By Natalie Mitchell
An expected beautiful moment, an American dream of all that the commercials and magazine ads ever promised to a woman, was stolen in the night. The promise of the expected moment was of freshness, closeness, comfort and love. Filled with precious, flowing, maternal love. The kind of promise that an entire life could be planned upon In the small sterile room the crisp air of shock was suffocating. It was an early morning in August. The room was mixed with whispers. The beeps of the hospital equipment made everything sound like a faraway place. Like a live rock concert when you are in the bathroom; the music is obviously loud and close, yet miles away in feel.
Suddenly a gown, a cold floor, a metal bed rail, a stranger with a stethoscope and nowhere to be seen were the images resembling the promise that everyone counted on. Nothing there precious or lovely.
Then the pains of labor and grief collided. They made a ravenous pair, attacking and cutting deep into the mind and spirit. No commercials could have ever displayed this. There are no warning labels on packs of diapers or on the sides of cribs at the baby shops. “WARNING: do not assemble in case of infant death!”
A constant flow of nurses and medication. Somber encouragements to deal with a useless, joyless labor. Instead of the loving faces to help guide through contractions like the classes taught, there was only silence and ceiling tile to stare at in disbelief. There could be no point in maintaining a courageous character; only to scream and grip the bed sheets until the I.V. needle flexed and blood seeped down to the wrist.
Certainly we all know that there are no guarantees in life, but the promise is so infectious. Even strangers understand the promise when their eyes catch a sight of the life nestled within your belly. The promise is added with each look of pride and joy at the life to be. Who can repair the broken promise when it dies? No one can catch a glimpse of your grief even when you carry so heavy in your heart, just as heavy and uncomfortable as you carried a body swollen with extra fat, blood, water, and life. That body was handed over selflessly because of the promise that would be fulfilled at the end. All of the sickness, swollen ankles and fatigue were just rites of passage towards the promise. Months of uncomfortable sleep and uncomfortable awake were worth it all. Even the fear of labor pains was welcome and accepted as the path towards a new life being brought into your hands. The same hands that daily massaged and tenderly cared for the small world behind the fullness of a belly.
The shock began to spread to the hearts and eyes of the well-wishers that had to become fellow mourners. The house held a baby shower decorated with pink and blue ribbons, a flowery cake, gifts of clothes and toys, pastel cards adorned with perfect-cartooned babies and poems about motherhood not long ago.
It was a dark and silent place filled with the fog of grief. The same guest list, but this time they carried bibles, lilies, and plates of food for the days when cooking was too much to think about. They brought cards of serene skies, clouds, mountains and crosses with poems about grief and condolences. A strong scent of stargazer lilies filled the room and became the signature cologne of infant death and mourning.
The nursery waited patiently like a store display. The stroller sat by the door. The car seat announced that there would have been a baby traveling. The diaper bag had no crumbs, dirty clothes or burp rags stained with milk it knew of the travels it would never have.
Above all the unused items of the promise were the breasts. Awakened by labor and full of beautiful nourishing milk. The nipples dripped and the chest ached with engorgement. There was no relief for that pain. Only a hot silent shower that fooled the milk to release on it’s own. A long shower flowed with mother’s milk, tears and blood from a body that had labored to deliver death into the waiting arms of a new mother.
Round cheeks and tiny fingernails. Wavy brown hair that was still wet with amniotic fluid. Perfectly still lips that would never speak. A beautiful body that would never take in a breath of air or feel a mother’s kiss. His entire existence was a calm, warm, and dark place. But in his darkness; no one could see that death had arrived. Eight pounds and twelve ounces of perfect baby that had already been given to the other promise; that life will end, even if it is before it’s born.
Story by: Natalie Mitchell
First North American Serial Rights
Story copyright 2002 Natalie Mitchell