At the bottom of the wastebasket, a lovely ceramic gift from our wedding eight years earlier, lay three pregnancy tests.
The first clear and dark. Our delight.
The second for confirmation. My skeptical “just to make sure.”
Both test sticks sat proudly on the bathroom counter for weeks. Proof positive. We’d sneak a glimpse of them as we got ready for work in the morning. We’d grin at each other in the mirror.
But then there was the trouble of the third test.
Its heartbreaking hint of a line. Barely there. The stumble, the frown, and the worry that led us to the doctor’s office the next day, “just to make sure” nothing was wrong.
Until everything went wrong.
Bleeding, cramping, sweating, shaking, seizing, staggering into the hospital emergency room where a buzzing blur of doctors and nurses tried in vain to help.
But the trash told the rest of the story. From those thin plastic test sticks to thick bloodied maxi pads to damp crumbled Kleenex. Layered like an archaeologist’s excavation. The Pregnant Era, the Miscarriage Era, the Grieving Era.
When I finally dragged the whole mess out to the garbage can, sweltering in the August sun, I cried as I dumped its contents into the gaping mouth of the dark brown bin. That was the story of our baby. Gone.
While cramping with cruel empty labor on the cold bathroom floor, I had yanked the wastebasket over toward me so I could throw up. In my panicked haste, I had chipped the smooth curve of its bottom rim on our bathroom tile. Every morning since that day, I have stared at the wastebasket’s chipped edge.
A jagged reminder of the baby that died.
We have another baby now. A pregnancy that happened soon after our loss, as soon as we were ready to start trying again, whatever “ready” means once you have carried both life and death inside the tender curve of your skin.
This baby is a beautiful bounce of a boy. All plump cheeks and bright eyes and drooling smiles. Gentle and jolly and smothered with love by two older brothers.
I adore this baby. Each time I grin at his sweet face, I am astonished by the joy he has brought to our lives.
But his arrival did not smooth over that chip in the wastebasket. Or the crack in my heart. We are not so easily repaired.
I still miss that whisper of a baby that never was. Life is changed after loss, layers upon layers turning us into the people we are becoming and the stories we must tell. The unique and the universal stories. The extraordinary and the everyday stories.
The stories that our trash tells. Of the loves and losses that become our lives.