171 comments

Drama Fiction Sad

Trigger warning: child death

 

It is the time of night when its silence is not disturbed by whispered words, but by exhaled breaths. You shift in discomfort when loud snores disturb your delicate sleep. You extricate yourself from your husband’s loveless embrace and head to the adjacent room. In its musty darkness, you find him in his cradle, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars, as he always is. His open eyes glaze over everything in their sight. You take him in your arms and softly close them. You whisper forgotten lullabies in his ears, swinging him with the hesitant delight of a new mother. You hold him close to your heart, clutching his tiny body with determination. When you have convinced yourself that he has fallen asleep, you slowly shut the door and head back to your room, where your husband does not see you shedding tears like birds shed feathers.

 

A mother’s heart is never at rest without seeing her child asleep, even if her baby is dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you wake up in the hospital, you see him lying in the bed next to you. He is lovelier than you imagined him to be, when you felt him stir in your womb. You ruffle the wisps of curly hair hanging on his forehead, your fingers playing with the tiny toes curled in a peaceful sleep.

 

When the nurse snatches him away from your arms, you notice his blue skin. You realize that in all the time that you have been hugging him, he has never exhaled a breath.

 

Tears slip out of the doctor’s eyes, too, but not because he sees you plunging into a darkness too profound and terrible to come back from. It is the first time he has delivered a stillborn, and he is afraid of it affecting his record. Words come tumbling out of his mouth as he teaches the interns. Suffocation. Fetal death. Intrapartum stillbirth. Uterine haemorrhage. Your child will be nothing but a medical tragedy, a case study for science in the future.

 

He cannot have died. How can death embrace someone who has never really lived? But even as tears threaten to spill into your heart, you pull your baby closer. If you hold him close enough to your racing, sobbing heart, you can almost pretend that the heartbeat is his.

 

You are not given any birth or death certificates- just a white sheet declaring stillbirth. Impressions of dead fingers and signatures confirming the news. The space for the name is left blank, but the doctor advises you to fill it, because you will need one for the tombstone. But you will not entrust a baby to the unfeeling nurture of the earth forever. Alive or dead, you will make him stay with you. He will always stay in your arms.

 

He has been kept in the chilling frost of the mortuary. You rush in and hold him in your arms, rubbing his back to warm up his body. They ask you whether you want to know how he died, for closure. But the only thing that you want to know is how you can keep him now, because you do not plan to let him go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is difficult to keep him hidden in the beginning. You come to his room only in the dead of night, when the shadows beside the rotating fan feel like the presence of spirits. You curse the screeching wooden door and step outside, always afraid that your husband will follow you. The smell of his flesh disintegrating feels like a breath of fresh air. Standing still, you wait till the milk he will never drink overflows and soaks your clothes. With a strange deliberation, you wipe his unfeeling frame with your wet dress, certain that he will not hunger for your milk now. 

 

Every day, the stench grows, until your husband cannot bear it. He smells flesh deteriorating, decomposing and rotting; even the walls smell of a decaying corpse. He calls the maintenance staff to check the drainage system. The worker, a superstitious, middle-aged woman, steps into the house and looks into your unusually bright eyes. “It’s not the drainage,” she murmurs over her shoulder. She is pretending to fix the pipes, since your husband refuses to let her go unless all the ducts are fixed.

 

“The smell is of the dead,” she confesses hastily, afraid of offending any lurking spirits.

 

As if you did not know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three days later, his body begins to putrefy. His blood deadens and darkens. You embalm the body and keep it in a coffin. You do not close its lid, because you do not want him to suffocate again.

 

 

 

Five weeks later, the chaplain comes to visit you. He brings along a woman who has “gone through the same loss”. But you know now that grief cannot unite people in any way; your husband can attest to that.

 

You know, legally, that you have done nothing wrong. But when you think about the chaplain looking at your dead child, you feel the panic rising in your throat. Shaking your anxiety away, you begin to plan. All you need is low humidity and a suitable temperature…

 

When your husband opens the freezer that night to eat ice-cream, he gets an unpleasant surprise. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You do not want to attend his burial, but you cannot resist the opportunity to see him again. When they lower him into the coffin, you remind yourself that he cannot feel the jolt. When they start throwing mud into the pit, you bite the inside of your cheek and pinch your arm to stop yourself from screaming. Your husband flinches when the screams build up inside you and escape. His fingers tremble, but he does not say anything. You ask them to stop throwing the dirt for a minute.

