She was one of them.
She had other kids, both younger than mine and at the same time, the same age as mine. She was visibly pg with her third, when I was only hoping I might be pg with my fourth...after. She wore her pregnancy as a favorite old discarded t-shirt. She threw it on without any thought. It just was. She barked out orders to her other two kids, she was annoyed by their complaints, as much as she was committed, to her Turrets afflicted son's inclusion into all things 'normal'. She grew her hair long and then cut it off for kids with cancer, and no one really knew, unless you knew her. She wasn't overly friendly, in fact, to be honest, I never really got her. She seemed distant, and uninterested in anything or anyone other than her kids.
For the last four years, I saw her and her growing family, on a daily basis because her kids and mine, swim on the same team. We've never been introduced, we are not BFF's., but we know each other, if only for the hours we spend on 'deck', watching our kids swim. But, we don't talk. Beyond the regular "Hey," and "Hi" and "What's new?"...not a whole lot.
Then, she has a baby, a daughter, when I am half way through my pg with Cason. She literally delivers her daughter and then hours, maybe a day or two later, walks into a swim meet, baby Emily, tucked into a sling across her chest. I hated her. Because it all came too easily. For everything good she did, I would watch her with her kids and think, WTF!? She isn't a lifetime/Hallmark movie mom. She yells at them, she ignores them, she dismisses them. But, she mother's them. Her way. Her choice.
Months later, my mom fills in for me, taking kids to practice, after Cason is born. She comments on 'the mom'. I am so out of it, I can only tell mom, "Yeah, she's different.". My mom tells me that all the other moms are talking about how this mom and baby Emily are going to be on T.V. because she knows how to swim at less than a year old...
Come Spring, Cason tucked into his stroller, baby Emily is walking around the pool deck, un assisted. The collective group of moms help to watch her as her mom tends to her older brother and sister. I remember, so clearly, an afternoon last summer, when Emily had climbed underneath the bleachers beyond our eyesight, her mom, in a voice of sheer panic, screamed "Where is she?!" I knew where she was and told her, she's here, she's right here.
She scooped her up and took her away, never looking back at me.
And so our parallel lives continued. At the last swim meet I took all the kids to, end of last summer, Cason and Emily hung out together. It wasn't a love connection, but it was a peek into the world of, "hey, you(Cason) can have a play date while you are stuck in the middle of the aquatic hell your older sibs have rained down on you...) kind of moment.
My daughter, the one who required me to sit poolside, quit, swim, last September. So I no longer had to sit poolside. My son still swims. Swam all winter, all Spring. I am 'good' friends with many of the moms who sit poolside, but not good enough that we kept in contact with each other when my deck time was halted.
My daughter started up again last month. I am back on deck. Hanging out with the same moms, talking about what I did while away, what they did, what the kids are up to. Regular bull shit. Didn't see the other mom or her kids. Last week I did. Didn't really pay much attention. The other day her eldest(8 or 9) came stomping across the deck to yell at her mother that she was being put in a group with kids who DON"T KNOW HOW TO SWIM!! while yelling she also accidentally let some spit fly right into her mom's face. Mom yelled back. After it was over I told her, boy I see trouble in your future. I feel for you cuz I'll be there too. She kinda laughed, we did the casual chat thing and it was over.
She's been there all week, with just the older kids. Dad must be taking care of Emily now that summer is here. But it felt off to me. Yesterday, she was sitting next to me in a tube top like dress. She got up to go do something and I saw it. On her left shoulder blade, about the size of a greeting card, a precious moments angel tattoo, the angel is holding a banner that reads, "Emily".
What to do. What to do. What to do. I wish I could tell you that I manned up and asked her. But I didn't. I asked the one mom who I am friends with who was also there yesterday(everyone else is on vacation). I told her I hadn't seen the baby and now I saw this tattoo. Did she die? Yes. She. Died. Bathtub. Drowning. She doesn't know very much. I need to talk to my other friend when she gets back. She knows what happened and when.
I am lost. I am now one of 'them'. I have what she does not. Cason is a shadow baby. And I don't know what to do. I mean I know what to do, but I am afraid of it. I will do it. Because I know what it feels like when people ignore your dead baby. I know what it feels like to sit next to me and be forced to see what you no longer have. I know what it feels like to hate me. And I know what it feels like to lose your child.
My heart is broken for that family. For that beautiful little girl who did not live to see her 2nd birthday.
And now, her mother, she is one of us.