By Heather Carnaghan
Dear New Mama,
We were pregnant together, waddling around the same hallways at school and laughing about what bold little girls we would raise. We imagined maternity leave playdates and shared daycare possibilities when the time came that we would have to return to our classrooms. We just knew that they would skip off to kindergarten together some day and we’d have the unique journey of experiencing our daughters as both their mothers and their teachers. They were supposed to be friends. How could we know that my daughter would never meet yours?
When I learned that you were going into labor, I texted my support. I wrote, “Thinking of you today. Can’t wait to meet your sweetheart!” I assured you that you were almost there and that your perfect girl would be wiggling in your arms before you knew it. I didn’t tell you that I was worried for you or that I stayed up all night terrified that my fate would be yours too. I told you that I love you, and I meant it because I wear my bare heart on my sleeve now in a way that I never did before.
When you texted me that gorgeous baby picture, a flood of feelings knocked the wind out of me. I was relieved that your baby was safe and that babies could, indeed, still be safe. I was filled with love for this perfect little creature that you just brought into the world. I grinned from ear to ear. You, my sweet friend, just became a mommy for the first time, and I know that you are going to be so very good at it!
My heart was brimming with excitement for you, but it broke a little for me too. I couldn’t help but think that every second of this baby’s life was one that Charlotte would never have. That first breath, the first cry, the first drink of milk. In one picture, she is resting on your bare shoulder. I could imagine the warmth of her against your skin and how wonderful that must feel. Charlotte only had my warmth, and like every piece of her, it was gone so quickly. I know that you will cherish every minute with your baby, because I know that, sometimes, you will still think of mine.
I refuse to let my tragedy to keep me from celebrating your miracle. I want to hold your daughter and smell that little head of hair. I want to hear her sweet coos and wonder about who she will become. I want to celebrate when she rolls over, or makes a funny face when she first tastes peas. I was so happy when you said that you couldn’t wait for me to meet her, because, secretly, I was scared that you wouldn’t want me to. We both know that I will cry, and not in the joyful, “new baby, happy tears” way, but rather the “tsunami of grief meets the mountain of joy”, confused kind of way. I don’t want to be that mom who is always consumed by emotion, but the truth of the matter is that I am still very much consumed. I’ve gotten better at masking it. It has been two months since my baby was stillborn and every moment still hosts a conflicting dichotomy of feelings. I feel joy and sorrow at the same time and I never know what trigger might tip the scale in one direction or the other.
Thank you for texting me when you didn’t have to. I know my story is the last one that you want to think about as you face childbirth. Thank you for sharing her picture and knowing that it would hurt a little, but mean a lot. Thank you for letting me be a part of your daughter’s life, just like I might have been before. Our first meeting may be teary, but you will both always know nothing but love from me.
Heather is a teacher, poet, writer, artist, and most of all, mother of four. Her three boys inspire joy in her life and writing. Heather's eagerly awaited daughter was stillborn in October of 2017, which focused her creative energy on grief and healing. She created and maintains CharlottesPurpose.com, a website dedicated to dealing with grief positively.