“I kept thinking the heat would smother me before my shift at the shoe store ended that day. I had worn an oversized sweater to hide a middle that had yet to begin thickening. I was in a hurry for things to happen, the little bump, the first flutter, labor, and then the ultimate gift, holding my baby. I was 17, and completely adoring the idea of finally being able to love and be loved; a child to call my own.
It wasn’t a secret, not really, I had no one to answer to; yet for those blessed 13 weeks I kept the news of my pregnancy to myself. This was all mine, it was my baby, my life, my love. I wanted to shout from the rooftops that I knew everyone’s secret, I felt it growing day by day, but instead held the knowledge close to my heart. If I told, that meant sharing and I was greedy right then, drinking in and becoming drunk on this newfound feeling inside of me.
The first pain hit as I bent down to stuff another woman’s foot into an overpriced shoe meant for fashion, not comfort. It wasn’t alarming, not yet, just an unexpected cramp which I decided to blame on all of the stretching for boxes on high shelves, the pressure of trying to please unpleasant customers, and the constant ups and downs of shoes on, shoes off.
I don’t remember when the waves of pain hit, only the panic, the immediate feeling of loss over something I had waited so long to find. I was young, naïve, but not stupid. I knew what was happening. Although I know I rushed to the employee bathroom, it now seems to have taken forever to reach. I’m sure it was only a few seconds, but my mental sojourn to the past takes long minutes to locate the door when wandering down that corridor of memory. Perhaps it’s my way of holding onto that little life that was inside of me for just a bit longer. A way of remembering the joy just a moment more before I turn the handle, open the door and get hit once again with overwhelming loss.
I tried to pretend the sticky feeling wasn’t there, coating my underwear with little pieces of life; tried telling myself the pain was normal, just my body growing, stretching and making room for the baby I wanted so badly. I even stooped so low as to pray to a God I had no belief in to save this little gift inside of me. The pretending was over the moment I sat down and watched the bowl’s water become tinted with the blood flowing freely from my body. The pain was intense, the loneliness of loss overwhelming, but I turned it off, choosing instead to shield myself once again in numbness, feeling punished for ever wanting to feel life, and know love.
Forgetting I had been pregnant just a breath ago, I reached for the community box of tampons and went through the steps I had taken each month for years prior, refusing to acknowledge that this was no normal period. It was the ‘plop’ of falling cotton that brought me back to reality. Looking down, I saw the tampon I had just inserted floating in the water, becoming bloated with fluid, reminding me that my body was going through the birthing process, dilating in order to expel the life I wanted so badly. I hated God, I hated life, I shut down, almost completely. Going into auto-pilot I found a pad, made sure there were no tell-tale remnants of the horror I had just gone through, opened the door and went back to work.
My expression must have made it obvious that something monumental had just happened, something life changing and painful, but no one asked. I had kept a distance all these months from my co-workers and they had no desire to get close now, especially now when my face must have been stuck in a silent scream of ‘stay away!’
I was in the bathroom constantly, bleeding, changing, bleeding, changing, but still the numbness remained. It was near the end of my work day when the fog finally cleared long enough for me to wonder at a minute splash as I sat there once again. Looking down, it didn’t take long for me to realize what was in that porcelain bowl of water; My life, my essence, my baby, floating in waste, waiting to be flushed and mixed with life’s garbage. The numbness receded, replaced by a wave of hopeless emotion as I stood there trying to find the courage to push the handle and watch this little piece of me swirl down the drain, leaving me forever.
It was a knock on the door that told me I had spent too long looking, too long trying to conjure non-existent courage. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I could not do it! My baby was in that bowl and I didn’t want to say goodbye.
My hands shook as I grabbed a Dixie cup and gently scooped this little piece of flesh, my heart, my blood, from its watery grave. I looked, but couldn’t bring myself to examine closely this tiny, tiny lost life. But yet, it was a child, a baby, mine, there was no doubt what was in my hand. A moment later I left the bathroom, my little burden wrapped in paper towels and put it in my purse.
My bag became my own elephant in that little break room. I could hear it crying out to me from the sales floor. Reaching out, grabbing hold of my heart each time I perused the stock shelves for a box of shoes. By the time I clocked out, my mind was screaming for freedom from the chains that were wrapping around it, tying me to the burden of a life lost, cradled in a little cup, a paper coffin.
The weight of my purse was like a brick as I walked out of the mall that night. I couldn’t stand the thought of what was inside, could no longer bear the thought of having my tiny dead baby with me a moment longer. I had to let go. I didn’t look as I reached into my bag, grabbing hold of this little piece of me one last time. Walking past the community dumpster, I tossed it in, no goodbyes, no tears. I threw my baby in a dumpster. I wish I could describe what I felt at that moment, numbness, despair, guilt, anger…I don’t know, I only know that I threw a precious piece of me into a garbage can, and the sadness over what I lost hardly compares to what I did. I should have taken him (yes, I’m positive it was a boy) home and buried him properly. He was my child and deserved so much better than that.
It’s been over 30 years and there are still days I cry over what can’t be changed.
I have never shared this tale before now, choosing instead to hold it close as a personal burden to be carried, another choice gone wrong. Every decision we make sends ripples throughout our life’s ocean and I now realize that there is only one way in which to calm the waves, bring peace to our waters.
I blamed God, denied Him in my need to find reasons for all of the pain my life piled upon me. I now know it wasn’t God’s hand that caused so much hurt, rather the world’s evil, Satan himself that brings destruction. I may not have known it at the time, but Jesus was with me that day. He cried with me, took the pain with me and lay in bed with me for the days after as I contemplated ending it all. He was my strength when I had none left of my own.
I don’t have the answers for why I lost something I so desperately wanted; I no longer need them. I do know though, had I known God’s love at that time, I wouldn’t have sought so hard to find it in all the wrong places.
Thank you, Jesus, for showing me what true love really is.”
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