Ancient History

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Vocal cords

I’m thinking about the howl we heard when I stood up in the ultrasound room and smoothed my shirt back into place.

It came from across the hall. My husband and I glanced at each other.

He opened the door and pushed Archie’s stroller into the bright hall. I held Beatrix’s hand. A woman wailed screaming sobs behind the closed door only feet away. We looked at each other again and we knew. Nobody groans like that in an obstetrician’s office unless.

We walked down the hall to the waiting room. I still had to see the doctor and go through the blue pen bureaucracy of pre-natal appointments. Weight, blood pressure, urine check—Things to note in my bloated chart. I was given orange glucose to guzzle before my next appointment. Beatrix went to the play area. I could barely think.

That woman.

I struggle in sharing this because it’s not really my story, except that we happened to be on the other side of a door. Our story is: We heard utter anguish but could not investigate or rush to help. Nothing there, move along, none of your business, forget about it, stop speculating, it’s not worth your time.

I wouldn’t know her if I saw her on the street. I wouldn’t know her speaking voice or her laugh.

Somewhere, there might be people who heard me from the other side of three different doors on three different awful days.

They do not know my speaking voice or my laugh.


Smoosh died. I found him this morning before the rest of the family stirred. I was grateful I woke up before the kids and especially before Sam. He took it hard, like I knew he would. He gives his whole heart, holding nothing back.

He’s slowly learning that love is risky. We can fall fast and hard. We can raise a bright flag with a big heart and watch it flap in the wind, a proud banner of declaration that we love-sweet-love. Then, one day, it’s gone with a groan. The edges are tattered but as it’s written in that most difficult song to sing, our flag was still there.

Deciding to add to a family is to raise a flag. When we bought the fish for Sam, I had a flash doubt because of his experience with Juicebox. It was going to happen again, eventually. Statistically, boys outlive pet shop bettas. Were we just setting him up for another heartache?

As someone who has been deeply wounded by loss, I can readily see the appeal in protecting the heart. But I’ve also seen what can happen when we put it all out there and try again. Good things. Gooey kisses from children who would not be here if…

There are no guarantees, I must say. It’s like a legal disclosure that everyone knows but skims over.


Something I’m lingering over and pondering:

I’m sharing a photo from Mr. Baby’s ultrasound. I can’t figure out how he wrangled himself into this configuration of anatomy. Here he is, with his leg and foot in his face as if he’s detecting whether the new shoes from Payless are just as cheap and airtight as the last pair.


It’s a simple little collision of timing and well-placed probe to see such a sight. It’s something our grandmothers never saw but maybe dreamed about.

I think that’s better than dreaming about something, but never seeing it.

16 comments to Vocal cords

  • OB offices are full of such happy and sad times; aren’t they? It’s amazing really, how the same room can be host to such opposing emotions. Powerful, both of them.

    Our condolences on the passing of Smoosh. ­čÖü
    .-= The Casual Perfectionist´s last blog ..Fred the Garden Gnome =-.

  • Oh poor Sam, the world is so full of tragedy and I am sorry he has to learn about it head on. Lots of love.
    .-= se7en├é┬┤s last blog ..The Week That Was ├óÔéČÔÇť 2.42 =-.

  • Pretty sure I’ve made the dying cow sound in about 3 different ultrasound rooms – a guttural moan. It’s a sound that shouldn’t be.
    .-= Rach´s last blog ..therapy =-.

  • I’m so sad for her. Such happy news for you. Life can be hard.
    .-= Kristin├é┬┤s last blog ..You Might Think I’m Crazy =-.

  • Ugh. It makes me feel ill to hear stories like your OB experience. I’ve been there too. Another all too real reminder that we just don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives that we see so casually day in and day out. That reminder is an opportunity to go the extra mile with everyone we encounter.

    In other news – looks like you have a contortionist on your hands.
    .-= Anonymouse´s last blog ..convictions =-.

  • OH, it breaks my heart, the fragility of life.

    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..I bought a pillow instead. =-.

  • I was in the ER with my father-in-law once when a young couple came in carrying their infant, who had been awake and lively earlier that day, but had fallen victim to crib death. I saw the backs of the parents and heard the mother wailing, “My baby! My baby! My baby!” In faith I believe that prayer can turn these kinds of non-encounters to something more…but it doesn’t take away the grief that we share. Lord, have mercy.
    .-= GretchenJoanna´s last blog ..April Garden Sightings =-.

  • edj

    ALthough it’s not your story, I think you still shared something with that unknown woman. Although she doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your story, her life touched yours nonetheless. I’m having a hard time putting this into words without sounding mystical and hokey, but I believe we do carry one another’s burdens even sight unseen sometimes.
    .-= edj´s last blog ..Hair Raising =-.

  • This made all the hair on my arms stand up. I don’t think we need to know her for our hearts to break with hers. This is one of those gut-wrenching moments of humanity that you can share, even through a door. You don’t need to know her to shed a tear on her behalf…I hope we all realize that faceless tears have been shed on our behalf as well.
    .-= Sara Joy´s last blog ..Stand In =-.

  • Loss is hard, but with it we learn to cherish what we have, to be more caring because everything in life is fragile… and it’s a gift to have someone close in these moments of loss, someone who can help us see the big picture, it’s a gift to have people crying with you and praying for you, to feel you are not alone, and you need to go on for those whom you love. I hope that woman felt that you were with her.

  • Such heartache that you pray no one has to know.

    Your little one’s pic is beautiful.
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..Remodeling Blueprints =-.

  • Empathy. You can only truly understand when you’ve walked that road yourself. I’m sure her cries brought back all sorts of emotions for you Gretchen.

    Can’t wait to meet Baby Pepperoni.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..Googling =-.

  • Heart-wrenching OB experience.. It’s just a reminder of the difficult realities that each person here on earth goes through. Life is a vapor.

    Sorry to hear that Smoosh passed away. =0( Our Rhino is still plugging away and I even purchased some fish antibiotics…. We’ll see.

    Love the ultrasound picture! What a great visual and such contortion! =)
    .-= Gretchen´s last blog ..Mama gets new glasses =-.

  • I’m still struggling with whether it truly is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Seriously. It’s so easy to say, but do I believe it? Often I just really don’t know.
    .-= jenni´s last blog ..Everything That Happened =-.

  • I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies lately, and while she and I differ in opinion on a lot of social and theological issues, I do like what she has to say about grief…that by letting yourself grieve, you grow. I know my depth of faith and understanding of God has grown tremendously through loss AND through mothering.
    .-= Minnesotamom´s last blog ..I Hope My Kids Will Never Be This Fast =-.

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