Sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another. – Rumi.
It was my sixteen-week scan. I had just been told that I was expecting a daughter. After 3 years of wishing and praying fervently, God had finally heard me. Daughter. The word echoed in my mind long after I had left the clinic. After the initial euphoria … came the flood of memories. I shuddered.
When I told my husband, there was only a deafening silence between us. We stared blankly at each other, drowning in a sea of unspoken words. We both knew that, despite the time and the boys we had before and after her, we would never completely get over the loss of Natasha, who had been stillborn at 39 weeks due to a cord accident.
I spent the next few days repeatedly reminding myself not to get too attached to the baby I was expecting. Then, one day, I came across the name Camilla. I repeated the name, slowly, one syllable at a time – Ca, mi, lla. It sounded perfect for my baby. I felt a sudden inexplicable rush of emotions. The image of the tiny flicker of her heartbeat on the ultrasound flashed through my mind.
I placed my hand on my tummy and cried. “Forgive me, dear child.” How could I have restrained my love for her because I was wounded by the loss of her sister? I felt selfish for protecting my heart when there was a heart beating within me. Maybe guilt had a part to play. Maybe I felt that allowing myself to be consumed by the sheer joy of expecting Camilla meant I was betraying Natasha. It became clear to me that unless I was seeking to obliterate memories of Natasha and search for her in Camilla’s face, I had no reason to feel guilty.
That realization was a pivotal moment. I understood that the only way out of the abyss of Natasha’s loss was to accept that she was in a better place. I had to look at pretty dresses and think of what I would dress Camilla in, instead of what I could have dressed Natasha in. I had to live in the present or I would end up casting Camilla in the shadow of her sister even before she was born. I would ruin the life that I did have, thinking about the life that I could have had.
I started to fully embrace my pregnancy. I often thought of Natasha but I learnt how to compartmentalize my feelings. There was the continuous mayhem and pandemonium of my 5-year-old and 2-year-old boys, and there were quiet moments for my girls. I would sit down with my eyes closed, gently rubbing my tummy, feeling Camilla move, telling her how much I love her. There were times I would search for Natasha’s face in every star that twinkled against the black of the night, and imagine her smiling at me from heaven. I found my peace and calm in knowing that they each have their own space in my heart. My fears slowly dissipated.
Then, I went into labour. Everything that was happening bore an eerie resemblance to the fateful night I lost Natasha. As I showered and prepared to go to the hospital, I calmly told myself, “Whatever happens tonight … is about Camilla.”
To put my will to further test, upon arriving at the labour ward, I sought out the very nurse who had told me 3 years ago that she could not find my baby’s heartbeat. Although I was trembling in fear and trepidation, I refused to allow the past to haunt me. In the operation theatre, just before they blacked me out, I looked into my doctor’s eyes and smiled, telling myself, “For how badly I want this daughter, I fought the odds of a pregnancy after 3 C-Sections. Everything will be fine.”
And, then, came the magical moment when I held Camilla for the first time … and fell completely in love with her. I say it with full conviction that I love her entirely for her … for I did not search for Natasha in her face. I did not remember the morning I bade Natasha farewell, with the sun rising for the world, but my world plunging into darkness. I did not, for one moment, think to call her Natasha. The moment belonged only to Camilla. As I held her in rapturous joy, the sun began to rise outside my window. It was the dawning of a new day for the world, and for me, it was light at the end of a dark tunnel. With that light illuminating Camilla’s face, I knew for a fact that she was not, and never would be, in her sister’s shadow.
It’s been slightly over a month since Camilla’s arrival. I spend hours with Camilla in a sweet reverie of companionable silence. Her tiny feet have made prints in my heart, and she has completed the tapestry of my dreams. As for Natasha, I finally understand that my fears were irrational; every child has its own place in a mother’s heart, which is why I cannot appreciate the times I am told that Natasha has come back into my life. Natasha and Camilla remain separate entities in my life. Moving on with Camilla does not mean forgetting Natasha. Every now and then I have a fleeting glimpse of her face. I carry Camilla in my arms as I carry Natasha in my heart. I feel her in the wind that caresses my face, in the pretty flowers that brighten my room, in the sun’s rays and everywhere. She will forever remain a part of me.
I may have planned my life with Natasha … but fate took me to Camilla.
To Nasreen, writing is not just a means to personal expression, but to meaningful outreach with a purpose. This English & Literature teacher hopes to make a career out of writing at some point, drawing on her experiences both as a teacher and a parent. A perfectionist by nature, Nasreen strives to give her best to that which she finds meaning and purpose in, and wishes she had more time with her 4 children. You will often find Nasreen hunting around for her sunglasses, only to find they are perched on her head, and her keys, which she claims to lose on an average of thrice daily. Live and let live, she says!