I worry that I am going to run out of things to say to you on your birthday. When I write your sister birthday letters, I go over all the things she did that year: my favorite memories, her changes, our adventures together. But when your birthday comes around, I can’t do that. Our adventures have been chronicled, best memories shared. But the worst is that you aren’t changing. You are frozen at seventeen months old, and on your birthday it just seems extra unfair.

Your little sister Annie loves birthdays, so we talked yours up to her today. And…it was hard. She was so excited about your birthday, but she didn’t understand. She kept asking when we were going to your house, where your party was, when she could see you. I kept explaining it to her over and over, but she just wanted to see you so badly. “When can I see her, Mama? Where is she?” She wanted to give you a hug and a present and help you blow out your candles.

Later, we let her blow out a candle after she sang you Happy Birthday. She clapped and smiled and said, “I blew out the candle for Maddie, my big sister!” She was so proud of herself, but I couldn’t help thinking that if you were here, you would not have been happy about her blowing out your candle. Or maybe you would have been a patient and generous big sister…yet another thing that I will never know.

If everything goes well, you’ll be a big sister again next year. We went to your favorite park today and I watched two brothers go down a slide. The older brother pulled his younger brother into his lap and carefully slid down with him. Would you do that with Annie? Would you do that with your next sibling?

One thing I think about a lot is the moment Annie will meet your shared sibling. I know that moment will explode my heart, and I hate that you won’t be there. I hate that you never met Annie, and won’t meet this brother or sister, either. I hate that you are missing out. I hate that you won’t grow up with your siblings.

I make sure I say your name every day. Annie and I say “Maddie” a dozen times a day – she loves to talk about you – but at night when everyone is sleeping, I say your whole name softly to myself. When I was on bed rest with you, I’d stare at the bumps on the ceiling and slowly say your name over and over. I love your name, Madeline Alice. I love you. I miss you so much. I will never stop wishing you were here with me.

Happy fifth birthday, baby.

Love, Mommy