TRIGGER WARNING RE: Miscarriage, Hospital Trauma
Storytelling is important to me. Part of my issue in thinking all of my poetry is “Bad” with a capital B, is that often it doesn’t carry the flow of a story. It’s feelings, flow, rhythm…but not always a cohesive tale. I wanted to try my hand at turning a free verse poem into a short story. For the past thirteen years, a lot of things simmer under the surface of my being near the end of July. Memories, trauma, all contained and imprinted into my soul that is never discussed. Never examined. Rarely allowed to come out.
Of all the stories, real or made up, for me this one is one of the hardest. If someone asks me about miscarriage, I just say I had one, and I recommend not taking the Cytotec. The baby was to be born on January 3rd, and though we lost it, one of our children came early and was born on that day. It helped seal the pain of that loss for me, and though there remains a bit of wonder, I’m okay with it now.
But the events that happened in a hospital, more than a month following the event is something I just flat out never discuss. It felt like a nightmare, not just because of what happened, but coupled with the dark headspace I was already in, it became a buried secret not to be discussed for with it came a lot of feelings that were difficult to process. I’m a bubbly, fun loving, humor seeking person. That level of darkness can only exist for me in my head, transformed into fictional stories where it isn’t “real”.
I’ve always wanted to tell the story, though. Incorporate it into a book, or a short story…something. It happened for a reason; it needs to be told. It simply never felt right no matter how I wrote it, until this week, when I thought I could try to write it in the form of a poem.
With permission from my husband, who doesn’t come across well in this story but whom has made amends many times over for it (so I felt it was only right to ask), here is the tale of the night I met an angel. Who may not have actually been an angel, but to me, she will always be remembered as one.
Encounter with an Angel at the End of July (Winstead Oakley) “Am I empty?” Uncomfortable silence, and I regretted my bad joke, because I was right, and I was empty. Stunted. Dead. Gone. Nothing. Ten weeks pregnant, with nothing. I had never cried uncontrollably before always tight inside, secure emotions, because emotions were a weakness, but that day, I cried. Then, when I’d had enough, I stopped. My body was confused, she didn’t know what to do with the medicine that made her reject the thing she was meant to protect. She was supposed to keep it safe, to be a home, to grow, but now she was turning against nature, against herself, against life, because it was gone, and she didn’t want it to be. Was it the head, or the heart, or the gut that fought against it? I ached, sharp pains that made me curl my body into a ball until it let go every ten minutes. I went into myself, mentally. He needed me, but I was so consumed with grief and pain and something I had never done before that I couldn’t give him the support he needed, and he didn’t understand that, so, he left. And I was alone, and bleeding, and hurting, and sad, on my twenty fifth birthday. I waited, in a city where I didn’t know anyone, sent there by a military he served that I had made more sacrifices for than gains, in a state of despair, for him to come home. And I fought with my body, and my mind, and with God, and with loneliness, and with anger, and the idea that I had wanted something that was mine, that would love me, that I could give myself too, because I needed something to need me, and it was gone. And I didn’t know what to do. In that month of solitude, I went into a fog that had no visibility, and I kept walking, blindly, waiting for a light to guide me out. Forty-Six Days Later I woke up and I sat down and felt something shift inside of me. There was no pain, only blood. More blood than I had ever seen before, more blood than I knew I had, and it kept coming, and coming, and coming, and I was terrified. I didn’t want him to know, I didn’t want to make him mad if nothing was wrong, I didn’t want him to come home early, I didn’t want to be a burden, I didn’t want to call my family, I didn’t want to be anything anymore, because I felt like a failure in every way, and now I was bleeding again, and even my body couldn’t do anything right. I could have laid down, and let it go, and drifted off, alone. How long would it take for them to find me? How long would it be before anyone would notice I was gone? I didn’t want to be a burden, so, I went to the hospital, bleeding through my protection, bleeding through my clothes, bleeding through the towels I sat on, into the seat into the fabric, and I felt guilty for leaving a mark. There wasn’t a doctor on call who could help me, “sit on this so we can monitor the blood until we can figure it out” and they left me in a room with an open door for six hours bleeding. My emergency doctor was young, no experience with women, possibly straight from a war zone working in a hospital on a military base, and he spread my legs and opened the door, and hurt me as he investigated with his giant hands and cold tools little bedside manner, and all I could think about was how I was exposed to the door, to the whole emergency room, to the little boy on the other side of the nursing station with the broken arm, and how it felt like no one cared. “I don’t know,” was all he kept saying. “Let’s just keep waiting for the doctor to call who can help her.” So, I waited, and waited, and waited, alone. Periodically a stranger would come into the room, and pull on my eye, and say, “Okay” and I didn’t know why. I was covered in blood soaked into the sheets from my knees, to my breast, like I’d been cut in half, and they couldn’t help me. They wanted to give me the medicine that started it all again, and it terrified me because all I could remember was the pain, and I panicked, and I cried, “I’m scared!” and they didn’t care. Alone, at an hour in the night that I can’t remember, I thought about Jesus, even though I wasn’t religious. Even though I didn’t know what I believed, even though I felt abandoned, by everyone, I thought of him, and I said to him in my mind, “I can’t do this anymore” and I meant it. “I can’t do this anymore” and I meant all of it. Everything. “If this is what you want for me, please, just take me. Your will, be done.” And, instantly, the door opened. Into the room walked an angel with black curly hair, and the first thing she said was, “I’m here to help you. What do you need?” I cried, even harder than I had forty-six days prior when the dam inside me broke. I told her all of it. She looked confident, but horrified, as she inspected my blood-soaked body. “I’ll be right back; I’m going to help you.” Only gone for a moment, she returned with a blanket that she draped over me, hiding the carnage, and she grabbed my clothes, threw them on the bed and whisked me out of that room. It felt like she was carrying me into the waking world from a nightmare. “Where are you going?” the doctor called. “I’m going to help her.” She helped me from the bed after we entered a new room and she stripped me of my clothes. She cleaned my entire body that was sticky and red, and I can’t remember if she wore gloves, because as I held the package of wipes in my shaking hands she had given me to clean myself, all I could do was stand and cry as she cleaned me because it was the first kind thing I had experienced in so long. Was this what it felt like in the Bible when Christ washed the feet of his disciples? Someone cared. To someone, I mattered. She helped me to the bed, fresh, and she gave me a medicine she promised would help, and she said if it didn’t, she would stay with me, and I trusted her. Soon, the doctor came in. He looked perplexed, and irritated, and confused. “How have you not needed a blood transfusion?” He ruffled his hair, and he looked to the nurse who told him I had finally stopped bleeding. “It’s a miracle,” she smiled. “I think she can go home now.” He looked at me, grabbed my face, yanked on my eye, looked me over. “If you can stand up, you can do what you want.” I stood firmly in front of him. Dignified. Whole. And I went home. Once in the car, I took my phone and saw He had called. Did he know? Did someone call him? Would he be mad? “I heard you were in the emergency room, look, I have a test tomorrow, I don’t want to get woke up tonight, I need my sleep, I’ll call and see what’s going on tomorrow.” And he hung up. Words burned into my soul, for a lifetime, that could be forgiven, but never forgotten. The kindness of a stranger had saved my life. All other things aside, it was enough. I went home. I rested. I recovered. And I knew that someone cared, somewhere, and he had sent me an angel when I needed one.