This morning, while we fill out race day paperwork, I ask the woman at the registration table for the date. "April 30," she says.
"So tomorrow is May 1?" my five year-old asks, looking up at me. "The month Lily would have been born if she'd stayed alive?"
"Yes," I say, wondering if the woman hears her, wondering if she will comment, thinking too about this so-small-and-yet-so-big girl beside me, her fine hair twisted in twin braids, her eyes wide and brown and knowing.
She is not sad at the moment, just marking the passage of time and remembering her sister in it. But often, she is sad. Earlier this week, we talked for an hour at bedtime about the fact that her preschool classmates didn't vote to name their stuffed raccoon Lily. "They don't understand how important to me Lily still is," she wailed.
"I know," I said, and I cried with her.
* * * * *
It's a strange time for our family. We're enjoying the spring weather and eagerly anticipating summer and celebrating the release of a book that's been in process longer than my younger daughter has been alive.
I feel alternately encouraged that in some small way, the stories in the book might help others walking similar roads, and angry that this is the book I had to write.
I look at families with four children, and I grieve the daughters I can't hold, and I know that no matter how many books I sell and no matter how many encouraging emails I receive, it will never be enough to take the grief away.
* * * * *
The book was supposed to be released just weeks before Lily was born. In September, when I learned I was pregnant, I imagined myself at a book release party, large and glowing, and I wondered if I'd lose credibility with my readers, if my experiences of infertility and miscarriage would be discounted by the visible gift of another child, one nearly ready to be born.
I don't wonder that anymore. I find myself once again part of the audience I wrote this book for, women and men who long for babies they can't hold, who find themselves stumbling thorugh the darkness, desperate for the tiniest glimmers of God's presence.
They say releasing a book is like birthing a baby, but all I can think about is the painful reminder embedded in the comparison. This spring, I'd hoped to release my book and birth my baby. Instead, I hold my book in my hands and wish I held my baby instead.