Tuesday, September 9, 2008
An old piece rediscovered
I was going through some old files and found this little piece I'd written years ago - after one of my miscarriages. It has some qualities, so I thought I'd share it here.
Selina says her husband held their stillborn son for two whole hours, and would not let the nurses take him. He crooned, "You have to learn to share your toys. You cannot always have your way. Eat your spinach. Don't drink and drive." The baby lay quiet, perfectly formed, perfectly behaved. Selina has a picture taken at the end of his eight months of humming, watery life. With his tiny triangle mouth ajar, his eyes closed, his minute fingers curled, and the scant wisps of wet black hair dappling his skull, he looks just like a baby newly fed and sleeping. He wears a sky blue gown dotted with clouds. It is the gown the hospital keeps only for dead babies so their parents can remember them as clean, clothed, sleeping photos of the living babies they should have been.
Selina believes her son lives with his grandmother in Heaven. That he watches, an anxious angel, over the fetus growing in her now. Belief does not keep her from weeping before me. Belief, it seems, is like her womb - both empty and full, consoling nothing.
I do not know where my child went. It was a ten-week clump of chromosomes and blood, not technically faceless or sexless, but so deeply mysterious an existence that it seems to me now I held it only in feeling and on faith. In the recovery room they sent a nun to stop me crying. Her face was pale and rumpled as an old soft rag. She held her crystal tear-shaped rosary beads against her starched black dress with one mottled white hand. Her other hand gripped mine. Nervous but fervent, she said, "Your baby is with Jesus now. Your baby never knew pain, never knew grief. Thank you Jesus." And I said, "Leave me alone." I knew she didn't know.
Selina believes that Satan took her son, but God received him. Selina says she goes alone to her baby's grave each day at lunch. Afterwards she sits in the muffling capsule of her car and talks to him and weeps. Her husband will not go. He tells her, "I have to live my life now," leaving Selina alone to hold on to her son's.
I do not speak to my child. Where would I reach her? What would I say but, endlessly, come back, to the endlessly silent presence of her absence.