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  • Bouquet

    Gather quickly
    Out of darkness
    All the songs you know
    And throw them at the sun
    Before they melt
    Like snow.

    -Langston Hughes


    My neighbor across the street is a week shy of being six months pregnant. She’s carrying identical twin girls. Sadly, while her husband was in Europe during the last two weeks a tragedy happened. One of the twins died.
    The babies were in separate amniotic sacs and one twin kicked through both sacs and into her sister’s. In a tangle of arms and legs and kicks, the umbilical cord inadvertently wrapped around a tiny neck and the baby died.

    Skyping three times a day with her husband brought M some comfort, but it was the neighbors who went over to offer solace and hugs each day in his absence. With just one baby kicking and moving inside her, M decided to cancel the August 3rd baby shower planned for her. She rubs her large belly and shows me where the dead baby sits on her left and lets me touch the right side where her other twin kicks and turns.
    She cries.

    I try to comfort her with words. I tell her of my baby (a girl) that I lost in 2005. I was five months pregnant at the time. During a routine ultra sound the technician suddenly stopped and silently left the room. My husband and I were puzzled until the doctor came in and said there was something wrong with the baby.

    The doctor and a radiologist came in to explain that there was a hole in the baby’s skull. The condition is called an Acrania. It’s a rare congenital disorder that occurs in the human fetus in which the flat bones in the cranial vault are either completely or partially absent. The cerebral hemispheres develop completely but abnormally.
    I was told I could carry the baby to term but it probably would not live more than a week. My doctor suggested a D & R procedure to end the pregnancy and spare me an even great loss at the infant’s birth.

    So, that’s what my husband and I decided to do, to end the pregnancy.
    The night before the procedure I felt her first kick. At first a quickening, and then a few kicks. It was such a strange thought to end the life of a baby that was still alive and kicking inside me, but I did.

    In Oregon, at that time it was illegal to have an‘abortion’ at 6 months into a pregnancy. I was two weeks under the deadline and went into surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital and in just a few hours was ready to go home. A priest stopped by my room in pre-op to ask if I needed to pray. I said, “No.” My husband shook his head as well and squeezed my hand.

    I tell my neighbor of my loss. She looks at me with hallow eyes. Tears well up and she tells me she hopes for the best but knows the worst is almost upon her. She asks me questions I cannot answer. We stand on the sidewalk in the shade of a fig tree talking and trying to put answers to the questions. Did her other twin suffer from the trauma of her sister’s death? What would the tests on Friday show?

    Thursday night M’s husband returned from Europe and yesterday they went to OHSU to have an MRI performed on the living twin’s brain. Searching for brain activity while there’s a heartbeat that remains strong seems incongruent.

    The next-door neighbors Maryann and Dave and their two little girls Adah and Lillian are selling flowers from their yard. The 5 pm, rays of sunlight are sparkling around their strawberry blonde hair. Adah is 3 and Lillian is 5. The tiny table they have set up in their driveway reads, “flowers 5 cents”. I take a handful of quarters from my pocket and they split the coins between them and quickly open their tiny purses to deposit their money. They are excited and grateful. I am their second customer of the day. Lillian begins to pick me a small bouquet of flowers as her mother looks on.

    Purple and hot pink cosmos, a daisy and a sprig of dill and lavender make up the small handful of flowers that Lillian gives me. I tell her she’s a future florist and she giggles. Adah asks if she can pet my dog, Lucy. So much activity is happenings as these sisters play and talk and share.

    At 5:15, M drives up alone into her driveway. We wave but she goes straight into the house. Maryann and I want to go to her but think perhaps she just needs to be alone. A few minutes later M’s husband pulls up in his car and comes over to talk with Maryann and me. He hugs us both and explains how relieved he is to be home again but we can see in his eyes a certain sadness that indicates how their doctor’s appointment went. We tell him we’re glad he’s home and he thanks us for being there for M these past two weeks.

    I know the little girls have no idea what’s happening. They are immersed in pink flowers and their tiny purses and girly things like sparkly shoes and dance class. It is their tiny voices I hear as I cross the street and return to my own home. I think of how old my girl would be if she had been okay, and lived. “Eight”, I say aloud. “Eight.”

    M texts me to apologize for not coming out to talk to Maryann and me on the sidewalk but said she’d tell me today how the tests went. Unfortunately I can sense the outcome is not good and there will be tears and sadness in the weeks ahead.

    Sometimes I compartmentalize my losses in order to try to forget them. I haven’t talked to anyone about the baby girl I lost in years- until this week M needed someone to talk to and commiserate with.

    Once inside, I add the small bouquet to a vase of water so that it will bloom a while longer. I enjoy the beauty even though I know that once they’re picked the flowers will soon die. I read the short poem by Langston Hughes and think, let’s throw that bouquet at the sun, before the flowers melt like snow.
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