The pain was niggling at first, nudging its way from the pit of my stomach to somewhere near the small of my back. I was thirteen weeks pregnant and it didn’t take much to know that something was not the way it ought to be. So the doctor came. She was a stranger to me, for we’d only recently arrived in the neighbourhood, but still, she was nice and she breathed on her fingers to warm them before examining me. It was a thoughtful gesture I appreciated more than she knew. Her face was impassive when she broke the news but I needed her honesty, truth being somehow more believable when surrounded by the familiar. And anyway, I needed to prepare myself before we left home.
The plastic doors swung closed behind us with a loud slap. It was a very hospital sound – a reminder of this place I’d come to that would be my world for the next twenty-four hours. The place where I knew then with certainty that I would lose my baby. I understood this. I did. But I was not yet ready to believe it.
The nurses were already waiting and they led the way to a small side room off the main ward. The bed had crisp white sheets and there was an underlying smell of disinfectant, but it was private and I was grateful for that. My husband, who had come along with me, was told politely, “There’s nothing you can do but let nature take its course. Come back and collect your wife in the morning.” Didn’t they know that it was his baby too? Didn’t they even think about that? But I was left alone to wait.
I lay down on top of the bed and stared at four white walls and a sink. The truth was I wanted to be by myself – to share nothing but my own space and to selfishly breathe in my own air. So I let the hospital silence settle over me and asked my questions to an empty room.
What colour would my baby’s eyes have been? The colour of his hair? Her hair? And would the sense of loss I felt ever really disappear?
Later, when it was over, the doctors told me that it had just been nature’s way; that it happened to women every day and I would probably have another child to replace the one I’d lost. As if it was as easy as that, I thought, watching their white coats recede through the doorway. As if it was as easy as that.
I heard soft footfall in the corridor outside. One of the nurses had forgotten something, I supposed. She came in quietly and sat with me on the bed. There was a look of undisguised compassion on her face. Without warning she took my hand in hers and squeezed it tightly for a moment. “It’s okay, Lynda,” she whispered, “Time will help it heal, you’ll see.” This simple act of kindness from a stranger was something that I would not forget.
The relief I felt from her words was overwhelming.
My healing had a long way still to go but it was a start.
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