I've mentioned being in grief therapy after the death of Eleanor. It has helped, but the healing is still a very long, hard, slow process. After my miscarriage in November, my therapist suggested I write a letter. It could be to "Baby K" or Eleanor. But she talked about how cathartic it could be to get all these feelings organized and out. The below letter is the result. I read it to Ellie on her first birthday, January 8, 2011, at the spot where we spread her ashes.
If you are a parent who has lost a child, I HIGHLY encourage you to do this. I plan to write one every year and read it to her aloud each January 8th...followed by one heck of a birthday party!
I have waited almost a year to write to you, although I speak to you often in my heart and in my head. Seeing your name on this page—writing to you—already has me in tears. I miss you so much.
When I was a girl, especially during my teenage years, my mother would say, “You’ll never understand until you have your own children” and “You’ll know when you have your own daughter.” These statements were usually in response to some hormone driven comment on my part and I probably rolled my eyes in the standard teenage response. I didn’t truly understand what she meant until your brother was two weeks old. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him and wanted to protect him instantaneously, that is primal and instinctual, but I don’t think I was IN love with him at first. I had NO idea what I was doing! But after two weeks of colicky cries and sleep deprivation something clicked. While listening to a song from a Putumayo Kids Presents: Dreamland - World Lullabies, he suddenly stopped crying when, “Arriba del Cielo” played (track 5, a cute song about tamales in the sky). I looked at him and cried the tears of joy for the first time in his life and only the second time in MY life (the first being when your father told me he loved me). After that moment, all the fears and doubts and panic went out the window. For one moment I felt I knew what my purpose was, something I struggled with for as long as I can remember. I felt feminine and peaceful and wise. My purpose was the most basic and natural one there is: to be a loving mother.
I want to be honest with you. I was a nervous wreck when we found out your gender. High school was hell for me. I wasn’t popular or thin or pretty. I was smart enough, but not brilliant. Boys weren’t interested in me. I always felt on the outside of the crowd. I feared for you, especially in today’s climate of cyber bullying and the romanticizing of teenage sex and love. I wanted to protect you and to tell you that, “it will get better”. But beyond that feeling of protection, I wanted to experience life with you; through your eyes. I wanted to watch you take your first steps. I wanted to hear you laugh and call me, “mommy.” I wanted to watch you play with your big brother. I wanted to tearfully take you to your first day of school. I wanted to help you pick out a prom dress (a tasteful, long, all-the-way-up-to-your-ears black dress circa 1880, but a prom dress none the less). I wanted to take you to college and watch you grow and learn. I wanted to see you dance and shine at your wedding. I wanted to hold your baby in my arms and sing the same lullaby I sang to you as a child. I couldn’t’ wait to tell you how proud I was of the amazing woman, mother, and wife you were sure to be. I wanted so much for you. I wanted you.
I’m sorry, Ellie. I’m so sorry. I feel like I failed you. I’m sure if given the chance I would have made plenty of mistakes, ones you would have hopefully forgiven. But I didn’t even get the chance to ask for your forgiveness for any of it. The guilt I have for not enjoying my pregnancy with you as well as the guilt for not spending every second with you when you were here consumes me. You aren’t here to forgive me and I can’t forgive myself.
I hope you know how much I love you. I hope you felt it when I touched you or when I sang to you. The same lullaby I heard when I fell in love with your brother is the same one I still use to calm him or put him to sleep. It is the same song I sang to you each time I saw you. I loved you from the instant I saw that positive pregnancy test. But I fell in love with you when I held you for the first and last time while singing that lullaby in the NICU. All of the babies crying and nurses talking and machines beeping faded and it was just me and you. I told you how proud I was of you and how much I loved you. I told you that it was okay for you to go and that I didn’t want you to be in pain anymore. I have to believe you heard me…that you knew what I was saying. Did you?
I have been walking around in a fog since you left. I think about you constantly and wish we had more time together. You are with me all the time and not a day goes by where I don’t think about you and wish the outcome could have been different. I would give anything for it to have been. I would have taken your place, given you my beating heart if I could have saved you. The universe is cruel and unfair and I don’t understand any of it. I miss you terribly, Ellie. I had such dreams for you and now all I have are dreams of you. The pain is indescribable, but I need it to feel closer to you. It is the only thing that makes sense.
I wish I had something poetic and deep to say to you to adequately express how much I love you. I don’t think childless women or men will ever truly understand the bond a mother has with her child. You are forever a part of me. When you left, you took that part with you. Maybe that is what motherhood is really about; nurturing, loving, supporting, giving a part of yourself to your child so they can continue on their journey. If it is, you must know that you left a piece of you with me too and it gives me hope and purpose again. I will always love you, Ellie. The moment I don’t say or think it daily, will be the moment we are together again…wherever that may be.