An elephant on my chest
(trigger warning: miscarriage/babyloss)
My daughter’s been asking to go to the Science Centre for ages. We took the kids once, but didn’t get to see everything, and we’ve been meaning to go back ever since. So we decided to wrap up our amazing summer with a visit there on the last Friday of the break. It was so fun. Both kids are at great ages for enjoying the wonders of the place. There’s so much to do, so many things to learn. We were having a truly wonderful day together.
We wandered around looking at the displays teaching us how important helmets are for protecting heads, and my kids climbed the rock-climbing wall. They devoured all the facts.
And then, there was a display that had something to do with human growth. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what they were teaching, because I didn’t get too far into it. We walked through some panels that were set up in a large circle, and the kids went directly to one section where there were three different sized human fetuses on display. Fascinating! Incredible to see just how tiny they were when they were inside my tummy!
I don’t know if they were real or just models, but I guess that part doesn’t matter. Story was reading aloud to Mason about the development of each one. One of the displays was a fetus at something like 20 weeks’ gestation.
“Are they real, Mommy?”, asked Mason.
“I’m not really sure, buddy”, I said.
I looked at my husband and pouted my lips. Aw, were they real? His eyes looked sad and serious. Suddenly my half-playful pout retracted into a grimace.
I remember the way it felt to labour knowing no live baby would come home with us. I remember the way it felt to deliver a far-too-small fetus. It would have been about the size of that one there, on display. Oh, god.
Suddenly, the air vanished from my lungs and I couldn’t breathe. A weight settled there and I could not draw in a single breath. I felt crushed, physically and emotionally and suddenly couldn’t stand there any longer. I looked around for the way out, the way to air, to freedom. I panicked. My heart felt like it may implode, my lungs were burning. My eyes stung and I was dizzy. My stomach churned itself into knots and I could feel the familiar bile burn in the back of my throat.
Oh, god. Miscarriage and stillbirth, and trauma, and pain, and emptiness and fear, and embarrassment and failure, and shock, and tears, and far too much was happening all at once and I just needed to get the fuck out. Everything was crashing around me.
I ducked my head, madly wiping at the tears leaking from my eyes, trying to remain composed while hissing to my family that I just, I just, I just needed to not stay there right that moment. People stared as I hastily dashed between them, loud-whispering, “EXCUSE ME” as I passed by, breathless.
I gasped for a breath as one does after a long dive. Cold and stinging, the air conditioned air rushed into my lungs stopping the sobbing hiccup I was so afraid to let out.
I could hear my husband and kids talking, and feel their arms and hands on me.
“What happened, Mommy? Are you ok?”
“It was just a little much for Mommy.”
“Is she ok?”
“It’s ok, she’ll be ok.”
I couldn’t speak for an elephant had planted itself firmly on my chest and I was too focussed trying to suck the tears back into my eyes.
Life itself needs a trigger warning.