“Thank you,” the receptionist said, as she handed back my health insurance card. She smiled at me. My hand floated across the counter automatically to take it, the cheap, plasticky feel of it in my grasp not really registering. 

Why is this happening? It’s not as if she needs it. It’s not as if she hasn’t seen me before. It’s not as if she doesn’t know why I’m here. But she might not, I reminded myself. To her, I might just be one of the many faces she saw every day. She wasn’t the doctor, after all. The doctor was meant to keep things between us, right?

 “Take a seat and we’ll be right with you!” She said all this as if we were in the happiest place in the world. As if I had nothing to worry about. I smiled for a brief second; she was trying to be kind after all. But my smile flickered out almost instantly, like a match someone had tried to light in a hurricane.

I turned and walked toward one of the waiting room chairs. They had gone for warm colors, a happy, light feel. The chair was actually quite comfortable, something I already knew. I sank into a place of consistency. How I wished it all didn’t feel so unexceptional to me. So much bad news here, so much disappointment. I didn’t want this day to be another notch on the belt that felt like it was tightening around my life, squeezing all the good from it, but leaving just enough air so that I could still live to feel the hurt.

As I glanced around, I did notice some of the others, waiting like me. They all smiled at me too, some with loved ones waiting beside them. I hadn’t allowed anyone to come with me. Or rather, almost no one knew I was even here today. Why make someone sit next to me as my tension washed over them? I would be fine. I knew how to do this. My husband had wanted to at least drive me, drop me off. I said no. The hurt had been apparent in his eyes. I cried into his shoulder as I tried to explain. Seeing his face when the news hit, I wouldn’t be able to do that. That would hurt the absolute most.

I should think positive. I shouldn’t prepare for the worst. It might be alright.

My thoughts didn’t help. My pep-talk to myself fell flat. Born out of years of habit, I always prepared for the worst. Then, you wouldn’t be disappointed. It would just be what was expected, a blip in your day and you could go on. I’m convinced it’s how I got through graduate school. I had started the process full of optimism. Then, the count of failed experiments had started ticking steadily higher. I learned to prepare for the failures, to protect myself. When I finally graduated, I thought the hardest thing I had ever done in my life was behind me. That wasn’t so. The pattern had started to repeat itself. I had been hopeful once about this too and then had fallen back in to preparing myself for disappointment.  

My eyes settled on the magazines spread out on the waiting room table. When I had first been here, there had been a magazine with an exuberant Hollywood couple on the front, “Exclusive Malibu Ceremony!” in big, bold letters on the front. The magazine was still there, older now, and crumpled. Among the pile, there was now another magazine, still glossy. “Divorce, one and a half years later! The couple asks for privacy during this difficult time.” My heart gave a twinge. How sad for them, how cruel of the world to drink up their pain for entertainment. A part of my mind registered “one and a half years later.” Had it really only been that long? The time to me had felt eons longer.

My eyes flitted away from the table, up to the wall across from me. On it was my favorite part of this room, the reason why I always tried to sit in the same chair. It was a small print. It showed a dusky wood, the light of the setting sun still trickling to the earth through the branches. A river flowed through the scene, and right beside the river was a small white church, candles on, flickering through the windows. The church was so close to the river you could walk right out the front door, take a few steps, and be in the water. They didn’t need a baptismal font. You could just walk right out to that river and let it wash away all your trouble. There, by that river, God was in the air, in the leaves, in the water. I knew that if I could step into that painting, there would be peace there. I wasn’t a churchgoer. I had stopped as soon as I moved out of my childhood home. I didn’t have the patience for it, and all my prayers had gone unanswered anyway. But that painting said to me, "faith can be found here."

“Mrs. St. Clair, we’re ready for you.”

I stood and walked to the exam room, one last look at my painting.

I didn’t register the nurse’s kind voice as she explained what would happen, as she took my blood. I held the cotton ball to my arm automatically as she got the wrapping in place and then said, the doctor will be in soon. I tried to breathe and keep my heart from climbing too far up my throat as I waited again. I think it stopped completely when there was a knock on the door and the doctor walked in.

“Hello Mrs. St. Clair. How are you today?”

I think I nodded in response, mumbled something.

“I know you must be very anxious, so I will get right to the point. According to your blood work, you are pregnant.”

Light and air and sound came rushing back. I could suddenly feel again. The room was too bright. I shut my eyes and tears leaked out. All of the words I had previously heard in this room came rushing back. Chemical pregnancy. Not viable. I’m so sorry, you are going to miscarry. Have you thought about adoption? We could give you some pamphlets. I thought about the doctor saying that my body would need a break soon, that we would need to stop trying. I thought about all the times my husband had squeezed my hand and held me as I cried after the doctor left the room. I thought about the three tiny caskets in our backyard. They were surrounded by flowers, in the sun every day. I felt so guilty for the lives I couldn’t give them, so I gave them sunshine and flowers.



The doctor smiled, and finally, I smiled too.

Our daughter was born on June 17th. 7 pounds, 5 ounces, 19.5 inches. She was absolutely perfect. We named her Faith.  

July 04, 2020 15:45

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.