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Anne Boleyn, Second Wife of Henry VIII

The Queen’s Failure

 

The Stillbirth

07.27.1534

(After “The Witches Chant” in Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

 

Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

 

King Henry VIII:

Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.

 

Queen Anne:

‘tis time! ‘tis time!

 

 Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Quick to your chambers to produce an heir.

If a son is born, we will not fear

loss of face, titles, the King’s good cheer.

 

King Henry VIII:

Moonless pleasure, double regret

A worthless girl, a dead boy beget.

 

Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Anne, my child, we have much to lose

You must do your part to produce an heir.

 

Queen Anne:

Body breaking burning face

angels bring my boy with haste.

 

King Henry VIII:

Moonless pleasure, triple regret

A worthless girl, two boys dead beget.

 

Queen Anne:

Look in the mirror my heart does break.

The King I yearned for now me regrets.

 

 

Anne’s Prayer

08.12.1535

 

failing,

fallow land, my

womb – barain, aridez

devoid of fruit, incapable

matriz.

                        

fecund

fertillus seeds,

produce a spawning womb,

sustain abundant growth, a crop,

a son

 

 

Henry Hears Rumors of Anne’s Infidelity

12.25.1535

(From a line by William Shakespeare)

  

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her, though I know she lies.

She caresses my thighs. Her whispers soothes

my self-regard. My love swears she is true.

She has borne no sons: what can I deduce?

My craze was but an act of sortilege.

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her. Yet, I know she lies. 

 

 

Caught in Revelry by the King after the Death of Katherine of Aragon

01.08.1536

(From a line translated from the Anglo-Saxon by David Constantine)

  

I dance like flames, I lend the winds.

Glorious shapes, the fire in me

is aglow. My limbs, they fly and bend.

I dance like flames. I lend the winds.

Quit staring, Henry! I did not sin.

The Lady’s death – we’re truly free!

I dance like flames. I lend the winds.

Glorious shapes, our son in me.

 

 

The Miscarriage

01.29.1536

(From a line translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Ciara Carson)

 

crackle fire winter’s dawn fire hearth crackle crackle crack the egg lady madge snap snap logs, back, crackle crackle heat crack the egg, crack the egg, the pain, the back, crackle crackle heat erase the chill, crack crack, stuff my quaint, bind my legs lady jane, bind my legs tight tight stop the crackle stop the heat hold my legs, crack the back, the pain, the egg, no! no! no! expel the crack, the bones, the nails, the chinks, crack crack crackle no! no! no! crack crack add the logs, the rags, chunks of bone crack crack  crackle  heat cracks brows burn crackle crackle  teeth crack the eggs crack the pain, the heat…

soaked in sorrow, fearful at the sight,

for all that, I lay there a long while

all that remains is this bloody ash.

 

 

Notes:

01 1st Witch:

    Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.


2nd Witch:

   Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.


3rd Witch

   Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!

   (From “The Witches Chant” in Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

 

03 When my love swears that she is made of truth,

     I do believe her, though I know she lies.

    (From “Sonnet 138” by William Shakespeare)

 

04 I dance like flames, I lend the winds.

     Glorious shapes, the fire in me

    (From Riddle 30 “I Dance Like Flames” as translated

    from the Anglo-Saxon by David Constantine)

 

05 I was soaked in sorrow, fearful at the sight

    For all that, I lay there a long while.

    (From “The Vision of the Cross” as translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Ciara Carson)

 

Alice Catherine Jennings is a student in the MFA Program in Writing at Spalding University.  Her poetry has appeared in In Other Words: Merida and is forthcoming in the Hawai’i Review, Penumbra, and the Louisville Review.  She is the recipient of the U.S. Poets in Mexico 2013 MFA Candidate Award.  Alice divides her time between Oaxaca, Mexico and Marfa/Austin, Texas.

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an essay by Dana Verdino

I got my first baby when I was nine years old. I named her Sara. I coddled her and I slept with her until my cousin threw her down the stairs and her head popped off. I was so mortified over my baby and its dangling head; I gave up on being a mother and buried Sara, now Baby Dead, next to our brook in the woods. It wasn’t until I met my husband and got married that I started to think about babies again. Babies that are really alive.

I dream that it comes out with a full head of brown hair and my husband calls everyone to tell them the news. I dream about dirty diapers and their rancid smells, the toys strewn about the house, and us around the kitchen table, a little life in a high chair slurping spaghetti. Then I wake up and go to work as a first grade teacher. I laugh with my children. I read them stories. I hold their hands. I wipe their noses.

Four months after our honeymoon I was pregnant.  I ran around the house waving a stick with two red lines. My husband and I, oblivious to the three-month rule, started talking about baby names and over the next few weeks, purchased miscellaneous baby books and told everyone about the baby-to-be. Big mistake. When we went in for my ultrasound, the doctor discovered “it” had stopped growing. He said it happens and there’s nothing I could have done to prevent it. I cried for myself and for my husband and for a tiny bean in my uterus that wasn’t entirely alive.  I cried for what we wanted “it” to become—a real, live, tangible, viable, growing, knowing baby. I cried for lost plans and lost diapers and lost spaghetti on a high chair.

Over the next two years there would be three more. Three more stories that I’d never finish; three more toilet burials. Four altogether. A total of eight months worth of thinking and planning, of imagining our next Christmas card, of browsing through the racks at maternity stores and Baby Gap. And a total of thirteen months in between, these months full of arguing, crying, seeking therapy, charting temperatures, tracking ovulation, and taking Prozac just to get through another month and another mourning.

The truth is, I was embarrassed. Every baby that was built inside me was defective. Not quite a woman, I was a baby-eating monster. Don’t touch me or you might catch it. It was humiliating. I’d lie down on the table, the nurse would slide a big xray wand into me, and we’d look up at the screen at a splattered mass of cells while the wall behind her boasted a collage of healthy looking fetuses. The nurse would say something like “I knew this woman and yadda yadda and then she was fine and now she has three children.” Then I’d go back to work, walk into my boss’s office with my eyes astray, and ask her for more time off.

Now I’m pregnant again and I can’t think straight, only in a snafu of red. buy zolpidem online india

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Creative Non-Fiction by Amber Jensen

Sunday, March 9

I thought the process of bleeding away my second pregnancy was over.  Dressed in dark jeans, wedge heels, and a fitted black v-neck that exposed the freckled skin of my chest, I bounded down the stairs in my mother’s house, surprised at the easy flight of my feet over carpet.  I can do this, I thought to myself.  I can be happy. 

But then, as I hopped down to the final stair, a clot of blood plummeted from somewhere inside me, stopping just before it escaped my body.  This isn’t over yet.  I felt my body reel back against the momentum of acceptance I had been trying to build.  My belly hung heavy, throbbing, and empty. 

With thick red threatening the fresh denim that hugged my hips, I froze at the bottom of the stairs facing a framed collage of photos from my wedding day.  I pleaded with my husband’s dimples, his squinting, cloudy eyes.  When can I leave this behind?

Then from my left I heard a deep, primitive yowl.  I turned to find the tiger eyes of my mom’s large ginger cat peering at me from his lowered head.  His whiskers extended towards me as he tracked the scent of blood. 

 

Thursday, March 6, morning

Having called the doctor, my sister, and Blake, I replaced a heavy, red maxi-pad with a weightless, white one.  I changed from blood-stained grey cotton into fresh, black lycra pants.  Then I waited.  For my sister.  For the doctor.  For Blake.  For the news.  But I already knew.  Nothing so small could survive this. 

I crawled into the living room and lined the seat of the recliner with a tan towel before climbing in.  Then I covered myself with the quilted patchwork of pink and blue calico my grandmother made for my high school graduation.  When I closed my eyes, I pictured Blake, driving home from work after receiving my call: “Can you come home?  Something’s wrong . . . Erin’s taking me to the doctor.”  His response had been simple—“I’ll be there soon.”  He didn’t ask any questions or make me say, Blake, I’m losing the baby.  He just came.  He couldn’t have known what was wrong, still, I imagined his eyes following the painted white border of the interstate over hills, around curves, and beyond the horizon, squinting toward a place in the future where everything will be all right, seeing that place like he always does, even when I don’t believe it exists.

When I felt my two-year old son squirming up under the thin weight of the quilt, I discouraged him, saying “Mommy feels sick.  George, please . . .” Then I gave in, slid my hands around his chest, feeling the ridges of his rib cage as I guided him up unto my lap.  He squeezed out from beneath the blue floral border, nestled his blonde head against my shoulder, and raised his thick-lashed brown eyes to meet mine.  Forcing a giggle, he said, “See mommy, we are happy.”  As I drank in his expression—his dark eyelashes, raised eyebrows, lips pressed into a smile—I knew he was right.  But I couldn’t admit it yet, so I closed my eyes and watched spots of light dance behind my eyelids.  I envisioned the black, plastic bag slouched beside the dresser in my bedroom.  I remembered what was inside: maternity clothes, still dangling price tags.  I told myself, We have GeorgeIt will happen again.  And even if it doesn’t . . . we have him.  I closed my eyes and rested against his small strength. 

 

Thursday, March 6, afternoon

By the time I heard the words—“we can’t detect a heartbeat”—I had already begun to move from mourning to acceptance.  Maybe this is best, I told myself.  Maybe something was wrong with the baby. 

I lay back against a stiff mattress, abdomen exposed, eyes closed.  I imagined George sleeping over Blake’s shoulder in the waiting room outside, his body ironing wrinkles into his dad’s button-up plaid.  I summoned the soft static of Blake’s fingertips circling the surface of my skin to replace the hospital sheets scratching my lower back, the hot weight of George’s sleeping body to protect me from the cold air that poured from a vent overhead.  I tried to imagine away the steel and ceramic, machines and measurement, but the slather of thick gel, the shocking cold of plastic, and the smell of sterilization grounded me there.  Eventually, the even voice of an ultrasound technician, barely audible above the hum and click of technology, commanded my attention.  “The fetus stopped growing at about five weeks.” 

Five weeks.  I inhaled the reality, felt it echo in a hollow space at the base of my throat. 

I heard the crackling static of the black and white monitor to my right and couldn’t help but look.  Its glow reminded me of my first ultrasound and the pixilated image of George’s fingers flexing across the screen, but this time I saw no hope, no miracle there.  Only fuzzy, grey flecks spitting shadows. 

When I closed my eyes to the eerie darkness of the room, my mind traveled backwards.  Five weeks.  Was the baby was still alive those nights in February, when I fell asleep under the weight of my Shakespeare anthology, when I worried that I couldn’t keep up with work, school, and pregnancy?  When I finally started dreaming about a baby girl with my dark eyes and Blake’s wide grin, was I picking out names for a lifeless child? Then as my memory moved forward, I remembered the muscle-wrenching that I shrugged off as morning sickness, the relief I had felt that my breasts weren’t swelling so much this time.  Maybe my body had been preparing me all along. 

Still, I doubted myself, wondering, Was it my fault somehow?  Should I have known something was wrong?  Then a whispered thought: Would it have mattered if I did? 

Ever since I had seen the cotton fibers of a pregnancy test swell, watched a pair of pink lines sweep across a plastic window, I had been telling myself that it was the second baby, that I was under a lot of stress with graduate school, and that it just didn’t feel the same.  Now I began to wonder, had it ever seemed real?  My stomach fluttered.

 

Saturday, March 8

For two days after the miscarriage, I perched in a nest of blankets and pillows, pressing a heating pad into my stomach as my body anchored me in loss.  As long as I had to sit still, muscles twisting around a void inside my abdomen, it was impossible to move on.  While my head moved back and forth to maintain the steady rocking of the recliner, my thoughts rolled between acceptance and guilt.  I fixed my eyes on the tan walls, striped curtains, and shadowed blinds of my living room.  I fixed my mind on facts and statistics.  Seventy percent of women who miscarry go on to have normal, healthy pregnancies.  Now, with early home pregnancy tests, we detect pregnancy so soon—before, women probably didn’t know when they lost early pregnancies.  I returned to the idea that something must have been wrong.  Maybe this was never a viable pregnancy.  Still I asked myself, shouldn’t I feel sadder?  What kind of a woman, what kind of mother, am I?

