On June 3, 2013, I made a new friend. She and I found fast connection. She is a lot like me, we look similar, though she is darker, hides in shadows. We sound alike, though her voice has a roughness to it, like smoke and gravel. We both sat together on a cold table and watched the image of a heart not beating. I met her the moment my own heart broke. My heart snapped, my world caved, a hole appeared, and she emerged.
My friend held me when I cried. My friend tucked me deep into bed, turned the blinds to block out the sun, closing out the bright happy world.
My friend let me stay in bed all day, even when I knew I should face the world.
My friend held my hand and walked me, gingerly, to the place where the ultrasound photos were hung. She let me stare at them in disbelief. She stroked my head and watched me sob.
My friend made sure I didn’t forget, not one single moment, not one single second of the most painful day of my life. When I smiled too much, my friend reminded me of things I’d forgotten. Remember your husband’s face when he walked into the ultrasound room? How his fear was painted on thick and you watched him realize, by looking at your expression how his world had suddenly changed? Remember the night you were spotting, how you came home and ate chips and acted like everything was fine? It wasn’t. You were losing your baby then. And you were so cavalier.
My friend made sure I couldn’t forget.
She clung to me. She breathed deeply of my life and embraced my tears. She didn’t step away, she was there as I drifted to fitful sleep. I would wake and find her watching me, waiting for my return.
She would often remind me of dates. Today you would’ve been 18 weeks. She would hand me ‘What to Expect’, turned to a page indicating the size my baby should be. She would watch tears spring to my eyes once again.
She would point to the rocking chair over my shoulder, with a pale, spectral hand. She made mention of the fact that I was hoping to rock my baby in that chair. But I had no baby now.
She would whisper in my ears in the dark. She would tell me that all I have left was dangling by a thread. She would ensure me that I didn’t have a safe grasp on the people I loved. She would remind me that they, too, could be ripped away.
She handed me tissues and willed me to cry. She willed me to sob, deep guttural sobs, from my core, wracking my body and leaving me aching and stiff.
She led me to my bed and turned down the covers again, she let me crawl in, and sat back. She told me just to stay here. Sleep, she said. Just go to sleep, you can’t ever fix this, anyway. She whispered truths, truths that felt like salt ground into open wounds.
I was consumed with pain for weeks after I lost my baby. I felt hurt like I’ve never known, and an isolation just the same. In that state of loneliness, despite the reaching out of family and friends, I felt like I was somewhere untouchable. I was far away in unfamiliar terrain. They could never reach this place. I would always be alone.
Save for this friend, this dark and twisted friend. This haunting, hurting friend called Pain.
In this world where I felt bloodied and broken, Pain became the constant. I began to feel an attachment to the hurt. It allowed me to feel even on the numbest of days. She would sting me with memories. She would rip away the memories I meant to make. She would bring me back from numbness into a wall of tears.
She stayed with me, day and night, she didn’t leave, she didn’t tire of me. I began to feel like pain was a friend to me, and I began to feel comfort in the hurt, in the grief I was drowning in. I felt myself forming a deeper and deeper attachment to this being that cycled my days with tears, sleep, tears, sleep, tears and sleep.
Even as my heart began trying to heal itself, I recall days when I would reread my journal of the day we lost the baby. I would pore over each detail, desperate to bring back my old friend. I missed her sting and lash, and I missed her constancy. I missed her wicked embrace, a connection so many in the world may never understand. I would read my tear soaked words, ’emptiness’, ‘my body betrayed us all’, ‘my child is gone, is dead, and never will be mine’. I would dissolve into sorrow once again, and Pain would curl up beside me, a content smile on her face.
In the days after I returned to work, she would still pull a chair up next to me at lunch. She would nod her head in the direction of my pregnant coworker, look at me with pitying eyes, and coax tears once again. Even in this world, back at work, where others would glide past in hopes of avoiding conversations with me, Pain walked tall at my side, never waning.
Pain has been a friend to me. She gave me a deep connection to emotion, she forced me to face all that I felt in the wake of trauma. She was relentless, vicious, and oddly soothing in the most trying days of my life.
But I’m outgrowing her.
Pain and I are drifting apart. I no longer give in to her forceful pull towards sorrow and shadow. I no longer need her bite to let me feel. I no longer need her to walk arm and arm with me through the world, a world without a baby.
She’s bitter, as I move on, she curses me and hisses. She remains in dark rooms with curtains shut, and soul afire in hurt. She glares at the world outside her windows, one in which lives go on, the sun shines, and wounded women can smile again. She scoffs as I wake early to run, to feel the morning air seep into my lungs. She balks at my days spent indulging in happiness.
I know I can’t leave her behind forever. There are, even still, days when she sneaks out into the sun to stand over me, blocking the light and drowning me in shadow. She clenches my heart in her fist and squeezes tight, evoking sobs.
But I can fight back now. I can stand up to her and say, No. Not this time. That’s enough. You’ve taken enough from me. She retreats, sulking, back to her quarters, tail between her legs, anxious for another chance to run free. She doesn’t like to be left behind.
What a friend I had in pain. She taught me so much. She opened my eyes and changed my entire world. We were combined, she and I, days and nights spent together, a closeness not to be forgotten.
Not forgotten, no, but a closeness, a connection no longer embraced. I will not be a slave to pain.
“There are some wounds that one can heal only by deepening them and making them worse.”
― Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam