In her 39th week, 3rd and final trimester, Luna wakes to an uneasy feeling. She opens her eyes, adjusting to the dark bedroom. She runs her hand across her belly. She frowns, taking labored breaths. She gulps. A damp, wet feeling between her legs.
She reaches down underneath the covers. Her eyes tear up when she brings her hand back from under the sheets. Even in the dark, she could see the crimson liquid.
She turns to look at Cooper, peacefully asleep.
She gently tugs at his bare shoulder. “Coop…”
“Hmmm…” he groggily opens his eyes.
“I think something’s wrong with the baby…”
He widens his eyes, sits up.
Luna sits up, a tear trickles down her cheek. “I can’t feel the baby…”
He reaches out and places his hand on her stomach. His nostrils flaring as he anxiously moves his hand around, different sides of her belly.
“Coop…” she blinks away a few more teardrops, she shows him her bloodied hand.
He jumps up and pulls on his trackpants and t-shirt. He flicks the bedroom light switch and helps Luna out of the bed.
The drive to the hospital was quiet and tense. Neither of them wanted to say or do anything to worsen the situation.
Cooper gets help from one of the hospital staff, getting Luna settled into a wheelchair as he heads over to the administration desk.
“My girlfriend… she’s pregnant… uhm…” he scratches his head, “…. uhm 39th week, what’s that like the 3rd trimester right…”
“Okay, I’m going to need you to fill this out sir” the nurse hands him a clipboard.
“There’s blood… and uhm… we…” he struggles, “… we can’t… there’s nothing…”
“Sir… the form…”
“Yeah… just… we can’t…” his eyes well up with tears, his mouth dries up as he tries to clear his throat.
The nurse nods, “We’ll get a doctor to look at her… if you can…”
He nods, “Right… the form…”
As the nurse comes around the desk and heads to one of the doctors, he gently grabs her elbow.
“I couldn’t feel the baby…”
She smiles, placing her hand over his. “I’ll get a doctor to examine her… and I’ll let you know as soon as we know anything.”
A doctor and nurses blurred into a hazy mass of people, as they entered and exited the room Luna was in. She had changed into a hospital gown. The bleeding seemed to have stopped.
Luna tries to make eye contact with anyone, just one person, but no-one would look her in the eye.
The doctor finally calls Cooper over and brings him to Luna’s bedside. He was a young guy with a British accent. Friendly face, monotone voice.
“Luna Jiménez… Cooper Thindrel…” he reads from the chart
Luna’s eyes were glued on the man who still refused to make eye contact. Until he did and his eyes were sad. And Luna’s heart sank. Her eyes well up with tears. She knew, she just knew what was coming next.
“Unfortunately, there were some complications with the pregnancy…”
“Wh..wha… what complications?” Cooper asks. All the color was drained from his face.
“She’s gone, isn’t she?” Luna’s voice croaks, as she finally speaks.
“I am truly sorry… often, still births it’s very difficult to say the cause without further testing… but with the bleeding noted… maternal bleeding could be anything from placental or uterine rupture… but I wouldn’t wish to speculate. I can conduct further tests upon your request…”
“I don’t understand…” Cooper looks flabbergasted, he reels back. “What are you saying? Are you saying our baby girl…?”
His breath hitches.
“I am sorry to say, but yes. Your daughter is stillborn.” The doctor presses on, “We have a decision unfortunately still pending… Luna, we would recommend vaginal birth instead of Caesarean section, as this is the safer option. A second decision would be the option of induced labor allowing you to give birth soonest… or waiting for natural labor.”
“Waiting… with…” Luna chews on the side of her mouth, her eyes watery again “… I don’t understand”
Cooper walks around to sit on the bed beside her, reaches for her hand. She gulps, then pulls away.
“I don’t want to… I want to induce labor” she nods “Yes, induce…”
Her heartrate increases, she instinctively places her hand on her belly. She winces as a shooting pain sears, her hand lowers down her belly to her pelvis.
“Luna…” the doctor clocks the monitors “I believe you may not need to have labor induced”
The next few moments, the parade of nurses and the doctor freewheeling through the door started again. Cooper was asked to step back, as Luna was being prepped to move to the delivery room.
After the whirlwind of people in and out, monitoring and checking vitals and stats – another stocky lady approaches Luna.
“I’m Yvette…I’m a social worker slash grief counselor… and I just thought I’d introduce myself…” she smiles, then looking at Cooper, “… to both of you… because this is such a difficult time…”
“I don’t…” Luna shakes her head, “Can I just…”
Cooper steps forward and accepts the gesture, shaking Yvette’s hand.