When Blake talked to his boss, his end of the conversation comforted me:  “No, actually, she’s doing all right, really good, I think . . . but you know, this happens sometimes, and really, we’ll be fine.”  It made me believe he understood, that he wouldn’t blame me for being ready to move on.  But when my own phone rang, I ignored it, trusting that my sister would tell anyone that needed to know, not wanting to convince anyone that I was fine, doing well even, not wanting them to know that my only wish was for the cramping and bleeding to end. 

You should feel sadder.  Mourn longer, I told myself.  It had only been a few days and I already felt myself wanting to move out of my chair and leave this loss behind.  I remembered my friend, Angiezolpidem ukraine.  It was the first week of our Intro to Graduate Studies class, when we knew each other only from in-class introductions and a few minutes of casual conversation, when she scooted her chair around the corner of the table that stretched the entire length of the classroom and asked, “So, how old is George?”

“He’s almost two.”

“That’s great,” she smiled.  “Tom and I want to have children, but we lost our first baby.” 

Her voice quivered and she lowered her eyes, but she went on to explain that after the miscarriage and after beginning graduate school, she wasn’t sure when she would be ready to try again.  I felt uneasy about the personal conversation I had just shared with a near stranger, guilty about having shared stories about my son—his love of books, baseball, and trains—with a woman who wanted but had been unable to experience motherhood.

But now our roles had reversed: Angie was five months pregnant, and I couldn’t help but wonder if now, when I returned to work and met Angie in the hall, she would feel ashamed of her pregnancy, the way it might remind me of what I had lost.  I wanted her to know that the promise of her bulging belly wouldn’t bother me, but I knew I couldn’t explain.  I was afraid to discuss it because I feared my eyes and voice would betray my secret—that I didn’t feel like crying, that I really thought it was better this way. 

 

Tuesday, March 11

            It’s Tuesday, and I’m back at work.  On my desk, I discover a bulky manila envelope—sealed, no name written on it.  I pry open the metal fingers, tear back a layer of yellow, paper skin, and tip the envelope over my desk.  Out falls a lavender book.  On the cover, above the fringe of a plaid baby blanket, the title reads:  When Your Baby Dies: Through Miscarriage or Stillbirth.  A green sticky note matching the book’s soft colors carries a message from Angie. “Here is a little book that may or may not be of some use to you.  May God comfort you in your time of grief.” 

I don’t cry.  I don’t smile.  I don’t open the book.  I tuck it back into its envelope, seal it up again, and slide it under a pile of scratch paper and junk mail in my desk.  Closing the cold metal drawer, I pause to think about Angie.  Even now, five months into her second pregnancy, she mourns the loss of her first one.  Only five days have passed since my miscarriage, and I no longer think of the pregnancy I have lost as my second pregnancy.  I have erased it.  This one doesn’t seem to count.  I’ve only had one. 

It must have been different for her, I think.  She didn’t have another child to give her hope, to make her believe it could happen again, to console her in case it didn’t.  I try to imagine the desperation I would have felt if this had been my first pregnancy, but I can’t.  Maybe she needed a book to give her hope, needed to talk about it, needed to remember the baby she never knew, but I don’t.  I have George.  George, whose heartbeat echoed through a Doppler monitor, making my skin tingle months before I ever heard him cry or saw his lips opening in an awkward smile.  I can’t equate the loss of a pregnancy to his life, this emptiness to his presence.  I don’t need a book to tell me the difference.  Without opening the pages of the book or acknowledging Angie’s carefully chosen words, I wrap a fleece scarf around my neck, button out the cold, and race to class feeling convinced that no one understands, that everyone expects me to be broken, that no one believes I can be happy with what I have.

            Not until almost a year has passed, not until I have begun to write about the experience of losing a baby will I open my drawer, notice the corner of the manila envelope hidden beneath a pile of junk, and pull it out.  When I slide the book out and begin to turn its thick, waxy pages, I will find a series of prayers and stories meant to encourage and comfort me.  And I will be glad I waited to open it.

            The book outlines the “painful clichés” people fall back on when trying to comfort women after a miscarriage; these clichés—it’s for the better, there was probably something wrong, you can always have another—are the things that continue to comfort me.  The things I continue to believe. 

The book also suggests that mothers who miscarry “view the remains” whenever possible.  View the remains.  Ask a medical professional to help search for these remains.  If no remains can be found, look at pictures of a fetus at that stage of development.  This will encourage acceptance and aid in the grieving process, the book says.  When I read this, the first thoughts that enter my mind are, I didn’t need to view the remains.  I felt each clot of blood as it escaped my body and imagined in it a small mass of tissue, an undeveloped face, limbs that would never grow.  But eventually, I will become curious and search the Internet—first for information, then for images.  I will find some form of comfort in learning that the baby that passed from my body was the size of a raisin; that its heart may never have begun to beat; that like most early miscarriages, this one probably resulted from chromosomal abnormalities.  And I will allow myself to continue believing in what others may see as painful clichés.  I will not insist that others believe them, but I will hold onto them myself. 

Only then will I reread Angie’s words—“a book that may or may not be of use to you”— and realize: we doubt ourselves enough; we have no need to start doubting each other. 

 

Saturday, July 12

I am leaving the screaming, splashing chaos of the public pool with my red-cheeked son hanging limp in my arms when I see Sasha, a high school friend, emerging from the bathroom.  The olive undertones of her deeply tanned skin and the waves of blonde hair that she flips onto her back remind me of cheerleading and math class.  I begin to smile.  But then her cute paisley sundress stretching over her round belly catches my eye, reminds me that I was pregnant, that I would have been that big by now, too.  I feel a throbbing sensation in my ears. 

As Sasha beams towards me, I shift George from one hip to the other, preparing my escape.  “Look at him!  He’s getting so big,” she begins.  “Yeah, he’s wiped out—the sun and all the swimming,” I explain.  “I better get him home, down for a nap.”  We say goodbye, promise to get together sometime soon, and then I set out across the park toward home, running away from something I thought I had forgotten.  Maybe too easily, hisses a voice inside my head. 

I recognize the pursuit. 

Suddenly, I find myself back at the bottom of the stairs, sense narrowed eyes upon me, see the cat with its weight balanced on thick pads of paws, whiskers tracing the scent of my loss.  For five months I have hated that cat, but this time, as I replay the scene in my mind, I watch his muscles flex as he stands from his predator’s crouch and skulks away.  This time I realize that it is not the cat, but the woman at the bottom of the stairs that terrifies me: the way she hesitates, holds herself back.  It is the woman who pursues me, seething with self doubt. 

Not today, I tell myself, and I slow my steps until I can feel the tickle of grass reaching up over my flip flops.  I concentrate on the sleepy weight of George’s head on my shoulder, his dangling limbs bouncing with each of my strides. 

As I pass the steel structures of a play area, our duplex comes into view across the street.  I notice Blake’s car in the driveway and feel myself eager to get home.  When the gleaming yellow plastic of George’s toy loader and flat bed on the front step catches my eye, I quicken my pace.  I leave the dizzying swirl of voices, the screech of swing set chains behind.  I allow myself space.  A warm breeze rustles the leaves of the cottonwood trees, George’s soft hair flutters on my cheek, and I relax.  I am happy. 

Amber Jensen is a wife, mother, teacher and writer.  She will graduate in May with a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans’ low-residency program.  Her essays, poetry, and reviews have been published in  North Dakota Quarterly, Ellipsis, Assissi, and zolpidem walgreens price.

 


zolpidem 10mg e 79 The names of people outside my immediate family have been changed to protect their privacy.

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an essay by Corbin Lewars

When sex with your husband involves thermometers, charts, and sticking your legs in the air afterwards, you know it’s no longer about your burning desire for him. It’s now all about your burning desire for a baby. I have reached that point and beyond. I have needles poked in me, chart my temperature twice a day, seek advice from a variety of specialists, follow this advice even when it entails chanting to my womb, all in hopes of seeing the two pink stripes on the EPT.

After years of waiting for my husband Jason to say the magical words, “I’m ready” and months and months of cheering “swim, little guys swim,” to his sperm mid-coital, I am finally rewarded with the pink stripes. After jumping for joy and hugging Jason, I place my hand on my belly and say, “Hello there.” The chanting has paid off and by now I am quite used to talking to my womb. I name her Sweet Pea and converse privately with her throughout the day. For now, she is mine, all mine, and I do not share news of her with anyone besides Jason.

Around my tenth week of pregnancy, my back throbs intensely while I am at work. My mind flashes to Sweet Pea, but I quickly dismiss that concern. I’ve waited for her for too long to lose her now. I stretch and reposition myself, but nothing alleviates the pain. After urinating, I see bright red drops that shouldn’t be in the toilet. Panicking, I run back to my office to call my group of midwives.

“I see you’re about ten weeks along, is that correct?” the midwife asks.

“Yes,” I reply, while lying on the floor to ease the pain. She asks me to describe the feeling in my abdomen (menstrual cramps mixed with food poisoning), the amount of blood (a light period), and the lower back pain (agonizing). A long silence follows before she says the words I’m dreading hearing, “You’re miscarrying.”

“No! How can I stop it?”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do. A large percentage of women miscarry in their first trimester and there’s no way to avoid it. Sometimes, it just wasn’t meant to be. Or perhaps the baby wasn’t viable. All we can do is wait and see,” she says.

I hang up the phone and burst into tears. I was patient for so long and every month when I got my period I told myself, “That’s all right. Maybe next month it will happen.” And then it finally did and I was instantly attached. I am attached. I talk to her every day, I have clothes for her, I love her.

I decide to ignore the midwife’s words and tell myself Sweet Pea will stay with me. She wants to be with me as much as I want her. This comforts me for an hour, but then the pain in my lower back becomes too great to ignore. I give up on trying to get any work done, write “Gone home sick” on the white board outside of my office, and drive home.

Once there, I leave a message for Jason and call the midwives a few more times. One of the midwives on call is optimistic about my situation and I cling to her every word. The other midwife on call has given up on Sweet Pea and after talking to her I have to crawl into bed and curl up into a fetal position. Once I’ve shed all the tears I can shed, I turn off my brain. I’m afraid thinking about bad things will give them more power and validity, so if I don’t think about the miscarriage, maybe it will go away.

Jason comes home and finds me in bed hiding under the covers. “Is there anything I can do?” he asks while rubbing my back.

“No.”

“What did the midwife say?”

“I’ve talked to a couple of them. One is really sweet and hopeful. She says I may just be spotting and that if I rest, I could stop bleeding. The other one told me to come in for a D & C.”

“What’s that?”

“They scrape my uterus.”

“Like an abortion?”

“Yeah.” I pull a blanket over myself.

“Are you going to do that?” he asks.

“No, I hung up on her.”

He asks more technical and logistical questions, but I am too tired to answer them. I know he is only trying to understand the situation, but there are no answers. All we can so is wait and see. I find waiting impossible, so I sleep and hope when I wake up I’ll realize it was all a nightmare.

A few hours later, I’m still bleeding, but not heavily. The “hopeful” midwife is pleased to hear this and says if the cramps and backache subside, it probably means I’m spotting. I am thrilled to hear this and am finally able to get out of bed. I gather two white candles and light them as a way to protect Sweet Pea. Coming from an atheist family, yet wanting to believe in something, I am forced to make up my own rituals. And candles often serve as my chalice and host.  As do the stars. I walk over to the window and say the words I’ve been chanting since I was a little girl, “Star light star bright, the first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might have this wish I wish tonight.” I close my eyes and hope for Sweet Pea to stay with me.

