My body would not let me forget I'd just lost my baby. Paul didn't know how help, and I didn't know how to ask for it. We were much more comfortable talking about the physical and not the emotional side of the miscarriage. I needed to talk about both, but words seemed so pitifully inadequate to express my feelings. I understood the depth of the loss but it took me a while to realize I was also grieving because I had never experienced the depth of the joy that should have been mine all along.

Then I read an article in a magazine about how other women who had miscarried had managed to get through it, get a hold on the pain and not let it cripple them.

The thing to do, this article said, was to sit down and write a letter to your next child, the one you were going to conceive sometime in the future. In this way, you would learn to let go of much of the pain of your present loss, and look toward the future and all its possibilities.

The article went on to suggest that you write the letter as if you would never actually meet your next child, as if you yourself would die giving birth to them and had only this one chance to tell them everything that was in your heart. Morbid? Perhaps, if you chose to look at it that way, but (or so the psychologist who'd written the piece concluded) if you did not dwell on this aspect of death, you would, maybe even without realizing it, unconsciously reconcile the grief of loss with the promise of life, thus renewing your spirit and your hope.

At first I thought it was silly, pop-culture psychobabble, but then the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

I decided that our next child was going to be a girl.

That done, I waited until Paul had fallen asleep on the sofa one night, then went into the kitchen, sat at the table, and took out a couple of sheets of the old formal stationary I'd gotten as a high school graduation present over fifteen years ago.

And then I began to write:

My Dearest Daughter,

Tonight, on the night of your birth, I wanted to write you a letter for your future--to tell you of my hopes and plans for you. They probably won't work out as I hope they will (a mother's plans rarely do, but that's the way of things), but I can't help trying to secure your life for you.

I'm glad you're a girl. I think I would have had trouble relating to a son. But I feel I can help you through your life.

I'm told that you'll ask what I was like. Well, most people who knew me will tell you that your mother didn't usually say much but she saw and listened a lot. I was a quiet girl and hope that you'll learn the value of silence as you grow. Don't feel that you have to fill the gaps with meaningless words and pointless conversation; say only what is in your heart, and say it as well as you know how to. It may take a while but people will listen to what you have to say, so never be afraid to share your feelings and ideas with friends or people you hope will come to matter in your life.

I want all I have seen and learned and heard to be of help to you in the years ahead that will be more difficult, exciting, infuriating, and wonderful than you can possibly imagine. I hope you will believe in the equality of men and women, and will learn to look for the person inside, to be as sex-blind or color-blind or religion-blind as any person can be. What I mean is, I want you to be without hate. I look at you from where I am now, beyond this life, and I see you--so tiny, so helpless, so new--and wonder how so lovely a baby could ever learn to hate. But if so many others can learn, then so can you.

Your mother is an idealist, a dreamer. I hope for a perfect world. I see the mistakes I have made (you are NOT one of them) and hope that you will be wiser.

I love you very much, my dearest daughter, and hope the enclosed picture of me will be enough for you to remember me by. I don't have much more time to write or room on these pages, so I have to choose only one thing to tell you about. I think I have chosen the most important.

The love between a man and a woman.

Someday you will meet a boy and you will have certain feelings for him, feelings that you've never had toward anyone else. His hand in yours will be like music to your soul. Just seeing him walk into a room will cause your heart to beat faster. And when he kisses you, you will feel more alive than you ever have before. The two of you will lay down together, and you will make love, and it will be wonderful.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that this kind of lovemaking is dirty. Sex is not dirty in itself, but it can be made dirty by people who don't value it properly. Treasure your love, and his, and what they become when the two of them meet. Be truthful, but always remember to keep a private place inside of you just for yourself. Not a "secret" place--that means you are being deceitful--but a private place, a place to know the feeling of yourself, and what it means to be alone, and a woman, and a human being.

If he loves you, he'll understand, because he knows there'll be a time when one of you will be gone, and what will happen to the one left behind if all of your "I's" have always been "we's"?

Touch each other gently, and always speak truthfully, and remember to treasure every moment that you are together, even the ones that aren't so great (and there'll be plenty of those), so when you're old and the beauty of youth has faded, your love will burn warmly within you, a candle on a winter's night, and your memories will hang around your neck like diamonds instead of chains.

The life ahead of you will not always be easy, but there will be many joys if your heart is true. I will always regret that we never knew each other, never sat down together for a cup of coffee, never went out and pointed at boys and men we thought were cute, and were never there to hold each other when tears and bad times came along, but I will love you forever, my daughter, my dearest Jennifer, and I shall pray that these few scribbled words will help you on your way through life, with hope, smiles, comfort, encouragement, and much, much affection and love.

Be strong, my daughter. Be well, and happy.

With All My Blessings and Hopes,

Your Mother,

Vanessa

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