Friday, February 26, 2010

A long letter to my little daughter...

I was thinking the other day about making a diary to record all of Bella's little "firsts" - and to some degree, I think I will do that. But just recording "you smiled on this day for the first time" doesn't really capture too much of the emotions I've been feeling in these last few weeks, so I thought I'd take some time today and write a letter to my daughter, who, on Tuesday, will be a while seven weeks old! With that said, here we go:

Dear Bella,

Here I sit, on a Friday morning at about 9.25am, starting this letter to you. You're sitting behind me sound asleep in your car seat, a little vision in a dusky pink sweat suit, making little noises as you sleep. Neil Diamond just started playing ("I am, I said") and the morning sun is streaming through the window blinds in the back room at our house. The absence of the willow this winter has made this back room a lot more sunlit: we had to have the willow felled last December. Isn't it funny that with one life cut short (or rather, chopped short - the willow is still alive, after all - just a lot smaller!), another - you - pop out soon afterward? It's nice though: I can take you out this spring and we can sow wildflower seeds out there, and they'll grow because we have the right light now.

I am going to pause now, and take a picture of you at this moment:

...and there you are, just waking up. Looks like you went back to sleep though, so I shall continue, stopping only to rub some Burt's Bees Almond Milk hand creme on - that's a brand I bet, by the time you are able to read this letter, you will know well. I like the Burt's Bees stuff and use it on you a lot. I bought some for your sister Josie, and now we use that after the bath - lovely baby oil that smells nice.

Ah, now you did wake up: time for your morning feed - you're grizzling for me! It's 9.32am so you're right on time. I'm going to nurse you to sleep right here in the bed in the back room, so you can sleep there while I work...

...alright, you've now had breakfast and are asleep in the little bed here close to me. Here you are. It's 9.44am now:'re smiling, nice and full. We do this every morning - usually about an hour earlier, but we had a busy morning this morning. We went to school for the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast they have every year. Quite a few people got a look at you and remarked at how well you've been growing. Your cute, chubby little cheeks certainly indicate that you know where the food's at...

You'll be asleep now for a while, so I can get on with the main portion of the letter here.

I wanted you to know that I appreciate you having come into this world, so much. We planned you, your Daddy and I - you were a plot, hatched strategically and put into action over the course of several months, you know! I took almost every herbal supplement known to man (or so it seems) to try to get pregnant with you, and wouldn't you know, I got pregnant with you on the one month I hadn't taken anything apart from prenatal vitamins.

I found out you existed only nine days after your conception. I'd taken a cheap internet strip test in the morning and there was *something* there - just a hint of a shadow. It made me curious, so I got a double pack of much more expensive tests at the grocery store at about 2pm that afternoon - the grocery store opposite my work. I took one in the bathroom at work, and the double pink line I got was pretty obvious. I can remember how I felt: my heart just leapt in my chest - my blood pressure shot up and I could feel my ears getting hot. I sat there barely breathing with this reflexive smile on my face. I took the test into the break room and had to sit down in a chair because my excitement had made me feel faint! I showed a co-worker, who confirmed that my eyes weren't deceiving me... Then I called your Daddy, who I could hear was smiling over the phone.

Funnily enough at that time, I was training a new district manager, a very nice man we'll call "D" - who, in years past, had been a minister at a very large church in the Twin Cities. I say "funnily enough" because one of my reactions to the positive pregnancy test was to kind of walk about with my head in the clouds muttering blasphemous things like "holy cow" and "oh my God" and "Jesus Christ" in front of the ex-minister, who really couldn't do much but smile at the occasion, though I kept apologizing and repeating myself over and over again...

Here are a the first tests from that day - such faint lines, but there you were:

Here is the digital test I took the next morning, ten days after you first sprung to life in my tummy:

Naturally I couldn't believe it, and took virtually every different type of test I could find, exuberantly looking at these blue and pink lines. I remember being just as crazy and excited with Josie - but with you, there was an added measure of triumph because we'd planned you and succeeded!

Now of course, the rest of the pregnancy is very carefully written down, week by week. What hasn't been written down yet are some of the feelings I've had since you were born. So, if you don't mind, I will fast forward to the moment I could feel your head coming out...

