August ninth rolls around again and I can admit to myself that sometimes I'm glad your birthday is only three days before your big brother's. Every year I have a good excuse to stay busy, distracted. A legitimate reason to focus my attention right here, right now.
But sometimes I resent it.
And just a couple weeks ago, anticipating your fourth birthday and thinking these thoughts, I remembered a conversation I had when pregnant with you. Standing in the classroom where I worked, laughing with the director of Special Ed about how close your birthday would be to Ethan's. She suggested it would make life easier, being able to combine both birthday parties into one, big celebration. With the idealism of a young mother, I secretly promised never to shortchange you this way.
And again this year I wrap myself in the ordinary. Busy myself with plans, ninja weapons, elaborate party favors made from tissue paper.
Someday I promise I'll write down your story. It's all I have of you and so I hold it close. But sometimes I want to tell it all.
All of the details I grip tightly for myself. The way your elbow rolled under my skin. The early ultrasound when the technician managed to capture your little fist forming a perfect thumbs-up. To reassure us, we half believed.
Our excitement, planning how you would be your brother's biggest birthday gift.
Your due date that came and went and all the days of waiting.
And the doctor with her news and her sad, brown eyes that I can never forget.
The anesthesiologist who knelt beside my bed with a story of his own. A story that reached through the fog I pulled around myself and summoned my first tears.
And you. The weight of you. Every perfect part of you. Easy to imagine you were only sleeping.
I read a book the other day which mentioned that elephants grieve for their lost. The book cited a story of a mother elephant observed carrying the dead body of her calf for miles before she could lay it down and let it go. I read this part over and over.
Someday I'll write about my instinct to turn inward and the many, many people who surprised me by carrying this pain with me and helping me heal.
And the way I still miss you.