In my heart, I keep a place for Lauren. This way, she will always be with me, no matter where I am.

I don’t know what Lauren would be like. I can only make guesses. And wishes. Even so, I have this image of her, starting from the brief moments I had with her after her birth and going on from there. She ages as time passes; I don’t want to keep thinking of her as a baby. I don’t want her frozen in time, mourned forever as what she was, not what she might become.

In my heart, I have a room for her, a room all her own. It looks remarkably like the room we made up for her in the apartment in Susono. Same furniture, same shape, same hall that goes into the kitchen. I’ve decorated it, though, the way I would have if we’d been able: in greens and whites and light purples. A little clover field for our Lucky. I don’t think I ever even told Geordie what I really wanted for the nursery. It’s not like we could have had it that way. But inside my heart, I can, and it looks perfect.

Immediately after losing Lauren, I could not visit this room in my heart without feeling the most profound heartache. I could not imagine holding her without crying, could not imagine doing all the things I wanted to do with her. I broke into pieces again, shattered just as I did the day we learned she had died. For weeks – all through November and most of December – I avoided going back to that room. I wanted to. I wanted so much to hold her, to look upon her sweet, serene face again. But the pain was so great. Pieces of me broke off and fell away when I thought too much about the physicality of her.

The coming of winter brought a change. I came to realize that this grief would never leave me, that I would wear it like a cloak for the rest of my life. I would never stop wanting my daughter, but I had to accept that she was never coming back to me. To lock myself away from her was a mistake. I knew she was there in my heart, waiting for me, patient. But I had to go to her. I had to accept that this was what I still had of her: my memory of her.

I came timidly. I began by thinking of her still, small body cradled in the arms of the Labor & Delivery nurse. I wish that I could know what her tiny weight felt like. So, in my heart, I ask to hold her, and I do. I imagine that moment, holding my daughter for the first time.

Lauren rests in my arms, limp. Lifeless. But she is my daughter, and I feel nothing but love for her. I cannot stop the tears from flowing, but I can also smile at her, my beautiful baby girl. And in my heart is the only place where she can complete her perpetual yawn and gaze back up at me. Blue eyes – newborn blue or inherited from her father? She is safe and alive in this daydream, and we peer down at her, amazed at the life that is in her. The way things should have been.

We are in her little room in the Susono apartment, and my favorite thing to do is hold her. I don’t have to share her in this room in my heart; this is where I go to be away from everyone, to find my peace and quiet. I can snap back easily to reality, but in the quiet moments of the day when I am alone, I can go back to Lauren’s room and find comfort. It’s a place where I can be free of fear and simply enjoy my time with her.

These are brief visits, a few moments caught here and there through the day. I try not to retreat to Lauren’s room too often, only when I miss her the most. Often, it’s when I’m lying in bed and trying to fall asleep. I’ve never been able to drift easily into sleep; visiting Lauren helps me. It doesn’t help me sleep well in the night, but she eases me into sleep. Or rather, I rock her into sleep, singing lullabies and holding her gently. We fall asleep together, drifting away into slumber with each other’s help.

Most of the time, in this dream room, I simply hold her as I never had the chance to do. I hold her and sit in the Poang chair from IKEA, and I look at her. I memorize her features, locking them forever in my mind. I try to see the future child in her, the teenager, the young adult. I sing to her, all the soft songs I know, the lullabies. That is all. It is a quiet time for me, a time for reflection and meditation on my poor lost daughter.

I can go to this room now without the tears, without the sobs. The sorrow still comes, the disappointment in not having her here with me never fades. But Lauren gives me courage, she chases the fears away. I miss her more than ever; I can’t bear to let go of her completely. She is my daughter – I can’t shut her out of my memory. When I am at my worst, I go back to her and remember the person I want to be. I remember what she made me: a mother.

I have a daughter. She died, but she lives forever in my heart. When I need solace, I go to her, and I remember that there is great love in this world. And also great hope.