“Thanks Yvette, we appreciate your offer… this… it’s not what we expected… it’s a lot”
Luna winces again, “Oooohhh… can we… can we not… like… right now… please?”
“Of course, dear…”
Luna presses the button to call for the nurses. She would do anything to not have this conversation that Yvette was trying to have right now.
The nurse enters the room.
“Yes, Luna… everything good?”
No. Everything was not good. But what good would that help saying it.
“You mentioned something about an Epidural… the Diamorphine is not really helping right now”
She nods, heads back out.
Yvette takes Cooper by the arm, “Why don’t we go see if we can get Luna something to drink… some ice-chips maybe”
Cooper’s face was marred with confusion. He looks across at Luna.
“Do you want something to drink babe? Or… ice-chips…”
Her nostrils flare. He knew the look. She was annoyed.
The nurse is back, with an anesthesiologist and a tray of equipment.
“If you guys would excuse us, as we prep for the epidural” she smiles, widening the door for Yvette and Cooper to exit.
Welcome relief for Luna. She would rather have a catheter inserted than talk to a grief counselor. Growing up in foster care, she’d had her share of social workers and counselors trying to tie words to impossible feelings and emotions.
Luna’s spirit felt like it had left her body. There were hands touching her, needles; tubes; monitors; medication. But everything was numb now.
She had nowhere left to hide. She had to come to the realization that her daughter died.
Monroe Elora. The name her and Coop had settled on. They’d also settled on finding out about the sex of the baby just a few weeks ago, after they went back and forth on not knowing.
They’d done up the nursery in every shade of pink; toys and blankets and story books all for a little girl.
Now all it would be is a room of memories. They’d have to give away all the toys and books and clothes. Cooper and Jason had hand-made a crib… and now there was no baby to place in the crib.
Luna was finally going to have a family of her own, someone from her and for her, unconditionally and always.
She felt silly and naïve thinking back on it now. How dare she dream so big and bold; and not expect the other shoe to drop. The life she envisioned didn’t happen to the likes of her, a castaway child left on the doorstep of stranger in the middle of a Winter’s night.
The tears were drying on Luna’s face, as she settled back into the room. She turned to look at a monitor in the corner of the room, and then across at her belly.
“Why is there no monitor connected to my belly… like before, like at my doctor’s appointment?”
The nurse gently grips her shoulder, kind eyes looking at Luna, “We can do darling, but only to monitor the contractions… but the one before… you see, there’s no heartbeat to monitor”
The nurse sighs, as she straightens. “We’re almost there darling… we’ll be moving you to the delivery room shortly, the doctor has just arrived.”
Luna is wheeled off to the delivery room.
They’d also decided on Cooper not being in the delivery room. And Luna was grateful for this now. She couldn’t bare looking at his sad, disappointed face any longer. She felt responsible for the death of their daughter. Without all the facts, though she was hellbent on getting those with an autopsy, she just felt the weight of this and could see no other explanation that she must have done something wrong. As she always does.
Her mind drifted in the delivery room again, as the blur of hospital staff were speaking, and the monitors were beeping.
And then came the horrific, deafening silence.
In every movie or every story told, there is the expected cry of a newborn baby once delivered. The doctor had cupped her baby in his arms already, and the room was quiet. Luna wasn’t sure if her mind was playing tricks on her, but even the equipment with it’s incessant beeping had hushed. It was a cruel irony. She had wanted everything to slow down and stop… the blur of people, the overload of information, the pace at which everything crumbled around her.
And now it all cumulated into this one moment of complete and utter silence.
The nurse comes around with the baby swaddled up, in her arms. She smiles, “Would you like to hold her?”
Luna’s heart sank. Tears fill her eyes. She swallows hard, then nods.
Luna looked down at the tiny face of the tiny little, lifeless body she now held in her arms.
She presses a kiss to her cold, tiny forehead. Her eyes were swollen shut, a purplish-blue hue around them. She ran the tip of her index finger gently, almost cautiously, around the tiny tip of her nose. A teardrop dripped onto Monroe’s pallid cheek. Luna wiped at it, gently and cautiously again, with her thumb.
Luna looked up to see that Cooper was in the room. Her heart sank again. He looked so lost and defeated.
“Do you want to hold her?”
He steps forward, trying his best to smile. But she could see the tears he’d cried. His eyes were puffy and red; the blue irises were icy and clear now. His pupils nearly fading into nothingness.