 

“Can I-“ You steel yourself for this last goodbye. “Can I hold him in my arms one last time?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue is not your favorite color anymore. It reminds you of a tiny nose struggling to breathe, lungs collapsing with the effort, skin tinged with blood that is not red. It reminds you of the color of the sky the day you buried him, beside the thousands of people who have left the people they love behind. It reminds you of his eyes, beautiful but lifeless.

 

After two months, your husband starts to worry. He tells you that it is unhealthy to stay grieving for such a long time. But he does not know that you go out to the park every evening. That you sometimes look at the pigeons poking at their chicks playfully and feeding them with their mouths, the injustice of being denied the simple joy threatening to break you. That you often walk for hours with his picture in your hands, afraid of forgetting the precise color of his eyes, or the softness of his delicate body in your arms. That you sometimes visit the park beside the cemetery, certain that you can feel him shifting uncomfortably in his grave. That you are afraid of the worms in the ground decomposing his lovely flesh into the wood of the coffin. That you sometimes sit up in the middle of the night screaming, afraid that your memories of him will gradually slip away like time. That whenever you see a mother walking her baby in her stroller, your throat clogs up with grief beyond words, because you can never do it with yours. That you stare at them wistfully for so long that the mother turns away coldly, shielding her baby from your gaze. That when you try to tell overprotective mothers that you are one too, the words die out as soon as they form in your mouth, erasing their essence and leaving the bitter taste of loss behind.

 

Can you call yourself a mother even if your child dies?

 

You do not tell your husband any of this, not because you think that he won’t listen, but because in your mind, he is right beside death in stealing your baby from you. 

 

You often stare at the little children on the swing, wondering which swing your baby would have liked the most. You wonder if you could have recognized his laughter in a crowd of children. You stay on the bench sometimes, the shrieks of laughter and the squeals of joy ringing in your ears like a siren, long after the children have gone home chuckling, clutching their mothers’ hands like lifelines. After the silence has descended into the mist above the park, you sit on the swing, its hinges creaking alarmingly with your weight. You blink your tears away and pray to the whistling wind that your baby can hear you from his grave. Then, very slowly, almost as if you have forgotten how to do it, you sing his lullaby for him, so that he can fall asleep.

 

 

 

Even when he is gone, you can hear him. At night, while you find shapes in the shadows, you hear giggles in the crook of your arms. When you are walking on the road, you hear him slip on the sidewalk, a purple bruise which will be kissed away by time. When you immerse yourself in the tub because the tears burn and freeze on your face, you hear the water rippling, and small hands tapping on it playfully. When winter gives way to spring, you do not notice, but he does, his wonder giving way to innocent curiosity. When sadness pierces through the broken shards of your heart, you hear him speak softly to your broken spirit, and you feel his tiny fingers holding onto yours beyond death.

 

You hear a lot of sounds, but he does not make any of them.

August 21, 2020 19:11

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171 comments

19:21 Sep 21, 2020

Wow to be honest I was afraid to read because of the trigger warning. But I’m so glad I did. Beautiful emotive story. I literally cried the whole time

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Pragya Rathore
06:42 Nov 12, 2020

Thank you so much, Sarah! And sorry for the late reply; I just noticed that you had commented on and liked this :)

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07:30 Sep 21, 2020

Hey, Pragya would you be kind to watch the first video it's on Harry potter. https://youtu.be/KxfnREWgN14 Sorry for asking your time, I would ready your story

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Ariadne .
01:52 Sep 21, 2020

EEEEEEEEEKKKKK THIS IS SOSOSOSOSOSOSO GOOOOOOD!!!! I'm crying and squealing at the same time - why are some people just so good at coming up with ideas like this? Ughhhh it makes me very sad... Very well done. I'm in awe - the descriptions and emotions are so real, I felt as though I were in the story. And the fact that is was in 2nd POV? So unique. Congrats on the shortlist! You totally deserve it - you rocked this prompt! ~Adrienne P.S. Would you mind checking out my stories? It means a lot!

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Pragya Rathore
08:56 Sep 21, 2020

Thanks a lot, but this wasn't the one that got shortlisted :-P

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Ariadne .
17:58 Sep 21, 2020

Haha, I see how my comment was interpeted wrong I meant for congrats on getting shortlisted for your other story, and that this one shows how good your writing is (I'm making my way through a bunch of stories and have yet to read your other ones. I'm getting to it, though!). Sorry about the confusion - talk about embarrassment!

