Ancient History

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In the room, while I waited

I was in a pre-surgical prep room. It was a beige-walled cell with motel room art and an institutional TV perched high in a corner. It was cold. The nurse told me to change into the greengray gown draped over the bed. I was to take all jewelry off and put it into the small plastic bag marked Biohazard. I wondered if spleens were riding around in little cherry wood boxes with spinning ballerinas.

She left. I slipped off my shoes and noticed the third toe on my right foot. The red polish was chipped. I had intended to fix it at home with an emergency brush swipe meant to fool anyone at a distance. Up close, my toenail would look like a 3-D relief map of two plateaus, one higher and slightly darker than the other. But it didn’t matter anymore. It was too late to fix this small flaw. With relief I remembered they’d have me put on those disposible slippers with the super no-slip rubber grip safety strips on the soles. Curse those things! They make it impossible to zing down tiled corridors, ending with a side-slide past the nurse’s breakroom where the door is always open and its table is eternally covered in store-bought cupcakes for Sue/Jan/Kip’s birthday. Haven’t-eaten-since-midnight-per-the-receptionist stomachs are spared that special torture.

The socks were good. The gown was tolerable. When the nurse poked the back of my hand, chosen especially for its perky aquamarine veins, a few drops of blood landed on the fabric. She apologized, and I don’t know why. Anything backless and as snap-happy as a hospital gown deserves to be thoroughly doused in things considered Bio and Hazard.

My IV was placed. Blankets, fresh from the warming closet, were tucked around me. I had to pull my arm out to sign consent forms. Yes, you can do this, that, and the other. Yes, I understand the risks. Yes, tell my insurance company all about it! Yes, put me to sleep. That would be merciful.

And then there is the form where they ask you to check the box and initial next to one of three options:

-Hospital cremation
-Remains to be sent to a mortuary of my chosing
-Release the remains to me

Well, then. My final act as your mother. I really wish I was checking the box denoting my preference for morning or afternoon kindergarten. I wish I was giving you permission to go to the museum on the school bus, and yes (check!) I would like to volunteer to chaperone. I’d love to go along on something like that, to watch your face and shoo you and your friends away from the drinking fountain because there is still so much to see.

It’s just not here.

23 comments to In the room, while I waited

  • What awfulness in hospitals–and why? Surely a pretty robe can be as utilitarian. And better for the soul. They never asked me that question–I wonder why.

  • mopsy

    Inkling—Colorado state law, apparently.

  • Oh, my. I can’t stop the tears with this one.


  • Blubbering-which is not at all romantic and certainly not worthy of the beautiful thing you made out of all the awfulness. It is so good that God is good because these moments would be so much harder if He were not.

  • You took something cold and clinical and made beauty and meaning out of it.

  • Oh, oh.

    How I love your writing. Did you know you are my favorite blogger? And I read quite a few blogs. I sure wish we were able to meet up. As scatterbrained as I am it didn’t occur to me that MOPSY was in CO until the last day when Lucy was sick.


    Thank you for sharing your wonderful heart and your child’s short existence on this earth with us.


  • Oh, I’m so sorry….



  • What meaning in that last line! (((HUGS)))

  • I am so sorry. My prayers are with you.


  • That is simply powerful.

    Hugs & prayers to you.

  • Shayne

    I’m crying and speechless. Sending many hugs and continued prayers.

  • Gretchen (the other other one!)

    ((Hugs)) to you, Gretchen; I hate that you’ve had to go through this again.

    I wasn’t given a form with choices on it when it was my turn; I don’t know what I would have answered. What I really wanted was to see it and say goodbye to it, then release it back to the hospital. I know my doctor thought that was silly because the baby was still so small, he felt there was just nothing to see. But I wanted to anyway. I was only 12 weeks along, but I think the baby had only grown to 8 weeks.

    Have a nice vacation, relax, and keep your family close.

  • I’ve been sitting here for a full 8 minutes trying to put into words what I want to say and I can’t do it. This is when a hug would be really handy.


    it’s not quite the same.

  • Jane

    While I listen for whispers in morning song,
    Watch while the swallows acknowledge the dawn.
    The Spirit of God, moves in my heart,
    My reticent wishes are born.

    May the peace of the LORD be with you.

  • Kelly

    Wow – again, thanks for sharing Gretchen. I am so sorry for your loss….

  • Rae

    Beautiful, Gretchen. You are putting into words these things that so many people find so hard to say. It helps all of us who have been through grieving in such a clinical setting. (My doctor said cheerily, “Oh I LOVE doing surgeries,” right before.)

  • Jill

    I’m just so very sorry. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • edj

    So very sorry. Thanks for letting us come along on this sad journey with you; you created something beautiful and memorable out of it. You’re in my prayers.

  • Julana


    I’m sorry for your loss. Life is hard.

  • Gretchen,

    I was reading your guest post over at Rocks in My Dryer today and clicked the link to this post. Having gone through a miscarriage myself last year, I was all teary-eyed when I read this post. The tears came freely when I read the date of your post. August 11, 2007. The same day I miscarried at home.

  • I also found you over at Rocks In My Dryer. I just experienced a “missed” miscarriage in May at 11 weeks and had to have a D&C after our baby had been gone for 3 weeks. I sobbed and cried a river over your post. I am so sorry for your losses. I have to agree with the posts above. You have an amazing way of putting into words the feelings and emotions of a grieving mother in the midst of saying goodbye to one she’s never seen or held or kissed. The ending to your post was beautiful.

    Lisa’s last blog post..Tagged again…by MandyMom

  • Jessica

    I somehow came across this post today. I have read it before and it has spoken exactly what my heart felt about my first two miscarriages. Today it reminds me of my third loss. I could not cut off my hospital ID bracelet because it was my only tangible evidence that I was that child’s mom. Thanks for your openness!

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