The wall to my left was painted an off shade of tan which reminded me of clay, over a basic lumpy texture often found in apartments. It wasn’t as fascinating as I’d hoped, but it served as a sufficient distraction to what was happening to me. The wood beneath my body was fake. Even through the towels I was laying on I could feel the fake grain of wood against my skin. I wondered if my legs would bear the same pattern by the time I stood up. Around my legs was an ever increasing puddle of blood made mostly of enormous clots and tissue. I had tried sitting in the tub to avoid ruining the floor of our apartment, and to quell the unbearable abdominal pains by allowing the hot stream of shower water to wash over me, but the violent stream of blood had clogged the drain in less than a minute. Instead of being warm, I was naked, wet, and shivering on the bathroom floor. My head swam from the concentration of Vicodin in my system, which succeeded in making me terribly woozy but did little to mask the terrible cramps in my lower abdomen. It was impossible for me to sit or stand without losing consciousness. Silent tears ran down my cheeks.
My husband, Jason, sat next to me, helplessly clutching my hand. He’d rushed home from work to take me to the OB/GYN’s office once the clots began to flow. I couldn’t have a D&C (a surgical procedure meant to remove tissue from the uterus), the obstetrician explained after examining me, because I’d eaten within eight hours of coming to the hospital. If I wanted a D&C I would need to wait the eight hours and by then the bleeding would be over, so why not be in my own home? There was, therefore, little Jason could offer in terms of comfort or support. He simply sat by my side and ran his fingers through my hair as I cried and bled.
“Does it still hurt?” he asked, his eyebrows scrunched together with concern and his green eyes wrought with sadness.
I nodded, unable to speak through the pain. Against my vehement internal protests, the muscles in my abdomen contracted in waves and a hot, sharp pain shot horizontally across my lower back. Pressure built as the contraction reached its zenith, and more clots and blood flowed from what would have been my birth canal, only I was giving birth to death. The tissue of my unborn child would soon be expelled from my fractured womb, if it hadn’t already been, and I could only hope that I would be too dazed to notice.
The pain in my chest throbbed. Worsened with each heartbeat. Each breath
. I tried to calm myself; I tried to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth like my therapist had taught me, but every muscle in my body was clenched. I could only take in short, rapid breaths, which increased the speed of my heart when I needed it to slow. My chest felt heavy, like the pressure I got when I was swimming and held my breath for too long. Tears rained from my eyes and savage sobs that I couldn’t control shook my body. I didn’t realize I was screaming - wailing in the aftermath of grief and in the shadow of trauma.
* * *
Nine months after that first miscarriage I was unexpectedly pregnant again, but a mere four days after the pregnancy test returned a positive result, I was mildly bleeding. Blood tests confirmed I had lost the less than two-week old child that had stirred within my womb. The second miscarriage was different than the first in that it was physically mild - hardly any different than a normal period. Emotionally, however, it was much worse. The grief of the first miscarriage, which I thought I had processed, came rushing back. Like a scab torn off of an infected wound, a well of anger, bitterness, hatred, and confusion poured out of me in agonizing waves I could no longer hold at bay. Instead of only grieving the second loss, I was grieving both with a mind and heart deeply fragmented. Depression and anxiety demolished my days and nights; it left me in a darkness I didn’t know how to escape.
I was courting death.
I saw them, both of them, in my sleep. Hollow, shapeless figures with gleaming red eyes that came to me every night amidst confusion and darkness; ghosts of lives unknown. The souls of my two unborn children, perhaps. Seductive, vicious ghouls bent on wooing me into eternal torment. Because of them I couldn’t sleep, and the lack of sleep had made me weak. Exhausted. My pain and emptiness was emphasized, highlighted, and worsened with each day that passed. I felt damaged - contaminated by grief and death. I was in desperate need of respite from the terrible depression and anxiety which controlled my daily life. I wanted rest.
I was on my hands and knees, breathing quick and deep, panic overtaking my mind. I slammed my fists into the floor again and again as the attack which had been building in small waves for hours finally rolled over, thrashing against the pitiful fortification of my sanity, submerging it in the salty taste of violent tears. I was so poisonous and toxic, I couldn’t even give life to my unborn children
, a voice in my mind whispered.
That was why they haunted me…I had withheld life from them, and now they would do the same.
You can end it
, the voice said.
There was a gun beneath the mattress on my husband’s side of the bed, and I knew it was loaded. In the black and white distortion of panic and pain, it seemed an easy prescription. Fitting, even.
I looked around frantically for something, anything, to calm the torrential storm and lead me away from the only rest I could think of. To my right on the desk was my notebook and a pen. Without thinking of what I would write or how it could possibly help, I crawled to the desk, grabbed them and, with tears still raining, began to write.