Guest Post By: Chaunie Brusie
I’ll never forget her eyes.
She was dressed all in black, the traditional long-sleeved dress, even in the heat of the summer lining her body, and the matching bonnet all but hid her face.
She looked straight ahead from the wheelchair she sat in, expressionless and almost perfectly still.
All around her, the labor and delivery unit where I had just started as a new nurse buzzed with activity.
I watched her, thinking of the stories I had heard of women like her, strong and stoic during labor, barely making a noise, back on their feet within minutes.
I wondered if this situation, the one where she was being wheeled into her own private room on a very busy OB floor, but without her baby, would be different.
And at first glance, it almost didn’t appear that way; she sat tall and straight in that chair, not meeting any nurse’s eyes, not flinching when a baby in a bassinet was wheeled by.
But as I watched her, I saw it: a brief moment, so fleeting I might have missed it, when, just for a second, she closed her eyes against the searing pain that clouded them.
Everything about her hid what she was going through, a mother without her baby, but her eyes –
her eyes had betrayed her.
I was young when I met that young Amish woman and I knew nothing of pain yet, but I still thought of her from time to time over the years.
I wondered how she was doing, what had happened to her baby, and if she thought of that day on our unit when she was back home doing her chores.
It wouldn’t be until many, many years later, when I would have my first miscarriage, the one where I knew instantly that something was wrong, when my stomach dropped in knowledge at the first sight of blood I saw.
Then a second loss a year later, when the image of my baby’s heart flickering on a screen, struggling and slow, would haunt me forever, that I would look in the mirror and realize something:
Her eyes had become my own.
I see those eyes everywhere I go now.
The woman at the grocery store; the mom cutting my hair; the grandmother passing by on the sidewalk.
The 98-year-old patient I had who still cried as she told me about the last time she held her daughter when she was just two years old.
Their eyes, my eyes, they’re all the same.
They’re the same eyes that stared out of the young woman in the wheelchair, the same eyes I wish I didn’t have to see because the woman looking through them will never, ever be the same.
They are eyes that have seen the other side and they can never go back.
They are eyes that are weary, oh so weary.
They are eyes that want to give up, but then keep going, and then want to give up again.
They are eyes that have seen too much and not enough at the same time.
They are the very eyes that now look back at me in my own reflection, the eyes that seem to hold the eternal question of who my babies would have been.
if that great, big empty feeling that the world seems to hold no matter where I look, will ever be filled again.
I feel like we do a pretty good job, those of us who have stepped over.
I know some are further down the path and some are carrying what I imagine as boulders ahead of the pebbles I feel myself treading upon, but no matter where we are, we are all here, on the other side.
And to the people we left behind, the people who are now looking at us from their position safely on the other side of the river bank, like I was that day to the woman in the wheelchair, we might appear relatively “normal.”
We might laugh and go to soccer games and sign up for parent-teacher conferences and send the gift and schedule the dentist appointment.
We might do our very best to hide the pain from the ones we love, the strangers we pass by, and even from ourselves.
We might put on a dress and throw on some lipstick or heck, we may even don a bonnet.
But if you look closely enough, you will see it –
Because the eyes?
The eyes will always betray you.