Every winter, I’m reminded of you. Every winter, I find myself missing you again. It’s taken me years to write this, but I’ve been doing it…I’ve been writing. So many times I’ve had to walk away from it, but I always come back. I always come back to you. I’ve been writing your story. This is for you.
* * * Part Two * * *
I can’t forget his eyes. They did not lie. He probably didn’t even know, but his eyes said everything he wouldn’t say as he held open the plastic bag, and I slipped my clothes inside. Even as I turned away from him, I could feel the angst, the fear, burning into the back of my neck as he tied my hospital gown. My husband was petrified. I knew we both saw that bag the same.
If I died, he would be handed that bag.
He would get my shirt, my bra and underwear, my shoes and pants, and he would be sent on his way. It was the unlikely scenario, but still…a scenario, even if it was a routine surgery. We both were thinking it, but we did not speak of it. Anytime the one you love goes under, you fear even the improbable outcome, the worst possible outcome, but you never speak of it.
“I’ll hold onto these,” he said, gently removing my glasses from my face. It was a subtlety that gave me a moment of relief. He had my glasses. They didn’t belong in the bag, and I would get them back. I would see him again.
I slid up onto the hospital cot, still holding onto the back of my gown in an attempt to hide my backside, as if it mattered; in an hour or two, I would be asleep with my legs open under a blinding light. Strange hands would reach up inside the most vulnerable, delicate, private part of my being. They had just met me; yet, they would see and feel where new life is born, where it should thrive. I became ill, thinking of their foreign hands, scraping my walls, and having casual conversations while separating you from me. Somewhere, my name was written on the surgical board, just another name on the board. But for me, this day was monumental. This was the day you were taken from me.
Nurses came and went as did muffled episodes of House Hunters. The nurse that administered my IV had finished her shift, so I couldn’t kindly complain that I was in pain at her poor placement. But the tenth nurse I had went ahead and re-stuck me.
“There hun, is that better?” she said, placing her warm hand on my leg. I nodded, and she left in a blur.
My husband rose from his chair in the corner of the room and loomed over my bedside. “I’m starving,” I said, as he grazed my forehead with his calloused palms. We both knew I couldn’t eat, so we just sat there and stared at the clock, waiting for them to wheel me away, dreading every minute that passed. Nurses continued to come and go. I never got comfortable with one in particular because there were at least 10 of them in the span of the 3 hours I lied on my back, counting minutes, hoping they would slow down or they would hurry up—I couldn’t decide.
Finally, a nurse I’d seen once before returned: “Alright Alyssa, we’re going to start your anesthesia so you’re nice and sleepy; Dr. S. is almost out of surgery: he had another unexpected C-section this afternoon, so I apologize for the delay,” she said while vigorously typing notes in the patient log. Stuart squeezed my hand; he knew I hated this part. They gave me a nausea patch behind my ear at my request, but it wasn’t the nausea I was worried about.
There’s something eerie about the moment you slowly slip into medicated sleep…knowing the world is happening while you’re unconscious. It’s different than the world happening while you sleep in bed at night. You understand where you are and what’s surrounding you when you go to sleep, but when you’re put to sleep with medication, you drift off into the unknown. What’s happening around you, who is there, what is said…you will never, ever know. It’s the undeveloped photograph on a film strip. A gap in the time lapse that is your life. And it’s not the hole in your memory that’s daunting: it’s the fact that it’s only a mystery to you. Someone else was there. They know what you don’t.
As the anesthesia creeped through my veins, I quickly lost control to the drug. I burst out into laughter before I said goodbye to Stuart and my parents, who peeked in the doorway as they began to wheel me out of my room. I don’t know if it’s better or worse that I could not appropriately react in that final moment. Maybe it was better that the drugs had control; that way I couldn’t long for you. That way, I couldn’t dwell on the slight possibility that I may never wake up, or that something could go wrong in the operating room. That way, I didn’t have time to be terrified to let go of you…I could only accept the unknown…
There was a masked face…a blinding light…a voice…
“Alyssa, you’re going to fall asleep soon; I’m going to count to 10, and we’ll see you soon…”
My eyes shot open. The air was dead—stale and silent. I scanned the room, but there was no movement, no voices. I turned my head to the right and saw no one. Then, a monitor came into view and I tapped in to its patterned beeping as it mirrored my heartbeat. I remained motionless, only turning my head from side to side so as to try and find clues. What time is it? Where is everyone? What happened to me? To you…
Several minutes passed, and the beeping pattern changed. It was a bit faster. Finally, still lying motionless on my back, two nurses’ heads came into view, several feet away. They were yawning, speaking softly. Was it night? It was supposed to be late afternoon…
I watched their lips as they spoke. The lights were dim. One of them turned her head in my direction. I thought she said…She’s awake. And then they left my view, heading opposite ways.
