(this is not fiction. Oh, how I wish this were fiction)
Friday, 6:15am. My son is asleep beside me. Downstairs I hear my husband getting ready to leave for work. I get up to pee. The toilet paper comes away with blood. I’m five weeks pregnant. I decide that this is not happening. A smear of blood, and a small gray bump. Something gray. Spotting. And something gray. I focus on the spotting. I decide I didn’t see something gray. Flush it down.
More blood. Bright red.
Down the stairs. “Billy!” He’s getting ready to leave for work. He would have been gone two minutes later. “Billy! I’m bleeding.” And then the cramping hits. It’s not cramping. It’s contractions. The contractions hit. Running, stumbling upstairs, back to the bathroom. Leaning against Billy’s chest. This is what intimacy is for; this is why we build it. So that if the time comes, we can sit on the toilet and lean into our lover’s chest as our body expels a baby. Waves of nausea and graywhite light and I think I’m going to black out but I don’t. The contractions keep coming, the end of one rolling into the beginning of the next. All the pain of labor minus the hope. Just fear and loss. Billy’s shirtfront is cool and I lean into it and half hope to pass out but I don’t. I’m right there with it.
Billy goes to call in sick from work. I call my mother. It’s what you do. You call your mother.
There’s blood. More blood than I would have expected at five weeks. Great red streams of it, rich dark clots. Deconstruction. This is a body, breaking down.
To the hospital, to the lab for a blood draw. The phlebotomist is an enormous lumberjack of a man. He’s got a voice too big for indoors, but here we are indoors and he comes into the waiting room, says my name and I jump. “Did I startle you?” he asks. And I say yes, because he did and because I tend not to lie. Yes. He startled me. He says, “Well.” I follow him into the back. I sit on the chair he points to. The chair, too, is huge. My feet don’t touch the floor.
The sleeves of his lab coat are tailored short to expose his tattooed forearms. There’s a psalm on the left one. I read it. Try to remember it. It feels important, that I remember it.
He’s short with me. Not unfriendly, but brisk. He’s decided what I’m about and he’s going to move right through me.
I shift in the chair, accidentally push down the arm rest he’s set up for me. “I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s been a bad day.” I start to cry. I was determined not to cry in front of strangers today. But there’s no helping it. I’m bleeding. I can feel the baby bleeding out of me. And here’s this man at work, going about his job like it’s any other day. Because it is any other day.
“Ah,” he says, prepping the tourniquet, the needle, the butterfly thing, whatever it’s called. “No need to apologize.” Bright. False cheery. He does not see that I’m crying. Or if he sees it, it already fits with the things he thinks he knows about me, who is easily startled by large men in boots. There are diabetics here; there are cancer patients here. I’m in for a simple blood screen. I’m not crying about anything consequential. I see it in the set of his shoulders, in the way he asks me the required questions for the paperwork. He already knows everything he needs to know about me. Moving right through me, on to the next case.
I do not want to be moved through.
I say, “I’m having a miscarriage.” No. I say, “I’m having a miscar…” and I lose the rest of the word.
“Oh damn,” he says. “Damn. Oh damn.” The words come out of him in a gentle popping, a rush of air, something in him opening where he hadn’t intended to open. His hands on my arm, swabbing the inside of my elbow with alcohol. Touching the center of my palm to relax my fingers down. Soft. Good hands. Whoever loves him must love his hands. “Damn. Oh damn.” He keeps saying it. Sniffing and saying, “Damn. Oh damn.” He draws my blood, bandages my arm. Sniffing, leaning over the paperwork. I read his arm again. I tell myself to remember what it says. It is important to remember what it says.
He looks at me. He doesn’t speak. He looks at me and his face has gone mournful and I think he must be remembering another woman and another baby. He nods. I can leave. He steps back, lets me go.
I forget what his tattoo says before I’m even through the door. Something about strength, something about pain. Nothing true enough to me to take hold.
I sleep. The day ends. Another begins. I wake. There are diapers to change and coffee to drink. We drive to the coast. We hike in the woods and we play in the ocean. Our son eats his first ice cream cone. It’s a day like any other, a good day, even, but with brighter sharper edges.
There is a child we started to make. There was a body coming into being in my body. And that child will never play with us in the ocean. That child will never taste ice cream, or fall asleep on the way home with sand-crusted feet. Someone was going to be born who now never will be. I see mothers with daughters, and that tears such a precise hole in me that I know I’ve lost a girl.
There is a son who is here now, who I love. And there will most likely be another child, a girl or a boy, who I will love. But there will always, always be this other child, who never got past that small gray lump. That child of mine, gone to water. Gone.