Andy has bought the test with the blue dye, and I’m frustrated. Every fool knows you need the pink test for better squinting action. I’m used to looking hard for that coveted second line, studying stark white in different lights for a whisper of a positive, digging the thing back out of the trash to “double check.” This time the line is there. I hold the test by it’s plastic grip and I see her life unfold in seconds, birthdays, and big brothers, and dainty bonnets with little yellow flowers, judgement day in reverse. A lump rises in my throat, I feel lightheaded, and remind myself to breath.
This time last year I took the test that reaffirmed we are the lucky ones. I’d just accepted a new job. I looked forward to new friends, new hope. Six weeks later a gentle nurse packed me into my car, and I left hope behind in a cassette marked with my name and date of birth, “contents consistent with early pregnancy tissue.” I drove home, and that night I made a halloween party for my loves; a crock pot full of chili, and spiced apple cider. Darkness fell. A miniature pilot, a pajama clad wolf, and a zombie all ventured out into the night, and this unicorn’s heart was quietly breaking.
When I was about eight years old, and just beginning to grapple with mortality, I was shaken by our world that will spin even as it holds impossible pain. While goodbyes are uttered and caskets lowered, the mailman will make his route, and news anchors will shuffle papers and speak in monotones. I was struck by the indifference of people to the tragedy that surrounds us. While we stood in line to buy cold cuts and strawberry milk, people, one hundred to the minute, shone their lights one final breath, and went out. It felt like an unbearable truth.
As an adult, of course, I’ve accepted that this is the way it must be. We can’t pause for every light extinguished. So as hearts break, cashier’s chirp, tears flow, and angry drivers honk. People wonder at the crazy lady, crying in the parking lot, and they don’t stop to ask.
I’m not sure why it’s accepted wisdom to hold inside the joy of an early pregnancy. When loved ones celebrate engagements and marriages we don’t hesitate to share in their excitement. We offer advice and support, and even though statistics inform us they’ve only got a fifty-fifty shot, we rejoice, and wish them the best.
When friends grieve for family members passed we extend understanding, food, and the warmth of our presence. We make space, and give grace. We don’t extend these to the woman whose loss is too tiny to conceive. We expect her instead to get on with it, to arrive on time, hair fixed, and the kid’s teeth flossed. And she wasn’t supposed to tell us, so when her grief becomes a mental health crisis we will claim that we couldn’t have known.
For months I was disappeared. I piped frosting in the dark, counting breaths, and made cupcakes for parties I couldn’t attend. I abandoned carts full of groceries, called EMS from a mall parking lot, and chased ambulances in dreams, holding a baby, wrapped in a stained blanket, whose face I couldn’t see.
I am not one who declines help. I have arrived, more than once, in emergency rooms seeking nothing but company and a kind word. Yet, even for me it was hard to get out the words;”my baby was lost, hope has become a tiny speck of a thing, and I’m afraid.” When I did it was cathartic. After months of dark spaces, and barely there coffee dates, of memories on a reel, played on repeat, I began to speak them, and to invite others to do the same. “She was real. She was loved, and when her light went out I struggled to accept. Do you know this place? Then we are not alone.”
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” Anne Lamott