After another day of intermittent bleeding, and many hours spent in bed sleeping, the hopeful midwife convinces me to get my blood drawn to check my hormone levels. “It will be good to know either way,” she convinces me. I write down the directions to the after hours lab and wait in various cubicles to have my blood drawn. Once the procedure is over, I ask when I will know the results.

“Monday morning,” the technician responds.

“But that’s three days away!”

“Yup, we don’t do labs over the weekend.”

It’s the worst three days of my life. I don’t want to talk to anyone, not even my husband. I’m locked in my own despair and turmoil. When I cry, I feel guilty that I’m giving up on Sweet Pea. But how can I ignore the fact that I may lose the baby I sing to every day and can picture so clearly in my brain? I can’t, so I spend the majority of the weekend lighting candles to protect Sweet Pea and sleeping.

First thing Monday morning, I call the lab. A cheery nurse says, “Oh yeah, here’s your chart. Everything looks fine.”

“Thank God!” I race upstairs to tell Jason. We hug each other and cry. Words fail us. All we can do is smile.

I tell people at work I had the flu and no one seems to question my story. I work on the newsletter that it has taken me far too long to complete until I remember that I missed my first prenatal appointment with the midwives during the turmoil. The receptionist asks me to hold for a moment when I call the offices to reschedule. The non-hopeful midwife comes on the line and says, “Corbin, are you trying to schedule a D & C?”

 “Why would I do that?”

“Didn’t the lab call you?” she asks.

“Yeah, I called them. The nurse said everything is fine.”

Long, long pause.

“I don’t know why she would say that. I have your chart right in front of me. You’re not pregnant anymore, you miscarried.”

I stagger at her words and sit down on the floor. The room is spinning and I have to shake my head to clear it.

“No, I didn’t. I hardly bled at all and the cramps went away after a few days. I’m still pregnant. I know I am, I feel it.” Instinctively, my hand rests on my belly and I start to rub it in a circular motion. I’m sure the midwife is wrong and wish she would put the receptionist back on so I can make my damn appointment.

“No dear, you’re not. Sometimes our bodies aren’t aligned with our brains. Your brain may think you’re still pregnant, but I can tell by looking at your hormone levels, that you aren’t. Now about that D & C. You really should come in and have it soon. Otherwise you may get an infection that could…”

Click.

I hang up the phone and lie on the floor again. Once again, I tell myself she is wrong and that if I hope for it hard enough, I can still have Sweet Pea. When doubt creeps in, I stagger into my friend Jennifer’s office for reassurance. “I bled, but not that much, the nurse told me I’m fine but the midwife says no, I lost the baby, but I don’t think I did. I still feel Sweet Pea, I know she’s still with me….”

Jennifer deciphers some of my babble and calls the midwives herself. Unsatisfied by the midwives response, she decides to call my general practitioner. “If your doctor is the one who first validated your pregnancy, then she is who I should call. What’s her name?” she asks.

            I cry on Jennifer’s floor while she tries to penetrate the impenetrable medical system. No one wants to answer her questions or tell her how or why I would have been told I’m still pregnant if I’m not. Everyone refers her to someone else. After the tenth phone call, I finally let the midwife’s words sink in. “Don’t call anyone else,” I tell Jennifer. “It’s over.”

I return home again and crawl into bed. I remain there for several days, only emerging to go to work, and then returning to my bed. I refuse to have the D & C, but my body continues to bleed expelling the baby it’s own way. For weeks I am a shell of myself, doing the bare minimum at work, and avoiding all of my friends and family. People try to comfort me with, “You’ll have another baby” or “Maybe it’s for the best,” but this only angers me. I don’t want another baby, I want Sweet Pea.

After weeks of grieving and raging, I decide I have to let Sweet Pea go. I can’t live my life in bed hoping when I wake up, she’ll still be with me. She’s gone. I lost her. Pretending otherwise won’t bring her back. Nor will trying to understand what caused the miscarriage. I’ll never know and all the speculating does is make me feel bad about myself and my body. I assume it’s something that I did or that my body is a failure at baby-making. All this line of thinking does is make me want to crawl back into bed.

Once again, I seek out a ritual to help me. I gather all of the remnants that remind me of Sweet Pea and place them on my bed. The cute baby outfits I bought and the pregnancy book, I put in one pile to send to my friend Jill, who is pregnant. I pause while folding an adorably, fuzzy yellow snow suit. Instead of adding it to Jill’s pile, I hold it to my face and cry. It’s too heartbreaking letting it go, so I keep it. I don’t have to give up hope entirely, I just have to let go of Sweet Pea.

I find the nub of one of the candles I lit for Sweet Pea and the cork I saved from the champagne Jason and I drank on Valentine’s Day, the day she was conceived. I buy a hosta plant in remembrance of Sweet Pea. I dig a hole in our garden and Jason and I place the candle and cork in it and the hosta on top. We hold hands in silence for several minutes and let the tears fall. At the same time, we break the silence by saying, “Good-bye, Sweet Pea. We love you.”

 

 

“Losing Sweet Pea” is an excerpt from Corbin Lewars’ memoir, Creating a Life (Catalyst Book Press, 2010) which is now available as an ebook. Corbin’s essays have been featured in Hip Mama, Midwifery Today, Mothering, and A Wild Ride and several anthologies. She is a writing coach and instructor based in Seattle, where she lives with her two young children and a thriving hosta, which she calls Sweet Pea. To learn more about Corbin and her coaching practice visit zolpidem best price.

Read the interview with Corbin Lewars conducted by Jessica Powers, ambien usa today.

 

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ambien for sale philippinesambien 10 mg pill identification,” right off with that title, takes us into unmapped emotional territory. Not only for its secondary implied point of view, but for the serious subjects it juxtaposes (miscarriage and a cancer in a child). Can you talk to us about the process of writing this poem and how you arrived at that stellar title?

People often say that men can’t understand pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, etc., because they have never physically experienced it, which becomes particularly problematic when men attempt to control or legislate what goes on inside women’s bodies. This poem came about because I wanted to envision a scenario through which a man might gain a better perspective on miscarriage. Because the boyfriend in the poem has experienced a situation where his body (in this case, his bone marrow) was unable to sustain a child’s life, he begins to understand why a woman who has had a miscarriage might be unwilling to try again.

“Heat” continues this push into unmapped fertility/sexuality territory, with that feral metaphor of the over-heated, hatched female “sterile, chunky / aggressive” fending off the fertile females, landing beautifully with the closing image of the pull to female to female passion. Again, can you talk to us about your process and choice of metaphors, if there are other images you are further working with in your poetry along these lines?

I’m fascinated by the animal kingdom, especially when it comes to mating rituals, and I often find that describing a literal phenomenon that occurs in nature allows me to then explore metaphorical issues that impact my own species. The sex and breeding behavior of a gecko is directly determined by environmental factors, whereas the environment of human society dictates what behaviors and expressions of sexuality will be regarded as deviant or defective. The speaker’s anger issues may be a result of her prenatal environment, but what provokes her anger is social constraints and a one-size-fits-all mentality; when given free expression, her condition becomes celebratory. Another metaphor I’ve used is the feeling of wanting out of one’s own skin, which I compare to reptiles who literally shed their skin.

I found “’Inappropriate’ Lactation after a Miscarriage” incredibly moving—thank you for writing this poem. Have you encountered other poems in your reading history along this topic (I know I haven’t yet) that you would point our readers toward?

Thank you. I haven’t actually come across any poems that portray this particular aspect of a miscarriage, which is one reason why I wanted to write about it.

Any poetry mentors or other inspirations you’d like to share with us?

All of these poems were written while I was a student at Vermont College, where I worked with Betsy Sholl, Leslie Ullman, Natasha Saje, and Roger Weingarten. I enjoy the work of Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and Lucille Clifton, among other feminist poets. I also admire Sharon Olds’ use of the body as subject matter and Pattiann Rogers’ use of animals as metaphors.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Cincinnati, where I’ve been working on a series of poems that explore my experience with chronic illness.

And just for fun, (if we assume the pet shop source is personal and not projected), will  you be sharing the poems with that owner?

That poem was inspired by several pet store owners I’ve encountered over the years, none of whom would appreciate being immortalized. My pets, however, are fans of my work.

Laura Thompson earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of the Fine Arts and is currently enrolled in the PhD program in English and Comparative Literature, with a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, at the University of Cincinnati. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Tributary, The Rectangle, and Tiger’s Eye. She is also a part-time English and Creative Writing instructor and serves on the editorial staff at the Cincinnati Review.

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Outgrown

The pet store owner hates me.
The bags of skittering crickets
I buy can’t make up for the sales
he’s lost. Releasing swarms of doubt
among his customers, I tell them
how big those babies behind glass will get.
The sulcata tortoise that fits
in your child’s mouth will be 200 pounds.
The frog sitting on your thumb eats fruit flies
now, rats later. In a year, that iguana will need
his own room. Caiman is just another
word for Crocodile. Is it animal welfare
that makes me speak up, or my own
fear of a life that will outgrow
the space I leave for it? When my eight-months
pregnant friend says how much she wants
this baby out, I don’t tell her
about my embryo, just another word
for a baby so small I didn’t know I’d brought
it home, how my deformed
uterus ran out of room at eight weeks,
and the tissue meant to cushion crushed.

My Boyfriend’s Miscarriage

On a Harley Davidson notepad, I draw
a normal uterus: pear-shaped, adorned on either side

with ovaries, and then mine, upside down, toppled
by a mass of eggs on one side, nothing

on the other, fallopian tubes
a gnarled ball of yarn.

The perspective father of my children
still isn’t convinced: Wouldn’t a child

 from your own body mean
more? Wouldn’t that be worth

the risk? I find him sobbing, face down
on our mattress, clutching

a Christmas photo—his niece’s bald head
covered by a Santa hat, smiling despite

chemo and swollen cheeks—he flinches
when I brush against his hip where a drill

pierced his femur, drawing rich red marrow
from the hollows of his pelvis to patch holes

in a child’s blood, the only relative whose genes
matched. Nine months later, the cells he donated

have died inside her. I was wrong
he says. That’s the last part of us
I want to lose.

“Inappropriate” Lactation After a Miscarriage

To not “take possession of.”
To not “set apart for a particular use.”
Not “fitting, suitable, apt.”
Not milk, but milky,
meant for a baby never
truly possessed.
Not white, but bluish gray,
insinuating itself into a bra’s
lace when someone else’s baby cries.

Set apart but not useful,
twin tumors the heart beats against–
ignore the pressure, refuse to release it,
and it will go away.
“Express” it and it will never
stop. Soothe with frozen
cabbage leaves, brittle green reminders
that babies are not found
where they were thought to be.
The only cure: to become
fertile again. What is natural
can also be wrong.

Heat

Inside a freshly laid egg, a gecko
begins female, but temperature
changes everything. Incubators
set at 75 guard oviducts, but
crank to 80 and androgen pools
in hemipenal pores. A simple formula, unless
a thermostat malfunctions and temps
reach 90, for an egg just shy of omelet
hatches “hot female.” Sterile, chunky,
aggressive, they savage males who try
to mount them, dance a slithering samba
when “normal” females approach.

Off her meds because of me, my mother
hid in closets and crawl spaces
in June, heat stroke less threatening
than life. Were those prenatal summer
months the reason the dress shop calls
my waist a “size other?” Did it make
me throw a desk at the teacher who said
I’d never find a husband peering
through a microscope? Is that
why I sizzle in a woman’s
arms like butter
beneath scrambled egg?

