I remember perfectly the last time I really starred in the mirror. I mean really took a good look at my bulging belly in the reflecting glass before I gave birth to my dead daughter. It was in the doctor’s office during my last prenatal checkup. I was waiting for the OB to come in when I found myself looking pensively in the mirror above the small sink that was next to the sterile cotton swabs and foamy hand sanitizer. I couldn’t believe how large I had become over those past 40 weeks. My belly and baby had grown from a flat muscular surface to a stomach that stretched to the size of a watermelon and looked like one too in the pinkish-orange shirt I was wearing that day. As I gazed at myself in the mirror, in wonderment, I couldn’t help but get excited about the next big event that would take place any day now. I was excited for the moment when I would get to meet her for the first time and finally gave birth to my daughter.
When I was looking at myself in amazement in that mirror, I remember the innocence and joy that radiated back at me through the glass. Now, looking back on that moment, knowing what I know now, I wonder a peculiar thought. What if the me now could travel back in time to that moment in the doctor’s office while pregnant me stood in the mirror and tell her the truth? The horrible, cruel and nightmarish truth.
That her baby will die before it’s born.
That she will give birth to death.
I can even envision the scene now. Taking place in the past, in front of the mirror, stands innocent 40-week pregnant me, swelling to the size of a watermelon in my pink shirt and examining how it no longer fits over my belly while wondering what in my life will change after this baby is born. That is when the all-knowing me of now swoops in and pregnant me can see me in the reflection of her mirror. I would answer the question she just pondered in her mind as I can read her thoughts since we are one.
She would look up and over her shoulder in the mirror and notice me gazing at her gently but with concern. She would ask out of bewilderment, “Why can I see you? Is something wrong?”
And I would reply, “Yes. Something is wrong,” letting out a deep exhale. “The answer to your question is ‘everything.’”
Pregnant me would smile back with a relieved response, “Well. Yes. I expected that.” As she continued to caress her blooming belly which for then held a living child, I would struggle to find the words to tell her that this soon will be otherwise.
Looking down and moving closer to her, I would reach out and place my hand upon her shoulder and I would say, “Everything will change in a few days, but not in the way you have planned.”
Furrowing her brow, she would break away from our gaze that has been fixed in the mirror and turn face-to-face toward me. The future me would look into the past pregnant and innocent me’s soul. It would be as if I had traveled back in time to happier days…when death was not a visitor in my life and grief was not my constant companion. All this I would remember just from looking into her eyes. Her soft, light filled, hopeful, griefless, innocent eyes. Her gaze would be fixed with mine and without saying a word she would show she is anxiously waiting for me to continue. For me to explain why everything will change, but not in the way she has expected it too.
I would open my mouth to tell her, as I think to myself she should know the truth about her future, about our future. How it would have helped me to know my approaching reality in that moment when I was her. How I could have prepared, planned for, and readied myself for the impending pain and brace myself for the all-consuming darkness and disorientation that comes with losing a child.
Then before the words would come flowing out of my mouth to tell her the terrifying truth, I would remember. I would remember that no one can prepare you for the death of your child, NO ONE, not even yourself. And even if I did share with her our wretched fate, I would just be stealing her innocence from her before life takes it anyway. Why would I want to rob her of her last few precious joyful hours she had left with a life and a child that she will no longer be able to return to? Why would I contemplate shattering her soul, our soul, moments before it needed to be? Why would I even want to be the person who took her innocence away from her? Life was already in line to do just that. There was no need to rush it. There was no need to speed the pain along by speaking the unspeakable to her a few days early. I couldn’t do it.
I wouldn’t tell her.
With that decision I would meet my past pregnant self’s eyes with a smile instead of the planned frown. I would be honest and repeat, “Everything will change and not how you had planned, but even during the hard times of motherhood ahead, they will be filled with deep and immense love for you and this child.”
She would then un-purse her lips and let out the breath she had been holding while awaiting my response with a relieved smile. She…me..her…I could then all live a few more hours and days in joyful expectant bliss. We would all have a few more moments of innocent motherhood ahead of us to hold onto. Just to have these few and fleeting moments I would make my choice to withhold the truth. She would find out soon enough anyway.
I guess, I wouldn’t tell her. Would you?