Shelly-Ann Harris: Saying goodbye to the baby you didn’t meet
Saying goodbye to the baby you didn't meet
I was nauseous for a week, sucking on mints to keep myself mildly sedated enough to present the day's news at work. Media, like children, require a smile to soothe their fears, especially if the news is bad.
I couldn't remember my last period, so it hadn't worried me that I was nauseous and 'crampy' for so long. After all, this was the normal menstrual salute. So any day now, sure enough, my menses were coming. Or so I thought.
But the days multiplied, the nausea got worse, and still no period. Getting a little jittery, I sat and combed through each day of the previous month. And then I remembered that the day Veronica Campbell-Brown won the bronze medal, I wore full black and was nauseous and crampy and hot. The 18th of August was the third day in my last cycle.
A visit to the doctor's office confirmed my suspicions. "You couldn't be more pregnant," she said, looking lovingly at the two lines in the pregnancy test. We were pregnant and excited. It meant that my husband was a proclaimed procreator (a 'breeder') and I was going to be a mommy.
Later, we saw her tiny heartbeat pulsing across the screen of the ultrasound machine, and we knew our lives would never be the same. It was early, but we trumpeted the news to the world: friends, family, co-workers and sometimes anyone who would listen.
Somehow, I knew it was a girl. I could begin to see myself getting up earlier in the morning to tame her long, thick mane; I could hear her feet pitter-pattering on the wooden floors of the three-bedroom house we wanted to buy, playing with her daddy on lazy, hazy summer afternoons. I saw her future entangled in mine, her smile wide and rich, giving our lives sweet significance.
She was poetry being written in my heart. I started to walk, talk and look differently as her joy glowed in my skin like the evening sun. I protected her when I saw something painful on television; I stopped drinking caffeine and soda and silenced negative words spoken around me.
I was determined to give her the best start - the best food, the best protection, the best love. I prayed for her, touched her, and kept her warm and safe. I trusted God with, and for, her fragile wisp of a life gently blooming in the blanket of my womb.
But she was almost eight weeks when I saw the first spot of blood, and I panicked. The doctor gave eight days of undisturbed rest; my husband did all he could to keep me off my feet and I tried to keep my smile. They said it was common to have some bleeding in the first trimester, but my fears welled when my abdomen began to hurt. It was contracting.
I couldn't stop it, I couldn't hold her in. It was as if my body just kept coughing, expelling her out. It didn't matter how much I touched her, warmed her. It didn't matter how much I loved her, how much I prayed - she left.
As the tears stained my face and red swollen eyes peered at the hospital ceiling, a flurry of thoughts crowded my mind. Was it the heavy bag I lifted to do the laundry some weeks before, or the radioactive machine they have at work, or the stressful nature of a career in media. I wondered if somehow, it was my fault.
The doctor said it wasn't. He said it happens. He explained that sometimes it was nature's way of barring abnormal babies from having to endure a difficult life, and that if I thought of it in that light, it could be seen as a good thing. I listened and smiled, but it didn't heal the hole in my heart.
Now, in the echoes of her faded pitter-patter, in the broken dream, in the poem that ended too soon, we said goodbye to our first child.
Now her feet pitter-patter in Heaven, but we will always remember her and the first lines of poetry she brought to my womb.
• Shelly-Ann Harris is the editorial director and founder of Family and Faith Magazine. Her true account of losing a child several years ago is shared with the hope that it may help a mother to process their pain and heal on Mother's Day tomorrow. Shelly-Ann and her husband Warren, are now the parents of three beautiful children. Send comments to email@example.com, visit her blog, letsgoUpstream.wordpress.com, or catch up with her on Twitter @harrisshellyann.