expecting

“I didn’t know you were expecting again,” she says.

 

I put my hands

to my twenty-seven week belly.

 

Expecting

to feel my baby’s last kick,

the deep abyss of stillness that follows.

 

Expecting

the hollow silence

underneath my lone heartbeat.

 

Expecting

every day

my daughter will die like her brother.

 

My friend’s baby—

a rainbow—

over a year now,

pulls on her legs,

gives me a suspicious look

over her shoulder.

 

“Yes,” I say.

 

I rub my hands over the skin where

my daughter sleeps underneath.

Later, she will wake up,

gently kneading hands or feet,

crossing or uncrossing legs,

pushing into my right side

like her brother used to do.

 

For a moment,

I will be reassured.

 

Expecting

her first cry

as she is placed

on my chest,

new and wet.

 

Expecting

to swaddle her,

name her,

bring her home.

 

Expecting

my daughter to live.

 

“Yes,” I say. “Yes. I am

expecting.”

 

*        *         *

One more week. Or less. Expecting–wishful thinking, really–each day to go into labor. Saturday is Week 39, our voluntary induction day. It’s time to meet this little girl on the outside.

 

© Burning Eye

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the babies inside me

At the end of yoga class, I lie in sivasana and think about this baby I still carry inside of me. I wait for the baby to kick. I worry about the blackness that would fill me if this baby, too, died. I squeeze my heart and eyes, hands around my belly, trying to shut out fear. I imagine the birth, holding my new baby on my chest, handing our baby—a living, wiggly miracle—to A.

We are so focused on this baby, on making it, putting one foot in front of the other. Some days Joseph is more present than others. He is a part of me that lives on a parallel plane just below my visible reality; the shadow that grows or stretches or shrinks with the angle of the sun.  I dread the weight of his loss when our daughter is born. The seeing, knowing, experiencing just how much we have lost that I’ve heard other babylost parents talk about. Losing him all over again.

Some days it is too much—the curtains I make for the nursery that I never made for Joseph; the crib we never assembled for him that now sits in the corner of the baby’s room—and I have to close it out. Disconnect the pieces of myself and fill my mind with something else. I cannot indulge the sorrow that wells up in me, as I did those first months after he died. I do not submerge my body in the bath while I weep. I do not sit, hands and fingers covered in charcoal dust, and contemplate the darkness I have just spilled on the paper. I do not read, and read, and read about grief and mourning and all the babies who have died. But sometimes I sit in the glider for a few minutes, just sitting, rocking, holding Joseph in my mind.

The yoga teacher rings a chime. I take her deep breath in, her soft breath out. I rouse myself, sit slowly up and put my hands in prayer position. She says, And bow to honor the babies inside you.

And I smile, an inward smile. I look down at my belly, where my daughter resides, and then at my heart, where my son is. One a temporary home, the other a permanent dwelling. I close my eyes and feel my blood pulsing, carrying with it fetal cells from both my babies mixed with my own genetic material. Endlessly circulating.

I touch my forehead to my fingertips and bow. I carry both of you,I whisper to them.

*               *                *

I am sad today. I sit in the glider and look at Joseph’s portrait. I am reading the poems in To Linger on Hot Coalssome of which are mine. Revisiting some of that early grief. Letting the grief of other mothers in just a little.

And I realize it is the 27th again. Joseph’s fifteen month stillbirthday. I don’t understand how these anniversaries seep into our unconscious. Why today? Two days ago, my anxiety spike as this baby slept peacefully away in my womb, ignoring my increasing pokes and prods. It was the 25th, the fifteen month anniversary of Joseph’s death.

Joseph, I miss you so much.

 

© Burning Eye

moments, waiting

I have a dream that I am driving home in the dark when I realize that I have left the road and am driving on the ties between two sets of railroad tracks. I can see the texture of the railroad ties more than I can feel them under my tires. The tracks stretch out in front of me in a slight arc towards the right. On either side of the bank is a winter wood, grey and brown trunks amidst a bare scrabble of saplings and brambles. Through the trees on my left, I can see the headlights of cars on the highway—the right road, the one I’m supposed to be on.

At least I’m going in the right direction, my brain says, before I think, No, no, no. I’m not supposed to be driving on railroad tracks!

I look behind me, unsure of when I left the road, how long I’ve been driving in these dark woods. I could just reverse. No, what if there’s a train coming down one of these tracks?

I try to see the ground beneath the trees. I wonder if its swampy, if my car will sink into ruts and get stuck. I consider calling my dad, calling the police, letting someone know my predicament.

Slowly, I turn the steering wheel and descend down the gravel bank. My car becomes some kind of super-strong all-terrain vehicle. I do not sink into mud. I crunch through leaves and over logs as I make a wide arc to turn around, heading back towards the tracks.

I look both ways, like I’m going to cross the street. I see a light coming, far away, but quickly. I wait. The train rushes past and I am relieved to be off the tracks. A minute later, another train comes from the other direction.

After this one passes, I realize I have noticed something. I think, There is enough room that I could drive on one set of tracks while another train runs on the second track. I feel reassured, pull forward and turn left, heading back the way I came.

*            *            *

I take Joseph to be framed. His portrait. But this is how I think of it: I take Joseph to be framed.

I carry him to the car, unsure of how to situate him. Face down? Face up? I end up propping him upright behind my purse in the passenger seat. His first ride in the car.

We drive to the frame shop, go in together. I put him on the counter and am pleased that the woman treats him gently. She lays out mats and frames, to match the softness of the portrait, she says. He begins to come together. Slight gray mat hugging him in close. Curved black wood cradling the outside.

Is this your baby? she asks.

Yes, I tell this stranger. He was our first. He was stillborn. I do not say how hard it was to bring him out of the house. I do not make the vague threats I want about what I’ll do if they damage his portrait in any way. I think she understands.

She asks if a week is okay. It’s okay, I nod, even though I’d rather wait and watch while she does the job, take him right home with me afterwards. Like we’ve gone for a haircut.

Do I say good-bye to him? Not out loud. I leave him sitting on the counter and walk out the door.

*            *            *

I get home and there is a wasp with purple wings dying on the deck. It turns somersaults, flashing its metallic purple to the grey sky.

*            *            *

I stay home now, alone, but I am never alone. The baby kicks in my belly, readjusting, pushing my ribs so I sit up straight. Bumble Bean is growing, healthy. This morning I get a swift, hard kick that wakes me up. Nothing like the last few days of Joseph’s life in my belly. The slowness I perceived but didn’t understand. The small shifts, less and less frequent.

I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to think about it. But I do. Every few hours I cycle through this remembering, unsure if I should cut it off, wondering if it’s a betrayal if I do. All the while anxious to get back to the moment where this baby fills me with hope.

I can’t help but wonder, as we watch Bumble Bean grow on the ultrasound screen each week, what we missed with Joseph. Why he was so much smaller than this baby. Why he died. We didn’t watch him so closely. We didn’t know.

We won’t ever know.

*            *            *

Another dream:

A nurse in pale blue scrubs stands at my bedside. There is something familiar about her slightly-curly, blonde hair; something in the shape of her face I recognize as she bends over me imperceptibly to rouse me. She calls my name softly in a singsong voice, then says, “It’s ti-ime.”

© Burning Eye