Friday, April 9, 2010

The Void

I used to wonder this, to myself, earlier in my life.
If someone came and told me really, really, horrible news, of the worst kind, that someone I really, really loved had died, what would I do?
Would I scream loudly, banging my head down on the table, and begin to sob?
Would I collapse, faint, hyperventilate?
Would I cry no, no, no again and again as I sank to my knees, overcome and awash with grief?
I spent time pondering this, from a distance, as of course I was privileged enough not to have to attach a face with this awful news I was imagining myself receiving.
I was so fortunate, I had never actually received terrible news.
I had never really felt completely in shock before.
Nothing had ever really been ripped out from under me before, like a carpet or a chair that leaves you sore and aching and prone on the floor, wondering what on earth happened to you.

So you may wonder what I actually did that night, or that morning, rather, when the daylight was just starting to creep in through the mesh privacy curtain that hung over the window in the birthing room. The doctor had wheeled in a slightly archaic looking ultrasound machine, with a screen that reminded me of the Apple Computers that we had at my elementary school, the pale greenish-beige ones with the bright green turtles that you clicked around the screen. The midwife sat on the bed, by my left knee, and the doctor stood next to her, and the screen was tilted towards their faces and was up next to my shoulder. Greg was watching on the screen, but the moment the form of the baby came up on the screen I had to turn away.
I saw their faces, I saw the wide, grave eyes of both of their faces as the wand moved slowly over my belly, and so I had to look away, as if perhaps by doing so they would begin to smile and tell me the good news.
Our baby is so big, Greg commented, we haven't seen an ultrasound since 20 weeks.
My face was buried in his shoulder, and I remember this clearly, I said,
but it's not an okay baby.
Because I knew, I just knew.
And the next words spoken were just that, the doctor said,
I'm sorry, but your baby's heart isn't beating any more. Your baby is no longer alive.
I suppose there was a moment of silence, a long, hard, aching silence.
Greg's body began to shake with sobs, but my face lifted, my face was frozen.
There was a tan wall in front of me, and I fixed my gaze on it.
Slowly, my head turned.
You mean, my baby is dead?
I looked right in that doctor's eyes, and I said that awful word, dead, almost as a challenge.
She wouldn't dare to use that word, to call my dear, sweet, beloved baby that.
I'm afraid so, she said, and she looked down.
The two of them began to speak slowly, quietly, about how this was the worst thing that could ever happen, about how they didn't have answers for us right now about why this might have happened so late in the game, about what would come to pass later that day.
I heard them, but there was a roaring in my ears.
I fixed my eyes on that tan wall, and went numb.
I did not wail, scream, or flail.
I did not wilt or lose consciousness.
I did not even shed one single tear.
I just stared, stared, stared at that wall, and I wondered what would become of me.

How would I survive this?

(and here, at the end of my stream of consciousness, I am laughing at the last line that I wrote and refuse to edit out, quoting Lucy Grealy to myself, Meaning what, you would have died? It doesn't work that way unless you kill yourself... which is not what I was intending to think, or say, or do... but simply that I could not wrap my head around what in the hell one does next when one thinks one is going to start a family and then has to go home empty handed)

Time to click publish post.


Erika P said...

Thinking of you and Greg and Charlotte, and remembering my own no-heartbeat ultrasound. So sad...

Sara said...

I used to do those "how would I react" to horrible news wonderings too. No matter how horrible, you can't get anywhere near what it feels like.

I like your little three minute experiment.

Anonymous said...

I have horrible (what seems like uncontrollable daydreams - more like daymares? like nightmares) about loved ones dying. and i have to be there at the funeral, or hold them in my arms as it happens. i can't snap out of it in time. but i imagine that i just cry and cry and cry. then when i "come to" i feel that tightness in my throat as if i'd been crying all along.

Hope's Mama said...

More flashbacks here.
I love this new plan of yours Carol.

Taking Heart said...

I remember my baby without her heartbeat. All I could think of was that "I killed her." "It's all my fault."

Because I didn't want her at first. Because I was scared of her. I didn't even tell my OB... who I worked with every day. I told no one... until a few weeks later when my heart softened. And I started to take the medicine to help keep my hormones up.

But, then the blood clot in her umbilical cord was unsurvivable. They told me it wasn't my fault... but I didn't believe them. My ears roared as well. I did it. I willed my baby away... and then when I finally wanted her... she left.

Took me a long time to logistically understand... but sometimes I secretly think it again.

Jenni said...

thinking of you lots between now and may 13th. it's good to hear your story - i'm glad you have a safe place to tell, tell, and retell.

kp said...

I said the same exact thing. How am I going to survive this? How am I going to live with this? So heart-wrenching reading your post.

Mayra said...

I think you're very brave for being able to express your grief like this because I haven't been able to do so, after i lost my daughter the same way. But you have helped me in the sense that what i felt wasn't wrong, and that other people have gone through the same exact situation and are still able to live, love and be a good person after something like this happens. thank you for your post.
....Mayra,Sophia's mom.