I wake up to the sound of Elbow talking to herself in her crib. I cry as I remember that it used to be Bug and Elbow talking to each other. But once the tears roll from my eyes and
I reel in the sobs, I smile at the sound of Elbow’s sweet voice. I get up and go get my girl.
We have breakfast. We play. Elbow says, “Pichos. Pichos. Peas.” She sits on my lap and we flip through a small photo album I made just for her. It has pictures reflecting the bliss we knew with our family of four, with our girls, our twins. Elbow loves to point to each face with a smile and say their name. The tears come again. I look at each picture with my sweet little girl. I see her smile as she looks at her twin sister and smiles as she says her sister’s name. My heart warms as Elbow says, “Hug hug” and she leans into the picture. The pain of the reality Elbow can not understand is so painful. I try and focus on being present. I try and focus on the sweet little girl in my arms and the joy she brings me every day. But the reality is the joy I get from Elbow is separate from the pain and loss I feel for Bug. It is very difficult to feel both. Some think, or actually say to me, “Well at least you still have Elbow.” I want to say to them, “Yeah. You’re not dead either, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.”
As the morning moves on, the pain, the ache, the knot in my stomach, the tightness in my chest gets stronger. I start watching the clock and estimating when nap time will happen. The clock-watching is not because I don’t want to be with, care for, or play with my daughter. She is a source of joy and light that I could not survive without. But as the minutes pass, my ability to function, to hold back the overwhelming pain begins to waver.
Elbow is ready to go down for her nap. I hold her, knowing how precious every hug and kiss, each snuggle, each “mama” is. With tears again welling in my eyes, I tell her I love her. I see her eyes get heavy as she says, “Luffoo.” I place my hand in Bug’s empty crib. I feel the sheets get warm beneath my hand. In my head I tell her how much I love her and miss her. I close my eyes and see her lying there ready for nap time with sissy. I walk away, stifling my sobs until I am far enough away to not disturb Elbow’s nap time. Then I have no choice but to let it go.
Nap time is a break. It is a time when I can just feel it. I process the pain, the loss that still seems so unreal. I do what I must to cope at these impossible moments: sleep, cry, look for birds, write, play stupid games on my computer, vigorously clean my kitchen, whatever might work. I already know nothing will. Distraction is my best hope.
Hours later she awakes. I smile. We get her changed and dressed. We go outside and walk around the backyard, looking at birds, weeds, ladybugs, chairs, and dirt. We go to the front yard and watch the kids outside riding bikes. They dote on little Elbow. We come back inside and read books, “nuggle” in the club house with her bears. Elbow’s voice always beckoning me, “Comin” which sweetly tells me she wants me with her. My treasure. She can’t help but amaze me each day. With each tiny triumph from my tiny girl, I feel so proud, filled with wonder and pride. That’s my girl. And then it comes without me asking for it. The thought: If Bug had survived what joys, what amazement, what surprises would she show me each day? What would she be able to say and do if she were here?
They weren’t just sisters. They were twins. We always had the two of them and they always had each other. Watching Elbow play in the corner with her bears, her colors, her ball makes the absence of Bug so obvious and painful.
It’s dinner time. And again Elbow amazes me with the food she is willing to try and happy to eat. We have always said, “Dinner time is family time,” but my husband and I can’t help but see it each day that there used to be two high-chairs between us. We push the pain aside to focus on what we have, our Elbow.
Elbow starts twirling her fingers in her hair, her signal that it is bedtime. This is harder that you can imagine. Bedtime in a twin household is a family event. It was a team effort. I had one baby and my husband had the other. We did it all together. Now, at bedtime, one of us is always empty-handed. One of us is not holding a baby girl. One of us walks up to the room with two cribs without a baby in their arms. It does not get easier. We turn on the night light. We give our precious and kisses and hugs to our sweet Elbow. I again reach into Bug’s crib, that has in it her favorite blanket (made by Auntie) and some of her favorite toys. I again feel the sheets warm beneath my hand and tell my girl how much I miss her, how much I love her, and mama is still here.
My husband and I, feeling the heaviness of the day slowly walk downstairs and begin our parallel nightly rituals of distraction. How can you sleep with these thoughts, pain, and suffering running through our minds and bodies? Distraction, distraction, distraction, until we think we can maybe fall asleep.
And that’s as good as it gets. That’s a good day. That is the best we can expect.