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Pragya Rathore
02:32 Sep 22, 2020

Oh! Don't worry, the embarrassment is all mine :) I'll definitely check your stories out!

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Ariadne .
03:43 Sep 22, 2020

LOL, it's fine! Thanks! I appreciate it!

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P. Jean
14:44 Sep 13, 2020

Yes this is more than a thumbs up “like”. It is amazingly fine writing. Your words will haunt me through my day and beyond. Super writing!

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Pragya Rathore
16:43 Sep 13, 2020

Thanks a lot, P.! :)

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Jamela Faye
11:54 Sep 13, 2020

This reminded me of someone I know... Beautiful story. You explained the emotions so well (I'm literally crying rn) Might as well, use this for practice! PS: If you won't mind, I have one new story out, can you please give feedback?

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Tejas Chandna
19:02 Sep 09, 2020

This is the perfect example of well deserved shortlist! Loved it! Can't wait to read more by you! Oh, can't forget the sadness! I felt happy though at the end Can you read my story "Freedom to fire the flies"? I need feedback from prolific writers and am making a team of writers on my website! (link is given in my bio) Please share, follow, and ask others to join! Thanks

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John Del Rio
04:02 Sep 04, 2020

Wow! so good, so much despair. the last line; so sad. your story left me breathless. it makes me think of Edgar Allen Poe and how his work makes me feel. like any good story; yours really makes one FEEL. now just because of its' content; that feeling is despair and near inconsolable sadness. so well done. i will read more of your work and enjoy the Feelings that you make me feel.

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Pragya Rathore
05:32 Sep 04, 2020

Thank you so much, John! Your comment really made me smile :)

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E.N. Holder
13:34 Sep 02, 2020

Wow you are a great writer Pragya. I loved everything, but I especially liked the ending describing how she can still hear him in every part of her life. The main character and plot was developed really well, and I also loved the POV you used. It worked perfectly for this story.

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Pragya Rathore
15:07 Sep 02, 2020

Thank you so much, Elise! Your comment made my day :)

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07:43 Sep 01, 2020

Wow, this story was so deep and meaningful! This is my first story I’ve read of yours, but I can already tell that you’re a brilliant writer and really creative, really well done and keep writing! PS this made me cry 😭 🥺

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Pragya Rathore
08:19 Sep 01, 2020

Thank you very much, Imaan! :) P.S.- Your name means 'honesty' in Hindi. :p

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15:44 Sep 01, 2020

Oh I didn't know that! I was named because of the Arabic meaning, which is "faith", but that's really interesting!

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Pragya Rathore
15:47 Sep 01, 2020

It is! :) In real life, are you more faithful or honest? ;D

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15:59 Sep 01, 2020

Wow that's a deep question! I like to think I'm both, because both those things are really similar and sort of linked together--as a Muslim, honesty is part of my faith. Generally, I think I'm more honest, but lately I've been working on improving my faith to get closer to God. What about you?

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Pragya Rathore
18:49 Sep 01, 2020

Oh! Well, I'm generally both, like you. But actually, my name means wisdom and intelligence in three languages: Hindi, Sanskrit and Bengali. :) Maybe our names do influence who we are...

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Keerththan 😀
02:33 Aug 29, 2020

Sad story about a mother's pain. Second person point of view has worked out well for you. Well written. Amazing story. Great job. Would you mind reading my new story too?

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Pragya Rathore
02:36 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks, Keerththan! I'll definitely check it out :)

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Keerththan 😀
02:36 Aug 29, 2020

Welcome, Pragya.

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Daniel Brown
20:58 Aug 28, 2020

Pragya, this was a masterful emotionally affecting piece of art. The final line and the story in general struck a heavy note inside of me. I will never understand the agony of stillbirth but I believe this expressed it beautifully. Excellent work as always!

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Pragya Rathore
21:54 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you very much, Daniel! :)

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Jeni Conrad
20:09 Aug 28, 2020

Very powerful and sad. Good job!

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Pragya Rathore
21:54 Aug 28, 2020

Thanks, Jenny! :)

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D. Jaymz
16:48 Aug 28, 2020

The words are haunting, living in memories that crowd a room leaving no place for any other emotion to survive, except grief. This was an excellent story. A very emotional piece that moved with a pace that was shuffling in time with the feeling of the story. It makes me want to write better, to go deeper into the abyss of the soul as you have in this story and drag out the bitter parts, the sad parts, the parts that almost break us and bring them to the surface for us to consider, to feel and deal, with, for us to heal. The description...

