An Empty FeelingbySlirpuff©
It had to be somewhere around three in the morning. It was quiet, except for the occasional page over the intercom or the sound of someone pushing a cart down the hall. Heather's room was dark. The curtains were drawn and the only visible light came from the overhead fluorescents in the hallway. I had been discharged earlier in the day but was going nowhere without my wife. The sling supporting the cast on my right arm had by now rubbed my neck raw. Being right handed, I instinctively kept reaching for things with that hand only to realize too late it wasn't going to happen, meanwhile the sling cut into my neck for the umpteenth time. Life was going to be a bitch until they cut this cast off, but not for another seven to eight weeks would that happen.
She looked peaceful lying there in bed. She had a red mark the size of a half dollar on her right cheek, which I knew would turn into an ugly bruise before it went totally away. Other than that, you couldn't tell the trauma she'd gone through during the last forty-five hours.
Earlier that morning I sat in a wheelchair next to Heather's bed listening to the doctor. "She's doing as well as can be expected, but we're going to keep her sedated for now. She's going to be groggy when she does wake up and may be a little uncomfortable but should be in no real pain." Yeah, that will last until she realizes what has happened, then the pain will start and no amount of medication is going to make it go away.
"How long do you think she's going to have to be in here?"
"If everything goes as expected, she should be able to be released probably by the end of the week. Your wife is going to be sore and will need four to five days of strict bed rest and then nothing strenuous for a couple of weeks after that. You both are pretty lucky."
"You want to be the one who tells that to her when she wakes up?" I replied, trying not to sound sarcastic but it came out that way anyway. "Sorry doc, I didn't mean it the way it came out. It's just that..." my voice tapered off as I lowered my head feeling a wave of emptiness come over me.
"I know it's going to be hard, but you two are young and this is only a bump in the road for you both. She's going to be up in a couple of hours and the chaplain said that he'd be stopping by in the morning to talk with her." What could he say that would make any difference now?
Heather is Catholic but we rarely went to mass anymore. It seemed that on Saturday nights there was always something going on, and Sunday mornings? Well, we both liked to sleep in together. Yesterday her mother said she was going to talk to their parish priest but I told her to wait and talk to Heather before she did anything. We were going to have a couple of hard days coming up, and I didn't want her stressed out anymore than she was already going to be. So I sat there watching my wife sleep. I was sore and dead tired myself, but needed to be there when my wife woke up. She was going to be disorientated, confused, angry, and a basket case right after she finds out. I only hope she doesn't hate me too much. I know it wasn't directly my fault and I pray to God that she's going to see it that way. I had suggested that she come and if I hadn't, well, we wouldn't be here, or at least she wouldn't be.
Where was he going in such a hurry that he just had to run that damn red light? Hell, the traffic was still backed up halfway down the block so he was going to have to stop nonetheless. The police said he didn't even have a chance to brake before plowing into us. They estimate he was doing somewhere in the area of thirty-five miles an hour when his Camry hit our new Camero as we turned onto Twenty-Seventh Avenue. I never saw it coming but Heather did. Her scream and me desperately reaching for her was the last thing I remember before blacking out. Luckily for us it was somewhat of a glancing blow and we were wearing our seatbelts. He wasn't wearing one and hit the center of the windshield full force. Later I found out the paramedics had pronounced him dead at the scene
People were yelling and screaming something about the car catching fire but the only thing I was thinking about was my wife. I reached over for her before realizing someone had already pulled her out of the car. I felt someone's hand on me and knew immediately that my right arm was bent in a way it wasn't supposed to. Did it hurt? I don't remember. The only thing I recall was yelling for my wife while someone stuck a needle in my arm saying she was going to be all right. That was Friday night and now it was Sunday night or Monday morning, whatever you wanted to call it.
When she wakes up I'm going to smile at her, tell her I love her, and from that point I'm not sure. She's going to realize right away there's a huge problem especially after she feels her belly. There's not going to be any words to make her feel any better and I'm going to be there to comfort her anyway I can. I'll climb into bed, hold her, and do whatever is necessary to get her through the next twelve hours. I just can't help thinking it's my fault this all happened. After what Heather went through the last time, let's just say it's not going to be something I'm looking forward to. I just hope we can get through this, move on, and still stay together.
"If only." I've said those words to myself a thousand times over the last few days. I know you can't go back, but I'd give anything in the world if I could.
Heather and I first met at a dance club just outside the downtown area of Minneapolis. The place was packed and my buddy Chris and I were standing by the bar nursing our third beer of the night. It was dark, smoky, and there was little room to move much less dance. There was a group of girls dancing about fifteen feet from us and although none of them were runway models, all of them were at least a seven and a half to an eight.
"I'll take the tall blonde and you can take your pick of any of the others," Chris said, putting his beer down and adjusting his clothes getting ready to make his move.
"How about if I want the blonde?"
"Steve, you hate blondes."
"I know, but maybe this time I might want to try one, especially one with a body like hers."
"Well, since you drove I guess it's your choice but make up your mind before we miss out." I smiled at him. "Asshole," Chris said, punching me in the arm.
"Just fucking with you a little. Take the damn blonde and I'll go for the tall brunette with the long hair." Hell, that girl was every bit as tall as I was.
