Doug and I just spent a really nice morning together, a throwback, if you will, to a simpler time in our life as a couple. We slept in, cuddling until our bodies couldn’t take being horizontal anymore, then got coffee and went for a walk around our neighborhood.
We stopped frequently in the shade so that I could take a sip of my coffee (I can’t walk and drink at the same time without choking or spilling on myself, a quirk for which Doug loves to make fun of me), looked at the houses and let ourselves daydream a little, and talked about one of our two favorite leisurely-walking topics: Doug’s plan to become a high school history teacher, the way he’ll run his classroom, the assignments he’d like to give. (Our other favorite leisurely-walking topic is France, my memories and my family there, and all the things and the places we hope I can show him one day.)
We got home and did a little housecleaning, and then, realizing that we still had over three hours left before we’d have to leave for work, Doug suggested that we take our Scrabble game down to the pool and play out in the sun. Which we did, while eating watermelon and drinking lemonade.
It wasn’t until we were gathering our things after the game had ended that I even remembered there had been a tragedy in our lives. I picked up the notebook that serves as our Official Scrabble Scorebook and closed it, and suddenly I felt the stab of a painful memory as my eyes lighted on the book’s cover.
The notebook, a simple, spiral-bound, hard-covered one, is royal blue and says “Thoughts” all over it. I remember standing in front of the bargain section at Barnes & Noble, trying to help Doug decide whether he wanted “Thoughts” or “Words” to categorize the series of letters he was planning to write to his baby. This was the same night that we each bought a book on the journey we were facing; I remember standing in front of the Pregnancy/Baby/Childcare section of the store feeling totally lost as to what to get; the classic What to Expect was already en route in the mail, since my sister had an extra copy.
For months afterward, I had a hard time being in that Barnes & Noble, which was a shame since it was the closest book store to us, huge and beautiful and well-lit, with a cafe area so big that there was always an open table for me when I wanted to go read somewhere other than my dark little apartment. And for even longer still, my route to from the cafe to the bathrooms was altered so that I wouldn’t have to walk by that Pregnancy/Baby/Childcare section.
It’s amazing how many routine things and places became painful memories, thanks to the four days during which I really believed I was going to become a mother. Things that would never be memorable on a normal day – like going to Barnes & Noble or drinking red Gatorade – became magnified in my consciousness during that brief period, because for those few days, everything was magnified by my excitement, hope, and fear.
After we’d accepted that miscarriage was inevitable, we were able to return the two books we’d bought that night, getting around Barnes & Noble’s 14-day return policy because the manager on duty took pity on us. However, Doug had already written in his notebook, a single one-page letter to his baby, which said something along the lines of, “Mom doesn’t believe that you’re in there, but I know that you are.” He tore the page out and, I believe, saved it somewhere, when we converted the notebook to our Official Scrabble Scorebook several months later.
For my part, I threw away that extra copy of What to Expect when I was cleaning out my car one day. Given how highly I value books in general, I thought that doing the unthinkable would be good for me – a clean, dramatic break from all that excitement, hope, and fear – and hoped my sister would understand. I also had a journal I was keeping during my pregnancy, addressed, not to the baby I didn’t believe in, but to the universe, bemoaning my plight. I can barely remember what it looked like – blue flowers? – let alone find it, so I can only assume I spring-cleaninged that one out of my life as well.
My mom, I’m sure, would have encouraged me to keep it and keep at it. There was nothing more she wanted from me during those darkest days than that I write. “It’s therapeutic,” she insisted. “And it’s what you love to do – writing will make you feel better.” She sent me new blank notebooks, with pictures of Snoopy pasted inside, and, “It was a dark and stormy night…” written on the first page in her handwriting.
But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to put those feelings on paper and immortalize them. I couldn’t bear having another sentence about this nightmare engraved into my brain. (“Mom doesn’t believe that you’re in there, but I know that you are.”) I couldn’t see how writing about everything that had happened – the excitement, hope, fear, dread, frustration, grief, and misery – could do anything but cause me and Doug more pain.
But here we are.