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Pragya Rathore
16:55 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you so much, D! It feels wonderful to have someone appreciate it that much. I'm glad you liked it! Once again, thanks a ton! :)

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D. Jaymz
18:03 Aug 28, 2020

You're welcome 😊

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Michele Duess
21:14 Aug 27, 2020

Very sad. I love the description of the doctor only upset because he delivered a still born and the mother trying to keep the baby. And the ending was great.

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Pragya Rathore
01:46 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you very much, Paula! :)

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Kristin Neubauer
16:17 Aug 27, 2020

What a story Pragya - it's so intense, emotional, disturbing, beautiful and tragic all at the same time. Simply incredible.

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Pragya Rathore
16:29 Aug 27, 2020

Thanks a ton, Kristin! That means a lot coming from you :)

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Kristin Neubauer
19:18 Sep 04, 2020

I keep looking for a new Pragya Rathore story! No pressure as I know how everyone gets crazy busy, but I will be very happy when a new one comes out. Hope all is well!

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Pragya Rathore
19:21 Sep 04, 2020

So sweet of you, Kristin! All is well, thankfully. I just got busy with some college assignments. I hope I'll be able to get one done soon... :) You really made my day! :p

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Kristin Neubauer
19:28 Sep 04, 2020

I understand - school must take priority. Just know you are missed and your fans will be good and ready for a new piece from you whenever you have time!

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Pragya Rathore
19:35 Sep 04, 2020

Of course! I can't let my fan(s) down! ;)

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Marina Datthyn
16:13 Aug 27, 2020

Hi Pragya, First, thank you for reading and commenting on my story! (From the Critique Circle)- that’s how I found yours as well. Your story is so incredibly sad- in a good way! As a mother I am only imagine my own reaction to anything happening to my child, and I’m sure stillbirths are actually in a gray zone at the hospitals (like when you said no birth certificate, no death certificate) which would make closure incredibly difficult... your story turned very dark/spooky for a minute there, which I’m not sure was your intent, but in genera...

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Pragya Rathore
16:28 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you so much, Marina! Your comment is so sweet. :) The reader knows that she is hiding the dead body of her child, but the other characters do not. She is hiding him and keeping him a secret from the rest of the world. Again, thanks a ton! :)

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Cal Emery
11:37 Aug 27, 2020

This is really great! It captures grief and how the ways people deal with grief can be very different. It’s interesting too, keeping you alert throughout the story. I like how your writing flows neatly, with lots of description yet remains somehow secretive. Well done!

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Pragya Rathore
11:38 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you so much, Kae! It means a lot to me that you read it :)

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:13 Aug 26, 2020

Well done on your gold star! Just a question about your bio - what is an egalitarian? Someone who eats eagles, I assume? That's obviously what it is. I suppose my real question is, why?I'm not judging, we all have our oddities... but, eagles? Shame.

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Pragya Rathore
14:23 Aug 26, 2020

Thanks a lot! An egalitarian is someone who believes that each person in society should have equal rights. I would have called myself a feminist, but for the misconception it would have created that I am apathetic to the struggles of the third gender. An egalitarian sounds more sophisticated :)

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:27 Aug 26, 2020

So what I hear you saying is you eat eagles to make yourself seem more sophisticated? I repeat – shame. 😊 If by now you haven’t realized half of what I sat is utter nonsense, then hopefully this exchange has enlightened you.

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Pragya Rathore
14:38 Aug 26, 2020

Yes, I am gratefully enlightened and ashamed that I clearly misinterpreted a joke as a quest for information! :p

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Amber Shepherd
12:48 Aug 26, 2020

That was so so beautifully done. your descriptions and wordings are absolutely stunning. I felt so immersed in the emotion of this story. This was amazing, Pragya!

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Pragya Rathore
12:49 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you so much, Amber! :)

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D. Shikha
03:32 Aug 26, 2020

This was so amazing. I loved it so much. Good job! Would you mind checking out my first story?

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Pragya Rathore
03:40 Aug 26, 2020

I already liked it :) Thanks a lot!

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Pragya Rathore
03:41 Aug 26, 2020

Actually, I read it yesterday...It was beautiful and amazing! :)

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D. Shikha
03:51 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you:)

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