by Sarah Bain
Lucy touches her tummy and leaves her hand there for a moment, knowing that it is too soon to feel anything but hoping that there might be some movement even if it’s just those early flutters that make her pause to wonder if it’s her imagination. It is the same with each child. Until she hears the heartbeat, until she feels the first kick, she doesn’t make an emotional connection with the infant. It is this distancing that protects her from the pain of a miscarriage, the thing that’s always in the back of her mind in those early weeks.
Today, Lucy feels a bit feverish and tired which is why she is letting Wilson watch the Teletubbies, a show Lucy has always thought to be strange and surreal. She wonders if kids in college get high and watch it. If Ted weren’t so uptight, Lucy would still get high once in a while to calm her nerves. It has a better, lasting effect on her than
a hot bath, and she’s never thought that a drug to relax you should be illegal. In fact, she knows that this will be one of her and Ted’s main arguments when the kids get older. She’s all for letting them experiment with drugs while Ted seems to think that drugs will fry their brains. Lucy blames those thoughts on that fried egg commercial.
Lucy has trouble picturing four kids in their house—she was done at two. It didn’t matter that they were two boys. In fact, having no sisters of her own, she wasn’t even sure if she’d know how to raise a girl, so when she had two boys, she breathed a sigh of relief and felt done. And then came the accidental pregnancy, the miscarriage, and
her surprise at the sorrow she felt in week nine when she lost the baby. She and Ted agreed that they should try again. It was one of the first times they agreed about their children.
Lucy thinks about all of this as she dozes off; her eyes just close on their own no matter how hard she tries to keep them open. Her head is throbbing with the kind of behind your eyes headache that makes watching TV difficult or watching your three-year-old son watching TV difficult. Everything seems difficult.
Michael and Calvin arrive home from school, and Wilson is jumping up and down. Lucy has to force herself to stand at the door with the sun glaring down at her, even the cold winter sun hurts. The boys come running up the front steps, toss their backpacks on the porch, duck down at the front window and bop up and down, eliciting clapping and gleeful squeals from their baby brother. Lucy rushes them indoors in order to keep the cold out.
It’s February and cold, though it has been an unusually mild winter with very little snow other than a dusting here and there, a disappointment to the boys who love to go sledding and wanted to try snowboarding this year but a relief to Lucy who never has been comfortable with any temperature below 60 degrees.
There is a great deal of noise in the home now. Noise and running and shouting and just enough jumping to make Lucy jittery and nervous. That, of course, is the other reason she never wanted more than two children—she can’t stand loud and abrupt noises. She prefers a novel and a glass of wine.
After giving the boys a quick snack and a potty break, Lucy bundles up all three boys and throws them out back. She is grateful for their large fenced-in backyard and grateful that the older boys are so accommodating toward Wilson, who adores his older brothers. As they run out, she feels momentarily guilty, but then the moment passes, and she takes her glass of water into the living room and lies down on the
couch again. With each pregnancy, she is surprised by the overwhelming exhaustion. Ted always remembers, laughs, and shrugs it off. Lucy lies around and waits for the nausea and exhaustion to pass.
She doesn’t dislike children exactly, but she knows she’s not a good stay-at-home mom. She doesn’t want sympathy and she believes that she should be home with the kids; it’s just that she’s no good at it. She isn’t sure anymore what she is good at. Maybe baking. Ted says she bakes a damn good pie. She thinks she should bake more of them for him. It’s something she does that he likes.
The boys are outside screaming when she feels a warm rush. She opens her legs just in time to see the blood oozing through her pants and on to the white sofa. Who the hell has a white sofa with kids and a dog? She’s surprised at how calm she is as she stands up, goes into the bathroom, grabs a towel to hold between her legs while she tries to mop up the mess she’s made on the sofa. She knows the routine having done
this before. She wraps her mind around the fact that it might take a few days for the miscarriage.
Lucy stands in the living room, in front of the window with a towel squeezed between her legs, cleaning the sofa. She’s patting the cushion with some miracle blood stain remover that her neighbor told her about. She bought it on the Internet after Calvin came home from the park one day with a bloody lip. He walked in the door crying, and it took everything Lucy had not to scream at him for dripping blood on their new carpet.
When the miracle remover doesn’t work, Lucy turns the sofa cushion over and leaves the room. In the bathroom she takes off her pants and panties and sits on the toilet for a while. She’s starting to cramp up now and big black clots of blood are falling out. She thinks she might become an expert at this.
She wonders about calling Ted, but she really doesn’t want to bother him at work and decides this time for a few days that she wants to keep it inside. They haven’t even told the boys yet that they are expecting again. She’d rather they didn’t even know.
She grabs another towel to hold between her legs as she hobbles out to the kitchen window. She opens it up and tells the boys that she’s hopping in the shower. They nod as they play chase through the swing set.
Lucy turns back to the bathroom but not before she notices the action figure that Charlie is walking around with in his mouth. Even though he’s not a puppy anymore, he still picks up the children’s toys and carries them about the house. Normally, Lucy would grab the toy out of his mouth and give him a bone, but right now she doesn’t really care. “Take the action figure, Charlie,” she says. As soon as the words are out of her mouth, she knows she’s made a mistake because Charlie immediately drops the toy, comes running up to her, excited that someone is giving him the time of day.
“Charlie,” she yells as the towel drops on the floor and she pushes him away. She bends down to pick up the towel and something larger falls out of her. It’s more than
just a clot. It’s looks like a small sac, a bit of white tissue and blood. Lucy picks it up in her hand not at all worried anymore about the mess she’s made, not worried about Charlie sniffing the towel, looking around the floor hoping to find scraps of whatever it is he smells.
It’s small, but of course it’s all sticky and jelly like. Lucy turns it over and over again in her hand afraid of opening the sac to see what she might find but unable to really let go. She hears the boys fighting outside and decides that she’d better hurry and clean up the mess before they come in. She’s not quite sure what to do with the sac so she grabs a jar out of the cupboard, fills it with water and drops the sac in it.
Charlie picks up the towel and starts to run, but Lucy grabs a corner of it and goes sliding across the floor as the jar slips out of her hand and shatters. She screams and Charlie races off.
The boys find their mother sprawled on the kitchen floor half-naked. They’ve never seen their mother looking like this before. She screams at Calvin to go turn the TV on for the younger two and everything’s fine and she’ll be all right. “Now get the hell out of here.” The boys hesitate—they’ve never heard their mother scream like this and
they’re trying to figure out what all the mess is—and finally they leave her with the mess, the blood, the water, the glass. Lucy starts sobbing not so much for the baby she just lost, but more at the disgrace she feels over having the boys see her this way, over worrying about getting the blood out of the sofa cushion.
Sarah: I am a writer, mother of three, wife and dog owner who lives in Spokane, Washington writing in the middle of the night, between snacks and often with a 35-pound dog on my lap who's terrified of trucks that drive by on our street.