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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Losing Liam

I dreamed I misplaced a child last night.

It was one of those dreams so vivid you can't tell it from the truth.

It was a girl child named Terry. I woke up scared to death, truly shaken, and still trapped in that dream. I was sure I had lost her somehow from negligence. Still not thinking clearly, I woke Bill:

Where? I asked.

Where what?

Where did we put - - -? Already my mind was telling me to stop talking, something wasn't right. I counted them in my head, visualizing each in her own bed: Jill, Miriam, Jane, Emma. But where is Terry? She was so real, and I was sure I had lost her. And then the reality hit me, and I realized: You don't have five children. You have only four children. 

All four are OK, safe in their beds where you left them a few hours ago, but you don't have five. I then think I am insane. I must be insane. It was too real, too vivid. I sat on the edge of the bed for several moments. I felt overwhelmed with sorrow and confusion. Something just doesn't make sense. There's a crack in reason big enough to drive a chopping maul into.

I rolled over, pulling the sheet over me in one fluid motion, assumed the fetal position, and willfully subjugated myself to Sleep in helplessness. It was all I could do.

I never chose the name Terry for any of our children. The lost ones I call Liam, Maria, Johns, and Kate--in that order--even though I don't know their genders for sure. Doctors speculate they might all have been boys, but we don't know.

The first was due today. He would be turning 16 about now.

He was the only one I got to see in the miscarriages, other than by ultrasound. I don't know what went wrong, but it was just obvious that the tiny umbilical cord had torn loose. It looked so violently shredded at the end, though still attached to him. But otherwise he looked "on track" for development. Somehow, against my will--oh, my will was in such opposition, screaming internally, no, No, NO--but somehow that will had no control over my body. My body just let go. Let go of Liam and forced him out, far too soon.

I knelt on the cold, white vinyl floor of the white-walled bathroom, next to the cold, white porcelain fixture where my first baby lay--his unsanitary watery grave. I sat by him for a long time. I didn't know what to do, but it seemed appropriate as anything in a situation as wrong as that could be that I stay by him, bleeding and grieving and doing nothing at all. What else was there to do?

There were no pretty, lacy miscarriage wrappers with satin ribbons back then, though I've made and seen dozens of them since through a local grief ministry. There weren't even open discussions among women about what to do. It was all so clinical and private. The doctors' office had just said come back in two weeks, after the holiday festivities were over. We'll do a blood test. Make sure it's complete. Complete? Nothing but the opposite could apply. Cold as white porcelain.

And so I said goodbye there, on the bathroom floor. I took a mental image of the three-quarter-inch bean and his gnarled, bloody cord, and that is all I get to hold of my first baby. That image. Until the days are accomplished. Until that one fine morning when I'll fly away too.

But every year on this day when he should have been due, this one marking that milestone 16th birthday, I pull out that image. And I hold him for a few moments. The grief never lessens. Not for the first. He's still not here.

I miss people I've never known.

2 comments:

Ginny said...

Heartbreaking and beautiful.

suismoi said...

What Ginny said...