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Dear blog-reading friends,

Just a note to let you know we’re all here, doing okay. To the rest of the world, I would say we’re doing great. I’m not complaining. I have a living daughter, a meter away from me, who needs my pinkie finger to stay asleep.

But I can confide in you… it’s getting hard.

I’m on the first half of the night shift, letting Melka get some sleep. She needs something close to three hours straight, and so my job is to make interruptions less likely. K and I have a routine, but it changes every night. Tonight, it was “let’s put you in the sling as we take a walk down the all-night cornershop for an effing beer for daddy because he spent too much of today crying.” We have to make it to 3 am.

This is hard. The future lay before us like an open road, begging for faster acceleration and exploration. But all I want to do is sit here with this little K. I have zero ambition to ever work again. And that’s too bad, because I have a great career.

Congratulations have been trickling in from, literally, around the globe (thanks aussie blog readers! you make it better by making it antipodean. as usual.) But only one – ONE – person has had the nuts to mention little Malina by name. That was a distant cousin who has just jumped 30 places in my top 100.

And the gifts have started, too. That’s been hard. How many of these were actually for the other baby, the one who died? And why so much pink? (Pink blows. Sorry, but in our house, it blows.) It’s childish, and it’s stupid: but I feel like, don’t celebrate the new baby if you couldn’t ask about the dead one. That’s a raw emotion. I mentioned in an earlier post that the birth was far less bitter/sweet than I thought. I think the bitter is creeping into the scene now. Note how I look as I peruse BFeeding websites… innocents.

My mom sent a note mentioning Malina and the tennis bracelet she wears with her name on it. But in the note, she spelled Malina’s name wrong. Now, is that just in the letter, or is it also on the bracelet? It makes me want to vomit, and I haven’t the strength to ask.

The first two weeks we were stunned, but it’s beginning to wear off. We have a daughter, and we love her so…. It still hurts. I’m an ungrateful ass. I’m selfish with my time, and with my daughter. A work friend stopped by with food (awesome!) and called her a little peanut. I thought something like, ‘don’t call my daughter a fucking peanut. She’s a little potato. Get out.’

Where does it go from here?

I’m brimming, full-up and swollen with love and exhaustion and a dose of confusion that we’re all here, safe and sound.

It’s wonderful. And it hurts like hell.

This past week has been a strange retracing of another week, one last April full of numb shock and tears, ruled by the raw soreness of a post-partum body emptied of purpose. My breasts grew huge that week, hot and swollen, tender to the slightest touch. I sought relief in hot showers, sobbing to see the pointless milk seeping out and running down the drain. After 9 months of pregnancy, after labour and birth, I had no stretch marks, no tears, no stitches and an overabundance of milk – such hollow victories when I had failed at the most essential part; getting my child out alive.

This week my body is sore and sagging, pock and stretched-marked, with breasts once again huge, hot and swollen, leaking with milk. This week there’s someone here who makes this all make sense, someone to sing to through the throbbing pain, someone to hold and smell and marvel at. Someone else.

Cards have been coming. Very, very different from the cards of last year. These carry words and phrases that sweeten and sting – congratulations, little girl, in your heart, forever.

Forever. Yes. There are two little girls with us now. One made of shadows, silence and hot, salty tears; one made of warm, soft skin and the smell of her mother’s milk. One we remember and long for more than ever now that her name and memory daunts even the most well-meaning of friends and relatives. One that’s here with us, finally, fitting in like she’s always belonged, her weight and skin somehow no stranger to the arms and lips of parents like us – we who are strangers to warm, wriggling offspring.

I don’t like that we put her to bed with blankets identical to the ones that shrouded her sister’s body. I don’t like that we dress her in clothing never before worn, intended for someone who never needed them. I don’t like that gifts that relatives are sending likely may have been bought for M, held all this time in sad suspense to be handed over to another, a replacement.

I’m full up, breasts, body and soul aching and throbbing with pain and quiet, cautious contentment. I love this new person, profoundly. With a sting and a thrill too scary to give full voice to. Heart and soul, however, have spoken up anyway.

Can we keep her? Can we?

swelling