The nurse's hazel eyes shimmer like pennies in shallow water. She proffers a tremulous hand, clasps my shoulder. A nerve twitches beneath her eye. Must be hard, being the harbinger, the bearer. We mustn't shoot the messenger.
“I'm sorry. The baby is gone.”
Words catch in my throat. “I'm glad you didn't say I lost it.”
I must seem wrong. Not enough tears. Not enough screaming. The truth is, I feel detached, untethered. I am a helium balloon, drifting away.
The nurse holds the ultrasound probe against my abdomen. Lube glistens against my skin and, when she pulls the device away, it slurps and plops.
The fuzzy image of my abandoned womb disappears from the screen.
“Do you have someone to drive you home?”
“I'll ring my husband. He'll want to be here.” But of course he won't. Who would want that now?
I am led to a small room with a sofa and paintings on the wall. It is prettier than the crowded waiting room. There is a coffee table with magazines and a box of tissues. I imagine Gerry in a room like this, filling the plastic tub.
La Petite Mort.
The nurse is phoning Gerry now. She says I look rather pale. Peaky, my mother would say. Like a mountain, lost in snow.
My head throbs. Something tugs my optic nerve. Tug. Tug. Tug. Perhaps my eyes will pop back into my brain. I am experiencing supersonic speeds. Gravity is against me. My head lolls to one side.
I may black out.
My eyes close and I feel the Earth revolving. I think I may be sick.
Then Gerry is standing in front of me. He is wearing his little boy face. His chin quivers and his cheeks twitch. He reaches out for me.
“I love you,” he whispers.
And I tumble like a house of cards.
At home, I soak in scalding water. There are bubbles and candles. Gerry sits on the toilet with the lid down.
“I can't believe we lost it.”
Gerry believes in euphemism. He thinks grandmothers should kick buckets and politicians are economical with the truth. I think I would like to slip beneath the water and never come back up.
This is a euphemism too.
“It's my fault. You could go off. Have a child with someone else.” Self-pity mixes with hope. Part of me wishes he would.
He leans forward on the toilet. He looks earnest, angry. When he speaks, it is with passion and certainty. “Don't talk like that. I want your baby – or no baby.”
Our baby has already cost too much. Seven years of tests and prodding; scheduled sex, regimented coupling; injections, hormones, IVF; Babies R Us. Seven years because I am broken. I cannot do what women do.
They say I have a bicornuate uterus; my womb is a heart-shaped box. Endometreosis has filled it with tiny chocolate cysts.
They say I have a hostile environment.
I slip beneath the water. I wish my husband could carry a child. When he swims, he bobs like a seahorse.
Tonight, I have terrible indigestion. My belly churns. If I drink a glass of milk, I will piss buttermilk.
Gerry snores beside me, one arm draped over my waist. His breath reeks of whiskey and cigarettes. Yesterday, when I believed something lived inside me, I craved these things. Tonight, I turned them down. My body is a temple. No. A tomb. I roll the word Sepulchre round my mouth like a stone.
The baby is gone. He is missing. Where is he now?
My stomach lurches. I rush to the bathroom.
I wake to the sound of the car on the drive. Gerry going to work. His other love.
The cramps in my stomach have gone, but now I feel a flutter in my chest. A tiny, arrhythmic counterpoint to my heart's steady thump.
I can't understand this feeling. Am I heart-sick, heart-broken, heavy-hearted? I have lost something precious. Maybe I am half-hearted.
I place a hand between my breasts, feel the strange, discordant note. Perhaps I am having a half-heart attack.
Downstairs, granola and orange juice. There is a comedy show on the radio, but I cannot find a smile. Instead, I switch the channel, searching for the schadenfreude of the news.
I open a tub of pregnancy minerals and pop one in my mouth.
For the rest of the week, the strange feeling moves from organ to organ like a bee seeking honey. On Wednesday, my lung feels tight, as if a child was sitting on my chest. On Thursday, my back aches and I struggle to get out of bed. I think my kidney is swollen. Friday, I am constipated – Gerry suggests prune juice. For some reason this frightens me and I decline. Saturday, I feel nothing.
Why does this make me sad?
I spend the day in tears.
“You've been in shock,” says Gerry.
He has a book on adoption in his hand. He doesn't understand the phrase “too soon”.
“I was starting to think –” I can't complete the sentence. It is too crazy for words. They'd lock me up.
Gerry looks at me like a puppy waiting for a treat. But my hands are empty.
Sunday. I wake up to the most peculiar sensation in the bottom right hand side of my abdomen. Something swells beneath the skin. I feel a flutter of pain.
“We should call an ambulance.” Gerry thinks I have appendicitis.
“No. It's not really painful. Just... odd.”
He is not convinced. For two hours he pours over internet websites, growing panicky at every possible problem.
I cup my hand over the small, tender lump. It is warm.
What are appendixes for?
Something wriggles and I slip away to the bathroom.
I pull a plastic stick from a drawer and sit down. It's strange. I know what I will find before it appears. It can't be but it is.
Two blue lines.
My baby has finally found somewhere safe to grow.
copyright © 2014
Hailing from the south coast of England, Leo Norman is a teacher, father and teller of tall tales.