I only saw you once. A grainy grey blip in the static layers of my womb. We called you bean and peanut, just like every other parent. I listened to the strong heartbeat, fast and panting with the fluid sound of life racing through arteries.
The bleeding started on a Wednesday. I didn’t tell anyone for four days until the trickle had opened up into something undeniable. Still I cradled my stomach in secret and begged you not to leave.
“Just a little longer. Just stay a little longer.”
The doctor offered a procedure. She advised speeding through the process to get back to normal. Act like nothing happened. Get on with our lives. I refused in a voice hushed and humbled.
My husband brought hesitant offerings, left outside the bathroom door: chocolates, purple tulips, a greasy burger, triple pour of bourbon on ice in a tumbler. He didn’t say a word. I only cracked the door enough to pick sesame seeds off the bun, but even that turned my stomach sour.
I’d hear him drunk in his office, playing games and cursing late into the night, and though we all deserve our own private grief, I would scowl and beg to trade his life for the one slipping through me.
I slept in the bathtub. Curled into myself through the pulsing waves of cramps with the shower on until the hot water ran out, then waiting naked and shivering against the porcelain.
When he heard me moaning in the early morning, he finally peeked his head in, but there was nothing left to say.
I knew all water flushes through the same sewer lines; that you’d be too small, too undefined to witness, but I had to birth you into shaking hands, sifting through red clumps like liver, so I could tell myself I really held you, even sight unseen.
Emma E. Murray (she/her) is a writer whose novels and short stories explore the dark side of humanity. She spends her days taking care of her daughter and her nights writing. You can find her at EmmaEMurray.com and on Twitter @EMurrayAuthor