Hearts Torn Asunder (Part One)
Do you think the world would notice If one flower failed to bloom? Or if one snowflake melted Before it touched the ground? Never being given the chance to find Its place beneath the sun. *~*~*
“I don’t see a heartbeat," I said with an understated urgency as my searching eyes darted between my husband, my doctor and the monitor. "I don’t see a heartbeat!”
I got no response from either of them, nor could they meet my eyes. Josh squeezed my hand reassuringly, his gaze never leaving the monitor as Dr. Chang continued to move the cold, wet probe in firm arcs across my abdomen. My eyes moved back to the screen, searching the dull grey and white lines for any sign of life, blinking back tears as every second robbed me of another tiny sliver of hope. My heart sank as I caught an exchanged look of mutual understanding between the two men standing beside me.
That would not be the first time. We had suffered four miscarriages over the past seven years, making this one our fifth. A deep sadness filled me as I felt the soft stroke of Josh’s thumb across my palm. He always strove to be the one who was strong for me, never allowing himself to break down, but I have heard his quiet sobs when he thought I was asleep at night. Josh was a proud man, so I tried not to look up at him, allowing him the time he needed to compose himself.
An uncomfortable silence hung like a thick mist in the room, none of us uttering a word for several seconds, each of us continuing to stare at the still picture on the ultrasound screen. With deliberately measured movements, Dr. Chang lifted the transducer off my seemingly ineffective abdomen, placing it on the trolley beside him before turning and staring at a spot on the wall somewhere beside me. “I’m sorry. The foetus didn’t make it.”
I knew that nothing that had happened – or failed to happen – was his fault, but an indescribable rage came over me in that moment. I wanted to scream ‘It was not just a fetus! It was my child’
Although Dr. Chang’s words only confirmed what my heart had already known, they felt like a physical blow I wanted to recoil from. A dull gut-wrenching ache filled me as my mind started to absorb what my body had already known for days.
I had thought that we had a chance this time. It had been the first time we had got that far into a pregnancy; the first time we had been privileged enough to see the heartbeat of our child. Watching that tiny pulse on the monitor had been the most amazing experience of my life – of both of our lives. With every dawning of a new day, I had allowed hope to grow inside me. In that one dark, cavernous moment, a sense of hopelessness spread through me, poisoning me to my very soul.
That night would be yet another sleepless night lying in a hospital cot staring out the window… looking, but not really seeing as the world went about its business on the busy streets below me. How does one sleep when one’s husband has just gone home carrying your child in a hospital-issue waste disposal bag? True to his nature, Josh would have properly disposed of the tiny body by the time he picked me up from the hospital in the morning. My fingers ran absently across my abdomen as I thought of yet another heartbreakingly intimate saying of goodbyes I would be missing.
The first thing I noticed when my husband of nine years walked into the room the following day was the bags under his eyes. He had clearly not got any sleep, just as I had expected. Every instinct inside me urged me to take him into my arms and hold him until all of the pain in his heart had been poured from his beautiful blue eyes. Instead, I stood up from my chair, hoisted my bag onto my shoulder and marched out of the hospital room before he could try to put his arms around me. Confusion clouded his eyes as I brusquely refused the wheelchair the porter offered to escort me out in, and I could hear him mumble an apology on my behalf.
We drove home in silence. I sat with my cheek resting against the cool glass, staring out at the world as it went by for the entire drive home, not oblivious to the furtive glances from my husband. The tension inside me coiled like an ever-tightening spring in a box as we pulled up into the driveway. Home was the last place I wanted to be at that moment. Home was meant to be a place of happiness, of contentment. Nothing but memories of dashed hopes and the bitter taste of defeat awaited me inside these brick walls.
Josh got out of the car and came around to get my overnight bag from the back; I remained in my seat, staring blankly ahead.
“Do you need me to help you out? Are you in any pain, Maddy?” he asked, concern touching his voice.
