Olive You, Forever

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Start your story with a character saying “Listen, …”... view prompt


Contemporary Sad

This story contains sensitive content

CW: miscarriage

“Listen,” the doctor says. “Can you hear that?”

You can. Over the background whoosh there is a sound, an unmistakably beautiful sound. A tiny little pitter patter that says I Am Here and I Am Hope. A thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump.

“Yes,” you say thickly, a happy tear escaping. “I can hear it. It’s definitely there.” In the chair next to you, He is transfixed on that black and white screen too and you squeeze his hand in elation.

“Congratulations,” the doctor says, the printer whirring out a picture of a tiny dot in its tiny home.

You print out four pictures, five, six, as many as he will let you take because you’re going to share the physical proof of this news with everyone who asks and everyone else who will listen.

This news begets choked tears from your dad who you’ve never once heard cry and a squeal like in the movies from your mother who feels like a new mother herself all over again. You receive a chorus of screeches and aww’s and “Are you really?!” and “I can’t believe it!” which soon turn practical. You’ll need advice, of course.

“No sushi,” your mother-in-law warns you sternly. “But a glass of red wine here and there is okay.”

“In case no one tells you, you’re going to sweat out all the hormones right after you have the baby. Like, soak your bedsheets in sweat,” from your boss.

“Don’t find out the gender!” friends advise. “It’s so much more fun to find out in the delivery room.”

You are open-eared and receptive to all of it. Why not?

And then you start to hear names, combinations of syllables that are new to you as you breathe life into them.

“A-bra-ham,” you try. He shrugs. “Scarlett?” you offer instead.

“What about Olive?” He asks. “That’s how big she is now, right? She seems like an Olive to me, at least for this week.” He smiles and grabs you by the waist.

You laugh. “Will we call her Prune next week and then Strawberry the week after that?”

But He has spoken some undeniable truth into it and now of course she is Olive and you’ve known her forever.

Olive. Olive Olive Olive Olive Olive.

You can’t get enough of that name, that sound. Your Olive. It’s musical.

A retch interrupts your reverie. You can think about Olive all day but not too much about olives and their smell. Putrid.

Time is moving slowly as you watch your counter tick past eight weeks, then nine weeks, then ten but time is also blending together and everything you can hear is shaped around Olive. “I love you” sounds like “Olive you” and you say, “Olive you too” back and laugh to yourself.

“Feeling okay?” the doctor asks you in the same room, three weeks later.

“Yes, okay. Nauseous like you told me I would be but all feels okay otherwise.”

The doctor points at you. “Remember, crackers and cold food and Gatorade. Helps with the nausea.”

You are covered in the cold gel and then your insides are broadcast on the ultrasound once more there is the whoosh again, turned up to near full volume. You can see the small sac and the smaller baby who actually looks like a baby now with a head and arms and legs and could that be a tiny face?

Everyone is listening as he scans the baby right and left, up and down. The doctor searches some more. It’s taking too long. You look up at him, nervous, a knot forming in your chest and he is frowning.

“I can’t find the heartbeat,” he says, still scanning, searching, pleading.

“What?” you ask, sharply. Next to you, He is blinking rapidly with ears that are clogging and eyes that are fuzzing. He gets up to walk around the room and take off his sweater and roll up his pants because it got so hot in this room all of a sudden and there’s no air anywhere in this damn building.

“Can you check again?” you ask.

“Of course,” the doctor says, kindly.

And there is another scan, another and another and the absence, that silence, is so loud you think it might deafen you.

The whoosh stops as he clicks off the machine.

“I’m very concerned.” The doctor is straightforward. “I can’t find a heartbeat and I think the baby may have died.”

He’s talking but you can’t hear him. The words are not words, they are discordant sounds and they don’t make sense, they’re not even real.

You blink. This might possibly be a dream.

“I’m going to send you to the hospital to confirm,” the doctor tells you.

But the hospital is filled with ugly sounds. Sounds of sickness and death and despair.

And no words at all. You’re in the waiting room for one hour, two hours, three hours and you just wish that someone would say something to you, would at least confirm this because there is a small piece of you, however foolish, that’s holding onto hope that it will be a mistake. Of course it’s a mistake. Your Olive is in there and she’s as real as your husband sitting next to you.

There are no sounds in the waiting room but there are pleadings that everyone else must be able to hear. You close your eyes, hands on your stomach. And you pray. For the first time in years, you pray and you hope and you promise. You say that you will give it all up for this one thing to just be okay. You bargain your life. Take you instead of her. Let her live.

Olive, you think. I’m breathing life into you, okay? You were so strong only a week ago. You were moving. Moving! For God’s sake. A baby the size of an olive, moving!

