Most Memorable: September 2018
I was sure of your presence two weeks after I missed my period. Our energies immediately harmonized as I began to know you. My morning sickness settled after fresh ginger-blueberry smoothies. Spring was your favorite season. Your energy drew me outdoors and charged me with the need to be in our garden. Your sister, just two years old, dug all of the holes with her kid-sized red hand shovel. We planted a garden of peppermint, chocolate mint, and ginger mint. We lined your dad’s vegetable garden with blue irises.
I felt your presence most when we planted a dwarf peach tree in our front yard. It was full of green leaves, buds, and two pink flowers. Drawing on his Islamic faith, your dad said we would be rewarded with good deeds from Allah for planting the peach tree. The tree would feed the insects, birds, squirrels, and us. We fertilized the tree’s roots, and hoped for a few summer peaches. Together, we had started a new life.
You were not where you were supposed to be, during my eight-week doctor’s appointment. Nestled in my uterus, your amniotic sac was projected onto the ultrasound screen and screamed empty. The only photo I have of you is the black and white image the midwife gave me. She circled where you should have been, locating the emptiness.
For the next week, suspended between denial and hope, I became a nesting gardener. I prayed to cradle you in nine months, poke the dimple in your knee. I tilled the soil, and craved the touch of spitty wet hands, the smell of innocence behind your ears. I weeded the soil, and questioned if you would have your great grandmother’s wide nostrils, your dad’s long narrow head, your sister’s brown eyes, or be cursed with my tiny pinky toenail. I wanted to feel the heat rise from your soft spot. Watch it pulsate. I wanted to feel the humidity in the palm of your hand while you squeezed my index finger. Wait for you to release. My cuticles became brown as I worked to fertilize the soil with cow manure. I wanted to search your body. To find your birthmark. I wanted to be with you every day, but be surprised when your moles suddenly appeared. I planted marigold seeds, waited for them to bloom and become strong enough to protect some of our plants from death.
Looking back, all five of my deliveries were spontaneous natural home births, even yours. When I began bleeding at ten weeks, I should have known I was in labor. Denial is a synonym for hope. Imagine my surprise when I learned blue irises signify hope. I called the triage nurse and asked, “Is bleeding a natural part of pregnancy?” She mournfully replied, “Sometimes,” and urged me to come in to the hospital to be checked. I asked my midwife if heavy bleeding was a natural part of pregnancy? I learned it could be. Was heavy bleeding and cramping, at ten weeks and five days, a natural part of my pregnancy? It was.
Back at home, the next morning, I called your dad at work to let him know I was not feeling well, cramping in my lower abdomen. Heavier bleeding, blood clots. He encouraged me to rest. I had to go outside and put my hands in the dirt.
I came in from the garden to use the toilet quickly. I would have liked to wrap you in a shade of blue like the navy blue shower curtain I stared at when you unexpectedly slipped through my vaginal canal. Its stitched flaxen colored flowers were like the permanent ones I would have put on your marker, after we buried you near the peach tree. I could not catch you. I would have lain down and tried to hold on to you for seven more months, if I had known you were coming then. I’m grateful for my only glimpse of you, a tender translucent red blood clot at the bottom back of the toilet. I called your dad screaming into the phone that I had tried to fish you out, before you descended into an ending that was less that what you deserved.
Your dad raced home from work to find me sitting on the toilet. Exhausted and full of grief, he wished he could have been there, and done something to stop it. While I leaned on your dad for strength, he drew on his strength from Allah. He reminded me that nothing could happen outside of the Allah’s will and that according to Islamic belief, all children that die automatically go to Paradise.
For ten years after you were not born, before the peach tree was killed by borer beetles, your dad requested I make him my organic homemade peach butter. We’d all sit on the porch through spring, watch the peaches swell through early summer and race the worms, birds and squirrels to the harvest. At the right moment, we’d pluck plump juicy peaches to bake peach cobblers. We’d juice peaches, and guzzle pitchers of fresh peach mint lemonade.
I’ve purposely misplaced your photo, but we’ve told your siblings about you. Not that it would have mattered, but some days I wonder if you would have been a boy or a girl. Raising my arm to push the handle on the toilet, to flush you away, was my descent down life’s birth canal into a new world without you. About a year later when I became a Muslim, I read an Islamic hadith that promises that if a parent bears the loss of their child with patience, they will have a great reward. Once my time is up on Earth, I imagine I’ll catch you in a garden in Paradise. You’ll be pulling weeds from a mint garden. I’ll join you and we’ll spend an eternity near our peach tree.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Peach blossom photo – Flickr Creative Commons/iasta29 and peaches photo courtesy of the author