I shook my head slowly. “I’m fine. You go ahead; I will be right in.”
I felt defective. I felt useless. God had given me all of these specialised organs, but they did not work. Or I could not find a way to make them work. I felt like I had completely failed at the one task every woman was born to do.
I remained in the car for over an hour, trying to find the courage to face the man I had yet again failed. A shadow passed the garage door a few times; presumably, it had been Josh checking up on me. The delectable aroma of fresh ginger and coriander met me as I eventually made my way into the kitchen.
“I figured you wouldn’t have much of an appetite, baby. Chicken salad okay?”
“I’m not hungry. I’m going to shower and take a nap. You don’t need to be here, Josh. Go to work. I will be fine.”
will be fine, Maddy.” He touched my arm lightly. “In time, we will try again, if that’s what you want. Could be that God is testing us.”
“Don’t you dare speak to me of your God,” I hissed at him. “You can go ahead and tell Him that I’ve failed His fucking test again. And I give up! I’m defeated! He’s won!”
Josh tried to take me into his arms, but I flinched as if he was about to slap me. I longed to feel him wrap me up in his strong arms; instead, I turned and walked away, leaving him standing there, his eyes clouded with pain and confusion.
A few days after we had arrived home from the hospital, I painted over the soft yellow and green walls of the nursery. The sea turtles and exotic fish motifs that had come off the walls made their way into a brown cardboard box marked ‘SALVATION ARMY’. The contents of the white chest of drawers that held every scrap of infant clothing we had bought over the past seven years joined the plastic sea creatures in their new transient abode. The room was purged of every trace of its former décor, painted over in a deep purple. A day later, Josh came home to find my belongings moved from our bedroom into the purple room, and the realisation that the woman he had married had moved him out of the space he had once occupied inside her heart.
“Why, Madison? I don’t understand.” I had expected my move to anger him. I had wanted my move to anger him. Instead, he touched my arm lovingly, concern for me written all over his face.
“I just need some space, Josh.” I could not meet his eyes; I feared that seeing his pain would cause my courage to wane, so I turned and shut the door to my new bedroom before I could rush into his loving arms and lose myself to him, along with the conviction of my plan.
Everything in our lives had changed. I became a shell of the woman I had once been. It pained me to see how my cold detachment hurt him, but love for my amazing husband was my only motivation at that time. Josh was the most loving, gentle, yet strong man I had ever met. I had always known how much he wanted a child, and I knew just how wonderful he would be at being a father. I was not about to rob him of the one role he was always meant to play.
“How was your day?” Josh leant in to kiss me; his lips brushed my cheek as I turned my face.
“No worse than any other day,” I replied. “Are you hungry?”
“Yes. I uh… just let me go wash my hands.” The dejected slump of his shoulders did not go unnoticed, yet I managed to maintain my expression of detachment.
I set the table for one while the food warmed in the microwave. The glare of the light reflecting off the polished silverware caught my eye, bringing back memories of the way Josh’s eyes used to light up whenever he looked at me. Even during the times we had fought and his temper flared, that light had always been there. I had watched that light dim a little each day over the four months since we had buried yet another piece of our dream together.
“You’re not hungry?” He frowned as he noticed the single place setting.
“No. I had a late lunch. I’m going to bed.”
“Okay.” His soft sigh brought tears to my eyes as I turned toward my bedroom. “Maddy?”
“Yes,” I said without turning back to face him.
“I love you.”
I nodded, tears spilling freely down my cheeks as I made my way to my room.
We continued to live in the same house, but every aspect of our life together changed. I cooked his meals and kept the house spotless; I even did his laundry like any dutiful wife would. As days grew into months, Josh started coming home less frequently, spending most nights working late at the office. Some nights, he either failed to make his way home, or he got in at the crack of dawn, staying just long enough to shower and change.
We had quietly grown apart, passing each other like strangers on a dark, but familiar street.
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