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

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.


sageweb said...

What a tear jerker.
I love the way you write..all from the heart.

Miss Janey said...

It's heart-breaking and lovely.

mumbliss said...

Hey Elizabeth.
I miss you. That piece is so beautiful. It feels so real. I am dealing, and not dealing, with different sorts of grief and sadness over here and it is not my favorite place to be. Your piece is digging around in painful and pungent earth. Thank you for being brave, and for being a good digger. Some days are easier than others aren't they? I am glad you are writing on your blog. I love you XXXOOO atwb

yellowdog granny said...

i lost twins...one at 4 months the other at 6...this brings back some long forgotten memories...it's sad but beautiful.

Sparkleneely said...

I am so sorry, Elizabeth. What a beautiful, heart-wrenching story. I can see that nun and feel your pain -- what an amazing writer you are.

And discovering that I am not sorry about at all. I cannot wait to read this end to end, and get to know one of my favorite flickr friends even better.

Thank you for writing, Elizabeth!


Elizabeth said...

Sage - Thanks. And that's definitely me, more heart than sense sometimes.

It means a lot to me to be able to share my writing with you all here - the whole publishing business being so slow and demoralizing.

Miss J - Thanks dear. Selina went on to have a healthy baby, which I'm sure helped her grief. It was after my second miscarriage that we adopted our twins, which healed my broken heart, and then we went on to have two more. So I have a full heart and a VERY full home now.

mumbliss - Dealing and not dealing is how it always goes. Can't cope with everything all at once. When would be a good time to call you and talk?
Love, love, love.

Oh Granny, I'm so sorry. What a heartbreak. It's amazing to me how we can recover and even forget these things. I'd forgotten too, till I found this piece. I guess it's how we stay sane.

Sparkleneely - I'm so pleased that you like it, the piece and the blog! I'll look forward to reading yours and getting to know you better too. xo

Anonymous said...

You captured that feeling of emptiness following a miscarriage - my arms ached to hold my baby.
We adopted then carried full term.
Without the miscarriages I wouldn't have the beautiful boys that I have.
DF (friend of Will's)

jason said...

Beautiful...and moving.

Elizabeth said...

DF - Thanks for reading and for sharing your experiences. I know, it's impossible to imagine life any other way than the way it is now. I know what I lost broke my heart, but what I received gave it back to me.

Jason - Thanks dear. I'm glad you're back safe and sound in your home, job, life. Next hurricane, you can come on up to Pittsburgh and visit Fallingwater. (And I really do mean it.)

Willym said...

Elizabeth you know I always have trouble with words when it comes to things like this but thank you. And your comment to my friend DF made it all the more poignant.

a thousand shades of twilight said...

Eliz, I'm so sorry to hear that you experienced more than one miscarriage. I can not even begin to comprehend what that must be like.
You have such an immense talent for writing. Your writing always moves me, whether to laughter or tears or both. The images in this are indelible, particularly the bit about all the things that Selina's husband says to their child. And the way you contrast their reactions to yours is very effective - it really highlights your own feelings in a very stark way.
Much love.

yellowdog granny said...

I'm not sure why I told you that about the twins..I never ever ever talk about it...it was 28 years ago, and the pain is still there.

more cowbell said...

Wow, you really captured that. I miscarried on my birthday, a lot of years ago. Each child I've had since then, with each one's unique personality, makes me wonder what that child would've been like, what life would've been like with that person in it.

more cowbell said...
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