Annie climbed down from the breakfast table, and ran toward where I was sitting on the couch.
“Mama! My baby sister, I going to give her a little princess dress and a little princess crown. And then I going to give her a wobble and feed her with a bottle. And I hug her and kiss her and put her in a little tiny bed.”
The words came out of her mouth like an explosion, and were some of the most articulate and easy-to-understand sentences she’d ever said.
“Okay honey. If you have a baby sister someday, you can do all those things.”
The baby sister talk continued, unprompted, across several days.
“Mama, with my baby sister I will hold her hand and go to the park and swing and I will go down the slide with her.”
“My baby sister, when she goes night night I will sing to her!”
She said something about her baby sister in front of my mom, who looked at me as if to say, “Do you have something you want to tell me?”
“I’m not pregnant,” I told her, “I don’t know what this is about. She’s been saying this stuff for a few days now, apropos of nothing.”
Yesterday Mike was in the office putting together Friends of Maddie shipments for different hospitals when Annie walked in.
“Dada, you doin’ Maddie?”
“Oh…those are Maddie hands?”
“Yes, they are.”
“I can do Maddie hands, see?” She pressed her thumbs together.
I heard her talking in her room. I figured she was playing with her dolls. I peeked in, and saw her sitting in her chair, alone.
“Whatcha doin’ sweetie?”
“Talkin’ to my baby sister! She’s so cute!”
“Annie, what if someday, you have a baby brother? He’ll be cute too, you know.”
“NO MAMA. She a GIRL.”
“When she come, Mama?”
“I don’t know, honey. Hopefully next year.”
“Baby Maddie come next year?”
A few weeks ago, Mike offhandedly asked Annie if she wanted a baby brother or sister. But because all the pictures we have of Maddie are baby pictures, Annie already thinks she has a baby sister – Maddie. And that is who she expects us to bring home.
Long time reader first time commenter. I just wanted to say that I’m sending you the warmest of hugs. I think of your family often and thank you for sharing such beautiful stories of your girls with us, even the heartbreaking ones. Sending you the strength of a million suns and all the love of your readers.
Perhaps she really is talking to Maddie? Young children (and animals) are very attuned to energy/spirit. Either way, how sweet that she recognizes and talks about Maddie!
This is exactly what I thought from the very beginning of the post.
Add me to the list. Maybe she really is talking to her sister. When I was five years old, an angel appeared to me. The doctor told my mother that it was either my imagination or the fever I had. My mother didn’t think so. My mother was right. There really was an angel.
On the blog “Tales of a Monkey a Bit and a Bean” the writer/Mom watched her younger toddler daughter enthusiastically apparently point out her older sister in the car after the older sister had passed away.
Yup, agreed. She could very, very likely actually be talking to her Maddie which is so sweet..Her big sister guiding her along the way. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit. When my friend lost her son at full term, her 3 year old was always playing with someone invisible, and when questioned, she would say she is playing with a little boy. This continued for a long time, and we all just knew it was ‘more’ then imagination. ALSO my friend Jen, her daughter told her for like over a year, through her struggle with infertility that God was going to put a baby boy in her tummy soon…and his name was Eli..and sure enough, she fell pregnant, had a boy and he is now 3 year old Eli.
Rachel W. says:
I agree with this as well. I have a young cousin who has had experiences with people who have passed away. I truly believe that this is possible.
This is the first thing I thought of too. Children see things that we cannot. I love thinking of Maddie and Annie playing and laughing.
And I have no doubt that Annie will be an amazing big sister as well.
Love to you guys…
This is so beautiful. It’s wonderful how much she loves Maddie, even if she doesn’t understand yet. She will be a great big sister when the time comes.
Awwww little sweetheart! I guess she does have a baby sister. That is just so precious, yet heartbreaking…
That just broke my heart a little. Annie is such a sweetie.
