Her womb was empty of life. But this, she did not know. In her imagination, there was a baby. She wanted there to be a child, and this child-of-her-mind was born out of the grief at the ending of her fertile years. Since she had been newlywed, she’d always told everyone that she wanted many children. “Six,” she would reply in answer to that question, “or however many God gives me.” In her mind, the “however many” was always a greater number, and never a lesser. So here she was, in years that still should have been childbearing years, with a brood of four, larger-than-average, and still she felt that longing and that regret. And now she thought she was pregnant, against all odds. She thought it, because it had happened to to someone she knew who was living proof that surgery does not always work to prevent a baby. So, in her mind, that was the truth, and not the harsh statistic of 99.99 percent effective. She believed in that one-in-a-thousand chance. She also believed because her period was late. Unimaginably late. And because each of the four times before when she had been pregnant, there had always been negative pregnancy tests during the first six weeks or so. And it is easy to imagine nausea, and a big belly just was. Her whole life was just a step away from nausea and bloating...so why shouldn’t she believe the signs?
And then there was that test. Yes, a faint line had appeared....it looked positive....wishfully positive, but it was an idea she clung to.
Baby excitement filled the air. As usual her husband was reserved and stressed out about the money a new baby would cost. “I am happy,” he would reassure her in an unconvincing and resigned voice when they were alone. She knew all that would change when he held the child. It always had. He was the best father, always patient and very involved. But they were poor as could be, and it was not yet time to tell the kids.
She never had quite the energy that other moms had, and it always seemed that her children were more demanding than other people’s children. They took more out of her. They were for some unknown reason more difficult to parent. But things would work out. They had a way of working out, didn’t they?
And her sister-in-law was about to have a baby, too. Baby excitement definitely filled the air. That baby would be due any day now, and she could not wait for the extended family to grow. One more precious soul to love.
That night there was a phone call. Her sister-in-law called. Her baby had died and would be stillborn. She wept. They wept together...these two women, miles and years apart. Both of them for the loss of this child. She could not imagine this mother’s grief.
And then, the bleeding began. And then she knew she’d been deluding herself, and she felt like an utter fool. And she cried. She cried for her non-baby, for her sister-in-law’s baby and for the babies she wanted but would never have. Perhaps she cried for the future that she did not yet know, for the dead dreams and the ones that would never even get started enough to be dreamt in the first place. Her pillow was wet with the tears over that-which-was-not, always a loss and never a gain. She cried over her husband’s family’s early death, over his ongoing grief and over moving and over culture shock and over being bullied in middle school. She cried over friendships lost. She cried for continents, countries and cultures she couldn’t go back to. She cried over her children being different, and over her own pain and fatigue. Her face was slick with regret, sadness and anger at her own body by which she felt betrayed. Life had betrayed her, and that night was for tears.
Much later there would be wisdom to see, and hear a quiet whisper of comfort, ancient as the universe “blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” It struck her, in that later on time, that she was calling The Suffering One blessed. And she was calling the mother of The Suffering One blessed, too. And this would be her own story, too...counting all things lost.
Note: This piece is a mashup of two different ancient memories. It's written in the third person, but it is about me. It contains some dreadfully personal material, but I'm putting it out here because it is a story, a woman's story, and although that woman happens to be me, I believe it is a tale which might resonate with or bless someone else. I've never ever encountered anyone with whom I could share this stuff, and so that leads me to believe there is someone in the world who may have felt similar things...and also felt alone in them. God bless you.