Dear Orla

Artwork: Charlotte Peach

Photo: @dear_orla

The following letter was written by Michelle whose blog Dear Orla is dedicated to letters written to her daughter Orla who heartbreakingly was born still at 37 weeks in May 2016. Michelle started writing letters to Orla as a way of navigating through the grief and as a way of making sense of the thoughts and feelings that come with this devastating loss.

Michelle is currently pregnant and due to give birth any day now. She wrote this poignant letter to mark a significant point of her pregnancy and to capture her thoughts to share not only with Orla but also her sibling in the future.

The letter is part one of a pair and you can read the second letter to Orla’s new brother or sister here.

You can also follow Michelle and her family’s story on her blog Dear Orla, Facebook and Instagram.

Dear Orla,

Today marks eleven whole months since you were born: eleven months of loving and missing you with all of my heart.  I can only imagine what sort of first birthday party we would be planning, what food you would be eating and the personality that you would be developing and changing daily.  I can only imagine what you sound like, how you would smell and what the colour of your eyes would be.  I try so hard to remember as much as I can of you from the limited time we had together; your folded over ears, your long feet, your dainty face.  But as I knew when I said my final goodbye – when I held you close and tried desperately to memorise how heavy you felt against my own body, when I cried hot and heavy tears onto your face – I knew that it would be impossible to remember this completely.

Today marks eleven months and two days since we found out that you were gone: the day that our world fell apart and the day that marked life before and life after.  The day that I turned 37 weeks pregnant.  And strangely, today is also the day that I have turned 37 weeks pregnant with your brother or sister.  A beautifully poignant link between my two much loved, much wanted babies.

For the past eleven months, your daddy and I have written you a letter every single day – 335 letters in total.  They have ranged from general updates, musings and wonderings about who you would be and what we would be doing, to gut wrenching outpourings of love and pain.  Of grief for never knowing and always wondering.  Letters that show how you are always carried in our hearts and minds and how you have altered our lives and us as people.  How you have made us parents, who have learnt to parent in creative ways that honour your existence.

But today calls for something more; a letter that I want to share with you and your younger brother or sister in years to come.  A letter that will show you how loved and wanted you both are and how proud I am to call you my children.

Orla, despite the loss of you breaking my heart into a million shards, I need you to know that I wouldn’t change having had you.  You were longed for and loved from the moment we knew you existed, which is why losing you has been so life altering.  Bringing your brother or sister into the world will never change how much I love you.  It will never change that you are my first-born child and the one that gave me the honour of calling myself a mother.  You will always be my daughter and I will always talk about you.  You will forever be counted when I am asked how many children I have and your place in the story of our family, the story of our lives, will always be secure.

Having more children will expand my heart rather than shave off what is yours to share with them.  You will have a unique piece of me, as they will too.  Your siblings will speak your name and know your face.  They will be as proud of you as I am.  And I will be proud of them too for loving you.

I will always wish that things could have been different – that you could have stayed with us.  But I am infinitely grateful for everything you have taught me about life, love and motherhood.  Your lessons have enabled me to grow into the person I am now, and this is a person that I am starting to like – maybe even love.  A person who can recognise and share her vulnerabilities, her mistakes, her fears, but can learn and grow from them.  And that is a special gift indeed.  So thank you my precious girl.

All my love for always,

Mummy xxxx

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