Laura Thompson earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of the Fine Arts and is currently enrolled in the PhD program in English and Comparative Literature, with a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, at the University of Cincinnati. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Tributary, The Rectangle, and Tiger’s Eye. She is also a part-time English and Creative Writing instructor and serves on the editorial staff at the Cincinnati Review.

Read our interview with Laura Thompson conducted by Tania Pryputniewicz, zolpidem 10 mg price costco.

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Photo by Kathy Leonard

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Kathy  Leonard says, “When I photograph, I do not consciously search out particular types of images, but I find that there is a surprising similarity in many of my photographs.  There is dark and light, great contrast, or “chiaroscuro” as the Italians call it.  I find this juxtaposition of light and shadow very appealing in black and white photography, especially when it serves to highlight the angles or curves of some object. These are the elements that drew me to photograph the wooden cradle. The natural light from the window cast dramatic shadows on the hand-carved cradle and I knew that the resulting image would be stark, simple, and beautiful.”

Kathy Leonard is a professor at Iowa State University.  She studied photography at the University of California, Davis, and at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she received a degree in Fine Arts with specialty in photography. Her photographs have been published in numerous magazines, websites, online journals, and in textbooks and have been exhibited in various venues in California, Nevada, and Iowa.

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Fiction by Don Kunz

Wendy awoke in the master bedroom of the restored Victorian on Prospect Street.  She lay listening to the lovebirds shredding newspaper in their cage next to the bay window and her husband making breakfast in their downstairs kitchen.  She stared at the ceiling.  The new light of an August morning had streamed through the stained glass to cover the cracked plaster with sky-blue and blood-red streaks resembling a child’s finger painting.  She thought of a shiny white egg the size of a marble.  She thought of nesting.  At almost five months she was definitely showing.  Beneath her flannel nightgown Wendy’s stomach was no longer flat and hard from years of abdominal crunches and five-mile runs along Blackstone Boulevard on the east side of Providence.  She heard Bill breaking eggs into a ceramic bowl, whisking them with a fork, pouring them spattering into the cast iron skillet.  The skillet had belonged to Wendy’s mother who had died of colon cancer on Valentine’s Day.  She remembered her mother’s distended belly rising beneath the sheet of her hospital deathbed and imagined she would look like that herself before she delivered in December.  Wendy found it disturbing that on the surface life and death should look so much alike.  She wished her mother had lived long enough to share the mysteries of pregnancy and childbirth with her, especially because this would be a Christmas baby, a miracle.  Then, Wendy smelled freshly brewed coffee and felt the familiar first wave of morning sickness.

Bill dropped four slices of whole wheat into the toaster then turned back to stir their eggs in the skillet.  He sang the chorus of a top-forty tune he remembered from his younger years, “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.”  After a miscarriage during the second month of Wendy’s first pregnancy, this had become their theme song.  Bill could almost picture this second fetus adrift in amniotic fluid trying to find a grip on the uterine wall with its newly formed hands.  If Sloopy could just hang on, then, what?  Bill would be a father for the first time at age sixty-one.  At a time when his colleagues would be looking forward to retirement, Bill would be heating formula and planning his schedule around day care.  He was still not certain how to feel about that.  But he was trying to stay positive.  From the beginning of fertility treatments he had told himself that becoming a father would make him young again.  Bill wanted to believe that at seventy-five he would have a dark tan, ropy muscles, and lungs like a Sherpa.  He tried to imagine playing one-on-one basketball in the driveway, making a fade away jump shot against his taller teenage son while his retired colleagues across town shuffled about in walkers, dithering over long-term care policies and bingo schedules in nursing homes.  Bill turned into the hallway, carrying two full plates toward the dining room.  He paused at the foot of the stairs.  “Breakfast,” he hollered.  “Eggs and toast.  Breakfast for Wendy and Sloopy.”  No answer.  From the bathroom at the top of the stairs came the sound of his wife retching.  Bill walked slowly into the dining room and set the plates on the table.

Wendy rested her forehead on the forward edge of the white porcelain toilet bowl, reached up and flushed.  “Coming,” she hollered.  “I’m coming, for Christ’s sake!”  She heaved herself up and reached for the Aquafresh on the pedestal sink.  The bristles on her toothbrush were splayed out like the legs of an old dog trying to stay upright.  Her voice tumbled down the stairs toward Bill.  “I’m not too sure about Sloopy.  I may have barfed him up.  I couldn’t bear to look.”

Christmas baby or not she thought as she brushed her teeth, no one could call her the Virgin Wendy anymore; that’s for sure.  At work, Joe Early had christened her with that nickname when they were dating, because she was holding out on him.  She glanced into the speckled mirror over the sink.  She was foaming at the mouth.  Rabid bitch she thought.  She remembered snapping and growling at poor Joe, formerly her would-be lover, now barely a colleague.  Joe Early, one of four senior partners at Robinson, Bender, Early & Touché, Attorneys at Law had spent four months after his third divorce trying to get into her pants.  Back then she was in her fifth year at the firm and had wondered if giving into sexual intimacy would be a quid pro quo for making partner in the firm.  So Wendy, who hadn’t been a virgin since she was seventeen, decided to keep their relationship platonic as a test.  A week after the vote which made her a partner and head of the firm’s workman’s compensation division, Wendy dumped Joe when he tried to grope her in the small kitchen off the second-floor conference room at the end of the hall.  Mooning about with unrequited love was unprofessional but, nevertheless, flattering; feeling her up at work was not.

Wendy took a gulp of tap water, grimaced at the taste of chlorine, thought again about buying a filter for the tap, and rinsed her mouth but did not swallow.  She recalled she had not been able to read anything but embarrassment in Joe’s face, like when he had received a Victoria’s Secret Catalog at work.  She was hoping for disappointment.  She would have preferred epic heart break.  But Joe just blushed briefly.  Then he reached past her, poured himself a coffee (no sugar) and turned away.  She had been tempted to ask if he knew anything about sexual harassment statutes but decided not to rub it in.  Three weeks later Wendy had tried to imagine what Joe would think about her having intercourse with an economist she had met through a dating service.  At first it had amazed her, but later Wendy figured she was overdue.  At age thirty-seven having committed all her energy to marathon training and a seventy-hour workweek at the law firm, she decided it was time to stop acting like a cloistered nun.  What could she have told Joe if he had asked why him and not me, especially when Bill was almost twenty years older than either of them?  Bill just smelled right?  Wendy believed in the science of pheromones.  Now she was pregnant at forty, trying to believe in miracles.

Bill ascended the stairs wearing a red T-shirt, khaki slacks, and a denim apron that read, “If you laid all the economists end to end, they still couldn’t reach a conclusion.”  He shoved both hands into his front pockets beneath the apron and stared at Wendy in the bathroom mirror, admiring her brown eyes, perfectly oval face, and short auburn curls.  Bill watched Wendy wipe her mouth with the green guest towel.  “You were just kidding about Sloopy, right?  Because I’ve got his breakfast ready.  He needs to eat to hang on.”

Wendy brushed her fingertips across the dark circles beneath her eyes as if to erase them.  She wondered when she would see the glow that younger women seemed to get when they were pregnant.  Since marrying Bill three years earlier, she had wondered if starting a family this late was an unrealistic prospect.  Now she tried to push doubt aside.  She told herself it was like hitting the wall at mile eighteen in a marathon when the body had used up all its glycogen; if she kept pushing, she could do it.  And so could her husband she thought; he was a tough, old bird who looked and acted younger than his years.   Bill’s reflection appeared beside hers in the mirror, a square chiseled face with scar tissue around the eyes.  Wendy spoke to his image.  “I’ve got to believe this one’s got a grip.  This baby’s a keeper.”

Bill bowed his head, rested his chin lightly on Wendy’s shoulder, and wrapped his arms around her.  He wanted to hold on more tightly but feared he might break something.  “It had better be.  I don’t think there are many more where he came from.”

Wendy rotated inside the circle of Bill’s arms and gave him a peck on the cheek.  “Thanks for fixing breakfast.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “Oh, God.  I think I’m going to be sick again.”  She pushed Bill away, put both hands on her knees, and leaned over the toilet.  Her hands turned into fists as if she could fight off the nausea.  “Morning sickness is supposed to go away by the third month.  It’s too late for this.”

“It’s probably the damned eggs,” Bill said.  I should have fixed oatmeal.”

Wendy straightened up.  “Yeah, probably just the eggs.  But I ought to be able to keep something as simple as an egg down.  Eggs are supposed to be good for you.”

“Why don’t you save a step, leave the toilet seat up just in case?”

“Don’t be a damned pessimist!” she snapped.   “I refuse to be sick any more.  I’m going to take a seat at the table, and I’m going to finish everything you put on my plate.”

Wendy waited for Bill to get out of her way.  But he reached out and placed both hands on her belly.  His knuckles were heavy, thick, and scarred.  Sloopy wasn’t kicking.  Wendy reached up to brush toast crumbs from Bill’s lips.

 

That evening Wendy and Bill lay in bed with their heads propped up on pillows and watched a rerun of “The Best of Johnny Carson.”  Wendy was nibbling on soda crackers to settle her stomach.  Beneath the sheet Bill’s feet framed the screen on the twenty-one inch Sony at the foot of the bed.  When he forced his toes together, Johnny disappeared; when he let them flop to the side, Johnny reappeared.  Now Johnny was wearing a black velvet turban and holding an envelope to his forehead; he was playing the Great Carnac, solver of riddles.  The routine reminded Bill of “Jeopardy,” but every answer was a joke.  Johnny closed his eyes, furrowed his brow, and let the suspense build.  “Sis boom bah,” he proclaimed.  Then Johnny tore the end from the envelope and blew into it.  The envelope bellied out, Johnny extracted a piece of paper, unfolded it and read:  “What is the sound of a sheep exploding?”

Seated on the sofa to Johnny’s right, Ed McMahon burst into gales of hearty laughter.  “Yes, oh Great Carnac, The Magnificent.”

Bill brought his toes together and erased Johnny.  “Looks like we didn’t miss much the first time around.  If this is the best of Carson, I wouldn’t want to see the worst.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Wendy said, “maybe that would be more entertaining.  You know, less scripted, more spontaneous.”

Bill moved his feet apart.  Johnny popped up on the screen again.  Bill wondered if that was true about being funny.  He thought it was true about sex.  Now that sex was a regular part of his life, he was relieved and grateful.  But it seemed less exciting.  He remembered the thrill of picking up chicks in bars and bookstores down city when he was fresh out of Providence College with a graduate degree in economics.  It had helped that he looked like a body builder, that he had trained in gyms from the age of thirteen, and that at seventeen he had become New England Welter-Weight Champion in the Golden Gloves.  Whenever some flighty woman in a bar reached up to trace the scar tissue beneath his left eye or paused to focus on his twice broken nose or asked about the callous on his knuckles, Bill knew he had her.  If he wanted her.  But after hitting forty-five, suddenly all the knockout women close to his age were taken.  On weekends he saw them in minivans driving their kids to the Roger Williams’ Park Zoo or swimming lessons at the Barrington Y.  By the time he was fifty, Bill had gotten used to going a year or more without getting lucky.  Eventually, he found the women in bars divided into two types:  Young and giggly or old and desperate.  They were either caught up in trivial details of undergraduate work or seething with anger about divorces.  They all were obsessive about gaining weight.  Inviting them out to dinner was like asking them to step into the ring.