If it makes you feel better, my daughter was about 3 when she started doing all the “when I have a baby brother/sister” talk for no reason I could see. (she still doesn’t have one!) She would tell us “when I have a baby sister, she can use my old high chair” or “When I have a baby brother, he can play with my woody doll, but not pooh bear”. I’m not sure where she had gotten the idea that she was getting one, but she’s 5 now and still sometimes does it. Although now every one of my girl cousins and my sister are having babies, so she keeps asking when I’m going to get a baby in my tummy, too.
My oldest daughter who is also called Maddie did exactly the same thing, we had no intentions of having a third child but after our son was born but after 6 months of constant baby sister talk, I was in fact unexpectedly pregnant with the much longed for baby sister.
How lovely for you all that she has such a wonderful connection with her sister
Beth Mariel says:
Oh my that must have been painful but it’s so sweet. Maddie lives on in so many peoples’ hearts and now I’m sure it has a special place in Annie’s as well
Heart, heart, heart. And hugs.
This is so equally heartbreaking & sweet. One day she will understand that her baby sister is really her big sister who has to grow up in your hearts. I think for now, you just have to let her process this and nurture the relationship she has with her sister…..and what an amazing little girl and parents to have Maddie as such a big part of her life. Maddie is remembered by millions and her life mattered so much, but there is no one it mattered to more than to her beloved family. She would be so happy to know that this love will never die and the bonds of sisterhood are not only of the flesh. Sweet daughters you have!!!!
Hugs to you all!
I’m sure this breaks your heart. But its very sweet too. What a beautiful heart your little Annie has.
cindy w says:
Wow. That is heartbreaking and sweet at the same time. XOXO
Still Playing School says:
Watching them grow and seeing how they understand the loss of a sibling (or don’t) is so heartbreaking and an added layer to our grief. We are pregnant with a boy, yet our daughter (who is Annie’s age) talks about wanting her sister, too, who passed away last fall after 2.5 days. Now that she solidly understands that her sister died, she pretends sometimes that one of us died instead or that her brother dies and she gets to keep her sister.
So much love to you and Mike and Annie and Maddie. I both love reading because these parallels clench my heart and hate reading because it means you are dealing with a lot of these same things.
Kim Wencl says:
Heather — young children very often are able to see Spirit — this is attributed to the fact that have just come in from heaven — when they have imaginary friends — they really aren’t imaginary – they can see them. As children get older they get busier and more involved in life and conditioned out of seeing and talking to Spirits. Conversesly elderly people also can see spirits because they are at the other end of the spectrum and are close to returning to Spirit. I believe quite strongly that Annie is either talking to Maddie or she is talking to the soul of your one day new baby girl. That is awesome!!
I agree with you. My sister works for a busy emergency room. A man had a heart attack, went through the tunnel, and got to heaven. He saw a child coming down to be born and was told that was his grandchild. After the patient was revived and was able to speak, he told his wife what he saw. The wife called their son and asked if the baby was born. The baby wasn’t due for another month. Turned out the baby came at the same time the man saw the child (it was a child in heaven, not a baby) coming down to be born. The man actually became depressed. He didn’t want to stay here. He wanted to stay in heaven. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities. God did say he knew us before we were born, which I always took to mean that we started out in heaven before we came down here.
Damn Heather, this one hit me like a mack truck. I don’t believe Annie was “actually” playing with Maddie or her spirit/energy, etc, beyond what Annie was seeing in her minds eye. I never thought about how she might view Maddie as her baby sister, but it does actually make perfect sense that that is how she’s perceiving it.
Annie has a wonderful imagination, and I’m not trying to read anything into it than what is right there–she’s playing ‘baby’ and using a baby sister she’s heard about. But…wow. THat must have blown your mind to hear her say that.
Momma, PhD says:
Oh wow. That just broke my heart. Out of the mouths of babes as my Nana would say. It’s bittersweet.
Prayers for all of you.
Breaks your heart.
It is partially her age. I remember Mea going through the “baby sister” stage around this same age. Hang in there, Momma.
