/ SDG (Writer), Elysia Mac (Illustrator)
Nonfiction — 5 min reading time
Are you allowed to grieve the right choice?
It is an inexplicably lonely feeling to miss someone you’ve never met, someone that most everyone around you doesn’t know ever existed. Someone who lived within you briefly and then was gone.
He misses them too, but it’s not the same. He didn’t feel life inside himself the way you did. He didn’t feel death. Only you took the pills.
1 Hour After
It hurts so bad you think only of yourself, curled up and bleeding out on the white tile of the bathroom floor—you think you’re going to die. You lie in bed for a couple weeks afterwards, nursing a heating pad and getting high so you don’t have to feel as much. As time passes you stay high so you don’t have to think as much. When you finally come down, your baby is gone and you are lost.
1 Week After
Suddenly you panic. You had been so lost in your pain that you’d hardly stopped to wonder if your baby could feel it too. You killed them, and all you had thought about was the awful ache in your stomach. Now you wish it had hurt worse. You wish it had lasted forever. You wish you really had died. It wasn’t the right time for your baby to come, but now you wish you could’ve left with them.
A wave of nausea hits you while you’re at his house. You know the baby is gone without looking—you’re too scared to anyway. You cry, hysterical. You clean yourself up and walk back out to him like nothing had happened. Now you can’t stop shaking. Why didn’t you hold your baby? You would never get another chance. You were a monster. Babies need to be held. Everyone needs to be held. You feel sick. You killed your baby without saying goodbye.
5 Weeks After
He moves back home. You tell him you asked for your ultrasound pictures from the doctor. He says it was a bad idea, but you know you need it. You keep crying yourself to a sleep full of nightmares. It’s been over a month and it isn’t getting better. You never held your baby; you need something to hold onto now.
8 Weeks After
He comes to visit you. You walk to the park, picking purple flowers on the way—soft and six petals each. In the bushes you see a cabbage butterfly; your mom always told you that there were cabbage butterflies at your grandma’s funeral, so when you see their powder-white wings now, you almost feel like it’s her fluttering around you. You sit down together by a big tree and write letters to your baby on the back of the ultrasound print. You write that you’re sorry. You write that you loved them. You bury the picture with the flowers and he holds your hand while you cry. He grew up going to church—you ask him what happens in a situation like this and he says they go straight to heaven, that they’re “at peace in the happiest place ever.” You ask him if you’d see them one day and he says yes. He says they’d always be watching over you. You say you didn’t understand because they were just a baby. You have more questions but you’re crying too hard to get them out. You wish you believe in god.
He points out a hummingbird on a patch of flowers by your tree. He says it’s beautiful. You don’t tell him but you decide this is your baby watching over you; this is your cabbage butterfly. You pick a dandelion and blow the seeds off together. You don’t tell him this either, but you make a wish for your baby.
You cry the rest of the day. You’ve been crying for nearly 2 months. Your mom calls and says she misses you and she wishes you’d share more of your life. You wish you could tell her. You go to bed late, after your roommates are asleep, and you cry quietly so you don’t wake them up.
He says tomorrow will be better but he has god to talk to and you have no one. He says you could go to counseling together but you’re scared that if that doesn’t work you’ll have nothing left to try. You’ll be stuck like this, trapped with the unbearable pain of closing a door you can never reopen.
You wish this would go away. It feels like a bad dream, a thick fog constantly clouding your vision. Morning sickness has been permanently stamped into your brain: the smell of the corn tortillas he made you while you were pregnant makes you gag more than anything. You always loved babies but now the sight of them— peaceful and happy in their parents’ arms— strikes you like a viper every time you leave your house or even turn on the TV. The pain feels heavy and sempiternal and every day it gets harder to breathe under its weight.
You decide heaven is real because it makes it hurt a little less. You couldn’t have given your baby what they deserved. You know this was the right choice, but you’ll miss them forever. You’ll love them forever, too. It’s not enough but it’s what you have. It might hurt forever but you’re holding out just in case it gets duller with time. You know how many people go through this but it still feels like you’re stuck in this freezing void alone. You hope tomorrow hurts less for all of you.