In hindsight Bill knew his sexual exploits had been a crazy game, the worst-case scenario being AIDS.  Meanwhile the sexual climate had changed.  Pretending to love and to be loved by a stranger no longer seemed possible.  When he had stopped scoring regularly, he told himself that he was being prudent.  The newspapers were filled with cautionary tales:  Sexual harassment law suits filed against CEOs; college administrations issuing strict guidelines governing relations between students and faculty; a picture in the Providence Journal of the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Chief Justice zipping up his pants while emerging from a liaison with a prostitute at Johnston motel.  At First Federal Trust, where Bill worked, sexual harassment training became mandatory, and officiously scripted dialog replaced flirting.   Being a lapsed New England Catholic, Bill diagnosed these symptoms as resurgent Puritanism.  Once again the culture seemed determined to take the fun out of sex by handing out scarlet “A’s, but this time around it would be to men for exploiting women in a rigged economy.  So, at fifty five, William Williams, now Chief Economist at First Federal with offices throughout New England, began to talk openly of looking for a wife and perhaps starting a family.  Bill’s male colleagues, who had been entertained by his earlier sexual exploits, were amused by his transformation.  Privately they began to refer to him as Bill Squared.

Bill found a wife two years later through a dating service called ForPlay, which operated out of a former fitness club and karate studio on Broadway.  It catered to athletes, arranging dates around workouts and sports—skiing, tennis, swimming, even swing dancing. This appealed to Bill.  As a boxer, he had done a lot of roadwork and weight training.  To stay youthful looking he had continued working out long after he stopped fighting.  So, when Bill read a feature article on dating services in the Providence Sunday Journal, he canceled his health club membership at Gold’s Gym on Bald Hill Road and signed up with ForPlay.  He liked their policy of no embarrassing interviews (“Well, after graduate school at NYU…”) or videotapes (“Hi—SMILE—my name is_______”) or newspaper ads (“SDWM loves walking on the beach, candlelit dinners, and stimulating conversation”).  ForPlay was just a chance to find a healthy mate.  In that way Bill met Wendy on a fun run, scrambling along Blackstone Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon in late April, passing five younger men to catch up to her because he liked what he saw from behind.  He was pleased she was a marathoner.  He wanted a woman who could go the distance.  They began to work out together—five mile runs and resistance training.  By the following January they were married.  She was thirty-seven and wanted children before it was too late.  Bill was fifty-eight and wanted to give Wendy anything that would make her love him.  Now at sixty-one he was trying to become a father.  And now Johnny Carson was razzing Doc Severson about his sportscoat looking like something a pimp would wear to an Easter egg hunt.  Johnny was saying “Where’s the hat with the Peacock feather?  What’s up, Doc?”  Ed McMahon was hysterical.  He cackled and hooted.  His head snapped back, then slumped between his knees as he fought to control his joy.  Finally Ed straightened up, wiped tears from his eyes and cut to a commercial for Tidy Bowl.

“Uh oh,” Wendy said.  “I’m bleeding.”

 

Wendy closed her eyes, leaned back in the passenger seat of their Saab station wagon, and pressed a supersize maxipad between her legs.  Bill drove through rain slick streets and swiped at the foggy windshield with a white towel.  The defroster had died several Sundays ago on their way to the United Church of Christ on Angell, and, although the car was still under warranty, they hadn’t found the time to get it to the dealer’s in Pawtucket yet.  Down Prospect and up Waterman there was almost no traffic.  But as Bill passed Hope, he realized that he was going the wrong direction from habit.  Accustomed to driving Wendy to the Ob-Gyn suite in Wayland Square for fertility treatments and monthly checkups, he had driven her away from the hospital not toward it.   There was no traffic, so he ran the light at Brooke, doubling back toward Hope, then Wickendon and the Point Street Bridge.  He checked his rearview mirror and listened for sirens.  The night was very dark.  Rain sluiced in the gutters and swept twigs and scraps of newspaper into storm sewers.  A Basset Hound frowned wrinkles as it lapped water from a puddle on the broken sidewalk under a streetlight.  The headlights cast small pale yellow pools on the pavement.  They reminded Bill of broken egg yolks.  As he passed beneath the freeway and approached Dudley, he could see the sickly green mercury vapor lights that marked the entrance to Women and Infant’s Hospital.  They made Bill want to vomit.  Hang on, Sloopy, Bill thought.  Hang on. 

The car felt like a cinderblock on wheels; he wondered if he was losing the steering as well as the defroster; Bill wrestled it into the space in front of the glass double doors marked EMERGENCY ROOM.  The asphalt was crosshatched with yellow lines, and a red neon sign read AMBULANCE ONLY.  Bill put on his hazard lights and leaned on the horn until he could see a blur of white coats and stethoscopes appear through the wavy path of the windshield wipers.  The Emergency Room doors burst open, and the water cascading off the roof broke all around them as EMTs pulled Wendy from the car, put her on a gurney, and wheeled her into the hospital with a blood pressure cuff already inflating around her left arm and Wendy holding up the blood soaked pad with her right hand and an EMT pressing Wendy’s hand back down against her crotch and hollering for her to just keep the pressure right on it.

Bill lowered his head to the steering wheel.  The windshield wipers thumped, thumped, thumped like an endless succession of barred doors closing.  Even with his eyes shut the sign’s red glow colored his thoughts.  Without this baby to keep him young, how could Wendy still love him?  He thought, who am I kidding?   I must have been dreaming!  For the first time he could picture himself alone, toothless, hooked up to an IV drip, lying in a nursing home like the one where he had visited his father when the old man was dying of heart trouble.  And like a split screen in a movie, he could see Wendy, seemingly ageless, standing in a navy blue power suit offering her summation to a jury.  This image dissolved into one of their two lovebirds, Anna and Fritz, stretching their clipped wings and singing to the mirror in their cage.  Tonight he knew Anna was sitting on the small white marble that he and Wendy had substituted for the real egg, which they had destroyed after reading about the mortality rate of lovebird chicks in captivity.  Bill imagined Anna and Fritz together now wrapped in silence and darkness by the night curtain.  Then his throat tightened and his eyes watered.  Bill shifted into reverse, backed out of the restricted area, and hunted for a place where he could park the Saab.

 

The voice came from behind the brilliant white light above her.  “Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst pain you ever had.”

Wendy lay swaddled in a gray blanket on the sterile examination table inside the emergency-room cubicle.  Her feet were in stirrups, and a doctor was probing between her legs.  “Oh.  Two.  I think.  You know.  Like cramps, maybe.”

“When did the bleeding start?

“About twenty minutes ago.  We were watching Johnny Carson.  I felt this wetness between my legs.”

“Did you do anything strenuous today?  Lift anything?”

“No, I’ve cut way back on my running.  I stretched a little.  My husband and I had sex this morning after breakfast.  You think that could trigger it?”

“Did intercourse hurt?”

“No.  To tell you the truth, it felt terrific.  Better than usual.

“Good.  Just what Mother Nature intended.  That way, you’ll probably do it again.  If sexual activity isn’t painful, and it’s not too . . .ah . . . . athletic, it can actually be beneficial up until about the eighth month.  It usually keeps the parents happy, and if they’re happy. . .”

Wendy shifted on the examination table, recoiling from the pressure of the cold instruments against her pelvis.  The sanitary paper crinkled under her.  Her voice was suddenly husky.  “I lost the first one.  I don’t want to lose this one.”  She cleared her throat.  “I gave up biking.  And I’ll give up running altogether if I have to.  Just tell me.  I mean, I’ve cut back to six miles a week anyway, you know, like three two-mile runs?  And I swim laps when I can get to the pool at the Y.”

The doctor slipped Wendy’s feet from the stirrups and set them down gently.  She pulled Wendy’s green hospital Johnny down.  “It’s better to stay active if you can.  But walk, don’t run.  Swimming’s okay.  Most women know not to overdo.  However, the bleeding is a concern.  It isn’t just spotting.  On the other hand, it’s just about stopped now.”  The doctor turned off the examination light, and pulled her mask off.  “Some bleeding during early stage pregnancy is not uncommon.  But you’re, what now?  Four months?  Five?”

Wendy tried to blink away the dark spot in her eyes left by the examination light.  She could barely read the physician’s face, just making out a woman of about fifty in green scrubs, short blond hair protruding beneath a paper cap, no makeup.  “Almost five.”

The doctor nodded.  “Yeah, okay.  So, I want an ultrasound.  It won’t hurt anything, and it might tell us something.”

Wendy turned her head to follow the doctor as she edged around the foot of the examination table and held out a hand to help her sit up.  Wendy felt lightheaded.  “I’m not sure I want to know.”

Abruptly, the doctor crossed the cubicle, picked up a second blanket, returned, and draped it around Wendy’s shoulders.  “It’s always better to know.  That’s the only way we can help you have a healthy baby.  I think you’d be surprised how much the medical profession does know.  We’ve got so many options now.”  She glanced again at Wendy’s chart.  “Anyway, I’ll make sure this episode gets into your file so you can go over it with your regular Ob-Gyn, who is Dr. . . . ah . . .oh, looks you’ve got a whole team working on this.  A year and a half of fertility treatments with Wayland Gynecological Associates.  You’re in good hands.  Those guys have childbearing down to a science.”

“We’ll I’m forty, and I guess science got me this far.  But it seems more like a miracle.”

The doctor took a pen from her breast pocket and began writing on the patient chart.  She glanced up.  “Yeah.  We see those, too.  Now let’s get that ultrasound.”

 

Bill punched in the security code, shutting off the alarm system in their Prospect Street home.  He glanced at the darkened stairwell leading up to the master bedroom as he helped Wendy out of her wet raincoat.  He hung it up with his own double-breasted trench coat in the hall closet and shut the door.  He threw the keys down on the dining room table, pulled out an end chair, and collapsed into it.  “I’m beat,” he sighed.  “And I wasn’t even the one doing the bleeding.”

Wendy slipped up behind Bill and placed a large envelope on the table.  Then she bent and put her arms around his neck.  She kissed him on the ear.  “Oh, I don’t know.  You looked pretty white in the face.”  She straightened up and massaged his neck with both hands, digging her fingers in deep like a boxer’s corner man loosening him up for the next round.  His muscles were rigid.  Wendy sighed.  “You know what?”

Bill tipped his head back against Wendy’s belly, hoping to feel movement.  Instead he felt the rising and falling of her breath on the top of his head.  He wondered if he was getting a little bald.  The need to feel his son had become an ache too profound to be massaged away.  It made him weak.  He thought, give me a poke, kid.  Give me a kick in the head.  Your old man is out here waiting.  Finally, Bill grunted, “No, what?”

“I’m starving.  I wish Johnny Rockets up on Thayer Street were open.  I’d get a deluxe hamburger with lots of onions, French fries, a frosty chocolate malt.”

“Yeah, but it’s closed.  It’s, what?”  Bill looked at his Swiss Army watch; there was a Red Cross embossed beneath the numbers.  “A little after midnight.  Nothing’s open.  Nothing but emergency rooms and bars.”  He turned and looked up at Wendy.  “Is this an emergency?  I could pop some corn.”

“That sounds good.  Pop the good stuff, the Orville whatshisface.  The kind where all the kernels pop.  You know, no old maids.”

Bill heaved himself up and took Wendy’s hands in his.  He pushed fatigue aside, forcing himself to speak.  “There are always going to be a few lonely old maids,” he said.  “But you’re not going to be one of them.  I won’t let that happen.”

Wendy stood on her tiptoes and pressed her forehead against Bill’s.  She thought of a lovebird staring at its own reflection in a mirror.  “I know,” she said.  “But it’s not entirely up to you.  I don’t care how tough you are.  That’s too big a responsibility for anybody.  We can’t control everything.”

“So what do we do?”

“We hope.”

“What if we lose this one, too?”

“Cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“It might be too late for me.”

“It might be too late for both of us.”

“So what do we do?”

“What we can.  Let’s look at it one more time.”

Bill let go of Wendy, then, turned toward the table, and slid the grainy black and white image from its beige envelope as if he were the one giving birth.  There it was on the table.  Together they stood, heads bowed, staring at the 8 1/2 X 11 Polaroid enlargement of the ultrasound monitor.  It seemed like a miracle, this projecting sound through flesh and blood to create a shadowy image of more flesh and blood.  There was Sloopy, one hand clutching his umbilical cord, the other raised as if waving to his parents.  Bill’s voice was a hoarse whisper.  “I don’t know if he’s waving hello or goodbye.”