So heartbreaking, yet so sweet!
Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts says:
Holy crap, Heather. I don’t know if that would feel a hug to your heart or a punch to the gut. I am so happy that Annie has such affection for Maddie. But I’m so sorry that you have to explain to her that Maddie isn’t coming home.
Wishing I could give you a big, fat hug!
I just want to say what everyone else has said…this is heartbreaking. Hugs for all of you. She will always love her big sister and will undoubtedly be the best big sister to any future babies.
Ouch! That has to hurt. I don’t think you have to explain why Maddie isn’t coming back for now. It’s just a child’s fantasy, what would you gain from taking it away? When and if another baby is coming, you can talk to her about that baby and how s/he is different from Maddie.
As her talk shows, she’s still in that stage of magical thinking, so that tackling the topic now, without any tangible evidence you can show her will make no difference in her thinking.
Our twins talk about their baby brothers too – despite the fact that they never knew Jake because he died before they were born. They were 2 1/2 when their other brother, Sawyer died. At times they will kiss my stomach and ask if Jake and Sawyer are still in there.
Tears fill my eyes as I do my best to answer their questions. The twins are happy to talk about their baby brothers and just like Annie they want to know when they will have more.
I wish I had the right words to say but till I find them I will continue to send hope and hugs.
Oh, that’s so sad. So difficult because what do you say to that?
I didn’t really think of the “sweet” bit until I read it in the other comments. I suppose it is. But difficult. So very difficult.
I grew up in Annie’s position. My older sister passed away before I was born. This and my parents’ grief affected me in many ways.
My parents — my mom, anyways — was more religious. Still is. So she always explained the sister-is-in-heaven thing. And perhaps I *got* this a bit more than most kids in this age group, as I experienced loss from a very young age. Of family members and pets. And it was actually the pets who made me *get* it the most…we had a lot of them and watching the life leave them and then dealing with their absence in everyday life. It resonated a bit more than the human deaths, as none of the family members were people i saw on a daily basis. So their absence wasn’t as obvious to me as a young child.
Anyways, from a very young age, I always understood she was somewhere else. But that didn’t stop me from imagining that she was here. I remember imagining and pretending I had a sister. But I always understood she was somewhere else….in a place we couldn’t visit or touch.
But this is very different, it seems. It really makes sense now that you mention how her only understanding is of a baby Maddie…a sister who’s little in pictures. (My sister was a bit older when she died, so it was a different dynamic in my situation.)
And what do you say to her? I admit that I’m stumped. If you’re religious, the heaven bit works. But I suspect that’s not really your style — not mine either. I mean, how do you explain something that you can barely understand or make sense of on your own? And how do you protect her from the sense of loss that she’ll feel when she realizes?
Do you try to explain it to her now? Or just let her go on believing in a sort of ignorant bliss, knowing that eventually, she will understand?
Not sure what the right thing is.
I can tell you from Annie’s perspective — as someone who’s grown up without an older sibling who should have been there — that she likely will experience a loss. I’ve always longed for a sister; one that I’ve always felt like I *should* have had. I ended up with a younger brother; no more sisters. I’d look at sisters and I’m just so insanely jealous, not so much now, but definitely as a child. I see my friends and their sisters at each others weddings and baby showers and I see that closeness and it stings a bit knowing that I could have had this if the cards fallen a bit differently.
I’ve spoken with others in my situation and they’ve felt the same to varying degrees, so it’s something she’ll deal with for her entire life.
That said, I’d be tempted to go with the ignorance is bliss approach….let her believe what she believes. She’ll be faced with the reality soon enough. Don’t do anything to promote her beliefs, but don’t burst her bubble just yet….that is, if your heart can bear to listen to her. I’m not sure I could.
And plus, I’m not sure what the ramifications are from a child psychology perspective. That’s one I might run past the therapist.
So heartbreaking. I’m sorry you guys have to deal with any of this. There’s no easy answer. No solution. None of this should be happening; you should have Maddie in your arms.
