It started with a dream.
I saw the blood and tried to scream, but my voice died with my unborn child, a curly-haired barefoot little girl that danced away into a vast nothingness, looking over her shoulder to grin at me just once before disappearing completely.
But it was only a dream. I woke up and snuggled closer to my curly-haired, barefoot man. In the morning I told him. “Lucky thing,” he said. “It was only a dream.”
But it was more than a dream. Later that morning there was real blood. Real pain. All that was missing was that ghostly, curly-haired little girl.
I drove around the block before calling the midwife office to confirm that what was happening to me was what I thought it was. I was brave on the phone, but when I hung up I sat on the far end of a large parking lot and cried. My curly-haired man left work. I came home to him with puffy eyes and a heavy heart and he held me and let me cry some more.
I wanted to always remember the tear-jerking combination of physical and emotional pain. I wanted to remember what it felt like to close my eyes and try to ignore the reality, but knowing it was impossible, because behind my eyelids were images of so many things that could have been. That were so close to being. So instead I just counted: “1, 2, 3, 4…” until the pain passed. And then, for another moment, at least, I could breathe.
I wanted to remember how much it meant when somebody understood. When they just let me talk and nodded and touched my arm and put their hands to their mouths, wide-eyed, at just the right times. I wanted to remember the hurt and anger I felt when people ignored it or brushed it off with the increasingly cliché statement, “Everything happens for a reason.” I wanted to remember the sinking hope that I was wrong, that everybody was wrong, and that I would wake up the next morning and it really would only be a dream.
I held on to the memory of crying into my pillow, then forcing myself out of bed, then crying into the stream of a burning hot shower, willing it to cleanse me into an older version of myself – a happier, more naïve version; the version that wanted to wait until we’d done everything before we even considered the possibility of a curly-haired, barefoot little person.
I wanted to remember the number of ways I found to blame myself: That processed chicken salad. My trips to the rock climbing gym. Tickle fights with the curly-haired man. Not making myself healthier before we dove blindly and recklessly into a decision we knew almost nothing about.
I hated myself for wanting to remember. But I couldn’t help it. And in my eagerness to remember every part of my shattered dream, I tried to forget just one.
This part happened as I shivered in my car in that empty parking lot, feeling cold and lonely, sobbing loudly for no one to hear. “Why?” I cried at my dashboard, at my steering wheel, and then at God. And then one of them answered me with a thought: “You need this experience. For someone else.” And I told the thought to go away, to leave me alone with my pain, and it did.
But it came back later, when I was able to help someone else. It came back when I thought of the day I might really have a curly-haired little girl who really grows up and might really experience the same thing herself. And now I know why I tried so hard to remember. If I can tuck these memories away someplace safe deep inside me, I can pull them back out when someone I love needs them. I’ll show that someone that I remember. That I understand.
And knowing this helps me move forward.
My dreams get better all the time.