Wendy ran an index finger over the image of her son’s upraised hand, then turned to Bill.  “Damnit, don’t!  Don’t you dare do that to us!”  She paused, fighting for control.  “We’ve got to believe it’s hello.  If you love me, give me that much.”

Bill placed his hand on top of hers.  “Jesus, Wendy, it’s all about probabilities!  When I look at the numbers, it’s hard not to be pessimistic.”  He squeezed his wife’s hand.  “I do love you.  I love you no matter what.”

Wendy swallowed.  Her voice was hoarse.  “This is family were talking about now, not some abstraction.  This is as personal as it can get.  Both of us have got to believe we’re going to be parents.  Both, okay?  All I’ve seen of our son is this crummy looking Polaroid, and I already love him more than I’ve ever loved anything.”

Bill raised Wendy’s fist, unclenched it, and kissed the palm.  “Me, too.  I think we have to show him.  Let’s give him a sign.”  Slowly Bill went down on one knee at Wendy’s feet, like a boxer knocked halfway to the canvas and waiting for the count.  He began to hum “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy, Hang on,” resting his face against her belly so that their son might hear.  Wendy joined in on the second chorus, singing the lyrics softly.  Over the sound of their voices they could hear the lovebirds in the darkness hanging over them.  Anna shredding more newspaper for the nest and Fritz pecking against the bars.

Don Kunz taught literature, creative writing, and film studies at the University of Rhode Island for 36 years.  His essays, poems, and short stories have appeared in over sixty literary journals.  Don has retired to Bend, Oregon, where he writes fiction and poetry, volunteers, studies Spanish, and is learning to play the Native American Flute.

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Mira Ptacin’s essay, ambien sales figures was published on The Fertile Source a couple of weeks ago. Here, editor Jessica Powers talks with Mira about her experience with losing a pregnancy and then writing about it.

Your essay delves so honestly into the conflicting, ambiguous feelings of pregnancy: fear and a new love welling up inside you. In your case, it was complicated by the unexpectedness of the pregnancy, how sick you were, and the reality that your baby was not going to make it outside of the womb. What gave you the freedom to expose all of these things we don’t like to talk about in this essay?

I have the most wonderful parents. The raised me to believe that it’s not just important, but essential to vocalize my thoughts and feelings, and often. They’ve always encouraged me to pave my own path. So to answer your question, I believe that my parents gave me the freedom, or gifted me with the freedom to make “feelings sharing” a vital part of my well-being. One way I make sense of the world around me is by putting my feelings about life into words. Losing a child was one of the most confusing, upsetting, life-altering moments I’d ever experienced, so writing was the tool that helped me make sense of it all. I needed to understand what happened, and what grief was.

I had to describe my world, because to live in an undescribed world was too lonely. By the practice of writing about my sadness, I began to understand it, and be less afraid of it. By exploring my grief I came to understand that there was no “answer” or explanation. This is what helped me begin my healing process. Self-expression is not just freedom or a gift, it’s a necessity.
You offer such an interesting juxtaposition between the doctors’ phrasing to tell you your baby was going to die–“it is sick,” they said–versus the way you explained it to your family, which is “the baby is sick.” Did you struggle with the coldness of scientific knowledge and the practice of medicine? How in the end did the medical establishment treat you? Did you continue to find it alienating or were you finally embraced, somehow, when you made the decision to terminate the pregnancy?
 
 

 

 
 
 

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Mira Ptacin

I was in graduate school at Sarah Lawrence when this all happened. SLC is one of the most expensive schools in the country, and I was on student loans, so before I got pregnant (before I had even met Andrew, for that matter), I had chosen to opt out of the health insurance to save a little money. Then I met Andrew. Then we got pregnant. We hadn’t planned on it—I had been taking birth control every single day, and never had missed a pill! When we found out I was pregnant, I had to sign up for Medicaid, because we weren’t married. While we loved our doctor, we hated the clinic we went to. After we found out the baby wasn’t viable outside my womb, it was all downhill. Right after we received the horrible news in the ultrasound, we were escorted over to see a genetic counselor, who would take our family history to see what had gone wrong. Minutes after receiving the terrible news, and minutes before seeing the genetic counselor, we were told that he refused to see us, that he “wasn’t allowed” to see us, because Medicaid only allowed me one doctor visit per day.  We were shaken, tired, terribly confused. We didn’t know if we had done something wrong. We wanted help, and we wanted answers. Finally, after she spotted my husband and me crying in a waiting room, a medical intern stepped in and convinced the genetic counselor to talk to us, rather than eat his lunch. In a room that smelled like mayonnaise and lettuce from his lunch, the genetic counselor proceeded to explain what might have possibly happened that caused our baby to be so sick. (It was purely a genetic fluke; nothing we could’ve done.) During the actual procedure, there was very little privacy at the hospital. We were often uncomfortable and exposed. We shared rooms. They were running late and short-staffed. The whole experience was harsh, painful, shocking, traumatic. And very impersonal. I’m assuming this is not due to the doctors’ and nurses’ and employees’ lack of care, but because the hospital just wasn’t equipped. It didn’t have enough money and or resources. It was exhausted. Everyone was exhausted. Sadly, the majority of people in NYC, not to mention in this country, are not rich and cannot afford good medical care, so this type of treatment happens more often than not. In fact, this goes on every day. That’s pretty pathetic, considering we live in one of the wealthiest industrialized nations.

There’s a moment in your essay when you sight a hawk and it sets you off on an absurd set of speculations that become metaphorical for your predicament. Can you talk about how you crafted that scene? How do you balance what happened in real life with crafting it to mean something larger, symbolically speaking, within an essay?
Writers have to be careful with metaphor. Sometimes, it’s best just to be direct, rather than try to find too many metaphors. You want to make sure the reader gets lost in the story, not caught up in the voice of the writer. You don’t want your audience to start pondering the writer’s craft, or questioning your technique. But sometimes, in real life, when something really significant is actually happening, you can’t help but notice all the little signs and the little metaphors surrounding you. Sometimes life just speaks in metaphor, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s why it’s important to always be CONSCIOUS and honest with yourself, and trust your skills as a writer. Being fancy doesn’t always mean you’re being awesome.
 
 

 

 When this scene in Squaw Valley was actually happening in “real time”, things were extremely confusing and difficult for me. Nothing made sense, but the things I did see seemed to just be metaphors, everything seemed to be a sign or metaphor. Or maybe I was just looking for a sign or answer to where to go next and what to do. I was also at a Writer’s Retreat, which was really tricky: I was there for a nonfiction conference, but I didn’t tell anyone what was going on “underneath the surface” in my life. I was sort of being a fictional nonfiction writer. And at the time, I wasn’t writing about what was happening in my life. Looking back at it now, I think that was really crazy of me. But by having such a secret, I was lonely and was looking for signs or symbols for an answer, signs from things other than people. And I think I found many of them on that fortuitous hike.

I only confided in one professor, an extremely talented and compassionate author named Jason Roberts (zolpidem tartrate 100mg) who was one of my writing coaches. We were talking about a manuscript I was working on about a murder at an “Oriental massage parlor” in my hometown. After some discussion about nonfiction/memoir/narrative, I eventually told him about my current predicament, and he told me to throw away the true crime manuscript and that I should be writing about my pregnancy/loss. Maybe he said I HAD to write about it. So I did. And it became a book.

You’re currently at work on a memoir. Can you tell us about it?

First of all, I have to thank Jason Roberts for encouraging me to write about it. When writers are in the beginning stages of their career, it’s very difficult to navigate one’s way, and having gurus/advisors/mentors is more valuable than gold.

Three years ago I began writing about loss and am now in the final stages of editing my manuscript:
“Poor Your Soul” is a memoir about the thin line between decisions made out of love and choices made when influenced by guilt. It traces my mother’s coming-of-age at age twenty-eight, her immigration from Poland to Battle Creek, Michigan, the adoption of her son Julian and his tragic death, mirrored by my migration from the Midwest to Manhattan, my accidental pregnancy and decision to keep the baby, the traumatic loss of my baby, and finally, my marriage in New York City, also at age twenty-eight. Our two stories are strikingly similar, and by reflecting on my mother’s, I learn how to cope with the inevitable but unexpected losses a woman faces in her the search for identity. In other words, this book is about the Uterus and The American Dream.
My mother learned to speak English by watching soap operas, and as a result, her English is a bit butchered. “Embrace yourself” really means brace yourself. And when Mum says something is eating her “out”, it’s really eating her up. POOR YOUR SOUL is something my mom would say as a warning, like “If I catch you watching T.V. on a school night, then poor your soul. POOR YOUR SOUL!” It translates into “I sure do feel sorry for your poor soul because it’s going straight to hell.” Soap operas are hardly realistic—plotlines generally revolving around amnesiacs, the resurrected dead, and the occasional demonic possession. An episode can switch between several dramatic threads at once, linked by chance meetings and coincidences. They’re like tapestries that never end. When one story ends another thread slithers in. In a precisely similar way, I have seen my own storyline develop. Embrace yourself.
 
 

 

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An essay by Mira Ptacin

I am in California and I have just ridden a gondola into the Ice Age.

I bought the expensive cable car ticket because I wanted to catch a glimpse of the million-year-old lake everyone has been talking about. The lift carried me up two thousand vertical feet, over grey-green conifers, over brush fields with crunchy, thirsty-looking plants and gravel cliffs with caramel-colored soil. Steadily, I got higher and higher until suddenly, and only for about five or six seconds, I got to see the lake.

Lake Tahoe was giant, and startling, and still. The huge blue mass came out of nowhere; it was as if the trees had fortuitously parted to reveal a secret brontosaurus stealing a nap. But the car kept moving up and on until we reached the nosebleed section of the mountain. The gondola stopped. I got out. And here I am.

Below me is the Squaw Valley USA ski resort. I didn’t come to Squaw Valley to ski. It’s August, and there’s no snow. The reason I am in here on the west coast, in the opposite end of the country from my home, and high up in the Sierras is because I am participating in a summer writer’s conference. Seven days ago, I left Manhattan and Andrew and Maybe for a literary retreat and I have three days left before I am to leave and resume my life at back on 32nd and Third Avenue. But for the remainder of today, I will be hiking around Squaw Valley’s High Camp. In doing this I plan on appreciating nature. And by appreciating nature, I hope to make my mind clear and stable, make sense out of things, and reach some sort of conclusion, or final decision. They gave us the whole afternoon off.

Squaw Valley’s red, white and blue-colored pamphlet tells me that Lake Tahoe is subterranean; it’s almost five hundred meters deep. Her waters are so still and unmoving that people flock from all over the planet just to bear witness to her clarity. The lake’s creation was incidental and completely natural: millions of years ago, melting snow filled the southern and lowest part of the basin. Rain and runoff added additional water. Eruptions from an extinct volcano called Mount Pluto formed a dam on the north side, and, during the Ice Age, scouring glaciers helped shape the rest of the lake.

As I skim through the glossy brochure’s scientific explanations, I can’t help but recognize the words on the page as metaphors for my current situation: formed by a series of large faults; capable of large magnitude earthquakes; located within Desolation Wilderness; the youngest Deformation Belt. I smack the pamphlet with the backside of my hand, folding it up three times before tossing it into a nearby garbage can. “Shut up,” I tell it. Just shut up.

I am in California and I am the only thing keeping this baby alive. Without me, she is powerless.

