm never sure how to answer that. I believe I never will be able to reach the same level of I'm doing good as I would have should I be bringing home a healthy baby next month so everything sort of gets measured to a different scale. A learning curve. Some bonus points for making it through an entire day without a panic attack or some tears. Some days are harder than others. I find myself increasingly anxious for the 23rd of each month, knowing it was both the day Wylie was actually born and the day her birth date, my c-section, was supposed to be. Last month I had Ethan's birthday to distract me a little bit but this month I am well aware that tomorrow will be two months since we kissed her goodbye forever and I am acknowledging that might be difficult. Ethan was supposed to be born on the 23rd, too, but he decided to come the night before and was born on the 22nd with only a few minutes to spare. Maybe that was the first time he saved me from hurt without realizing it. He's good at that, my child, the three year old human band-aid that fits all of my wounds.
The thing with having a baby who has passed away is eventually there are no more stories to tell. There will be no more funny anecdotes to share on Facebook, silly quotes or even firsts to document. Eventually the only memories you have will be ones that feel redundant to share and remind of you of both a time when you had everything and the bitterness of knowing the memories are few. Most times my pangs of anxiety happen when it feels like the world has forgotten about her or somehow moved on. It's an unfair argument to make or, worse, to have with yourself in the middle of the night when you can't sleep, but I've lost grip of my rationalization months ago. People reassure me with their solemn promises of healthy future children, and while I will love all of my children the same, it won't numb the love I have for Wylie. It won't bring her back. That missing piece will always be missing because there is no way to fill the void of saying goodbye eternally to your child. There is no magic that can invalidate the certificate of stillbirth tucked into her baby book where her first photos were supposed to go. I will always love all of my babies the same just as clearly as all of my babies will never be here all together ever again. I'm not happy when people bring her up, I'm not happy when I expect people to recount the memories that only I have had with her and they don't, because they can't. Sometimes I slip into my bedroom and crack open her baby book and stare at her photos, of her little face that looks just like her father's face, breathe in her tiny hat and then slip back out into life. Into real life. And I guess for all intents and purposes I am doing good in real life, but measured by a different scale. Maybe with some partial credit for good measure because I still wake up at the crack of dawn to get my ass handed to me at Orange Theory before the sun comes up.
For the first time, Ethan has referenced Wylie's bedroom. Twice, actually, he has asked if he can use his easel that we had stored in there for no reason in particular but can't bear walking into the room to remove it. "The baby's room," he called it once. "The room for a baby," he called it the second time. This is perhaps the only time I feel guilt. Guilt that Ethan is the only one of his friends without a sibling, the only child who doesn't have a baby to dote on and I feel that perhaps he wants that as much as I wanted it when I was a child. It's imagined guilt, but it's guilt nonetheless. The guilt of, for the first time in his life, not being able to give him something that he wants.
I never really want to stop writing about her just as I will never stop writing about Ethan. It only makes sense. What greater love does a mother have than for her children? What greater joy than to watch them grow up? And what greater pain than to lose it all forever? It's why I write. Because the feelings of love my children give me are too great to not share, to not document, to not capture because there is a dire need for love in this world. And I have a lot of it to give, and my heart has a lot of healing to do.
But life keeps going. "My mouth hurts, mommy," Ethan says with a hoarse, scratchy voice. "All the way back here on top of my tongue, my mouth hurts." It's another reminder to slow down, to breathe in the sweaty smell of his hair, to let him spend the day on my lap sucking on popsicles and waiting for our pediatrician appointment. It's normalcy, it's real life. Real life with a layer of fog laying flush on our skin, but real life nonetheless. And this sweet little boy is a reminder of all the living that we have to left to do.