“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” – Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
It begins with a hospital dressing gown, worn backwards, the strands of cotton fiber used to close the faded blue fabric look like old shoe laces, haphazardly hanging on your chest. The nurse talks about how you will see a heartbeat today as she prods your sore breasts.
Then there are moments of swollen silence as she scans the grainy screen—a cool pressure moving between your legs. Your eyes scan the monitor looking for something that resembles the “10 week ultrasound” images you Googled the night before.
How many hearts have grown, expanded, joys multiplied on that screen? How many fantasies fulfilled, storylines completed?
And how many hearts have shattered there on that grey backdrop? How many times has the breath been sucked out of throats when the mind registers that the teeny, tiny pixels are not vibrating, that there is no hum of life displayed on that 24”X 24” digital box?
The doctor will come in and ask you to clear your bladder, so he can “get oriented.” He is having trouble distinguishing organs from cysts and failed pregnancies. The nurse will offer you an extra blanket to cover you as you walk down the hall. You’ll say no, grab the shoelaces and throw them around your shoulder.
You walk towards the bathroom with your arms wrapped around your chest, clutching the blue grey fabric. Your eyes are feral, red rimmed, your bangs are matted to your forehead, a mixture of sweat and tears.
No one in the hallway will look up at you. There is something hot and untouchable about fresh pain. The nurses will avert there eyes, turn their heads as you walk past. They’ll continue clicking keyboards, jotting notes on charts.
You return to consultation room B. The doctor will ask you if you want to take a break. You’ll wonder if it is he who needs a break from your wide eyes and tears and blank stares. He explains that you can either take a pill and have the abortion at home or schedule a surgery.
“You seem like you just want to get this over with,” he’ll say. He is right about that.
The procedure is scheduled for next Wednesday. But first, they’ll refer you to the wrong clinic. A nurse will call you and do an intake for an elective abortion. She’ll explain that you can “put the infant up for adoption” instead of having an abortion and that you have several options for birth control including the Nuva ring or an IUD. You’ll tell her that there is no infant and that she doesn’t need to ask you these types of questions. She’ll say she is legally required to give you this information and that you have to respond “yes” or “no.” You hang up the phone and want to put your fist through a window.
You’ll wake up the next morning. Your first breath a gasp. This is how you greet the day. Hot tears rolling down your face, leaving a gray puddle on your face. You’ll instinctively grab your phone and start googling “recurrent miscarriage.” You lay in bed reading infertility blogs looking for answers.
You click the email icon, refresh and see an announcement that your baby is now 10 weeks old. You should unsubscribe from everything, you tell yourself. But your thumbs are on autopilot.
Your cousin posted photos of your grandmother. There is a sentence that seems like a final thank you followed by a broken heart and prayer emoji. The post seems to point to a clear message, but your mind takes a few moments to decode the meaning.
“Is Mamique dead?,” you call and ask your Dad. It’s 9:37am.
“Yes, honey. I’m sorry. She died yesterday. It was my job to call and tell you today.”
“I found out on Facebook.”
Losing a family member puts the mind in retrograde motion, the rewinding of memories and moments lived.
Our lives begin in the womb of our maternal grandmother. We’re nested like Russian dolls, a womb holding a fetus holding an unseeable egg. Energy flows across membranes, memories, unspoken pain, unyielding love, bravery, tenacity, all move in the space that exists before “ life.” We inherit all this energy, all this stuff that we carry around with us, because we are family and we are born together.
You’ll think of Mamique, of the time she threw wine in your step grandfathers face, of the white, vintage Jeep Wrangler she would drive up and down the coasts of Cape Cod, the sea salt air heavy, coating the cold metal frame. The Jeep had no doors or seatbelts. We’d all pile in and feel the wind, exposed to the elements, the black pavement moving steadily below the tires. It would be so easy to fall out. Maybe that’s why I felt so free riding around in that Jeep, hoisting my arms above the roll bar, eyes squinting, baby fine ten year old hair blowing back.
This is how my maternal family taught us to live. Exposed. Alive. Unafraid to feel. Unafraid to fall.
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over again to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”- Pema Chodron.