Once, I called the baby a parasite. “This thing is a fucking parasite,” I said. I was so sick. I was so angry. I had spent the entire afternoon sprawled out on the tiled bathroom floor of our apartment like a piece of road kill, stationed alongside the toilet. The moisture from its cool porcelain base had apprehended tiny pubic hairs and lavender-colored lint. The floor stunk like ten-day old urine. And the fact that the urine probably wasn’t even mine made me feel even worse, and irrelevant. Besides the point. A means to an end.

For hours my brain and stomach churned like I had just stepped off a Tilt-a-Whirl. I couldn’t get a grip. I couldn’t control my vomiting. All I could get myself to do was moan.  I was all alone in the apartment, all by myself but I could hear the sounds of thousands of lives right next to me, lives right on the edge of my periphery, not even fifteen feet away, kept separate only by a piece of drywall, or a glass window. Traces of people were everywhere— voices of strangers reverberating in the hallway, children shrieking on the playground’s monkey bars, UPS trucks, honks and sirens, food delivery to the next-door neighbor. Eventually, I fell asleep and awoke to the sound of Maybe barking as Andrew arrived home, turned his key and walked into the apartment.

When he called out for me, I pressed my shoulder blades against the bathtub and my pushed my swollen feet against the bathroom door. “Go away!” I answered. From behind the hollow door, Andrew laughed, told me I was adorable, but I refused to let him in.

“Can I come hang out with you in there, Medium Boo, please?” His words sounded muffled, like his lips were pressing upon the tiny gap where the stile met the frame.

“I just want to be alone,” I told him, and pulled my knees into to my chest as much as I could, dropped my heavy head into the space between them, and that’s right around the time when I called the baby a parasite.

“You’re so mad. Why are you always so mad?” Andrew heaved a sigh. “That baby loves you,” he said. “And I love you.”

“It’s just sucking the life right out of me,” I said, and I wasn’t sure if I was kidding or not.

I had been trying very hard to make sense of the new kind of love Andrew was talking about. It was difficult for me to understand it because I had never experienced anything quite like it. The new love completely unfamiliar, almost foreign, but at the same time it felt proverbial and natural. Also, it was fucking frightening. It was frightening because it was the kind of love that required a colossal amount of responsibility and tenderness, buoyancy and endurance, bravery and confidence—things I wasn’t sure I embodied, or would ever embody. It was frightening because from what I understood, in order for it all to be successful, I had to be strong, but I was having difficulty being strong because the new love that was growing inside of me was, at the very same time, draining every bit of love juice that I had right out of me. I had control over nothing.

I picked up my head and grimaced at the bathroom door. “The baby is making me feel like shit,” I scoured. My brown hair was pinned underneath a red bandanna, and the top button and zipper of my pants were undone. I wasn’t even wearing deodorant, not because I was careless but because I was worried that the gel’s chemicals would get into my bloodstream, and that I would pump the chemicals into the baby. I suspected that deodorant was toxic.

“I didn’t ask for this, you know,” I said. I wanted to say something that would make Andrew feel the way I did—afraid and embarrassed and irritated and sad, but there was nothing. It was a greedy notion but I couldn’t dismantle it. I knew Andrew hadn’t planned for this to happen, either. Neither one of us had asked for it, but Andrew was trying his best to make this work. He was really happy. And even though I was as unpleasant as a bee sting, it was apparent that he was still very excited about me, his new love. He was excited about the baby and the new reality of the three of us becoming one family. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t flying through the air or singing with joy. I loved Andrew. I liked babies. So why wasn’t I feeling optimistic? Why was it so hard for me to be happy?

Eventually, I let down my guard, said Andrew could come in if he still felt like it, and Andrew stepped in, smiling unwaveringly. He sat down next to me on the tiles, reached out his hand, and told me everything was going to be okay. I remember how hesitant I was in accepting it.

Now, in California, and still, my breath and my blood and my body’s nutrients are sustaining the life inside me. Without me, this baby is helpless. Without me, she will die.

 

I am her lifeline. I am her barrier from mortality. Once this baby leaves my body, the pregnancy will end. The baby will disappear. Or as the doctors told us in the ultrasound, it will die. The medical specialists rapidly fired all of this information and more upon me, like a squad of bazookas, immediately after the ultrasound and right before I left Manhattan and flew to California. Their facts were incessant. Words I couldn’t pronounce. Holoprosencephaly. Images I cannot forget. Clubbed feet. Deformed spine. Collapsed skull. Broken heart.

“It is sick,” the doctors told us. Sick was the adjective we used to deliver the prognosis to everyone else. “It is sick and cannot survive outside the womb,” said, and that’s how we explained it to our families. But we called the baby “baby,” not an “it.”

The specialists poured on layers of genetic details, too, but it’s been impossible for me to retain any of the scientific data and medical minutiae, so Andrew to act as our secretary, our project manager. My fiancé is our ambassador. He’s taken the wheel. While I am away in California gathering my composure, Andrew is at home in the eye of the hurricane, collecting the explanations and updates then relaying his data to me, to my parents, to his parents. He is doing more for me than a man I haven’t even known for eight months should ever be expected to do. Over the phone, Andrew updates me with more validating points (amniocentesis test results are showing more neural tube defects), he tells me about more of the things he’s taken care of that I won’t have to worry about when I arrive home (the rent is paid, the apartment is clean and our roommate will go back to Long Island to spare us a few days of privacy), he shares with me more facts he’s researched on chromosomal flukes and genetic inheritances, (Coincidence. It’s nobody’s fault) and I accept all his words like a soldier, even though no matter how many sentences come out of the telephone’s receiver, I hear only one single, solitary truth to this warped, colossal calamity: that our baby just ain’t going to be. That this sweet and scary, gigantic tiny new kind of love growing inside me won’t be developing much more. That the end of the road is right up ahead of us, or so it seems.

 

 

I am standing on a plateau. The air is thin and difficult to breathe. The trees stretch to infinity and the gravel path is as grey as amnesia. I imagine the environment up here probably doesn’t change too much. Pebbles, moss, pines, sky. Timeless and homeless; I could be anywhere right now. Any country, any state. Stable. Set. Fixed. Secure.

Ahead of me, an upward-climbing path splits in two different directions—take a left and you’ll go through a parched meadow spotted with delicate violets and tiny yellow flowers, and white people walking through them, white people clad in expensive outdoor performance gear. Take a right and who knows? A fat jack pine blocks my view to the remainder of the trail. So I go right. And as I turn the bend, a pair of familiar faces emerges, arriving in long upward lunges.

“Howdy,” the gentleman says, panting. The two hikers lean on luxurious chrome walking sticks and carry Camelback water packs with clear straws that rest on their shoulders. If they are to get thirsty, all they have to do is turn their heads to the right, wrap their lips around a plastic nipple and suck.

I say “hello” back as his counterpart, a woman, begins unzipping the knees of her pants, turning them into shorts. We both watch.

 “I’ll bet your baby is going to be a forest ranger,” the man says.

Ugh. Here we go. I rub the torso of my cotton t-shirt in a circular motion, forcing my lips into a discomfited grin.

“Or a mountaineer!” the woman adds.

I recognize these two faces from the dining hall. The woman is a playwright. The man is a fiction writer. Both of them don’t know that what they’re saying couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Perhaps. We’ll see. Thanks,” I tell them.

“You go girl!” perks the writer.

Ugh. “Okay. Thanks,” I say and continue on.

The road in front of me morphs into a dried up channel coated in pebbles and pinecones that may make it tricky for me keep my balance on the way down, but I see there is a reward at the bottom of the descent: nothing. At the bottom there is a big, open, natural plaza of tall grass and glittering soil, and nothingness. Absolute nothingness. Your baby is going to be a mountaineer! Once I get down there, I can finally be alone. I’ve got to get down there.

Because there is never any escape. In Manhattan, there are nearly 1.7 million people living in a little island less of less 23 square miles, which means there are nearly 72,000 residents per square mile, which means there is never any respite. In New York City, you get no rest, no sympathy, or relief. Thousands of bodies constantly envelope you, making you feel like a minnow in a school of fish, but you’re always alone in your commiseration. In New York, you gotta keep up. If you fall, you’ll get left behind. You slow down, you’ll get run over, most likely by a yellow cab.

Here in sunny California, though, it appears to be just the opposite. Here in the yawning, open state of California, life seems to move at a much slower pace. People in California have the luxury of space and sun. In California, you can see the sky and you realize what the weather is. And in California, people ask and people listen. In California, you get asked your story and people are interested in it. This does make sense, I suppose. After all, we are at a writer’s colony.

Even though the fact that New Yorkers look right through one another frustrates me, I don’t want to tell these Californian strangers my particular story. Before I arrived to Squaw, I chose not to tell anyone at Squaw Valley the truth to what’s really going on inside of me, underneath the surface of things. Why should I volunteer that information? I can just imagine the exchange:

 

Stranger asks: How many months along?

Mira responds, candidly: Five months. But perhaps only six more days left.

 

I will not tell any of my fellow writers my predicted misfortune. This week is my time, my own personal era to be frozen in the present moment. My very own ice age. My chance to disappear from the congested rat race of New York and the unsympathetic commotion that is always muffling any subtle thought I get. Here, on this mountain, I will sit in quiet. I’m not going to think about the doctors, the parents, the others, or him, or her, or them, or you, or anyone. Yes. Here on this mountain, I will listen to my thoughts. I will sit and wait and listen for an answer to what the right thing is to do.

I manage to make it to the clearing at the bottom of the trail without falling on the loose grave. Down here, the moss is as soft and silky and green as algae. I slump down next to a scratchy rock covered in bird droppings. I am so out of breath. I am so tired, and I realize that there is no way I will make it back up the trail without keeling over and falling deep into slumber.

I roll onto my back, spread out in the snow-angel position with my legs in front of me and my arms out to my sides. I squint at the blue sky above. The sun is fierce. An ash-colored hawk swoops overhead, scouting for prey and covering the sun’s glare for a fraction of a second before it blinds me again.

I try to imagine what it would look like if the hawk swooped down and carried me off into the sky. Off the hawk would carry me, my legs dangling in midair. The hikers would look up, be flabbergasted and no one would ever believe their tale. It would be perfect, a perfect, odd picture, this escape of mine. But fat fucking chance. Not at this weight. Perhaps a more realistic reverie would be of the hawk plucking Maybe off the ground. A similar incident happened last year in Central Park: a bird-of-prey dive-bombed some Manhattanite’s Yorkshire terrier last year. My friend witnessed the spectacle, said the hawk dove down and snatched the little Yorkie right off the footpath, leash and all. Evidently the owner went bananas; I’m sure she won’t step foot in the park again. Maybe she even left the city itself. But with our dog, the hawk would really have to labor to get her off the ground. The bitch would really put up a fight. Plus, she’s chubby. The Central Park hawk would be dipping and dipping down until he finally gave up on Maybe as a meal, then he’d fly off for some smaller bites. Like a teacup dog. Tapas. Like a Yorkie. Yorkies—they’re not even real dogs. Essentially, they’re toys. Completely senseless. Senseless dogs for senseless New Yorkers, I think, then correct myself: Stop it, you cynic. Now is the time for you to detach from your anger, I think. Now is the time to think, I think, but it’s nearly impossible for me to focus. I am in California and I am anesthetized.

You need to focus! I close my eyes. You are on a mountain in sunny California. You need to focus because I believe you hold a baby’s fate in your hands.

 

A high-profile prostitute. An Olympic skier. An anorexic. She left her husband, grabbed the kids, bought a boat and sailed the world. She was abused by a priest. All my classmates are writing about their sorry lives. Everyone has had something terrible to share about something terrible that has happened to them, and all this talk of feelings makes me a bit bitter and edgy. I’m wondering, Why is everyone volunteering such deeply personal stories? Why is everyone at this conference writing about their horrible nightmares? What is the point? Writing is not for therapy, people. And how am I supposed to critique a diary entry? We are here to make art. We are here in California to turn real life into art and I refuse to write about my sorry case, because there is nothing new under the sun. Who cares about my sad story? I brought a different story with me to work on. I am going to write about other people. Immigrants. Yes. A murder. Sex. Drugs. Violence. I hear those kinds of books sell. 

