Before they brought in the ultrasound machine, they moved the girl in the other bed.
I just remembered this the other day. After the nurse left our room, unable to find Lucy’s heartbeat with the Doppler, but before the ultrasound team came in, they moved the loud girl next to us. She had been speaking Spanish on a cell phone, complaining about being stuck in the hospital to be monitored. My husband always asks me if I know what people speaking Spanish are saying. Sometimes I just say yes and I completely make something up, and the punchline involves him. Sometimes I just say no when I really just think it is too complicated or rude to explain what they are actually saying. Most of the time, I am just not paying attention. It sounds like someone speaking another language to me too. I have to concentrate to understand, unlike English. But I knew this woman was complaining about being in the hospital, and she was asking her sister when she was picking her up.
What struck me about this weird little memory of my time in the PETU is that I realize now that everyone knew. They all knew Lucy was dead. They pretended not to know. They pretended she was going to be okay, until we were alone and we could see it for ourselves on a screen. The screen that showed my beautiful girl with nothing moving in her ribs. Fuck.
These flashbacks on those minutes come back to me like a montage…the girl talking on her cell phone watching shitty Sunday night television. Complaining. Her baby is fine. She can go home soon, says the nurse. Another nurse patting me, saying she is somehow deficient because she can’t find the heartbeat. The girl alone, waiting. She checks me out. Gives me the barrio nod. My husband and I hold hands. Our hearts beat wildly. Though our curtain is closed, through a crack, I can see she doesn’t look in our direction when the nurse moves her. Feeling vaguely foolish for being in PETU, thinking that Lucy would be fine if I just wasn't here. Right now.
Did they tell her why they were moving her before or after she left our room? Did the shitty bitching lady next to me know Lucy was dead before I did? Did they say, “It is so sad.”? Maybe she told the story when she got home, I was next to a lady whose baby died. I think she was Puerto Rican.
Why does this even matter? Why am I even thinking about who knew before me almost two years later? Maybe because I believed everyone when they said it was going to be okay. Or I at least believed that they believed it, like I did, and that when her heart was not beating everyone was as surprised as me.
There seems to be a common thread in the birth stories of the stillborn. One of those things is that the nurse looks for the heartbeat with the doppler, then says she will get the doctor. And then the ultrasound rolls in the room, and at that point, some people realize the baby is dead, and other times it takes seeing the still chest. I have set Faces of Loss on my reader, and they usually publish at night after I have gone to bed and am unable to sleep. And I read each one. I force myself to do it, just to meditate on the universality of child loss and daughter death. Just to bear witness, perhaps. All these beautiful women from all over the country went through this same thing that I went through. They also felt like the only person in the world to lose their precious child. Sometimes I am rooting for their story to be different when they explain their joy at getting pregnant, and seeing the second pink line, but then I remember what and who I am reading. They know what it is to keen into a pillow. To imagine a thousand scenarios that may have changed the one sad fact that you cannot turn back time. To cruelly have to give birth and labor after being told your child will not be crying. Or maybe I read it just to remember the way it was back then. Grief was easy and immediate and unconfused. I felt no guilt over my screaming tortured way of being. I felt no self-doubt about whether this was healthy. My emotions were so demanding. I could do nothing but honor them.
I read blogs of the babylost. I write blogs of the babylost. And the words I use changed over time. There were words like healing and closure in the early life of my blog, or finding or making peace, and later I came to a sort of resignation that this shit does not get easier, you just get better at living this life.
Lately, I have found the quality and timbre of my life to be one beautiful and lonely chord. It is a magical ethereal moment without context. I search to figure out a way to capture and share and talk about the quiet beauty, but have realized that I have no adequate words and no one to show it to. And in the end, it is almost like a butterfly flying over the ashes of a house fire.The juxtaposition of it makes it haunting and beautiful and almost sacrilege to mention to anyone. You just watch it float away. I have lost my last real life friend. Maybe that isn't quite true, but it is almost true. It happened a month or so ago. It is both disconcerting and liberating to be in this place. I felt liberated because for the first time in this grief I felt like there was no one else to hurt by my sadness.No one else to think about when I write, I can just write. And this beautiful and lonely chord, it isn't because of Thor or Beezus, it isn't because of what is here, but maybe because of this way that Lucia's death has integrated into the other parts of me, and made me accountable to living authentically. I have found joy in her grief. It sounds terrible to say that. It is like saying I saw a beautiful yellow butterfly flying through the burnt remains of your parent's front porch. But in my moment to moment existence, her death and my grief have given me permission to create and pursue the life I always wanted to live.
When I saw the stillness of the ultrasound machine, I had no idea what the path looked like from that point. It was a moment that I cannot describe, but that forced me into a place of immediacy and Otherness. I could only keep thinking at the time that I would always be the woman with the dead baby. I remember laugh/crying because it was too much to take in and sometimes I laugh when I am absolutely nervous. I remember being aware that my marriage could fall apart and I remember promising Sam that that would never happen. I remember thinking that after telling my mother her granddaughter was dead that I couldn't ever talk on the phone again. But I didn't really know what Lucia's death would mean 20 months out. I didn't know who would be standing with us, or who would be gone. Hint: it is not who you think it is going to be. Thinking of it now it reminds me of the Fischli and Weiss film, The Way Things Go. I had no idea that the pregnant woman passing me in the PETU would spark off a fire of memory in me twenty months later that makes me remember that at some point I had hope for healing. Or to remember that there was a time when Lucy's death, my grief, my motherhood and my sense of community were all distinctly different beings.
Sometimes a moment is supposed to be savored rather than captured and reported. Maybe those moments that make up your life--the still ultrasound; the obnoxious PETU roommate; the sunset with coffee and a dog's head in your lap; the butterfly is the dark, smokey ash of a house fire; or watching a child roll over and giggle-- maybe those moments make you deeper simply by not being shared at all, but simply as being part of how you go.