into the light we start again

I am sitting on a cold metal table.

Steel reflects from overhead mirrors. The fluorescent lights illuminate faces, somber and pale. My skin is alive, exposed and raw. I lean over and slowly the needle enters me. Breathe. In. Out. This isn’t happening. Pain reaches inside and pulls me back. I look around frantic. No one smiles. No one is saying a word. Tick. Tick. Tick. The machine keeps time with the rhythm of the baby’s heart.

I am lying stretched out now and my hands, they begin to shake. Slowly at first, almost unnoticeable, but soon they are convulsing, slamming the table on their descent. My mind races, I want to go home now. I have had enough. Someone whispers “this is normal, try and relax” in my ear. When I turn to see a face all I see is my husband alone and scared huddled next to me as we wait for this storm to pass.

I don’t feel the blade as it enters me. Relief. The ticking of the machine is drowned out by the sound of suctioning. My husband stands up, his hand drifting along my cheek for only a moment. I try to listen for the sound of breathing. I know that if I can focus on the sound of just one breath, I will find a place of connection. I find it. I focus. It doesn’t waiver.

The commotion has begun now. It’s a girl. There is no time for celebration, everyone is frantic. I try to speak but my throat is silent. I lie there and cry. As I close my eyes I see a campfire and trees. I smell rain. I want to be there in amongst the pines drifting with my thoughts. But I am not. “Would you like to touch your daughter?” I am here. My hand reaches out and touches the bottom of her foot, so warm and small, my fingers barely reaching the table on which she is laid. No one is looking at me; they all have their gaze fixed on the wall, the floor, their hands. I realize that I am not alone. My pain is drifting, landing on those that surround me, engulfing them.

We are moving now, down long empty corridors, through swinging doors, into elevators. This is another room, there is a clock here. 6:52, we missed dinner. I wonder how the cat is doing. I am thirsty, so very thirsty, but I am not allowed any liquid. There may be ice; it may be ok, just not right now. Right now I stare at the clock and think of the breathing. We are alone in here now. For the first time we look at each other, frozen in a stare we are lost, confused, scared. The minutes pass into an hour. We don’t say a word. There is a curtain pulled around the bed but no one else is here. The silence is thick and tangible. For a moment I forget where I am.

There is one more room to visit and the scratch of the wheels from my stretcher mark our departure. We pass familiar faces on the way, each of them trying for a smile, each of them wiping back tears, feigning strength. I want to tell them it will be ok. I want to hug them and tell them that soon it will be the way it was. The way it was supposed to be. But I only stare and then we are gone.

As we approach our final destination, we are greeted with the deafening sound of machines. The walls here are painted pink and blue and yellow, there are balloons stenciled all along one wall. It is cheerful and alive. Then I see her, all of her, for the first time, tubes and suctions holding her in place on the tiny table where she lay and all I see is grey. I freeze.

She is sick, very sick, too sick to make it alone, too sick to grow old, have friends, fall in love, too sick to ever leave here. She will never know real balloons; she may never even open her eyes. There are choices to make. Advice is given; words like chromosome, aorta, lobe and spinal are thrown around the room. They bounce off of us and land on the floor. My mind has been lost completely now, I am merely an observer in this scene. I nod when asked a question, I agree with everything the team of specialists says. I need this to be over. I need to rest my head. I need strong drugs to take away this pain in my abdomen, put me to sleep, help me make it through this moment.

The tubes come out and she gasps. In a room with a couch and sink we hold her. My mom sings happy birthday as she rocks her back and forth. My brother cries in the corner, afraid of the words bunching up in his throat. I want to yell. I want to get up from the stretcher and run through the halls. I want to say something to her, something before she goes. I only have this one chance and all I can think of is “stay”. Please just stay. But I don’t say it. I know she can’t. So I hold her one last time and kiss her cheek, the cheek that is now growing cold and I whisper goodbye. Her time of death is 10:57.

Four days later we pack our clothes into a bag and put on our jackets. It is time to leave. Our ride is here, outside waiting to take us back to the apartment. All we carry with us is emptiness, our hands, our hearts. I am having trouble walking, the pain shooting down my leg. My husband helps me and together we hobble out the door into the light.

We start again.

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