Anyways, I think, withholding the information doesn’t make it a lie, or unreal. Preservation just keeps things from getting more convoluted and loud. What’s the point in sharing my story with people I don’t even know? If I told them what is supposed to happen next, what the truth is, what my story is, everything would change. And then I would be even more confused. I might even blow up.

I never knew about it when it happened. It was a little while after Jules died, after I left Battle Creek. After Jules died, I didn’t want to look back at my hometown so I never did. I never stayed in the loop, never read the Enquirer newspaper. And then last year Mom told me about what happened: Illegal Korean immigrants murdered at the Happy Spa massage parlor. Mom had been following the story for years. She was fascinated and devastated by the immigrant tale, a story similar to her own about women leaving their corrupt country for the Midwest in hopes of finding a better life. But these women were sex slaves. Their situation got bad, then worse, then worse. And then, murder! Angry, blue-collar men on drugs. The newspaper said it was an attempted robbery gone awry. It was titillating. A Truman Capote-kind of story. Thrilling. Not a diary entry, not a memoir. Sex sells, and we need the money to raise the baby. At least that’s what I thought up until the day we went to get the ultrasound. Ultrasound. . .

In the ultrasound, the doctors told me I have three choices:

  1. 1.      Terminate the pregnancy next week.
  2. 2.      Do nothing at all.
  3. 3.      Induce and deliver next week.

I am aware that once I arrive home from California, Andrew, my parents, and the doctors will expect me to have picked one of the three numbers and made a decision. I have promised myself that today, before I come down from this mountain, I will have brought down the gavel. Focus.

The deliberation in my head starts back up: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Once the baby leaves my body, she will be gone forever. So how long do I want to keep her inside of me? Who has the right to her life? And what is respectful to mine? She will die either way, so does this mean I have more of a right to choose when she will die? We all die. No of us make it out of here alive. We will all die eventually, so what justifies my decision to choose when this baby will die? I am her life support system. Is it similar to pulling the plug on a comatose patient who will never wake up? What if she dies inside of me before I go home?

I clutch my abdomen. For over five months, the baby and I have spent every second together, but I still haven’t really felt her. There have been many times where I’ve held perfectly still at night, anticipating some kick or flutter, but she’s never once kicked or fluttered. I’ve waited for her to give me a sign, for her to make this all seem real and recognizable, but I never felt what I thought I should: a spark, another presence. There is my large belly, there is my nausea, but I don’t feel her. I feel completely alone. Is it because I don’t realize her? Or is it because she’s not really there? I’ve felt a million different things, but I can’t tell which one is her.

I thought the ultrasound would make the baby feel real, feel alive and with me. I thought that once I saw the baby on the screen, the magic would come pouring in. I would feel like the mother, not the child. The guilt of the premarital pregnancy of a Catholic-raised girl would evaporate. I thought that once I saw the baby, not an invisible ball of emotions but an actual baby, I would feel relief and love would take over, and I wouldn’t care anymore about what anyone else thought, or said or did. But the ultrasound did not do what I had anticipated, and the baby continues to remain a phantom. A figment of my imagination. And I have a feeling I’ll never reach what I’ve been told is the exuberant stage of the pregnancy. First there was shock. Then anticipation. Then confusion. Then shame. Then uncertainty. Then enthusiasm. Then fear. Then anticipation. Then chaos. Now disorder. Now anger. Now Goddamn zal.

Ever since the ultrasound, the doctors have been explaining everything like there isn’t really a baby inside me, like there never was. Once Andrew and I left the ultrasound, everything got all  . . . procedural. Technical and cold, like metal. Like the thing inside me is nothing more than a conked out bundle tissue and blood and flesh. Flawed. So, what?

Are they right? The baby has no brain. It cannot breathe, they said. She cannot think. It cannot feel. These are the things I know because these things because the doctors told me, the facts the doctors in New York seared into the great open dome of my heart. She is alive and she is not alive. She is not quite a stillborn, but there is a strong possibility she may die in my womb. Any day. It could happen any day. And if she doesn’t die inside of me today, or tomorrow, or in ten or twelve days, and if I wait and I do deliver, she will die immediately after. Or during.

My pocket vibrates. I open my eyes, puzzled and squinting, reach down for my phone and read the caller identification. It’s Andrew.

He asks me how I am holding up, tells me he’s okay, the dog is doing okay. He asks me how classes are, am I sleeping all right, eating okay, making friends; I lie and say that all is well.

 “That’s good,” he says. “What else?”

 “My new friends are telling me I look great for a pregnant lady,” I tell him.

“That’s nice,” Andrew says. “Anything else?”

“They asked me if it’s a boy or a girl. I told them hows we’ve named her Lilly.” I try to keep the dialogue moving quickly but our exchange becomes choppy and the space between us grows larger. The conversation hesitates, then halts, then Andrew brings up what I’ve been circumventing.

“Boo, did you decide?”

 “Decide on what?” Denial is not a river in Egypt.

“Mira, come on. Your decision. About the pregnancy?” he asks and abrasively, I say nothing back. “Look, I just got off the phone with your dad,” he says.

My parents have been suggesting I choose door #3: Induce and deliver. When I called her right after the ultrasound, Mom said that if choose to let the doctors induce the delivery, I could be conscious, I could push out my baby, I could have the chance to see the baby, to hold it and say goodbye. Mom said this might give me closure, and that closure is a very important element in the process of healing. But when I thought about option # 3, I pictured myself draped in baby blue paper gown, feet propped, slippers, hairnet, pushing, sweating, bleeding, delivering a lifeless, barely recognizable red hot creature, or grey blue mass of tissue and it terrified me. No one mentioned what I would be giving birth to. Would she be alive? Would she make sounds? Coos? Cry? Will she move? Will she be alive? Would she be dead? And then after I give birth, what will they do with her? How long would I hold her? Do I want to? I am afraid of what I might see. I am afraid of what I will feel. I am afraid of being haunted. I cringe and start to feel sick. I gag.

“Mira?” Andrew asks. “What’s going on over there?”

“Nothing,” I tell him.

“I talked to your parents and Dr. Stein,” he says.

My parents. What my parents or the doctors didn’t understand was that option #3 sounded like the worse choice in the world. What Mom or the doctors didn’t mention was what I would exactly be delivering, or what I would see. Or whether or not at five months a delivery would be painful. Or how much I might rip or tear. Option #3 horrified me. If I delivered, would I still adhere to my mantra of “natural” and drug-free childbirth? Would it be safe for me? What about me?

The word “violent” had been fluttering in and out of the conversations between Andrew, my parents and me for the last three days since the options were presented. Dad told us that from what he understood, if I terminate the pregnancy, the procedure is a “violent” one. A late-term abortion means a violent surgery. (What did this mean, “violent”?) While it sounded the least natural, it was what I was leaning towards, but with such a word being used to describe the preference of my pregnancy’s fate, I started to look at myself as a savage. I thought my parents would also start looking at me as a selfish brute and this made me defensive. Their opinion mattered too much.

“But the baby is not going to live, Andrew!” I cry into the phone. I’m feeling guilty again and start to unravel. “Doesn’t anyone realize that the baby isn’t going to live? It’s all over.”

“Let’s just talk, Boo,” he says.

 “I want to do the best thing, I really do, but I can’t see what is right or wrong. I don’t know the difference between moral or immoral right now.”

“There, there,” Andrew says. “Who does?”

“Men! Men in government. Men in business suits. It’s the freaking men. What do men know about babies and vaginas? Men can not give birth!”

“I know men can’t give birth, Medium Boo.”

“God does not have white skin and a white beard! God is not Caucasian!”

“I know God isn’t Caucasian, Boo.”

“And if I’m the only thing keeping the baby alive, then I’m the life support system. And it’s not illegal to pull the plug on a comatose patient, is it? Is this a sin?”

“Shhhh,” Andrew says. “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s okay.”

Frustrated and afraid, I start to cry again, and the noise of my crying sounds ugly to me and makes me cry harder.

“Shhh, shhh, Boo, calm down,” Andrew says. “Look–”

I’m sobbing, taking long heaves of breath between my words. “Everyone must think I don’t care about the baby. They think since I’m not excited that I don’t care,” I say. “You think I want to kill a baby, don’t you?” My mind is spinning like a car on ice.

“Stop.”

“Jesus! This is my entire fault. I don’t want to hurt the baby! I didn’t want this to happen. This is all my fault!”

“Mira, STOP!” Andrew shouts, and shatters my desolation. “I just got off the phone with your dad,” he says, “Your parents changed their minds. They think you should terminate.”

“What?”

“Your mom and dad want you to have the procedure. The surgery,” he says. “Dr. Stein explained the whole case to him and your dad thinks it’s the best and healthiest option for you,” he says.

I manage to steady my breath. “What?”

“He said it’s not what he thought it was, or something like that. And he said there is seaweed involved or something but look—we are on your side, okay?” Andrew says. “Just don’t worry about anything. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re all right, okay? You’re all right.”

“How?” I ask.

For a few minutes, Andrew tries to explain the details of the decision I had already made but couldn’t admit. He tells me it has a name: DNC – dilatation and curettage. “It ain’t pretty,” he says, “and it involves seaweed apparently.” He reminds me that nothing about what has already happened is going to be easy, and that there’s nothing wrong with taking care of myself. That after this is all over, everything is going to be okay. “What you are going through will make you stronger,” he says, which reminds me of a Polish proverb my mother gave me once before. Nie ma tego z?ego co by na dobre nie wyszlo. Bad things usually turn out to be good for you. I always believed those words to be a load of hogwash up until this year, up until this particular moment when Andrew convinced me to open myself up to a new interpretation and forgiveness of myself.

I lean back into a bed of twigs. There is nothing left in my mind. Beneath my eyelids, I see blue-black, and I can’t think of a single thing. I will sit in this nothingness for as long as I can, and when the sun sets, I will make my way back to camp.

Under my eyes, I feel airy and weightless. I drift, doze. I fall into a trance and suddenly, a blast of air and the firm pressure of plumes presses onto my face and my chest. The sense of a presence or the feeling that someone is watching me flashes me back into lucidity, and when I shoot up to see who is there, I’m still alone. There is nothing, other than the setting sun and a navy sky.

By the time I return to base camp after having just barely caught the last gondola down the slope, the dining hall is empty at the writer’s colony is cleared out. Only a handful of summer kitchen staff members remain, mopping the cafeteria floors and stacking chairs and making it apparent that while I had been off on the mountain, the rest of the world had been going on just as well without me.

 

ambien sleeping pill for sale is a Brooklyn-based creative nonfiction and children’s book writer, as well as the founder and host of zolpidem 10mg tab mylana successful nonfiction reading series located in the heart of New York City that brings together up-and-coming and established writers on one small stage to share their work with the rest of the world. She has her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was editor-at-large of their literary magazine, LUMINA. Mira’s writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, such as The Morning News, Anderbo, Cerise Press, LUMINA, Epiphany, SMITH Magazine, Nerve.com, the Citron Review, CommonDreams.org, Truthout.org and more. She’s a contributing writer to the forthcoming book, zolpidem 10mg overdose (2011 Harper Perennial) and she recently ghostwrote a children’s book, which will be published in 2011. This year, she was nominated for the 2011 Best American Essays as well as the 2011 Pushcart Prize. She’s currently at work on a memoir, from which this piece was excerpted.

Read our interview with Mira Ptacin conducted by Jessica Powers: zolpidem sublingual 10mg




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