My heart squeezed in my chest, and the silent breaks between heartbeats shrunk to near milliseconds. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep…
I thought they took out my uterus. I thought they carved out my ovaries, my womb, you and everything you touched. I laid my hands over my abdomen and caused it to ache. I was sick.
I was hollow.
The menacing melody of my panic seemed to get louder as I gained more and more control of my body and mind. I could almost feel the anesthesia slowly exiting my bloodstream. My heart rate was rapid and powerful. My inner panic and the dry air sent tears down the sides of my cheeks and into my ear lobes. I was suddenly overwhelmed by a flood, of tears and spiraling thoughts.
Something went wrong, and they took everything out; they had to…to save me.
That’s why it took so long.
That’s why it’s late.
That’s why she yawned.
I’m sure I almost bled out, and they took it all; they had to…to save my life.
That’s why it’s quiet.
That’s why they won’t talk to me.
That’s why I’m still lying here.
I should be happy that I’m awake.
I should be happy that I’m alive.
But you’re gone.
And I’m hollow.
So I’ll never have you again.
The next thing I saw was the plastic bag. I was in that room again, and there it was, sitting on the table next to me. When he came in, he was smiling, but still I knew nothing.
“What’s going on? How did it go? No one’s talking to me,” I said in a panic. Stuart took my hand. His eyes did not lie; they were relieved.
“The doctor said it went well. There was a lot of bleeding, so it took a little longer than expected, but you did good,” he said.
I could breathe. We were overwhelmed by happiness; yet, we couldn’t deny that there was a disconnect. There was something missing. Someone. At that moment, Dr. S. appeared in the doorway. It was about time I heard from him. I had to know…what did he see?
“So you did great,” he said. “There was some excess bleeding, but we kept it under control. To the naked eye, the tissue didn’t actually appear like that of a molar pregnancy; however, I cannot be sure, so I’ve sent the tissue to pathology, and we should know the results within a couple days to a week.”
I looked at my mother; she had the same scowl stretched across her forehead.
“So you mean there’s a chance this might not be a molar pregnancy?” I asked.
He shifted his weight and looked down at me, “Fingers crossed, but like I said, it’s hard to know; though it didn’t look particularly abnormal to me, pathology will have to confirm. Until then, we wait.”
I wanted to ask more, but I was tired. I wanted to know everything, but I was weak. I wanted the answer now, but I had to wait.
“The nurses will keep an eye on you for another hour, make sure your blood pressure comes down a bit, and then you can go home. They’ll let you know what to expect over the next couple days,” he added, and then pursed his lips. His day had been long, as was mine. “Take care, and I’ll have Nurse Katie call you when we have the results.”
With that, I was given pamphlets about coping and dealing with grief…papers on blood clots, pain management, and scar tissue…brochures on miscarriage and loss support groups. My mother tucked them away in a file folder as Stuart helped me out of bed to use the bathroom. He led me to the door, but then I let go of his hand. “I’m OK,” I said and slowly shut the door.
I looked down at the red water. For days, I would stare at that water, reminding me of you. For days, I would bleed and lose you all over again. Before, I had thought surgery would be the hardest part, and if I could just get through the procedure, I would breathe again; I would be myself; and I would begin to heal. But as I hung my head, my eyes fixated on the blood red water, I knew I was wrong. That was the hardest part, right then and there. It was right then that I knew I would never be myself again. Because that would be a lie. Because that was the first day as the new me. You could see, my arms were open, but I held nothing. I did not have a baby, but I was a mother.
That was the first day I saw myself as a mother without you to hold.
That was the first day I saw myself as a mother, but no one else would.
…to be continued in Part Three.