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To Margaret Hope, on her first birthday…

Dear Maggie,

This isn’t how I expected your first birthday to be. When you were still with me, I thought about how we would have a simple birthday party for you. Just the family and a small cake with a single candle for you to blow out (with mommy’s help). I thought by now I would have gotten to know you better. Learned all about the things you liked and disliked (maybe you preferred being burped a certain way, or smiled when certain songs were played, or had a fondness for certain animals or colors or shapes). I hoped that by now, JB and I would be looking for a new place to live. We would still be in Sanford. He would be working, I would be home watching and caring for you. It would have been an adjustment. I’ve never cared for an infant. I was so happy to finally learn from you, but this isn’t how it happened at all.

Sadly, this time last year, I was lying on a hospital bed with my feet elevated at Mount Sinai, praying to everything and anything that you would somehow stay put for longer. That the funneling didn’t matter because you would be the miracle that would change everything. People would write about you for years, wondering how you came to be, so young at only 22 weeks gestation. JB was right besides me always. My family taking turns inside that awful room. My body being poked and prodded with various needles. Fluids. Demerol. Steroids for your tiny, little lungs. A catheter which I would later see hurt your tiny face while you were still inside me. My water might have broken around this time, and that was when I knew it wouldn’t be long before I met you.

I don’t know where I found the strength to give birth to you, my love. I grabbed hold of JB’s hand so tightly, and did everything¬† could to give you life, if only for a brief time. The moment I saw you was the happiest, scariest, most surreal moment of my entire life. I did not see your face, only your tiny hands and feet up in the air, reaching out for something, maybe for me, maybe for warmth. The lights were probably too bright, but you couldn’t even open your eyes yet. You never saw daddy or me, but we saw you. Your skin was colored like fall leaves, brown and beige and orange and red from the blood, and I feel like I saw purple in there as well. But I can’t be certain of anything because of the drugs I was on. The drugs I never wanted to take but had to because you came so soon. I had pictured this beautiful, intervention-free birth, with music, maybe in a bath tub, and that I would bring you right up to my chest, skin-to-skin, and hold you close to me for the first time. This was not how it happened.

They put you in a plastic box and the doctors and nurses all crowded around you. I could not see you though I was desperate to. My job wasn’t done. There was still the placenta. And I was in no shape to stand or walk or be anywhere near you, though I feel like maybe I should have somehow.

I only saw you once more while you lived. I went later in the evening, walked over to the NICU to see you. My world was shattered when I saw you with all those tubes, lying so helpless and alone in that box. I wanted to rescue you. To bring you back into the warmth of my womb where you’d spent so many weeks. Just a week prior to your birth, JB and I watched The Little Mermaid and I sang along and you kicked inside me the whole time, enjoying our muffled voices and joy. It’s one of the few memories we shared.

Maggie, I wish you were still with me, and not just your ashes in a box by my bed. I miss you every day. You’re going to have a little brother. He’s still little. Smaller than you were when you were born, and I can only hope and stay positive that he will stay with me longer than you were able to. But you will always be my first, my darling little girl. Nothing will ever replace that. Your brother will know that you existed, that he has an older sister out in the universe, out among the stars someplace.

What I wouldn’t give to have gotten to hold you while you still breathed. The doctors did everything they could, but it was too late. You were so small. Why the impatience to get out here so soon? I know it wasn’t your fault. I hope that you never felt pain. We love you so much and still do and hope to honor you in every way we can. I tell others about you so that they know you existed. I know part of you is still with me, in my heart. You are what gives me the strength to go on.

I love you so much, Maggie.

Happy first birthday, my love. Forever frozen in time.

the-little-mermaid-in

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