Happy 11th birthday! I know your mother has probably visited you, I will too after this letter is finished. She probably talked to you about everything that happened in our lives since the last time she visited you. I’ll agree with her- this has been a crazy year. Your mother got a promotion at her job, at the same time when I got fired. Then your Uncle Will got married. He and his husband are looking into adopting two children. Last month I met your mother’s ex-boyfriend Billy in the park. He made some snide comment on you and I punched him in the face. Your mother had to come and bail me out. Don't follow my example, your old man's not proud of that.
I wonder what you are doing right now. Are you running around, squealing and having fun with your friends, or are you hiding your face in a book, absorbing the fascination of the literary world? I know I loved reading when I was your age. My friends all complained that I spend more time with my books than hanging out with them. One of them was your mother. But it all worked out fine. We’ve been married for 13 years now.
Have I ever told you about the day you were born? I don’t remember writing about it in any of my previous letters to you, and I don’t think your mother has told you the full story of that day. So I thought I’d write it here.
It was one of the most important days of my life, and a hectic one too.
That day started off normally I guess. Your mother puked in the toilet at 6 am in the morning and practically demanded apple pie for breakfast. So I went to the nearest bakery and bought the apple pie- her favourite kind. We shared the pie and talked. We knew you were going to come into the world any time now. When your mother went into labour I was to calmly take her to the hospital, call her parents and be in the delivery room with her. We even had a bag by the door, ready for that moment.
I still remember how your mother looked on that morning. Her dishevelled hair was everywhere and her face was still slightly sweating. Her glasses were falling off her nose. She was wearing a tank top, the bottom barely covering her large belly. She hasn’t been out of the house in weeks. Me being the overprotective husband/ future-father, I refused to let her out of my sight unless someone I trust was with her. We got into quite a few arguments over this matter. Her chocolate brown eyes would glare at me threateningly and I would just have to act nonchalant, even if I am intimidated by her. Your mother can be very scary when she wants to be.
We ordered a crib for your room. It was supposed to arrive at the store last month but because of a delay in the delivery timing, it only arrived that day. The box was big and it required 2 people to carry. I didn’t want to leave your mother, but I had to be there in person in order to receive my delivery. I called up your grandparents and your Uncle Will decided to go with me to get the delivery. We were lo leave at once when your grandparents got here. I fussed over your mother, wanting her to be comfortable when we left. When your grandparents arrived she practically shooed me out of the house. Your Uncle Will had to force me into the car. I knew that she was safe with your grandparents, who knew what to do if she went into labour, but I couldn’t help but worry.
The delivery store was half an hour away. The whole trip would take about an hour if the traffic was good. I was jittery the whole way. I wanted to get this done as soon as possible and return to your mother’s side. She used to joke that all my hair would turn white before you were even born. That gave me a good laugh every time.
When we got to the shop, the lady at the counter gave us the package. It was much bigger than expected. I was worried it might not fit in my car. The parking lot was across the road from the shop. The nearest pedestrian crossing was a few stores down. We thanked the lady and tried to carry the large package towards the crossing. It was a lot heavier than expected. I believe for two perfectly fit people, this job would be no problem. But for me, who was never one for physical jobs, and your Uncle Will, who has never worked out in his entire life, it was hard. Luckily, the lady decided to lend us a trolley so we would not have to suffer so much.
The trunk of my car was bigger than I initially thought, and the package fitted just fine. Your Uncle Will volunteered to take the trolley back to the shop. He rolled it back, walking the long distance. When he came out he made one of the stupidest decisions he has ever made. Apparently, he thought that it wasn’t worth it to walk all the way to the crossing, and since there were practically no cars on the road, he decided to walk right across.
A car hit him right in the middle of the road.
It was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen. My own brother being hit by a car. I can’t remember exactly what happened next. I screamed and ran towards his limp body. The car that hit him stopped and the driver got out. I think he called an ambulance because moments later one arrived. I vaguely remember the front of the car being covered with blood. A crowd of onlookers were forming around us. I remember looking at hem and hating each and every single one of them. Those nameless faces who stood around doing nothing, who only cared about recording everything on their phones. Even the driver helped more than them.
The whole way to the hospital, all I wanted was for your Uncle Will to be ok. I held his hand and just kept crying.
At the hospital, he was immediately rushed into surgery. I was worried sick. I felt that I might throw up. I kept pacing the hallway right outside of his surgery room. I glanced at the clock every now and then, hoping that the doctor would soon come out and tell me that my brother was going to be live. That he was going to be ok. Every second felt like agony. I felt as if I was stabbed with a knife as each second passed. Tears no longer flowed from my eyes. My voice was hoarse. I felt as if I was a ghost living in the shell of someone’s body. I wanted a drink of water, but the nearest water cooler was far away. The doctor might come out of those doors any second. I wanted to be there when he does. Luckily, a nurse was kind enough to bring me a cup of water. I know that situations like these happen all the time. Only this time, it happened to me.
Natrually I called your grandparents. I didn’t tell your mother. I didn’t want her to stress. The thought that her water might break anytime stressful enough. Besides, if she knew, she would insist on coming, no matter what anyone says. Your grandparents offered words of support, but I don’t remember much of it. After hanging up the phone, I resumed my usual pacing.
An hour later though, your grandparents called back. They said your mother went into labour, and that they were taking her to the hospital. It was a different hospital though. I was about 45 minutes away by car.
Daughter, I hope you will never have to experience pain like this. The pain of knowing your loved one needs you, yet you are stuck somewhere else with another loved one who also needs you. It was the most difficult dilemma I have ever faced. I promised your mother that I would be there when you were born. But I love your Uncle Will as much as I love your mother. I knew that he needs me. I just couldn’t choose.
