I'm writing this post as part of the "Right where I am" project, in the hope that someone, somewhere might take comfort from it.
My elder daughter, my first child, my first miracle, conceived totally naturally after more than two years of trying and tests and procedures was stillborn on 13 July 2000. Yes, that's coming up to 11 years ago, something I find it hard to get my head around myself.
I'm not going to go into the horrors of what happened that night/day - it still remains unspeakably painful and there are so many regrets. So much I didn't know, that I didn't do.
But that's the past.
Since that terrible, bleak time, I have had two more little girls - one born in December 2001 after an extremely tense and difficult pregnancy, and one born in April 2004, after a still tense and difficult but less so pregnancy.
Apart from one of my best friends (who has had her own fair share of trauma and heartbreak), who lives in a different coutry to me and whom I see at most for a couple of days a year, I don't think there is anyone on earth who even remembers my first daughter, much less her birthday.
Even her father, the father of all my girls but now my ex (and I'm not going to go back over THAT trainwreck tonight, either) doesn't say anything on her birthday. I suspect he does still remember her, but hey, he's a guy, he's not going to talk about it.
Every year, on 13 July, I buy something containing or scented with lavendar. It's one of my favourite flowers and there are bushes of it outside the hospital where my baby died and was born. I remember smelling it that same afternoon, picking a stem off a bush and crushing it in my hands. It's the one single scent that will always remind me of my daughter.
My other girls know nothing - yet - of their big sister. One day, when I feel able to talk about her without breaking down in tears, I will tell them. I think they need to know how very much they were wanted, how very hard it was for their father and I to have children, how they are and will always be our world.
I don't cry for my dead daughter any more (OK, sometimes, but really, not so much), and the pain has eased a lot. Really. I still hate the question "How many children do you have?" and I'll always feel guilty when I say "2", but I no longer feel the need to explain my first child. I live my life every day, rarely even thinking about her. Her sisters are my world, my concern, my life now, and they take up all my time. And that's as it should be.
That little girl - who was never even given a name officially, though she has always been Eva in my mind as it was one of the names we'd started to think about - is deep in my heart, in a very special place. She was my first born, my true miracle. I let her down, in so many ways, even after she died. I didn't defend her rights, I let bad things happen to her and I will never forgive myself for my ignorance, my self-pity, my cowardice. But I hope, as I strive continually to do my very best for her little sisters, that she knows, wherever she is, that I love her with all my heart.
And I will always, always remember her birthday.