Once again, she pulls out the flower pots, all eight of them. People don’t read too much into her yearly ritual of shopping for bright orange and red Gerbera daisies. They don’t notice her lining up the clay pots along the ledge of her aging porch. They don’t notice her incessant watering, constant plucking of dead leaves, weekly hits of fertilizer to ensure her babies will grow. They’ll thrive, unlike the majority of real babies she’d tried to bring into this world.
Five boys and three girls. At least this is who they were in her heart. Every single time those two bright pink lines appeared on the stick, she’d have an image, a ghost-like picture of who that baby would be. She’d note it in her heart and then, weeks later, whisper a good-bye out loud because someone once told her that saying something out loud makes it real.
Sometimes, it was a total surprise. Fine one minute, the next…deep red rivers of thick creamy blood running down her legs, staining her the seat of her car. Little sweetie boy puddled on the bathroom floor. Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye, she’d whisper.
Other times, she’d know something was up. Once, after a strong and thriving heartbeat detection (doctor’s words, not hers) she went out with friends to celebrate. Her breasts had never made her so happy. Her husband and other men couldn’t help but drop their eyes from her face to her chest and she got a taste of a different life. Full and voluptuous, tender, preparing for baby girl, she hummed with possibility. But something had changed as she raised her glass of fizzy water in a toast to this new life. Her body chemistry was rearranging the facts as she knew them and she excused herself and went to the bathroom to sit and wait. Tears rained while she whispered, “Goodbye” and wondered to herself, why me? why this? How many more times could she pretend that she could do this?
But this leaving would not be swift. Her husband would suggest she was paranoid, and she was. They would wait. She would feel and not feel and feel again. And her breasts would be touched over and over, with a lust for something she would not have, not offering any sort of reassurance. In the end, they went to the hospital where they got to see that dead baby in 3D. No popcorn at this movie, she remembered thinking, but plenty of drama. The doctor called for a D and C. D for dilation of the cervix, C for curettage, a scraping of the lining of the walls of the uterus. Dilate and scrape. Dilate and scrape. It was over in less than an hour.
The second time it happened she was alone. Her husband was on an OBGYN rotation for his family practice residency program. Later, she found out he had been delivering someone else’s healthy baby, an asshole 15-year-old child who’d probably gotten knocked up by a guy she didn’t know. Her husband would have been there had she tried to reach him, but she just couldn’t make that call again.
Seven miscarriages in four years. How does a person move on from that? How does she look at her husband with anything but contempt because of his consistent, unwavering insistence that it will be ok? It will never be ok, she’d thought at the time, and sometimes still thinks, which is why she still takes out the pots.
When she does venture to talk about it, people ask, as if she hadn’t really been through it, “Why so many? Didn’t you get some medical help? Didn’t you run some tests?” It galled her, their nerve. Tests, tests, and more tests. More cold sterile exam rooms than she could count, more blood taken and shed than she wanted to think about, more time and money spent with nothing in return. A borderline low sperm count, low progesterone levels. Though all signs pointed to the contrary, everything was deemed in “working order.” Hundreds of prods and pokes in intimate places though there wasn’t a shred of compassion in any one of them. At least that is how it felt at the time. Perhaps, she sees now, that she was just numb and had stopped feeling.
She sits at the edge of the ledge, taking the first fist of dark soil, slowly plucking out a worm, tossing it, and begins to fill the first pot and then the next until finally, she has eight.
With a pot in each hand she steps around two small bikes, one pink, and the other blue. Gently, she sets the flowers down and makes three more trips. This ritual is for no one but herself. It is the only way she can put her heart on display. Eight pots for eight babies she would never know. She will feed and water and care for them until the cold weather hits and they die. Because that is one thing she knows for sure…they always die.
Lisa Gray is a writer, activist, and mother who lives in Winona, MN with two kids, two cats, one dog and one husband. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post and several local and regional newspapers and magazines. RestlessGrayGirl.blogspot.com is where she works out the various conundrums of life. For fun, she reads and enjoys the silence that only occurs during the school day.