My best friend had a baby on Saturday.
This baby is special, so indescribably special to me. She is beautiful and amazing and wrinkly and pink. The way every baby should be and then some.
I remember when she called me with the news. I was pulling out of a Parkway high school parking lot after a softball game last fall. We were pregnant together. I was so excited I nearly cried.
I thought of you and her growing up together. Although I didn't know you were both girls at the time, I just knew you would be close. Like her mother and I. I imagined the two of you sharing sippy cups and time outs. I saw sleepovers and sing alongs, dances and tutoring sessions. Birthday parties and bike rides and college applications.
It's hard to explain how I felt when she arrived. There was happiness of course, but there was also sadness. An extreme, gut wrenching pain that left me doubled over in the corner while your brother watched cartoons in the next room. I was sad that you were gone, I was sad that you'd never meet her, but mostly I was sad because I couldn't just be happy. This pain that has become all too familiar in these times. Holidays and birthday parties, their patrons no longer offering solely celebratory smiles. There is a mourning on these days now. A vacancy. I see empty bouncy seats. One less voice in the chorus.
I wanted to be there with her. I wanted to rush to the hospital as I had when her first child was born, wanted to open my arms and welcome this miracle with everything in me. But I couldn't. Not yet.
Your grandparents had offered to watch your brother that afternoon, and after dropping him off I drove around in a daze. I didn't realize I was lost until the second U-Turn. Then I saw the lights.
The police officer was nice enough, "Do you know how fast you were going?" etc, etc. I thought of the made-for-TV movie moment that could have happened. He runs my license and approaches the car. Just as he's about to write the ticket he notices the pain in my eyes. He can sense my despair, feel the weight of my world as he rips the paper in two. "Slow down, " he warns with a smile.
But my life is no longer one of sensible endings. Every time I breathe it's unfair.
I felt it then, the weight in my arms. The truth. My dead daughter. The jealousy and the guilt. I was pretty sure the universe had begun to turn against me in that moment. The final brick that breaks the back.
Only I didn't break. I stared at the ticket for awhile before pulling away and eventually, I made it home.
Tonight I met her, and I'm so glad that I did. I had feared it for days. The happiness that I suck from rooms now, smiles stolen from deserving faces. I could see myself losing it as she was handed to me, falling to my knees in my grief and robbing the person I love like a sister of what is so rightfully hers.
Instead I felt happy. The pure, unavoidable happiness that perfection exudes. I held her for longer than I ever dreamed I'd want to. I took her in as I thought of nothing but potential. A life so ready to be lived, an aunt so ready to watch.
I know you'll be with her always. You'll be there on the playgrounds, running beside her as she chases butterflies and prince charmings. For all of her happy endings and second chances, the days she takes her first steps and the nights she tests the limits of curfew. And when the world begins to pull at those tiny arms, I want you to do something for me. I want you to tell her she is strong. Tell her she is loved.
And tell her she can do it.