I remember where I was when I met you for the very first time. Before this, I’d only brushed against you in passing, I’d seen you in movies, felt your presence flutter by after a novel left me weeping. I’d seen others grapple with you and wrestle you to submission or let you in to stay awhile. I’d seen others live a life devoted to their grief. But we were acquaintances, polite, tip-toeing around each other.
The stairs leading to my baby are clothed in standard apartment carpet. The cheapest kind that tufts in patches and pads down to a thick matted beige, absorbing the spilled milk dripping like moments from the clock, seeping slowly from the sippy cup tilted sideways on the step. There are graham cracker crumbs and I follow them Gretel-like to find him.
He is plopped down, chubby thighs rolling out in front of him, mushed cookie crumbs on his chin and dribbling from his lips. I squat down to scoop him up. It takes longer to rise back to my full height each passing week and this time I push my fist into my lower back as I erect myself. He marks me with cardboard colored smear from his graham cracker and I am claimed. He is gumming the rest in his wadded up fist and grinning at me.
I wade back down the stairs with him tucked on my hip, making my right side sway heavy and leaden as I peer over my swollen belly. A wave of nausea flows over me and I feel my stomach turning slow and hard.
I feel flutters but haven’t been able to tell if it’s gas rumbling or the tiny limbs of my baby brushing along my insides. The books say you can feel movement earlier with subsequent pregnancies so I know the movements will only get more distinct in the next few weeks.
I put him down on the floor and scoop up a board book that’s been gnawed on and is coming apart at the corner. He reaches for it and I place it in his hand. He waves it around and then inserts it into his mouth with the rest of the cracker.
I lower myself into our overstuffed recliner, the arms worn down to mere fibers clinging together revealing crumbly foam beneath. The nausea passes as I slow my breathing. This week is the first one I haven’t thrown up all day long. I’m well past my first trimester and when I hit 15 weeks and am still running for the toilet, I wonder if this was revenge for making my mother sick her whole pregnancy with me. But it is beginning to fade.
That was the before and then there is the after. I can think of my whole life this way. Divided by what’s to come. Divided by what’s lost. Divided by your entrance into my world.
In a week, I’ll go in to get an ultrasound and the doctor will spread warmed jelly across my belly and press the wand into my stomach. He’ll run it around a few times while I look on. The screen a whoosh of static and a faint immovable outline. His brow will furrow and he’ll call me kiddo as he explains how things have gone so wrong. How there should be movement and a fetal heartbeat, how the silhouette of my baby is just a mirage of things to come. An apparition, outside of my current reality, how the flutters I felt are never going to get stronger.
I’ll cry and Judah will look up from Josh’s arms and he’ll lean down to grasp my hand and the tears will flow heavy down my cheeks. I’ll remember the gentle pressure of my doctor’s hand wiping ultrasound jelly off and the look in his eyes, kind and tired.
How many times has he left the room quietly to give a woman time to redress and gather her things and leave empty. The nurse looks somber as she closes the door behind her.
Josh blurred beside me in a watery film of tears. He had no words for me or I couldn’t hear them, I can’t remember which.
I am unraveling from inside, a slow unfurling agony. I walked past the reception area where we had sat across from a woman pregnant with her first, she kept her hand protectively settled on the top of her belly. I asked how far along she was and she asked how old Judah was and we talked politely until the nurse called her back.
I feel a hideous relief that reception is now empty of anticipating mothers living another ordinary day when mine is so spectacularly broken. But I’ve wiped up the tears and I’m already putting on brave to deny you space.
And then there are more appointments and I am wheeled into more loss watching the slow drip of the iv leak into me and I imagine my whole soul ebbing away little by little. I close my eyes and can’t imagine I’ll ever feel whole again. But I smile bravely and push on. I push through years this way, brave faced and crumbling over so many broken things.
I am learning the grief of lost things.
I wish someone had said it was ok to ache. To fling things across the room. To sit on the floor in my baby’s room and weep over the blankets and the onesies and the carseat we hung on to and would now be packed up. I wish someone had told me it was ok to relent to sadness, to grief, to loss. I wish someone had told me it was ok to succumb to anger, to the great and formidable why? To understand that answers may not come but God wants to hear my questions pushed up right in His face because then I’m pressing in and I know, even as I grieve, he is my only truth. I wish they didn’t Romans 8:28 me. I wish I hadn’t moved so fast to reclaim life and move on.
I wish I had known that grief unspoken and unclaimed goes dormant only to erupt in pockets of fevered pain. It festers underground looking for cracks in the soul. It blisters and swells and breaks out in catastrophic ways.
I wish I had claimed you and named you grief and called you out to sit with me for as long as it took. I wish I knew that God doesn’t check out when you enter, but quite possibly He’s closest to those who know you well.