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He repeated himself.
“The baby,” he said. “There is no heartbeat. The baby’s gone.”
He said this several more times, because I did not respond.
I remember sitting up and walking out. I remember calling my sister on the way home. I remember my family and friends at home, their shock and grief, how they reached out to me, their lips moving, their words soothing, but I never heard a sound.
I remember the stunned shock. Because I could not make the sorrow come. I did not know how to fight the force of relief that swept through my entire being when I heard that the baby was gone.
I didn’t want to feel this way. I wanted to be devastated. I wanted the sorrow to tear through me, to make me wail and cry for my lost child. But it didn’t. My heart had betrayed my programmed mind. The ideology I believed in was crushed by a reality that was forbidden, a woman who did not want another and another child. I was a traitor; the things I felt did not match the things they said I should feel. I was a damaged vessel.
The day after the doctor visit, I gave birth to a stillborn fetus. Heavily medicated, I remember little of what happened. It was only two days later that I sat on my bed at home and wept, as the milk dried up in my breasts and the guilt wrapped around me in a deadly embrace.
The doctor said that I should be on birth control for six months. After five months, though, my rabbi told me that it was enough, and I was so scared that God would punish me, leave me barren forever after what I’d done, that I immediately agreed, begging the heavens for another child.
Within two months, I was expecting. I remember the relief, following by panic, and how I collapsed on the bathroom floor. I remember speaking about it to Rivky, the friend I met years ago at the bungalow colony. We sat in her kitchen, watching our children run around and play. She told me that she also had those feelings, but that her rabbi had reassured her that there was no need to worry: It was postpartum, too, the kind that sometimes comes months before birth instead of after it. It was nothing to think about. It would go away in time to have another baby.