pure white stars, a wild navy sky
People often ask, when I share that I lost another baby, how many is it for you, now?
I try to explain quickly, to get up-over-and-through the place where sharp shards of sympathy rake across the nothing that's left of my rotten and ruined heart. It's easier to speak lightly, to smile and change the subject, to pretend there's really no difference between losing three or four or five babies, as if at some point I can simply roll them all up together into one massive, tremulous loss, where the pain is no longer exponential but eerily familiar, the tick tock of the grandfather clock, you're alone, you're alone, you’re alone, everything, always, on your own. I don't know how to talk about it; hell, I don't even know how to write about it anymore, my bothersome passion for snarky compound sentences and adverb abuse has completely deserted me. For months, there's been nothing but a cursor slowly blinking on a wretched blank page, because what could there possibly be left to say?
I was going to name her Hannah. Early in this pregnancy, a friend told me the story of the beloved but barren first wife who, after two decades of childlessness, went to the temple and prayed with the fervor of her entire being. The priest, Eli, was quick to call her drunk and crazy and tried to shoo her off, but she explained the depth and deep differences of her grief. He listened, blessed her, and sent her home; she bore a son named Samuel. God heard. The day after I found out I was going to have a girl, I hit shuffle on a new music playlist and the first song popped up. Hannah. Because I know what it's like to weep, to pray, to hurl myself into the universe with all the color and cinnamon toast and selfies and noise and workout bikinis and talking ever too much that makes up who I am, and to be called drunk, crazy, a liar, a problem child, to be pinched and snipped and cornered, shrinking small into exactly whoever someone else has decided that I should be. I was terrified to have a daughter, because I have lived the emotional terrorism of the entire goddamn world. Several weeks ago, I was reading a paper about how entrepreneurs are hesitant to update their beliefs despite objective data to the contrary, and I snorted out loud on the plane. You think entrepreneurs are hesitant? You should try the friends family peers and colleagues of an abusive narcissist intent on destroying everything s/he touches rather than lean for even one breathless moment into undoing the complacent fragility humming darkly under the trauma we all carry. But I realized that I could teach my little girl to be mindful, fearless, to dance on the bathroom counter madly triumphant, shouting I LIKE MY WHOLE HOUSE, to enact change in some better way than random word vomit spewed across a dusty forgotten corner of this little internet. She would drive me absolutely demented with questions and smearing the couch with chapstick and riding the dogs around like ponies; God save us all, I knew I had signed up to spend the rest of my life arguing with a miniature drunk and deranged version of the most sarcastic and exasperating pieces of myself. I'd hoped that she would inherit his long legs (better for running and top shelf storage) and our blue eyes, but I'd sign over my truculent soft heart in a second, and only wish she'd be wiser with it than I was, and never let any sharks slip out of the moat so she can invite all the fiftieth chances back inside.
If I'm struggling with anything, it's in furiously wanting to understand what the universe is trying to tell me. Will it be my story that I tried until I admitted defeat, broken into the path that was meant to be? Or maybe I am supposed to cantankerously fight for this, to fiercely refuse any ending except the one where I make it - where we make it - exhausted but enthralled, arriving together at the jubilant moment where I lean over and whisper to the screeching glook-covered midget alien squoosh that my body eventually managed to deliver unceremoniously into the rude shock of life, I have waited ever so long for you.
I came to Colorado. Because it was the only thing left, because I'm a predictable pain in the ass, because what in the hell else would I do, other than run? The semester finally ended. I had been burying my pain in workaholism for far too long, and I'm lucky to have so many doors that opened for me, so many friends who understood how much I want to be here, to patiently hide and heal alone in the only place my heart has ever truly felt at home. Because of the way I lost her, there was no surgical intervention, which meant that I bled - heavily, viciously - for weeks. Five and a half weeks, to be exact, and I wasn't really allowed to exercise until the bleeding stopped but then I had no desire to exercise for the first time in a zillion years, which is probably the reddest red flag signaling that I am draped across the rock bottom tenebrosity of my crabby wee soul. I've never cared less about how I look than I do right now. I make sure to announce it to everyone - I'm actually quite fat - but I think that's just linked to the societal shame of not wandering the planet with Baywatch reboot abs on a diet of celery and aspirin. My body is heavy and slow, soft and pale from petal by petal opening over and over and over - and over - to make a sweet soft home for all the little lives I will never know. I've erupted into pregnancy and then suddenly, startlingly lost it so many times now that my boobs have simply given up. I live in the same pair of old yoga pants that have probably been stretched at least two or three sizes beyond the 4 stamped inside the waistband, day and night in a bunch of worn white maternity tee-shirts that I bought at the start of all of this, when it was joyful, when I was unafraid, when I hadn't yet learned that my body could devastate me in the most harrowing and heartwrenching of ways.
In Colorado. I didn't even realize how long it had been since I was outside, since I had gotten on a bike, moved my body (eaten a vegetable, for fuck's sake), seen the sunshine, laughed without a deep crease of pain at the ridiculous fraud of pretending to be happy in a world that has yet again taken everything - everything - from me. I was surprised-but-not to wake up one day with the feeling of gathering myself together, of pulling the thin shrapnel closer around me, of taking the weary existential deep breath I know so well, the one that comes just before I resign myself to set, pause, and dive back into a tiny little bit of remembering what it's like to feel my heart beat again. I remember feeling this way after my grandma died. For months I let everything fall apart, I self-destructed. No one could stop me and I didn't want anyone to try. I had to be the one to decide to live on, to dispassionately pick up my grief and sling it along with me. I was bewildered but grateful, that day I felt a first and faint tinge of happiness in the yawning fissure that has lain open for nearly three years now, and I thought to myself, oh. THERE I am.
I'm tired of this chapter, of talking about it, but I can't seem to stop talking about it, because what has happened to me is inconceivable. By sharing the full, unadulterated version of my tale, even with only a few, I am somehow figuring out how to make a life that feels unbelievable, real. I think that this has precisely very little to do with the positive tests and the tiny shoes and the ultrasounds and the bump photos and the hospitals and even the sound that came up out of me when my baby died, like nothing I ever hope to hear again, not in this life, or the next. What I am actually telling is the story of how I've survived, that I am trying to survive, that I will someday be able to say, yes, that happened to me, and I survived it. Because there is one thing I do believe, even still. I am not a victim of my life. In the words of the great rupi kaur, what I went through pulled a warrior out of me, and I think all of this muddling around with adverbs means that someday I will be able to say, and it is my greatest honor to be her.
But not now. Because now. Now. Now is all the nights that I can't sleep and I roll over in bed and reach for my phone to call up the video of this last first ultrasound. I hear the sound of my own voice, wired and delicate with fear, asking the doctor, is everything okay? It's soft, expectant, and a fair bit shaky because I didn't give up my cup of coffee this time around and because I am frightened to the infinite core of my being. Without a word, he cranks up the volume and the room is overfilled with a thunderous thrall, the staggering moment when a hopeful new heartbeat enters the world. All these restless nights, remembering all the first mornings I've ever had, alone but for the awe of all those new hearts beating tentatively into the bonkers nuttery of trying to become alive. But especially this last beating heart, because even after so much loss I foolishly dared to hope once more, I walked out of the hospital smiling under a faint curve of pure white stars, unspooled across the wild navy twist of a Van Gogh sky. Once more. Once again, ever after, there goes my hand shaking, my voice breaking, I will carry you until it's time to go. Ashes to ashes, my darling. Dust to dust.