The first time it happened, it surprised me.
It was a few weeks after my D and C, in the grocery store. There was this baby crying. I didn’t see the baby at first, further down the aisle in a carrier with its mother, but at that moment sense of presence so powerful swept over me that I found myself staggering toward the door, shopping list forgotten. An irrational part of me almost felt as though if I turned around, I might actually see my own lost child.
I stepped out into the freezing winter air, and the feeling was gone as abruptly as it had come.
This week, the first unfulfilled due date materializes. With it comes the what-ifs that I can almost see but as I reach out simply vanish into thin air leaving me to wonder if they were ever there at all.
Such, I suppose, is the nature of ghosts.
I catch little glimpses occasionally, hear the bell-like laughter of a small child, feel the quiet heaviness and ache of a sleeping baby on an arm unable to be moved without waking the little one. It is always brief, only happening around the periphery of my life or in those rare unguarded moments.
Apparently, this is not a unique scenario. Author Hilary Mantel, in her excellent memoir Giving Up The Ghost writes on her own infertility and notes that children’s “…lives start long before birth, long before conception, and if they are aborted or miscarried or simply fail to materialise at all, they become ghosts within our lives.” Similarly, Barbara Kingsolver captures that sense of memory as well in her novel Animal Dreams writing of miscarriage: “But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.”
For a time, I feared these ghosts. Like most of their kind, they have a tendency to pop up unexpectedly, to startle. And of course they bring with them almost unbearably painful memories simply by the fact of their existence.
Yet after awhile, I began to not only become used to their comings and goings, but to find the sweetness in the bittersweet. There is a small comfort in their presence, a fierce realization that I truly had my babies with me, even if only for a very short time.
At some point, further down the road when I am more healed, I know the ghosts will begin to fade. They will never entirely leave me, but their appearances will become less frequent, harder to spot, more subtle.
Right now, I am glad they are still with me. Grief, in my experience, is such a solitary road and I am grateful to have these travel companions on it for just a bit longer.
They are my reminder that my baby was here.
And how very much this week I miss him.