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In the Aftermath of Bad News

As we approach Sophia’s birthday, I continue to reflect on the days leading up to her arrival through my story re-writes. Many of those who have travelled similar journeys understand how life-altering, earth-shattering, foundation-rocking receiving bad news can be. The aftermath is equally as difficult to comprehend, wading through a grab bag of emotions, thoughts, experiences, and decisions. Nothing is easy. Nothing is obvious. Nothing is desirable.

The following is an excerpt set four years ago, on a day between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

It’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to be feeling this now. I don’t want to feel this.

Days come and go. Morning, noon, and night are a swirl of color, creating a colorless puddle, creating black. Yet, through the murky mess, tiny sparkles glisten. Glimmers of life, glimmers unwanted. Quietly sitting in the car on a routine ride to the store, a small fluttering tickles my insides. I explain it away. Just some gas. I know this is not gas. The baby is not gas. She is moving. She is kicking. She calls my attention. Mama! Mama! I’m here! Lightly touching my stomach, I grapple with the images of her spinning happily, knocking on my ribs.

Stop, baby girl. Don’t make me love you more than I do.

She persists. She pokes, wiggles, and dances: while I’m walking, while I’m sitting at the kitchen table, while I’m watching TV.

We are about to lose you, you don’t need to move. Rest, baby.

She knows my pleas are not for her sake. Baby wants me to know her. Petrified to upset Jason, I neglect the twinges for as long as I can. The sensations growing by the day, I must face what is going on. How do I distance myself from this growing child inside of me? How do I pretend this isn’t happening?

Baby is rolling, and so are my tears. The sadness for what she could be and would not be, the angst of being stuck in a precarious position, the anger of our plight all convince me I cannot keep this to myself any longer. Looking pained, hands clutching my stomach, I find Jason.

“What’s wrong?” Jason is alarmed. Hugging me, the embrace supports us both. Since the fated ultrasound day, we have an understanding that anything could be wrong at any time. Bracing for the worst, his arms envelop my shaking shoulders. Guilt settles within me as I know I shouldn’t do this to him. I muster the strength to abate his unfavorable fears.

“I didn’t want to say anything about this before because I wasn’t sure, but I think I am feeling the baby move.” Staring at the floor, my eyes refute meeting his. Words release without my permission, but I make no attempts at halting them.

Stammering, struggling, I continue, “I’m still not sure of it because it’s always just fleeting, just a fluttering. In fact, it could be nothing.” Shoulders shrugging, head shaking, my hands wave the notion away.

I retreat from my words, momentarily, yet just long enough. From my right shoulder, Sigmund Freud peers at me through small, perfectly round spectacles. His voice a hushed, excited whisper through his bushy, white whiskers, “Aha! Denial! A powerful subconscious coping mechanism at work!” He raises a solitary index finger, pointed up. It wags in euphoric agreement. But in my case, denial fails. My gut knows. I know. Nothing subconscious here.

Shut up, Freud!

I nudge Dr. Freud away, flicking him back from where he came. Repression: a fine substitute for denial.

“Babe,” Jason stares at me, no doubt wondering what it is I am thinking, where it is I went. I blink away the distance, and return to the kitchen.

“It’s okay. I’m glad you told me about it.” The refrigerator faintly drones beside us. The light of the setting sun fades the room to black. We stand together. We sob. Within Jason’s embrace, I crumple. As I fold up in his entwined arms, I feel something unexpected, something fierce.

From behind my tears, rumbling from deep within, there is a flash of ire. The fire is stoked. I’m tired of being sad. I’m exhausted from crying. I’m drained from worrying. If there is a higher power out there, why would he/she torture us in this way? We are being punished, but for what? Any spiritual world in which Jason and I exist is shaken. It crumbles. Pieces of perfection, of metaphysical security, crash around us; Cracks open in the floor, consuming our spirit. If we weren’t meant to have this child, why was she conceived in the first place? Even after she was conceived, why did she have to live and grow in my womb for this long? Why do I have to feel pregnant, and worse yet, feel baby trying to move inside me? Why! Why! Why! Even if this is a just punishment for Jason and me, how can it be just for an unborn baby?

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