Around three in the morning Bradley realised that the grief was too much for him. A shape had appeared on the hospital bed, curled up beside Jen in the soft light from the bedside lamp. A baby, as small and wrinkled and perfect as he had always imagined, curled up in a white blanket. A hallucination taunting his sleepless brain.
The infant opened its eyes, peered around with the unfocused gaze of a new-born. Bradley wanted to reach out and take it in his arms, to hold it safe and close.
‘You’re not real,’ he whispered. Jen wouldn’t hear him, she was too wiped out by morphine and blood loss, but the louder he spoke the more real this would be. ‘We lost you.’
The words struck him as hard as the blood that had trickled down Jen’s leg, the look of horror on her face as they sped through the dusk shrouded streets to the hospital.
The baby lifted a hand, reaching out towards Bradley. Already it had grown, face filling out, eyes widening to stare across Jen towards him. It still looked only a few months old, but he could see that it had Jen’s eyes.
It? She. The baby was a girl.
Bradley shrank back into his chair, pulling away from the bedside. A nurse looked in through the window, smiled sadly at him and moved on. But behind her a little old lady peered in, smiled and waved at the baby.
‘You can’t be real,’ Bradly whispered, but he reached out across Jen, lifted the baby up in his arms. She was just like he had imagined her, and yet so much more. That smile, those eyes, the tiny fingers curling around his own.
The breath caught in Bradley’s throat. He felt as if he were choking on the enormity of loss.
‘I can’t…’ he whispered. ‘I can’t hold you. You aren’t real.’
Tears poured down his cheeks. His whole body shook to the rhythm of his sorrow.
‘I miss you,’ he said. ‘I never met you but I miss you. How does that happen? How do you love someone who never got to live?’
He looked up at the murmur of his name. Jen’s eyes were open, tears in them too. He made to lift the baby up for her to see, but the little girl was gone. Instead he went to the bed, lay down beside Jen and let the tears flow.
They left the hospital the next afternoon, Jen pale but well enough to go home. As the doors slid open Bradley saw another figure beside them, a little girl wobbling along with a toddler’s rambling gait, unseen and ignored by the staff and patients around them.
All except one old lady in a wheelchair who waved at the girl, then looked up at Bradley with a smile. He stopped, knelt down to speak with her.
‘Does the sorrow ever leave you?’ he asked.
‘No dear,’ the woman said, patting his hand. ‘But neither does the love.’
A miscarriage is a hideous thing to deal with. I’ve written about it in this story in part to deal with my own experience from a few years back, but not everybody can process it that way. So just in case anyone reading this is struggling to cope following a miscarriage, here’s a link to the The Miscarriage Association, who provide support in the UK. Far more people have to deal with this than you think. You are never alone.
It feels almost unbearably casual to follow that one up with something unrelated, but life is what it is, even the parts that nearly break us. Yesterday took me to 10,264 words on my NaNoWriMo novel, keeping me on target. I may have to let it slide a little over the next few days as I catch up freelance writing – we’ll see.