There you were, becoming separate from me - our last few moments joined together were coming to an end, now. I reached down and felt your head - you felt like a very soft walnut. Not as slimy as I'd thought - but very much softer, the wrinkled skin all gathered up on the part of your head presenting. Feeling you coming out was incredible! The "ring of fire" wasn't as bad as I'd thought it was going to be - uncomfortable, sure - but what really was amazing was the fact that they were telling me your head was almost out, and I could see in the mirror that it was true! So I pushed with all my might, and sure enough, out you popped. I still have the vision in my mind of your cheeks and your nose facing down, all blue, with your eyes shut. It was incredible and all I wanted at that point was the rest of you out, so I could get a good look at you. So I pushed again, and out you came, and were lifted onto my chest straight away by Dr Thorn - who looked after you with such tender care when you were in my tummy.

And there you were. My baby. The one that grew inside me all those months, now earthside and beautifully alert, breathing, healthy, whole. Your Daddy waited for you to yell - he was still very worried, as he had been the whole time you were in my tummy - and for him, it seemed like an age before you started making noise, though I could see long before that, that you were absolutely fine and looking about. Mind you, when you did start yelling, you were pretty loud for a good few minutes. Here you and I meet for the very first time:

Here, you meet Daddy for the first time:

Dr Thorn sat in a chair next to the baby monitor looking really exuberant! Your Daddy stood by my side, dripping tears onto the bed. Kate stood there across the room holding the video camera with this enormous beam on her face and our nurse Stacey, was walking about just rosy-cheeked and happy as a clam. Paula, another nurse who was taking over, was smiling about her business, taking your measurements and plopping your little feet down onto various papers for footprints. Here are your feet, all dirty from the ink:

Now, let's fast forward a bit. I was sick after you were born - a side effect of the intrathecal - actually, I was sick for the first time just at the time we both met your pediatrician - it was sort of a "hello - sorry could you take the baby? I'm going to be sick..." meeting! After that, I had a nice meal, and you, I and your Daddy all were together. Some good friends of ours came around to see you that evening, but apart from that and the nurses and doctors - some of whom were surprised you'd been born a VBAC and not another cesarean - we were left alone. The wonderful thing about it was, that I was able to get up and walk around pretty much straight away - very mobile, unlike with Josie where everything had gone wrong. I was very woozy from the medication for the nausea though: they'd tried to give me something mild, but I'd continued to be sick, so in the end I had to have some really crazy IV medication...

We spent a blissful - and sleepless - two days in the hospital. You were cluster nursing, meaning you were very intent on bringing in my milk and would nurse for hours at a time, mostly at night. You had a very long - four hour - nap the day after you were born, which worried me, but the nurses said that was fine. You slept all the way from 10am until 2am. Christie came with Maddie, who was disappointed she couldn't hold you that day!

We came home on Thursday the 14th. You and Daddy both had a very long nap - I think he slept for six hours, probably mostly with relief - when we got there. On the way home we drove through Taco Bell to get something instant to eat. We listened to Bob Marley in the car...

In those first few days, I barely put you down for an instant. I didn't even like being out of the room you were in - even to take showers, which felt so good. I tried putting you in your crib at night, but your breathing sounded so irregular that I felt better with you next to me in bed, in your little sleep positioner. So that's where you are, still - on the outside, next to me.

You first smiled at me for sure, at 15 days. You smiled often in your sleep in those first few weeks, and made funny little chicken noises. Sometimes, you had nightmares, and I wondered what they could be of? You'd breathe quickly and look so frightened, still with your eyes closed. I wondered if they were of your newborn exam, when you'd cried more vigorously and for longer than at any other time in your life so far. Perhaps they were little dreams of being alone, or in the company of bad energy. I don't really know - but, now, they're become less frequent, which is nice.

Naturally, like any other baby, you had baby acne, which first appeared on your chin at about two and a half or three weeks. Then it went away on your chin and appeared on your forehead. Then, it went away on your forehead and popped up again on your cheeks. After that we had a few on the nose, and then a few random ones, and now at almost seven weeks, it's almost completely gone, which is a relief! Along with the baby acne - almost on the same timeline - you've begun to be more and more expressive, which is wonderful! Here you are, smiling in your sleep at about 3 weeks and 2 days old:

Here you are, asleep in the big bed...

A couple of days later, on the 6th of February, you got to try out your swing for the first time. We didn't have any batteries for it to begin with, so we had to swing it by hand. Your other brother and sister, D and A, just found it really fun to swing you about! Here you are with them, looking very small:

Here you are in your Winnie the Pooh outfit at 4 weeks old:

Here again at 4 weeks old, just getting sleepy...

And finally, asleep...

