from the viscera
(flash fiction / memoir)
Bird of paradise erupt in orange and purple spikes, glossy in the warm spring sun, as she kisses her husband goodbye. He drops to his knees and whispers to the barely-visible swelling of her stomach, “I’ll be back in a week. I love you.” As she watches his car disappear around the corner, a spasm of pain claws through her womb. Clutching her abdomen, a second vice-like grip splinters her body, and she falls to her knees, gasping.
She doesn’t cry when the doctor reveals she lost her baby. “Why do I still feel pregnant?” The doctor peers down his nose and coughs, uncomfortable. “Have my secretary schedule a D and C to clean out the viscera left behind.” She leaves with an appointment for two days time, her cheeks burning with the shame of her failure.
She storms into a children’s playground, determined to bend her body to her will. She climbs the monkey bars and hoists herself atop the horizontal ladder, feet wide, stance firm. She takes a breath, and throws herself back to earth. The impact knocks the wind from her, and she prays it also dislodges the stains left in her womb.
She pokes herself hard in the stomach, but she feels no different. Winded, yet not alone. Unable to face the judgmental doctor and desperate to avoid the savage scraping of her uterus, she leaps to her feet and strides to a thirty foot wattle tree, its golden blossoms a beacon of light towering over the garden bed. She climbs the thick branches as high as she can reach, her heart pumping so fast it sounds like two. She releases her grip and leaps into the air, commanding her body to release its disgrace.
WHOOSH! The earth erupts up to meet her body. Her chin cracks into the ground. She bites her tongue. Her mouth floods with the metallic wash of blood. She rolls onto her back to lose herself in the deep blue sky, bruised and sore, and yet still, she doesn’t cry.
She sits before the doctor, her shoulders set and determined. The doctor sighs, skeptical. “Fine. I’ll do an ultrasound to soothe your nerves before the procedure.” She lies on the exam table, arms open, legs spread, and releases herself to the mercy of the goosebumps on her skin. The doctor turns the monitor away to block her view of the screen, and he squirts cold jelly on her stomach. Her heart thumps through the ultrasound speakers, followed by the light whisper of feathered wings.
Shock washes the doctor’s face. “You had a miscarriage.” He turns the monitor to face her, and points to a dark circle. “But you were pregnant with twins.” The dark circle flickers, the slightest tremor of life. “Your surviving baby’s heartbeat.”
And still, she doesn’t cry. She watches her baby’s heart flutter, rising from her viscera like a Phoenix reborn. She is my mother, and I am the surviving babe.