Drums in my head, beating against the thick wall of my skull. We’ve lost the pregnancy.
Waking Nightingale’s teen to tell them, sorry Squid, we’ve lost the baby. Where? they ask, sleep blurred and confused.
Walking into my studio for the first time in months to wrap my book ‘Mourning the Unborn’ for a customer overseas. Then weeping in bed instead of taking the package to the post office. What strange timing, I’ve not sold a copy in over a year.
We find someone safe for Poppy to play with. I buy a bouquet and we bring it back to bed. It is bright and colourful and has the painful cheer of hospital flowers next to the white sheets. We spend the first day alone and entwined, breathing in the loss.
And then, nothing. I try to get through the days.
I’ve lost my voice, my loves, for a long time now. The unbinding of my family, my terrible depression, the building of something new… I’ve been so silent throughout most of it. I rarely share online or even journal privately. I take few photos, write fewer poems. There’s been no art in my world at all in years.
All my life has felt unsharable. The stories have been beyond my ability to put into words. I don’t understand them. They defy telling. I cannot speak because I do not understand. I cannot explain.
My life has been tangled into other people’s lives. I fear hurting others. I cannot share my own experience now without impacting those who share or once shared my life. I never want my words to be a trap or a weapon. I don’t have the strength to manage what might come in with the tide. So I’m silent. Cut off and waiting for I don’t know what. Unsure if this is only for a time or this is just how I am now.
Nightingale is savaged by grief, while I am numb. There was no body in my body, there’s no blood on my thighs, no community to grieve with. I tell friends we lost the baby, who tell me to send their love to Nightingale. The child that was also mine, becomes in death not mine. The miscarriage becomes hers alone. I’m behind the glass, handing out hot water bottles, dedicated and soothing and far more afraid of the impact on her and I, of losing us than I am of the loss we’ve just suffered.
Behind the glass it’s almost like nothing happened, there was no child, no dream broken. The child was not mine. I remember well the black void of trying to conceive Poppy after losing Tam, and I grasp at the relief like a lifejacket. There’s no void here. There’s nothing to grieve. I’m not falling off the face of the planet. I’m a good parent, an attentive partner. I’m functioning.
I don’t talk about it, write about it, cry about it. I don’t want a body to hold or a talisman or a tattoo. I want to hold Poppy and never let go. I want to run from the burning pit where my grief is not clean and pure thwarted yearning, but something ugly and sharp, pierced through with raging fear and doubt. Maybe the baby didn’t come because I’m not a good enough parent. Maybe they’re better off without me. Fertility as the blessing of the divine, the endorsement of the universe of your capacity. All such bullshit and yet my heart labors under the fears.
I can’t help but turn my face from the anguish of possible later loss, stillbirth, a child dead at 4 months or 2 years. The demand that I can handle whatever tragedy might come and still be here for Poppy. It makes me terrified of my dreams because I know tragedy will come, that grief follows love like a shadow. When getting out of bed each day is a torture of pain and mental exhaustion and humiliating incapacity, I can’t afford to risk much more. So, the horrifying traitor thought: maybe it’s better this way.
This is how mothers say goodbye, little Luna. Face turned to the side in rejection of all that you were and represented. Eyes fixed firmly on the child remaining, heart broken by doubts and unworthiness. Numb to the bone.
The brutal mornings become unmoored from the source of the pain. I drive Poppy to school and then collapse sobbing in the car and can’t drive home for hours. Nothing means anything. My heart runs from you. If you weren’t real, there’s nothing to grieve. I build no shrine and hold no memory tight of who you could have been and the life we dreamed of together. You were almost never here, real as smoke or mist, dew gone in the first light of sun. I betray you.
Nightingale is alone and not alone in grief. The primal need of grief is to know it’s shared. I add to her anguish. In the night we are raw and wounded. I turn my face back to the loss, and reach for a key. We watch Losing Layla and I find you there Luna, in the face of the dead child. Grief, pierced through with doubt and shame. I howl in her arms. My functioning evaporates like dew.
We go wander the WOMAD festival, under the trees and the flags, arm in arm. The night is soothing. We get a henna tattoo each for the child, a Luna moth and a moon.
I buy and finally read Terry Pratchett’s final book, The Shepherd’s Crown. The mere thought of it has been unbearable for years. Now I read it through and I cannot feel anything. My eyes are dry.
I miss all my children, the ones who could not stay, or who left. Everything tangles into darkness. I am dumbstruck, spellbound, silent, paralyzed. I cannot be who I wish to be, who I am. I cannot find comfort in your name. I thought losing Luna would feel like losing Tam, but it turns out each loss is distinct and each grief is its own thing. Everything hurts, and I cannot feel anything at all.
This is what it is. I was once so blasted by sorrow that I couldn’t feel even the wind on my face or hear the trains in the night. My whole world was ash, and I was buried deep beneath it. I’ve come back from the dead before. My littlest love, you’ve pulled me into the underworld beside you. I’ll find a way to kiss your bitter mouth goodbye and live again.