He seemed to handle her with even more care than Luna. Holding her as though she was a porcelain doll that he was afraid to break.
She looked even smaller against his broad chest.
“Her eyes…” he looks up at the nurse, “… it looks painful, like it hurts… I don’t… that’s stupid right…”
His voice cracks. Luna reaches out to touch his forearm.
When his eyes met hers, her bottom lip trembled.
“… and her lips… does it mean, she… did she die a while ago…”
His eyes darted across the room, trying to make sense of what had happened. How and when it happened? How he couldn’t sense it had happened…
He breaks down, tears now coming at will. He’s forced to hand Monroe over to the nurse, as he folds. One of the other nurses catch him, as he lowers to the floor. His anguished cries echoed through the room.
Luna turns her face, as guilt settled back on her chest.
A week after the stillbirth, was the day of Monroe’s funeral. Family and friends came to the memorial and only family to the cremation ceremony.
They decided that lowering a tiny casket in the ground was too much for anyone to bear. They would scatter her ashes at the Charles River Esplanade.
Shanna had written a poem she read at the scattering of ashes. Her shaky hands were clutching onto the flimsy piece of paper she’d written it on now. She steeled herself, needing to be strong for her big brother, for Luna, for Monroe Elora
Once God sat down young angel, Monroe
And showed her where she’d go;
She was handpicked for this job
But as she’s in the womb she’ll only grow
Brave little soldier accepted the challenge;
She’d bring anticipation, excitement and joy
Just enough before she goes
And as her wings grew sturdy
Twinkling stars they’d shed to glow
So, we’d endure the rain
For we got to see the rainbow
Both Cooper and Luna each took a handful of ashes. Cooper could only bare to watch the ashes slip through his fingers until he finally released it all into the breeze.
Luna clutched onto the ashes in her fisted hand. Her jaw clenched. Cooper looks across at her.
She closes her eyes, “I can’t do this Coop…”
Tears streaming down at will. He places his hand on her back, then pulls her closer. She lays her head on his shoulder.
“We never got to see her eyes open…” she struggles through her sobs, “… and cry… she… never…”
Cooper wipes at his tears with a fisted hand. Then helps unclench Luna’s fist, as they watch the ashes soar through the breeze.
Luna buries her face against Cooper’s chest, as he holds her tighter. She muffles her cries against his chest.
Later that evening Luna sits in the bathtub, hugging her knees. Her hair dripping wet. A few moments earlier, she’d submerged her entire body in the bathwater. Eyes open, looking up at the bathroom ceiling.
One of her random factoids came to mind. There’s a monument to the unborn child in Slovakia. It’s called ‘The Child who was never born’ and this was commissioned by a group of young mothers. She’d once googled the monument to find that the monument was of a woman on her knees weeping at the child she had aborted. The child, a transparent sculpture, comes to offer forgiveness.
Another monument came to Luna’s mind, as she sat up in the tub. Rising Cairn by Celeste Roberge – a 4000-pound stone sculpture, many stones from a hiker trail inside a human-shaped wire sculpture crouched to the ground. Some called it a representation of the weight of grief.
Cooper walks in, hands tucked in the pockets of his trackpants. He smiles.
Luna looks up at him, her eyes void of expression. Then faces back to the window.
He lowers down next to her, gripping the rim of the bathtub.
“You haven’t eaten a thing all day…”
“I’m not hungry” she mumbles
He swishes his fingers through the bathtub water mindlessly.
Still looking out the window, she says “I was thinking of Celeste Roberge’s sculpture… the one people say represent the weight of grief…”
He looks up, his hand stills.
“I feel like that sculpture… just a pile of stones…” she swallows hard, “… thousands of stones… tiny… but heavy stones… nothing else. Just… heavy, sinking, suffocating, encumbered weight…”
“I wish I could carry this for you Lu…”
She finally looks at him. “You lost her too…”
“I know. I just…” he sighs, his hands now covering his face. He rocks back and lands on his backside, pulling his knees up to his chest.
“Every time I think of something to say… to make it better… I just…”
He flicks his tongue over his lips.
“I’m sorry Coop… I am so, truly sorry…”
“Don’t be sorry. You’ve got nothing to apologize for Lu. This was just…”
“An act of God? A sign? A test?” her eyes still vacant; she shakes her head. “What are we supposed to do with this emptiness?”
He shrugs, rocking back and forth. “I dunno Lu… I dunno”