At just before five weeks, you began to smile socially an awful lot! You'd smile in the morning, and after your morning nap, and your afternoon nap, and then a little bit in the evening. After that was your fussy time. Still is, actually! Here you are, smiling at about 4 weeks and 5 days:

I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to see you smile at me in response for the very first time. It was so wonderful! Not only were you here, but you were feeling happy! It has been my quest you see, for the last six and a half weeks, to keep you surrounded by good people, love, good energy and interaction as much as possible, so that you can see all the wonderful things there are to show you, and feel very loved and very cherished and protected. So your gummy little smile was evidence that something was working!

Here you are a couple of days after that last picture, on the 16th of February 2010, making a few faces:

You started making all these wonderful faces with more and more regularity, which made for a wonderful Valentine's day. Daddy got me a purple and gold rose - it went so nicely with the red and the blue roses he'd bought the previous two years. They are made by coating and preserving a real rose, and then they paint gold on the outside - they're really pretty. Daddy gets me one every year for Valentine's day now. Here is the purple rose of your birth year with the two from before:

And then here, asleep in a nest on the sofa with your little bear on Valentine's Day:

As the weeks passed, I still couldn't get enough of you. Just looking at you made my heart light. You smelt lovely and babylike, and I often still, now, scoop you up and just smell your head. Your hair is really growing now, and you're looking more like me (as a baby) every day - but that's another story. Your skin is so soft and usually nice and warm, and as you grow, it's getting more and more springy as your baby flesh gathers in pudges and rolls all over your little body. Your fingers have dimples at the ends of them - I don't think I was ever so squishable as a baby - you're certainly squishable - you look like a little doll!

Often I look at you and stop, because I see how you and Josie look so much alike. Then I have a sad feeling in my heart because I wish I could have kept her too: she would have been a great big sister. Sometimes when I hold you, I still feel as though I am holding her too - like twins. The feeling was very strong when you were first born. Now it's a whisper in the air - maybe it'll always be there. It doesn't seem to bother you at all, so I think we'll be okay.

You're so beautiful, my darling darling. You really are. My favorite times of day are when I am looking into your eyes. Early in the morning, or sometimes in the middle of the night, you open up your eyes and tilt your head up to find mine, catching them with raised eyebrows and an "ooo!" look on your face. You grin your little grin, and make a few faces, talking to me. Saying "glue glue glue" and "oooo" and "aaah, aah, ah!" and "gennhaar!" and "guh!" and all sorts. If it's night time, we only have the night light switched on, and then your eyes are big and dark and full of sparkle, like a little fairy!

Talking about fairies, your American Grandma has a nickname for you: "Tinkerbell" - which is sweet!

In the morning, when we wake up, before your first feed, you smile at me with this exuberance - this kind of surprise at it being the morning. You look so happy to be awake, and excited at what the day will bring - what kinds of new experiences you will have. You and I talk for a while, in the morning, usually staring at the ceiling fan, which, being winter, is stuck in a motionless position. Still, it has metallic, shiny parts on it which must be very fun to look at.

Then, after a while, you begin asking for breakfast, and I nurse you to sleep in the crook of my elbow. When you're finished, you roll away a bit on my arm, and smack your lips, and make some lemony faces, before relaxing completely and falling into an engorged, Roman slumber right there. It's lovely to lay there in the morning with you and listen to your little tiny breaths, made with your little tiny lungs. Sometimes I fall asleep there with you. Other times, I gently uncurl you from my arm and go and do housework.

Though night time is your fussiest time, it's also just so peaceful when it's time to go to sleep. We sleep next to one another, facing one another so that you can nurse to sleep. So there you are, nursing to sleep, and soon, your breathing becomes more and more regular, and you just fall asleep right there. Then, I roll onto my back with my arm around the top of your head, and we both sleep soundly until you're hungry again. You whimper, I wake up, we nurse and go back to sleep. Daddy is in charge of letting Cecelia, our Bassett Hound, out at night and since she had puppies ten days after your birth, she's needed to go out frequently.

I think he's getting less sleep than we are...

Here you are, in the morning on the 20th of February, with Daddy in bed:

Actually, later that same day, Christie came over with a gift - your baby bouncy chair, which you often like to lay in and play in. You've just managed to begin holding a rattle actually. Here you are in your chair later on the same day that I took the picture of you and Daddy:

So here we are today, you and I. You make me wish there were 48 hours in each day, and that I never had to sleep. You're so very inspirational to me! I wish I had the time to do everything you inspire me to do... You make me want to paint. You make me want to write. Right now I'm getting more writing than painting done... Just looking at you makes me smile. Thank you for coming into my life.

