by ©Julie A Strickland
October 15, 2003
Today I awoke with a heavy heart. So deep was my depression that I pulled the covers over my weary head with every intention of staying there through the entire day. It wasn’t long, however, before the soft sound of some unknown cartoon mixed with hushed giggles penetrated through my closed bedroom door and forced me, reluctantly, out of bed.
Donned in robe and slippers, I stumbled into the kitchen to be greeted by the dog slavering over a plate of maple syrup. The boys had made themselves frozen waffles and eagerly awarded the family pet the chore of cleaning their plates. I grinned despite my misery. I stood, pressed against the wall, listening with pleasure to the laughter of my children. Tears swelled in my eyes as I remembered…
Tears of exhaustion spilled from my eyes as I strained to push the IV stand the short distance from the bathroom doorway to my hospital bed. I struggled to lift my traumatized body onto the uncomfortable cot before pressing the ‘call nurse’ button. A quick glance at the clock showed it was four thirty in the morning, just three hours shy of my scheduled surgery. The pain medicine in my IV, which had offered no relief through the night, now took effect and I was overcome with fatigue. How many trips to the bathroom had I made during the night before this last visit finally relieved me of my excruciating pain, leaving my heart scarred forever?
I licked the single salty tear that escaped its prison and slipped down the crease of my nose, ending its journey at the corner of my lips. Moving quickly to the bathroom and splashing icy water on my face, I was able to force the remaining tears back to their dungeon where I have been holding them captive for the past seven years. I stood motionless for several long moments. When I finally blinked again, I noticed the toothpaste splatters on the mirror, and instantly decided to busy myself with overdo house cleaning, as a feeble attempt to erase the vividness of my memories from my mind. Within an hour, I could see my reflection in every chrome fixture in the bathroom, and all its porcelain was polished to a sparkling white. The sweet fragrance of the jasmine scented candles filled the small room, masking the horrid odor the mixture of cleansers had left behind, and washed away the trace of a memory the smells had tried to form. Satisfied, I moved into the living room.
I stood in the middle of the room, contemplating where to begin my attack. When my eyes fell upon the three-drawer chest where I kept my photo albums and craft supplies, my decision was made. After retrieving a trash bag from the kitchen, I knelt before the nearly decrepit dresser and opened the top drawer; the catchall drawer, as it had become known. I emptied the majority of its contents into the trash bag and straightened the items left remaining. Then, without hesitation, I opened the middle drawer.
I pulled out a large blue photo album and leafing through its pages, reminisced for several long moments over the first year of my eldest son’s life. Finally closing the book, I withdrew the remaining photo albums, baby books, newspapers and magazines, and miscellaneous photographs and began organizing everything into neat little piles. I stopped long enough to pour myself a tall glass of cola, and then with renewed enthusiasm began placing the stray photographs into their appropriate albums. My spirits soon lifted, and I even began to smile as I relived past family birthdays and holidays. I nonchalantly picked up the next picture, and my hands immediately began to tremble. I gently ran my finger over the black and white picture. A tiny fisted hand appeared to be waving at me. I pulled the sonogram up close to me and lightly kissed my baby, and the false stench of formaldehyde burned my nostrils.
She stood in the bathroom doorway, holding a large plastic bowl in latex covered hands. I noticed the pleasant smile she wore earlier in the night had turned to one of compassion. Sympathy shimmered in her dark brown eyes when she asked if I wanted to see my baby. By law, she said, she had to ask. My head nodded slightly in acceptance. She carefully placed the liquid filled bowl into my trembling hands, and then silently slipped from the room, allowing me time alone with my dead baby. The horrid odor of formaldehyde burned my nostrils, bringing forth the first flood of tears. She floated, curled in the fetal position, blue veins visible through transparent skin. I whispered, “I love you,” into the trace of a tiny ear. Her hands, with fingers not yet fully developed, no longer waved to me like in the sonogram taken just two weeks prior. Maybe she had already known that her life was ending, and was telling me good-bye.
For the first time in seven years, I cried. For too long, I have kept this internal pain a secret, hidden deep from my own self defenses demanding that I get over it and love the children I do have. As a mother, I do love each and every one of my children, unconditionally; even my children who have gone to heaven before me. So I cried. I cried for my daughter who never had a chance to experience life’s beauty that so many times even I take for granted. And on this day, the seventh anniversary of her birth, and death, I finally cried for myself, and for my loss.
Julie is a SAHM of three boys, ages 3, 6, & 13, and step mom to another son, age 11. She baby sits her young niece, age 3, and nephew, age 4 months, and also teaches Sunday school and does volunteer work for the church office. When children aren't occupying her time, she enjoys writing short stories and the occasional poem. She has been a member of 'Your Writing Friend' for 1 1/2 years, and has strengthened her writing skills greatly in that time. She loves creating new web pages for her website, and has even dabbled in making her own websets. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her boys and her wonderful husband of seven years, Edward. And of course, her home is not complete without her cats, Cheyenne and Seminole, her dog, Rowdie, and her guinea pig, Bubba.