As a young girl, I had a little brother but kept feeling that our family was incomplete. I pestered my parents but they didn’t have another child.
What I really craved was an older sister. And after my father died, my mother was free to tell me that he’d had another daughter before my parents met, who’d been given up for adoption. It’s a long story, but my father could never speak of his other child. In 2009, I finally got to meet the older sister I’d somehow known I had. (And we’re going to Vegas this month!)
I know that Annie can’t meet Maddie the way sisters should, but perhaps she does sense that Maddie is watching over her.
Oof, my heart.
How heartbreaking yet sweet at the same time. Many ((hugs)). I’d like to think Maddie is right there with Annie, watching over and playing with her.
My daughter, who just tuned 4, keeps telling me that our next baby will be a girl. Nevermind her baby brother who is just 4 months old. She keeps telling me we’ll have another when he gets a little bigger.
When I was pregnant, we didn’t even tell our daughter until we knew the gender of the baby. I had a previous miscarrige and didn’t want to have to untell her and didn’t want to her to be upset so we just waited and said you’re getting a baby brother.
heartbreakingly sweet and beautiful. thinking of each of you.
This is heartbreaking. The moment you realized what she meant, I can’t even imagine. Prayers for your whole family.
It sounds like Annie is acknowledging Maddie in an age-appropriate way. I think this is a real testament to you as parents that you have kept Maddie’s memory alive and enabled Annie to bring Maddie into her own life through play. Maddie is a part of Annie’s family and at least to me it seems so healthy to empower Annie to recognize that early on. I think people keep their grief and memories hushed sometimes because they’re afraid to confuse children, but I think silence is much more confusing than enabling Annie playfully to imagine her relationship to her siblings, both past and future.
I think she senses something, whether it’s her older sister or a younger sister on the way, it’s something.
Oh, this makes my heart itch. I know it has to make you miss Maddie even more, and long for another pregnancy and a healthy baby. But it also illustrates how much love she has for Maddie, following her parents’ example. And that is such a beautiful thing.
I am so pleased she loves Maddie so much and so heartbroken for you.
Hold in there, and well done for such sensitive responses.
You are in my thoughts, always.
You have done such an amazing job raising Annie, that she understands that Maddie is her sister and part of yourfamily even though she can’t sort out why or how that is so. You’re a really good mom.
This is terribly bittersweet. So precious, yet of course I’m sure so painful for you and Mike. You know, I don’t think it would hurt to try to explain to Annie (in two year-old terms) the difference between a big sister and a little sister, and how Maddie is her big, older sister.
Warmest hugs Heather.
When my oldest daughter was about that age, she started talking about Nana. She told me something Nana had said to her and I reminded her she had never met Nana, because Nana had died before she was born. She looked at me like I was nutty and said, “Not here! Before. When I was picking you and Daddy.”
She never said anything like that again. And she had certainly NEVER heard anything along those lines from me or her father. But in that moment she knew EXACTLY what she was talking about, and it was clear to me that, on some level at some point, she had been with my Nana.
My little brother used to say the same kind of things when he was about 3- about babies being in heaven before they “got borned”. He said things that he could never have known about relatives he had never met… And I love thinking that babies get to meet their loved ones that have passed on. So sweet!
Oh this breaks my heart because we go through the same thing and it is so painful. My children only know their sister from baby pictures and they ask me when she is coming home from the hospital all the time. Their birthday is next week and I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve asked if she can come. Many hugs to you.
I wish you could bring Maddie home…
dysfunctional mom says:
Oh, oh, oh. That’s the only thing I can think. Ohhh, this is beautiful and painful all at once.
I have been following your story for a little over two years now. This post was heartbreaking and beautiful.
I have a two year old who is a month older than Annie and who asks about “her” baby all the time. It’s so hard; it’s not going to happen. Miscarriage and infertility are household words here, and I think often about what might have been.