I promise you that now, and for the rest of your life, I will try to show you at least one beautiful thing every day: even on your saddest days, because there will be sad days. But, I want to be the best mama that I can for you. I will protect you with every fiber of my being, and I will always do my very best to bring you up well, and keep you healthy and happy and optimistic. The world needs more optimists, I think. I know you will grow up and make a difference in the world at large, because you've already made such a difference in mine, and you're only seven weeks old.

You took my heart and you've been mending it. You're such a clever girl. I love you so, so, so, so much. Thank you for being alive.

All my love and all my cuddles,

Your Mama. XxXxXxX

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bouncy Chairs and other new things...

Gosh, I must update here more frequently! I've been slack even for a new mother!

So, I am embedding some video here - this is Bella in her new bouncy chair... It was a gift from my friend C and in the right mood, Bella seems very entertained! Actually she's just started holding a little rattle and shaking it about - the last day or two she's been very excited when I've put it in her hand. I love to watch her developing like this!

She is smiling all the time now - especially earlier in the day, in the morning, before she has her breakfast feed. It's so amazing to watch her face light up when she sees me - makes me think perhaps I'm not such an awful mum... *wink*

Actually though I have to say with all honestly, I've not been overwhelmed at all with her. I think by the time Bella came, I was so ready to be a mother that if anything, I was expecting the newborn phase to be much more taxing. I was expecting long, inconsolable crying sessions, completely sleepless nights, something other than this. Sure, we co-sleep and I respond quickly to her, but really this has been very manageable and so enjoyable!

The only bad thing about today is my cold. I have a stinking, awful cold - am sneezing all over the place, coughing productively; my head is full up with some cotton wool substance; my nose is runny and my chest hurts. Also, I have a nice lady from the Healthy Families program coming to visit this afternoon - how ironic that I should be so unhealthy on the day she comes to visit!

So here I go, must clean. Will dose up on ibuprofen and coffee and hopefully that should make me feel a bit more human. Thankfully for the moment, Bella seems unaffected. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

I will update soon, with pictures and thoughts...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bella is almost a month old...

...and she is here and well! And I've been sustaining her with my mama milk alone. And she's still here.

I know that sounds a bit crazy, probably, to anyone who's never lost a child - who might think at the very worst, a child might not thrive on their food but, would then be put on formula (or whatever) and be fine. For those of us who've been through infant loss however - and those of us who have not, but who can sympathize nonetheless - actually keeping a child alive is an enormous "thing."

So I am not a complete failure as a mother. Obviously in many ways, that does surprise me. Once one has lost a baby, one wonders if one's body can actually sustain life in any way at all or if one will consistently kill everything. So morbid, sure, but at the end of the day it's true. After I lost Josie I thought, in the smallest part of the back of my mind that maybe...just maybe, I'd been marked for death.

Imagine the relief when Bella's head emerged - the surreal, mixed with relief. I felt like I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie in terms of the oddness of the situation and the joy, mixed in. If you've ever seen "Kill Bill 2" - think of the ending to the movie, which is bittersweet, but happy in a way - well, that's how it felt at the moment Bella's head emerged, alive, vaginally, from me. The death of Josie took the joy and sucked it into a big vortex. The birth of Isobella injected the joy back into my life with the curious force of the adrenaline syringe being pushed into Uma Thurman's chest in "Pulp Fiction."

Enough with the film references. In the end, all I'm saying is that life is not "shit" or "a bitch" in the end. Once you've been through a bit of real, gritty life, you've really got to stand back with your hands on your hips and say: "you know what? Life is just...very strange." Coincidences, determination, terrible timing, wonderful timing and maybe a bit of fate thrown in here and there, and you have this amazing, changing thing called life, in a nutshell. Can you qualify life? Define it? Well I suppose so, sure: life is life. It's just "there" - you've got to make the right decisions and prolong it as much as possible, love as much as possible and let go of the fear, and that's about it really.

Now here I am with my little muffin, a month later (almost) and she's chubby, here, cute and just about starting to really smile on a regular basis. The little baby I've been feeding only God knows how many times a day actually burst into laughter in her sleep two days ago in the morning. She laughed for goodness sakes. She's growing, learning, changing and life seems to amuse her. Isn't that wonderful?

Not only is she alive, but she clearly likes being alive. I love that she has an opinion!

