A letter to Sara

Laura K. Silver is a trustee of the Jewish Light who writes a blog for the paper’s website (stljewishlight.com/laura).  She owns The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service. Laura is married and the mother of two middle school age children.

By Laura Klearman Silver

Dear Sara,

Why now?  As I write this, I am 13 years past what was undoubtedly one of the worst weeks of my life, a time I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  It probably falls under the TMI category for some people, but this year, I’m okay with that.  I’ve decided to speak up and give a voice to you, my beautiful daughter Sara, and to those whose day comes and who choose, like me, to mourn in silence.

For years I have been able to think to myself, “you would be 4 today or 7 or 10 today” and I imagine what you would have been like.  Would you be like your brother — intense and logical, determined and kind? Or would you be like your sister — thoughtful and lighthearted, smart and quick witted? Would you be a combination of the two or completely different from both? I’ll never know. What I do know is that this year, you would have been 13. This time, it would have been your bat mitzvah and I would be celebrating you, Sara, in your entirety.

As a woman who has lived through two chemical pregnancies (read early miscarriages), an ectopic pregnancy complete with emergency surgery, and then a full-term, 6-pound, 10-ounce beautiful stillborn baby girl with a knot in the cord (that’s you), I feel like a reluctant expert on the topic of pregnancy loss. Even though I am now 13 years removed from all of these events, the fallout from them is my current reality.  

October 15 was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and it also happens to be the same date I gave birth to you. Dad and I call it National Mind “Blank” Day. You can fill in the blank (but don’t, because we really shouldn’t be using that language and neither should you).

Why does it feel like this? Because the life we know and love and cannot imagine any other way would not exist but for you. As your parents, that feels pretty horrible. We adore your twin brother and sister (who were born prematurely nearly 10 months later) beyond measure, and as much as we would like to create some alternate reality where we would have all three of our children, we know that we would never have the ones we so cherish without you, the one we lost. 

Some things get easier over time, but other things don’t. Benign questions like, “Do you have any other kids?” or “Are these your only kids?” leave a parent like me feeling like a louse. Do I give the TMI answer or just smile and say, “Yes?” There’s no good answer for me. (For the record, I almost exclusively go with the latter, but not without a deep sense of betrayal to you, my firstborn.)  Statements like “Wow, one pregnancy. Lucky you!” are pretty common too. Do I correct them? No.  I let that one go too. (Cue the fake smile and simultaneous louse feeling.)

If there’s a right way to answer these questions, I don’t know it.  It’s a personal decision and one that I struggle with every time I am faced with them.  I am hopeful that by breaking my silence and writing this open letter to you about a taboo topic, that those who suffer alongside me can choose to give their own answer without feeling alone. If this can be part of your legacy, I know I am doing the right thing. 

As for the rest of your legacy, to my precious Sara, I say thank you. Thank you for teaching me that being a parent is the ultimate privilege, even if I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I am a far better parent to your siblings because of you and the message you left behind. You have taught me to love with my whole heart, to be compassionate, to never view this privilege as a burden, to understand the true blessing I was given.  I learned from you that parenting is a one shot deal—I have no guarantees and I don’t get a “do over.” 

I am grateful for the short time I had with you and the lasting impact you have on me each day of my life.  Even though we are not celebrating your bat mitzvah this year, Sara, know that I am celebrating you, my beloved daughter.  

Forever in my heart with love,