Thursday, June 11, 2015

LITTLE SOUL


I knew I was pregnant before the pink lines on the pregnancy test confirmed it for me. I was at the hospital. A deeply lacerated finger; blood spattered gym clothes: a post-workout smoothie gone wrong. The triage nurse informed me I would need an X-ray to confirm there was no bone involvement. "Is there a chance you could be pregnant?" she asked.
"Yes, but it's still too early to test," was my confident reply. She told me the hospital urine tests were sensitive enough to detect it that early and minutes later told me with certainty in front of the full waiting area "I don't know if this is good news or bad news but you're not pregnant."

By this stage I had already used my phone to perform an internet search: such a test couldn't predict pregnancy for another few days. I requested a lead vest to cover my body as they x-rayed my finger: there was a life inside me I felt compelled to protect. I think you can guess what happened next. Three days later, two pink lines. A picture of a pregnancy test sent to your dad who was overseas for work. An excitement and purpose I have never before experienced.

Everywhere, I saw signs: two large butterflies fluttering in my path as I took my daily walk. I stopped to film them, and then another arrived. Two became three. I couldn't wait to show you that video one day. My face shone with blissful radiance. I captured that too. "This was mummy when she knew you were growing in her tummy," I would say, "it was the happiest time in my life."

It was unmistakable that life was growing inside me. My breasts had never been so swollen or tender. I went up a bra size in weeks. Then came the sickness, a queasiness that never relented, aversion to almost everything I had enjoyed just weeks before. I relished the taste of chilled watermelon but couldn't bear the smell of my own home, your dad's cologne, the waft of hot food and coffee when passing a cafe.

I was sick but ecstatic. It was proof of life, and I was grateful even if I did cry and moan over the toilet bowl each morning. I came to fully understand the meaning of "involuntary". The retching, the sleepiness, the ear to ear smile and tears upon hearing what is now the sweetest sound I've ever known: our baby's heartbeat. Loud and strong: there you were. You were real.

Your auntie and uncle came with us to see you again. We laughed in the waiting room over a baby name book that instructed us to be careful of choosing your baby's initials. Think twice about B.J, it said. Our giggling circus disrupted the quiet of the clinic; a happy interruption; a memory I will always treasure.

My final happy moment was seeing you again. The shape of a baby. You had blossomed and grown. How was I to know the vision should have been accompanied by sound? I was still smiling as the technicians brow furrowed - she hadn't smiled when we entered the room, so her expression hadn't seemed troubling to me at the time.

I will never forget what she told me next. There was no heartbeat. Where there is love there is always the possibility of the deepest pain. I loved you, fiercely and without limit. The loss of you has ripped my heart open. Your father was sitting beside me and fell to my stomach; his hot tears soaking my shirt. My tears wouldn't stop, they shook my entire body. The technician asked me to keep still as she photographed you one last time, but it was impossible. Involuntary. There's that word again.

You were too big to leave my body on your own. I didn't want you to either. Not yet. You were still with me, warm and protected. Or, rather, I was warm and protected by you. The night before my surgery I realised that tomorrow we would be separated. The saddest thought I have ever had to come to terms with.

Usually I never recall the moment I awake from anaesthesia. Unconsciously, I must know it isn't important. This time it was. I can still recall the painful feeling in my throat as the tube was quickly pulled from my mouth. I cried out for you as tears drenched my cheeks. I didn't want to sleep. The nurses gave me more opiates and encouraged me to rest. I vowed I would not sleep and I didn't. I wanted to see your dad immediately, needed to be with someone who loved you like I loved you.

The next days and weeks were limbo. Truth be told I am still in limbo. Purgatory. The blank space between heaven and hell. Waiting for somewhere to go. We had to wait for the bleeding to stop. It felt like forever. We had to wait before we found out why your heart stopped beating. The last time I saw the doctor he told me I looked well. It was the first day I had worn makeup in weeks. I didn't cry in his clinic. I smiled a few times. He saw through me: There will be reminders, he told me.

There are reminders. In every person's pregnancy announcement, babies who will be born after you should have been. I can't look at watermelon without feeling an ache within. Because of you it constituted my every meal. We started trying to fall pregnant again, and with every negative test result, the pain of your loss returns. You are not pregnant, Anna. There is no baby growing inside you. Inevitably, those words "There is no heartbeat" re-enter my mind.

We found out what caused your beautiful little heart to stop. A chromosomal abnormality that occurs in baby girls. Yes, you were a little girl, a precious daughter, our little butterfly. I keep your last ultrasound image on my bedside table. We bought you a babygro. We were so superstitious about jinxing the pregnancy that we hadn't bought you a single thing. After we lost you, my mother suggested we did. Your one item of clothing hangs in the closet beside your dad's shirts. You were someone. Our little someone.

My finger has healed almost completely. There is a small scar. People don't like scars but I cherish this one. I don't even think of the accident that caused it, I think of you because that was the day I knew you were with me. There is another wound, it's raw and painful and lives in my soul. I don't know if it will ever fully heal. You left a mark on us, you were the happiest blessing, made us love more than we ever thought we could, and we miss you every day.

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