I won’t pretend to even begin to fathom how much harder it must be for you. But I send thoughts and prayers and hopes that your Annie will get her baby sister. She’s just an awesome little girl and I always think about how cool it would be if we lived in the same city; they’d get along quite well, I think.
Hugs and love coming your way.
Someday she will understand, but I can’t imagine how heart-wrenching it must be to hear these comments from your precious Annie about your precious Maddie. Thinking of you always!
Wow, heartbreaking and incredibly sweet all at once. Love and hugs.
Oh Heather. My heart breaks for you. My kids talk about what toys and games they will play with Emma. It never gets easier, does it? Love you so much.
This breaks my heart too, though I don’t have kids. I have felt like I was missing Maddie this week, even though I never knew her in person. I just met her through your blog when she was a little baby and I loved how she was such an adorable baby and a real character. When she died it was so awful and I cried a lot. I think it’s good that Annie misses her sister, so to speak, but I imagine it must be hard.
I hope and I believe that Jackie and Maddie are together now. They have to be, they were kindred souls, IMO.
Your posts knock the breath out of me sometimes. God bless you all.
This choked me up,,it’s so, so beautiful. Do you think that she coud be having dreams about Maddie? Annie has got to be one of the most amazing little 2 year olds that I have ever “known”. She is absolutely precious!
I am so sorry Heather. That hurts and it’s also heartwarming at the same time because it’s so nice how much Annie is aware of Maddie and loves her.
Could it be that Annie really is “seeing” Maddie in your next child?Or maybe the next little girl to come to you will have a piece of Maddie inside of her. I know if it was me, I would be awfully tempted (upon meeting my new baby and making sure it felt right, of course) to have her middle name be Madeline. In remembrance, never replacement.
Probably not your style, but this made me think of your post. If you read it I hope it brings positive feelings, not negative ones. http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww124.html
Oh Heather! Hearth-wrenching & endearing at the same time!!! I mean–what does one say to a 2 year old to explain that when a baby comes it won’t ever be Maddie because Maddie was her big sister & irreplaceable!
I know a lot of people have suggested that perhaps Annie was talking to the real Maddie. I have to say that while I do not believe in ghosts (meaning I don’t believe their are dead walking amongst us–I believe their spirit departs this earthly realm), I do believe that children, because of their innocence, can easily see into the spirit realm.
Before I explain this, let me say that I know, Heather, that you & Mike have said that you don’t know what happened to Maddie after she passed away and I certainly don’t want to either come across as “forcing” my beliefs on you (because I would never do that because that’s just plain wrong!) or creep you out (cuz, well, that’s creepy!)
But I do believe that Maddie went to heaven where she was healed by God. I don’t believe God “took her” or “needed her”!! But I do believe that he “received her” there after her soul & spirit left her physical body.
And,as I said, I believe that young children can see into the spirit realm more easily than adults because of their innocence & acceptance–so I do think they see angels & things. I believe this mainly because I had these experiences as a child & also because the Bible talks about children having guardian angels & angels walking among us. So I do believe it is quite possible that Annie has been given a glimpse of Maddie in heaven.
However, I don’t think that Maddie is hanging out in Annie’s room playing with her…but I think Annie has a wonderful imagination, and knows her sweet sister very well thanks to you & Mike, and as you said, pictures of Maddie are of her as a baby, so I can see Annie’s thought process that Maddie is her “baby sister.” And I think it’s very sweet that Maddie is so real to her that she can have a conversation with her! That, in a sense, is a tribute to you & Mike making Maddie a part of your daily lives.
However, still a very tough situation for a mommy’s (or daddy’s) heart! *sigh*
I’m sending you my love…
My son has gone through this stage, too – begging for a baby sister (he has a baby brother). As Maddie has remained such a big part of your lives, Annie’s mistake is so understandable, and must stir up so much in your hearts. The connection between sisters is so sweet, but it must hurt, too, for a number of reasons. Lots of love to all of you . . .
Rachel R. says:
How I wish that you were.