Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Starry Sky

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"Hello? Dr. Hamm?"

My three-year-old son is riding his tricycle up the ramp of the post office. I can't miss this call. "Niko, WAIT!" I yell.

"Sophia, like my nurse told you, we need the results of your blood test tomorrow --"

A lady with a beehive hairdo is coming out of the post office. She smiles at my son and lets him in, trike and all. I follow, phone to ear.

"-- to compare the level with yesterday's test to be sure what's happening."

Niko rides in circles on the slick grey floor. Thank God we are almost alone in here.

"--Okay, I understand, but c'mon, I can figure it out -- you saw a heartbeat on Tuesday, and they didn't see one yesterday -- that's got to be bad news, right? I need to ask you about -- about -- Niko, STOP!," I yell as my son careens toward a diminutive Chinese man trying to slide a wrinkled dollar bill into the stamp machine. The front wheel of the trike dents the man's pant leg.

"Everything okay?" Dr. Hamm asks.

I grimace a smile at the Chinese man, then turn my back. I can't be losing my baby. I still feel her inside, surely I'd know it, feel it, if her heart stopped? I try to disappear into the space between the change-of-address slips and the overflow post boxes. "I need to ask you about what will happen to me, if what we think, I mean if we're right, I mean, what is it like, to miscarry?" This last word somewhere between a hiss and a whisper.

The rows of silver post office boxes look like a mini-mausoleum. I ask my doctor -- how do I make sense of this, this dying of a being not yet emerged? Not yet separate? Still my blood, my heart? He is saying he doesn't think I'll miscarry in the next few days. He wants to do a D&C. Better than trying to save something in a cottage cheese container, he says. He wants to send the results to pathology.

Around then the memories become sodden, fossilized. I don't know how to remember. I can only rub portholes in the grey, find artifacts.

My friend Diane's firm hug. I didn't know. I didn't know. A shadow in her eyes mirrors mine. You, too, sister? Her voice in my ear, anything you need, girlfriend, just call.

Sparta telling me he has to go to the dry cleaners to pick up his vest. My face screwed into an indignant question mark. He needs the vest with the many pockets -- to hold the CD player that will block out the sound for me, the Motrin for after, my sunglasses, my hat, a water bottle, a snack.

Sparta and I going for a walk because they aren't ready yet. His bulging vest pockets. His firm forearm. We are walking mechanically past the "Classy Carwash," the "Love like A Rock" Church. The BMW repair shop. I didn't do anything wrong. This just happens sometimes. We'll try again. We stop at a silver snack truck. Sparta buys me a banana, tucks it into a pocket of his vest.

A room that smells of iodine. A bed. Two big glass bottles with tubes attached. For pathology. Sparta asking the nurse to cover them. Those bottles can't hold you. You will always be with me. White paper crackling as I lie down on the operating table. Cover the bottles please, can you cover the bottles?

A poster on the ceiling above, a starry sky. Sparta arranging my head phones, ocean waves lapping across my brain. "You'll feel a rush now, Sophia." I don't, but I do drift upward, toward the stars in the poster. I am not losing you now; you are always with me.

Whoosh whoosh. He lied about the noise, I can definitely hear the noise. Sparta turning up the music, squeezing my hand. With soft crashes the waves go from one ear to the other. Three minutes, just get through three minutes. I look at the stars. The sucking starts, steady slurping, then snorkel, snorkel. Cramps, more cramps, but not too bad, maybe this'll be okay. Breathe, remember to breathe. This is just your body, my body, but you are still with me.

"A little cramp here, Sophia." Acid. Acid searing. Scorching inside. Scorch black. Black endometrium. Black womb. Someone is moaning. Someone is down there moaning, crying under the night sky. Are you leaving me, are you going away to be a star in the sky?

"Almost done now, Sophia." Sparta next to me, holding my hand. "Rest a minute. Can you open your eyes?" Light in vertical rods around me. Where are you? Are you still there? The waves are knocking me from side to side. I brush the headphones off. "Do you want to try to get up?" Crimson Rorschach prints on the white paper where I lay. Walls twirling. Your blood, my blood, we are bright red. The stars are dancing. "Lie back down now. Lie back down. It's the Fentonyl. Lie back down." It's over now at least it's over. I am still here. And so are you, seared into me.

Niko pounding on the bedroom door, "I want Mommy! I want my Mommy!" Sparta's voice murmuring the mantra, Mommy doesn't feel well. Mommy is sad. Mommy needs to rest. Mommy loves you.

An elfin face by my bed. "Are you still sad, Mommy?" A scramble up, then Niko the perpetual-motion machine, lying quietly next to me, stroking my hair.

Sophia Raday is the author of Love In Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage (Beacon Press, 2009). She lives in Berkeley, California with her Oakland police officer/Army Reserve colonel husband, their two children, a bipartisan dog, and assorted firearms. A founding editor of Literary Mama, Raday’s work has appeared here and in various anthologies, Stanford magazine, and the New York Times.

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