I visited my best friend last weekend and I held her new baby--just over two weeks old. Ellie Kate is positively adorable, all blue eyes and blond fuzz and soft skin, and she slept draped across my chest, milk-drunk and lovely. I held her and my eyes filled up with tears, and over the wheeze of the breast pump that my friend was using as she sat on the couch next to me, I patted that sweet, sleeping baby and said, "I'm so scared I'll never have this."
She told me that I will, and most of the time I almost believe her.
I am so, so grateful to be pregnant. I think we honor the love we have for Eliza by wanting to have another baby. She made us parents and it's a testament to her that we want so much another chance to raise a child, to have more of the joy of parenting and less of the sorrow. I feel so lucky--so dangerously, cautiously, fearfully lucky--to be able to hold on to the hope that we will have another chance to experience those simple pleasures (and, yes, even the frustrations) of having a baby.
But I'll never have that chance with Eliza.
And as much as I already love the Deuce, as much as this baby is wanted and welcomed, this pregnancy has not changed for one moment how much I want Eliza back.
I still want THAT baby, my first baby, my sweet girl.
I want us to have THAT life, the one I thought for sure was meant to be, the one where we're like everybody else and we watch our kids grow up and our heartaches are far in the future.
I want us to be THOSE parents, the ones who never cradled a dead child, who never cried themselves to the point of oblivion, who never tasted the metallic chill of that sort of fear and loss.
And I think to myself, if I could trade it, if I could have a thirteen-month-old baby girl and not be pregnant again, I'd take that deal in second.
I know I won't always feel that way. I've been assured by other moms who have endured a loss that a trade becomes unfathomable, and you just want ALL your kids (and really, is that too much to ask?).
I know that these hypothetical bargains with the universe are stupid and a waste of time and a kind of self-torture. And why? To prove how much I love Eliza? To make myself feel guilty (guiltier?) for all the mixed feelings that accompany The Deuce?
It's just that I miss her. And now that I'm pregnant, it's kind of like my grief has become more focused. It's not so much about what I'll never have (although that fear is still very real), but it's about what I'll never have with her.
And really, it was always about that. I wrote long ago about how even I was sort of stunned about how much I could love her as an individual and her own little person, when I'd never really known her outside my belly. I knew all along, as we all know, that children are not replaceable or interchangeable. But as my heart expands--cautiously, reluctantly even--to make room for the Deuce, as I let the hope of having another baby enter into my consciousness, I realize all over again how much we've lost that we can never get back.
Eliza is so many things to me, but she never gets to just be that sweet baby we brought home from the hospital, the one whose diapers we changed, and whose smile lit up our home. She never gets to assert her little personality and develop her own little quirks. She never gets to crack us up with her facial expressions, or astonish us with her brilliance, or delight us with her athletic prowess (as she undoubtedly would have, right?). She is a precious symbol of unconditional love, she is our firstborn daughter and our Baby Duck, but she doesn't just get to be what we wanted most. Our little girl.
As I've said before, I can't deny the many gifts that Eliza has brought to us. The way she has connected me to other people, the way she has opened my eyes to the suffering that happens all around us, the way she showed me my capacity for love was beyond what I had even imagined. I will be a better mom because of her. I will be a better wife and daughter and sister and friend because of her. I will be a more compassionate and understanding person because of her. My love for The Deuce is shaped by having loved her. I know that my life is richer and fuller and brighter and fiercer than it would be if I'd never loved and lost Eliza.
But my life will never be what it could have been if she were here.
Oh, I miss her.