This may be a hard read. Certainly not meant to be an offensive read, but is a hard read. Please consider this the “trigger warning” or any other caution that helps guard your heart from reading hard things. Just skip past this one and I promise, I totally get it. After all, I personally won’t even know.
“What do I do now?” “What do I do, now?”
I called the Ask-A-Nurse hotline.
“You probably already flushed it,” she said, coolly. I gasped. She continued.
“Just expect a heavy period.”
She licked her lips and the phone went dead. Dead phone. I felt anger like fire rise in my throat at my own stupidity for ever using such expressions. The thought occurred to me, I’m beginning to realize what dead means.
In the whirlwind of wrapping my mind around all I could see – the dark, bright, crimson blood where it should not be – I didn’t know to be thinking about what I didn’t see.
“You probably already flushed it” her empty words echoing in my soul.
Startled, I wrapped my arms around my womb, hugging my middle.
“Wait. Could you already be…gone?” The question released from my lips in a peculiar whisper.
“No.” I said, dazed, desperately definitive. “No. That simply cannot be.” The amount of betrayal I have endured by my body is already catastrophic.
The doctor there that morning. I heard the loud, metallic click of the knob pushing against the door frame as she burst into the room; the sound of her jacket sleeves crunching as her arms locked together in front of her, as she assumed what must have been her most grandiose pose of authority. I stared at the deep shadows in the wrinkles of those sleeves, the crevices pressed together tight by her efforts to appear poised and proper, the characteristics she surely was expecting of me. I stared at those shadows from my place on the crinkly paper of the cold ultrasound table, marveling at the stark contrast of the crisp, polished white of her jacket to the deep, dark shadows the folds made. She, the doctor, stood before me, sideways, as I lay curled on my side in quite the ironically appropriate, fetal position.
Then, I did it. I dropped my feet to the side of the table and sat, limp, my body exhausted from all my mind was reeling. I sighed, loose breath exiting my body. I looked up at her, at her pursed lips, mouth pressed tight as if the story had ended. This story. My baby’s story.
And then I screamed at her face.
I’m home now since then, cupping my stomach. Asking my middle, inquisitively, eagerly, “Are you still in there?” “Are you already gone?” “Am I empty and don’t even know it?”
I decided right then that I hated that Ask-a-Nurse, and that she must have been good friends with that doctor.
I couldn’t understand it. I was slammed by every direction. I had been a doula for years; this was one of my favorite hospitals to doula in, to support mothers in. But now, I felt disqualified. Rejected. And not in a subtle or accidental way, but, deliberate.
Forceful. Bullied, even.
I felt ridiculous to be in a place where mothers gather. Real mothers don’t have dead babies.
The ultrasound. Just as surely as I knew that my baby was not alive, I was sure, that God would speak life, breathe life back into my child. I wasn’t naïve. I wasn’t dumb. I just knew.
Peering into the screen, studying my baby’s lifeless form as he bobbed gently to the pressing of the ultrasound wand, I knew that I knew that he wasn’t alive. I didn’t even bother with entertaining the why or the how or the forlorn that would have gone with it. I just knew, with entire certainty, that He would breathe life back into him. I waited, expectantly, for the spark, the flutter, the wiggle or wriggle or some kind of life.
And then, the ultrasound screen went blank.
Every color of the entire universe folded into the blackness of that screen, that picture frame holding the impossibility of comprehension.
The silence, the deafening silence blaring in my head, bouncing off of my bones and ringing through my soul, the hollowness of unrequited love between my Father and me. At the single most moment I so desperately needed Him to show up distinctly, provocatively and meaningfully, I felt His absence instead. I laid my dead baby at His feet to share in this entirely personal and vulnerable place in my life and it was as though He denied my baby the opportunity to wear such a crown as that of life.
Failure. Failure. Failure.
Nothing I know is true, everything I see is a mirage where endings don’t seem to really have a beginning and beginnings don’t seem to be able to end. I can’t tell if I’m blinking because everything is dark.
What is this they are feeding me?
Regurgitated mush in heaping spoonfuls being shoved down my face until the lump in my throat like Rosa Parks on the bus stands ground and says “no more.” No more platitudes cast upon my palate; I cannot digest these untruths.
My soul weeps red tears that splash down my innermost thigh. Clumps of toilet tissue brush up against the tender padded part, the part that seems most feminine and sexual to me. Stark white wrinkled piles of paper pinched between my clenched knuckles catch these warm flowing streams that stain them.
I drop these soiled wads into my toilet, and repeat.
Broken bits of young placenta are born.
This is more than blood.
This is lochia, the postpartum blood that appears at the end of a pregnancy.
This is the burrowing in deep of something new, planting deep into the rich soil of my soul. Something that would take up space, that would take its own time to mature, that would not be me and yet would demand most all of me. Peeking down onto two pink lines has been replaced by squinting upwards from within this valley. This is something new. I couldn’t pee on a stick to know; a degree with a clipboard couldn’t confirm. Something nobody else knew was there or could tell me what quite to make of it. In fact, it would require of me to speak for it. To nurture it. To advocate for it. To mother it.
I stand, and see my reflection in the bathroom mirror. And so, I’ve found out.
This, all of this, it is the implantation bleeding of my grief.
Grief. It is the invisible pregnancy.
Follow Still Standing for the second trimester, in the chronicles of the invisible pregnancy.