Then your mother came on the phone. Your grandparents told her about what happened. They wouldn’t lie to her. I can’t blame them. Your mother could see through any lie. It was her superpower.
I can remember every single word she said to me. It was only two sentences, but it was meaningful, impactful. It drove me right out my incoming panic attack.
“Oliver Edwards you stay there with Will and don’t even think about coming here until Will is wide awake and well. If I see your face anywhere here before Will is awake I will take this baby and leave you for that blond man on tv and don’t even think about lying because I WILL KNOW.”
The blond man on tv. It was our inside joke. A couple of years ago I asked her who her childhood crush was and she said that it was “the blond man on tv”. I was so confused until she showed me the advertisement. It was shot in the 1990s and it was a blond man promoting a brand of cereal. Your mother never figured out who he was, and she never ate that brand of cereal, but when the blond man came on tv she would squeal so loud her neighbours could hear her.
I knew what she was trying to do. She was doing three things at once - trying to cheer me up, reassure me, and order me to stay exactly where I was. It worked. I laughed after hearing her statement. It was a watery laugh. I was far from being content, but it did the trick. For now.
I could almost see the expression on her face. She was angry and in pain. Her face was flushed and her eyes were glaring at me. She had that look on her face again. That face which I knew I had no chance of arguing against her. I had to do what she ordered or I will be in big trouble. There was also a hint of concern there. A hint of reassurance, and asking me to have faith in her. Then she started screaming. The contractions were starting again. Your grandparents took the phone and told me that they had everything under control and that I would see you soon.
Three hours passed before the doctor came and told me that your Uncle Will was fine, and another two hours before he woke up.
By then, I knew that your birth would be almost over. When your Uncle Will woke up, I was faced with the guiltiest person alive. I knew I was supposed to be mad at him, and that I was supposed to scream at him, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I knew, that maybe tomorrow when everything was fine and well, I would erupt like a volcano. But now, at this moment, I just want to spend this short time with Will, who was alive and well.
Ten minutes later I got the call.
I was already in the taxi. I couldn’t take my car because it was still in the parking lot of the shop. After a tearful goodbye from your Uncle Will, I went downstairs to hail a taxi. The day was slowly coming back to me. My brother was hit by a car. My brother. Was hit. By a car. I didn’t think this day could get any crazier than it already was. I was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. All I wanted to do was to get to the hospital to you and your mother and just rest.
I remember the ultrasound we went to. Your mother was 18 weeks pregnant and the doctor said that we could find out your gender. Your mother was nervous and excited. We both were. In the doctor’s room, I watched as she rubbed the clear gel on your mother’s belly. We stared at the screen. I remember knowing that there was a 50-50 chance of either gender, like a coin. Hence that day I was clutching a coin in my hand. It was a silver penny. Your grandfather gave it to me when I was young. It was a few years before he passed away. I kept it for all these years. I didn’t know what purpose I wanted it to serve, but it reassured me. It rooted me in reality. I was about to know my baby’s gender!
When the doctor announced that you were a girl, I had a vision of your life in my mind. From your childhood to adulthood. I wondered what kind of life you might lead. Will you be adventurous like your mother, or will you be a bookworm like me? Will you be climbing trees, staying in treehouses, laughing and screaming as imaginary villains tried to take your treasure? Or will you be obsessed with going to the library, borrowing so many books you know you can’t finish, turning our house into a library of its own? You were a mystery, but the greatest one yet.
I was living in my fantasy as I answered the phone. I thought it must be your grandparents informing me that you came into this world in one piece and that I can take you and your mother home soon.
It was the doctor on the other side.
He said you were a stillborn baby.
I could feel my whole world crashing down. I was in a daze again, for the second time in 24 hours. I sat, slumped in the taxi seat, and I listened to the doctor’s explanation.
The umbilical cord was wrapped around your neck, strangling you. By the time the doctors got you out, it was too late. You were gone.
The taxi driver asked me I was ok. All I could reply was for him to take me to the hospital, as fast as he possibly could.
By the time I arrived, it was nearing midnight. Your mother was sleeping. She was tired, and I didn’t want to disturb her. I wanted to see you. I wanted to see you no matter what. I wanted to know what my baby looked like before she was gone forever.
The doctor brought you to me. I wanted a moment alone, to hold you, for the first and last time. Did I mention you were a beautiful baby? Your skin was as white as the snow, and your head was tilted in a way that resembled your mother when she slept. You were a brunette, with hair the same colour as my eyes. Your eyes were shut, anyone looking would have thought you were asleep. You looked so peaceful, dreaming a dream only known to you.
I cradled your small body to me and wept. I wept for all the things I will never see you do, and for all the things I will never know about you. I will never see you climb a tree, I will never hear you utter your first word, ride your first bike, read your first book. I will never know who you are, and who you might become. I will never know your personality, your interests, your passions and dreams.
So I stayed there. I held you beside your mother’s bed until the nurse came and took you away. I watched her retreating form, with you in her arms, the daughter whom I shall never see again. The daughter who never opened her eyes to see the wonders of the world, who was gone before she was even here.
Daughter, I pray that as you read this letter I left on your grave, you are somewhere up there, playing, reading, climbing trees, having the time of your life. I hope that you know your parents would always love you for who you are, who you might be, and who you will ultimately become.
Your mother and I will always be thinking of you, and I can only hope that you are thinking about us too. I love you, and you will always hold a special place in my heart. A place that is reserved for you, and you alone. A place where no one else can ever step foot in but you.
And so I end my letter to you. Whenever you want, just pick up this letter and read it.
See you soon.
Your loving father,