With that, I will leave you with a few pictures we took of her and I on Friday - I really feel compelled to show off her chubbiness to the rest of the world...

Tons of love to you all!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Traveling to birth...a retrospective...

Let me explain something about myself. I am a bit of a loner. If the FBI had to profile me, they would say "she's a loner, in her late twenties, likes unusual music and hanging about in secluded places..." and they'd be right. I've always been like this. From my earliest childhood, I was the kid telling stories to other kids. I did it to entertain, to provide a service, not to be social, though. I think I got that trait from my Dad - we both like being alone a fair amount (though we certainly appreciate company from the right people as well) because we have things Things to do in our own minds - we create by weaving complex tapestries that emerge from the centers of our foreheads to spill out onto paper, or into whatever we are making. The wrong kind of disturbance can cause the threads we are using to snarl up, creating knots that are difficult to unravel.

Ah, such is the creative process of an artist, and probably this is why other people refer to our temperaments as "artistic" in the first place. Why is one person's presence acceptable when another's is not? Aren't we all equal as human beings? Yes: you're right - I think it has something to do with the energy of people. Bella could always feel the energy of a person when they placed their hands on my pregnant tummy: if she chose, she'd kick about and make herself known; on the other hand, she'd often hide. Likewise here on Earth, she knows when I enter the room while she's napping and responds with a small noise - a little disturbance because it is me who has come in and nobody else.

I can't really apologize for being so picky and so odd about things, because it's me! I am who I am - I don't mean any harm in it - I'm a little strange and like talking about nuclear physics at improper times, but that's just the person I've turned out to be. No point in defending myself either: that never works.

So anyway, during one of my quiet, thoughtful times alone here - probably sitting on the sofa tuning out of some television program - I thought about the car ride to the hospital, and how such a familiar ride was so different on the occasion of these two births.

Josie's Ride...

Josie's car ride was terrifying. Now when I say terrifying I don't mean "screaming out in abject fear with my hands over my eyes" - no - true terror is quite silent. It's the horrible, slimy, black feeling percolating through one's entire body at the absolute knowledge of everything being suddenly very wrong. For me, it was the sickening thought in my mind that my child had just died, and that I was riding along in R's silver Ford sedan on a freeway - there were no electric heart paddles on a freeway. She was trapped, and everything had come crashing down - I knew it. R's coffee mug sat in the holder at the front; she was saying something about my baby being strong, and I sat there with a dull pain in my tummy (my body was going into shock) riding along at 85 mph clutching my recently deceased pregnant belly. Watching this beautiful sunrise. The most gorgeous sunrise coming up in the cool October morning air.

H was behind us, speeding along in the Jimmy. He'd gone out to get donuts and while he'd gone, his baby had died. To this day he wishes he hadn't gone out for those donuts. To this day, I tell him that he couldn't have done anything even if he'd been there. Donuts had nothing to do with what happened. God was not punishing him for buying pastries.

We reached the hospital and I got out of the car - we'd parked in front of the ER - and in the midst of this beautiful sunrise, walked into the lobby a broken woman - a pregnant failure - someone who'd brought this pregnancy to term only to lose the child. A pitiful, foolish girl who should never have tempted fate. As I walked across to the check in, blood just started pouring out all over the floor. Someone ushered me through doors at the end of the waiting room without even sending me to triage or checking me in (R had called ahead from the car). I was stripped down, many people around: catheterized painfully, had needles stuck in the middle of both arms, an ultrasound and a Doppler failing to show the heartbeat. One painful exam later, my terrified OB announced there was no time for a spinal, and I'd have to be put under general: a mask came over my face and a young man - the anesthesiologist - told me to breathe deeply because the oxygen was good for my baby... Then, all went dark.

That was the journey into the hospital with Josie. We made the same route with Bella...

Bella's Ride...

I'd been up all night long, laboring in various places: the birth ball, the tub. I'd had some blood come out - just a little less than with Josie - but enough to make my heart thud in my chest (though later when we looked at the placenta, there was absolutely no sign of any kind of problem at all) thinking perhaps after 40 weeks and 1 day, I might lose this baby as well...

4am came. I'd been on the telephone to my mother in England and could hear H's alarm going off in the bedroom. He kept switching it off, in denial of what we had to do. I found this cute but also frustrating! Finally, he did get out of bed at 4.15am, slightly grumpily and not really fully aware of the extent of my labor (I was having contractions about 2.5 minutes apart and could not move through them). I think he made coffee, and warmed up the car. Then he helped me with my clothes, which I was having trouble putting on because of the contractions: and we were off, out of the door.

