Chapter III: That Hospital Chair

I wasn’t pregnant long enough to have stretch marks. The baby didn’t grow. Didn’t eat. Didn’t thrive.

All of the bloodwork made my arms sore. Vaginal suppositories. Vitamins. Morning sickness. None of it mattered in the end and we found ourselves enduring an at home birth over the toilet.

“Whatever happens – whatever you feel or hear, do NOT look in the toilet,” the doctor warned. “It is not a baby – and it never was.”

She was right: it never was a baby. No beating heart, no crown, no spine. It was a joining of him and I inside a malnourished cocoon. It was a new bullet point on our TORN UP resumes. It was a reminder that neither of us were good for anything other than riding around in a car to smoke weed and drink vodka.

The pills to promote at home labor were simple and swallowed. Contractions started. He laid on the couch and fell asleep as I screamed and slapped my naked thighs on the toilet. Two Vicodin, then four; and then at six Vicodin, he called the doctor. I splashed around in the bathtub, seething in pain, and hoping to see the clear water start to bleed.

No blood after 13 hours of at home delivery, but a lot of failed pain pills. He told me it would be okay; and loaded me up in his little tan Mazda and sped through morning school zones. They poked and prodded, scanned and evaluated.

“We’ll have to get her up to surgery. The mass is not moving and at this point we are looking at serious infection.” The doctor was apologetic. “It is not a baby,” she reminded. I nodded, clutching my contracting abdomen, and he waited.

They prepared the operating room and placed pads to catch what they expected to unravel. The post-operative nurses consoled me and reminded me that miscarriages like this “are common and happen all of the time…many women go on to have successful pregnancies.” I swallowed more Vicodin and waited for the remnants of life to scatter.

It was never a baby, I whispered.

My swollen eyes turned to him for solace, but there was none found in the bedside hospital chair. What sat in that hospital chair was the other half of my broken womb. What sat in that hospital chair was a man at loss.

I had never seen him cry – much like a young girl’s memory of never seeing her father cry until their dog got run over in the street. Much like a man who had begged me to cancel an abortion. Much like a man who had told me, “Look what we have done,” and smiled. His heart lay at the ground that day; and the nurses brushed past, packaged up what was left of his hope, and marked it BIOHAZARD WASTE.

And as I sat in that hospital chair, all these years later, to see him unraveling himself – tied up with tubes and latex tape, I finally understood the other side of loss and knowing how hard it is to hear “it was never…” when your soul is busy shouting, “it is everything.”