You close your eyes and whisper a stream of words that maybe aren’t quite English but must be universally understood. Please, God, please. Anything but this.

You are crying again and when you open your eyes you see the woman across the room staring at you. You meet her eye. She looks away.

Your name is called and you are in the ultrasound room and there it is again. That cavernous whoosh.

“Can you hear a heartbeat?” He asks the technician. “Can you hear anything?”

She scans and clicks and measures, eyes fixed on the screen. “I don’t give out results,” she says.

In that absence of answers lie so many others. And you know. You look down and see blood on your underwear and you know.

When the doctor comes to you to say, “I’m so sorry,” your hearing breaks and your heart breaks and your body breaks and everything is broken.

You let out a cry you didn’t know you could produce. It is an animal scream, a wounded animal’s scream. The sobs come from somewhere so deep inside of you that you have no control over them. It is anguish and agony and loss.

You fall to the floor, heaving, which you had thought was only an expression but how arrogant of you. How naïve. Your sadness has reached a depth you didn’t know possible. This is devastation in 3D when you had been living a two-dimensional life.

He picks you up and He holds you and you can see tears in his eyes too. As you wail, He is shaking in your arms too and you know this loss is real. It exists in the world outside your body, outside the comfortable and safe home you had created for Olive.

Your womb is emptied and it feels like your soul is emptied with it. The life you fought so hard for is taken out quicker than it came in. Your body mourns. Physically, it mourns for the life it created and protected and nourished.

All afternoon you heard nothing but in the evening there is no way to make all the noise stop. Your mother is crying and your dad is crying and the softest “I’m so sorry”s are so loud you have to cover your ears to shut them out.

Your sobs turn to whimpers which turn to tears without any sound left to make. And then, the saddest sound of all when He says to you, quietly, “We can try again.”

But you can hear only the unspoken fears.

What if it’s me?

What went wrong with my body?

What if this happens again?

And eventually, your tears dry up. There is no more left to cry, no more sadness to expel. Everything is silent for a long time but then you start to notice the birds chirping again in the morning and you hear laughter and you process that, even in your most devastating moment when a life was snatched from you, life continues on. Life exists all around you even if not inside of you anymore.

You are inaugurated into a club. The most terrible club, membership into which you would not wish upon your worst enemy. But it is a club of knowing and feeling and understanding. Being a member of the club allows you to fall to your knees and empathize with the woman who is sharing with you the details of the worst day of her life, and that is a gift. It turns your hollow “I’m so sorry, I don’t even have the words” into “I am so sorry and I feel your pain with you. My tragedy is in your tragedy and I have known the dark place you are in. Take my hand and I can show you the way out of here.”

And then there’s another sound that’s almost too faint to pick up. But if you’re really focusing and you’re silencing everything else around you, you can hear, only just barely, finally, another sound. It’s you. You’re screaming again and it’s getting louder but this time it’s a scream only of pain and without any agony. And then, tiny but true, there’s another scream. A new scream that started out as a whisper of hope but enters the world unapologetically LOUD and then there’s only silence, a blissful and peaceful silence.

You just have to keep listening.

November 12, 2021 16:05

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Bruce Friedman
14:11 Nov 20, 2021

Heart wrenching story. Rich vocabulary. Good tempo. Difficult to get through because of the emotional impact. Keep up the great work. Re this sentence: “No sushi,” your mother-in-law warns you sternly. “But a glass of red wine here and there is okay.” Did you by chance mean saki instead of sushi?


Celeste Anderson
19:21 Nov 20, 2021

Thanks Bruce - and nice job to you on the shortlist this week! Actually meant sushi, it’s another no-no for pregnant women. Appreciate the read!!


Bruce Friedman
21:14 Nov 20, 2021

Thanks Celeste for the information. I was think about the alcohol and forgot about the listeriosis. Good to know.


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John K Adams
01:43 Nov 20, 2021

You really capture the shock and pain of such loss. I've never read anything like this before. I was a little confused about your ending. But over all, it is a compelling and very sad story. I look forward to reading your other stories.


Celeste Anderson
19:20 Nov 20, 2021

Thanks very much John! I was trying to write about a woman giving birth after a loss. Some small piece of hope :) I look forward to reading your stories as well!


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Irene Oluoch
14:54 Nov 18, 2021

You paint the picture of the mother's pain so well. However, make your sentences a little shorter, or apply other punctuation marks to make them easier to read. Otherwise, great job!


Celeste Anderson
18:46 Nov 18, 2021

Thank you Irene! And thanks for the feedback and suggestions. Appreciated all around!


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Kevin Marlow
23:26 Nov 15, 2021

You capture the tragic beautifully, Olive the title also.


Celeste Anderson
01:37 Nov 16, 2021

Thank you Kevin, I appreciate the kind words


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