My gallant knight held my hand as I climbed over the small snowdrift at the end of the path he'd carved out to the car. It was hard to walk, dark and there was no-one else around at that time in the morning. The streetlights seemed sleepy even - condensation and ice everywhere. The bank across from us seemed so utterly deserted that I imagined it hadn't been used for years. Basically everything seemed frozen in time, like a town abandoned because of the winter. I felt as though we were the only people alive in our town as I climbed into the passenger seat of the car and buckled up.

We drove off toward the next town and the intersection with the interstate nine miles away. The sky was dark; the snow thick on the ground, blanketing everything like a duvet. We were the only people going anywhere, I thought - though I'm sure there were others around.

Every time a contraction came, I would raise myself off the seat by bracing myself on the door handle and the center console, allowing my body to become limp in the middle so that I could let the contraction flow through me effectively. I remember doing this acutely as we rounded the last turn toward the next town because I had to tilt myself as well!

We sailed through the frozen next town, past the lake in the night. There was no hint of a sunrise this time. Nothing was stirring yet... Just white ice and snow and silence, and the imagined breathing of a thousand souls around us in the darkness, peacefully asleep as we raced through the early morning to get to the place in which we would release new, independent life upon the world.

We turned onto the interstate and I began recalling the same journey with Josie. But this time, we had a living baby, contractions and movement. Bella turning her head from left to right, rooting her way out like a puppy looking for it's mother's milk. I kept repeating to Harry "It's okay, she's moving around, everything is fine" as we drove. He drove over the speed limit - about 80mph I think. I didn't blame him: he worried, and I understood.

We turned off the interstate and onto the road leading into the town where the hospital sat. This time though, the sensation was one of impending relief the closer we got to the hospital - not, like with Josie, impending doom at being told what I knew had already happened. Bella twisted and turned in there and apart from one small thought "what if her moving so much means something is wrong?" I had no worries, just excitement and knowledge that I would soon hear her heartbeat again - something we never heard with Josie.

We drove past the animal hospital and the lake, and the houses all dark. We turned onto the street the hospital was on, and up the hill toward our final destination. Left, into the ER parking lot - except this time, we didn't park, we pulled up next to the entrance where I turned to see a smiling K clutching R's laptop inside the doors, talking to a man. H got out, telling me cheerfully that he was going to find a wheelchair. I waited for the chair and gratefully got in it. The sensation of being pushed along was strange because the last time I'd been in a wheelchair was when we'd gone to HyVee for my Percocet prescription after losing Josie and getting out of the hospital.

Gliding across the lobby, the same route I'd walked...again, strange. Speaking to the receptionist checking me in was interesting: I had to keep stopping for contractions. I kept thinking how stupid it was that they had to do this with a laboring woman at all. Couldn't they do this later?

And that is where the paths separated...

Instead of going into the swinging doors on the left and being rushed into emergency crash surgery as the ghost of Josie's birth had been, the lady behind the desk asked a friendly security man if he could "do them both at the same time" - meaning take me, and a woman I'd shared a room with for double NST's a couple of weeks earlier (who had come for a scheduled cesarean) up to labor and delivery at the same time. He replied to the affirmative, and off we went.

That was when it hit: this other woman and I were going to have real, live babies that day. Instead of medical personnel rushing around me in a prep room, I was having contractions in an elevator with H, another pregnant lady and a cheerful security guard. We were getting off the elevator at the maternity ward level - 3 - and I was being shown into the room furthest away from my previous room (which had been 358) - 308. The layout was completely different. K was parking my silver Dodge in the main hospital parking lot and would be up soon. I was not being cut open under general anesthetic; there was no blood on the floor.

There was a heartbeat on the monitor.

There was movement.

There was life.

It was like waking up from a nightmare that had lasted 15 months. As the sun rose that morning over the view from the window, it called in the very first day of our new daughter's life. It was just as beautiful as the sunrise for Josie, but it's beauty and meaning sat diametrically opposite from the first dawn on October 10th, 2008.

And here are both my daughters, two little human beings; two little souls very alike, but different at the same time. I hope one day everyone will understand that just because a child is gone at birth or before birth, it doesn't make them any different in terms of humanity than another child born alive: both are people, and both are loved equally.

My first daughter, who I love, who left us...

My second daughter, who I love, who has stayed with us...

Always sisters, always held in my arms and in my heart.