We walked over, introduced ourselves and after a bit of conversation and a dance or two we did what you do at bars and picked them up. I'd like to say that I wowed Heather with my smooth talk and charm or with my moves on the dance floor but that wasn't the case. She was blasted out of her ever-loving mind and after we left I had to stop my car twice just so she could puke out the open car door.
Chris and the blonde, Debby, made out a lot better. I dropped them both off at his place. Walking up the steps to his apartment arm in arm he gave me a thumbs up. And me? Well, instead of going arm in arm up to my place, I drove Heather home and had to almost carry her up to her front door. All right, so I took the cowards way out. I propped her up against her door frame, rang the door bell, and got my ass the hell out of there before her parents opened the door. So much for me scoring that evening.
Through Chris and Debby, I got the message that Heather wanted to thank me for making sure she got home safe that night and for not taking advantage of her. "Most guys wouldn't have been so nice," she told Debby to relay to me. Two weeks later she was telling me the exact same thing herself when Chris and I went on a double date with the two of them. She stayed sober this time. We had a great night. She was much more fun sober. I still couldn't dance for shit, however she wasn't much better. But who in their right mind would tell their date she had two left feet? Not me, that's for sure.
Did I score that night? Not even close. Kissing with a little tongue action was all I got until our eighth date when I got to second base. I didn't slide into home until our twelfth date and that was only after a lot of foreplay. Did the earth move? At twenty-three and having sex with a hot woman like Heather, if it didn't there would have to have been something seriously wrong with me.
After dating for almost twelve months, and against her parents' wishes, she moved in with me. When we celebrated our second Valentine's Day together, I proposed—she accepted. I was in love and the world was good. At twenty-four and a half I had found my soul mate. Happily we sat down to map out our life together.
Neither one of us had a four year college degree. I think between the two of us we had just shy of three years of college. Heather worked at Ecolabs putting together printed circuit boards for heart pacemakers. I was a department manager at a Menards Building Center. The biggest problem we had was that Heather worked in Egan and I worked on the other side of downtown Minneapolis where our apartment was. We, or should I say she, fought the traffic for the better part of a year until I was able to transfer to another store closer to where she worked. We found a new apartment about seven miles from her job and signed a year's lease.
Egan was a growing city, eighth largest in the state, and had all the things we both liked to do. Biking or rollerblading around one of the lakes got to be a Sunday morning ritual. Shopping at the Mall of America could keep Heather and her girl friends busy for hours. I even accused her of trying to jump-start the economy all by herself. In the winter I got her interested in cross-country skiing because as they say, if you don't have something to do in the winter you might get shack nasty. That was something that happened when all you did was vegetate inside in the winter, which here could stretch on for seven months.
We got married January seventeenth and delayed our honeymoon until late March—when we went on a seven-day Caribbean cruise. We got a great deal on the price. It was a first for both of us, not only going on a cruise but also being out of the United States.
We were the typical honeymooning tourists. We couldn't keep our hands off of one another, no matter where we were. We also took full advantage of all the free food and entertainment aboard ship. After four days we promised ourselves we'd retire to a tropical island and open a bar on the beach. It sounded good and in reality would likely never happen but we could still dream. I thought Heather was going to cry when we boarded our plane in Miami and headed back home. We carried on our heavy coats because we knew we'd need them when we got off the plane. We were right, it was still colder than shit.
Life was pretty good for the two of us for the next three years. I was promoted to assistant store manager. Heather got two raises and was made a lead person. We bought a small two-bedroom one-bath house and talked about maybe starting a family. Heather's company allowed for a four-month maternity leave and her mom said she would watch the baby for us after it was born, so we started trying.
Without having to worry about birth control pills and condoms, we made love practically morning, noon, and night. Making a baby was sure a lot more fun than trying to make sure Heather didn't get knocked-up like we had been. It took us two months of bliss before the test kit showed she was pregnant. Everyone was happy for us, and both of our parents threw us a dinner to celebrate the upcoming addition to our family. This was going to be the first grandchild on either side and everyone was overjoyed.
I'm not totally sure what happened, but at eight weeks Heather lost the baby. The doctor said it sometimes just happens, but it wasn't supposed to happen to us, to someone else, but not to us. Heather took it pretty hard. We'd already painted the second bedroom and started buying baby things to furnish the room.
We were told that we were young and fertile. The next time we'd have to watch her health a lot closer, but we were certainly not ready to jump back into it yet. We went back to using birth control. I let the whole issue slide and waited for her to bring it up. We did talk about it and while we still wanted babies, Heather said that she needed time to get over what happened.
She never came right out and said we were going to start trying again. It's just that I noticed a change in her, she was happy again. I had my old Heather back. It took a little longer this time around—she about fucked me to death those first two months.
Sometimes on those icy cold weekends in January, we'd never leave our bed other than to get something to eat or drink. We ate in bed, made love, and only got out from underneath our warm down quilts when we absolutely had to. It must have worked because Heather came up pregnant again. However, there would be no dinner to celebrate just yet.
We, and I do mean we, were very careful this time around. She watched what she ate and there was no ice-skating or cross-country skiing for her. When she started to show she proudly displayed her belly for the whole world to see. We went back to buying things for the baby's room and four months later we found out we were going to have a son. There was absolutely no alcohol for my bride and we were careful not to go to places where there was cigarette smoke. We were just plugging along, biding our time, when I got the call from her at work one afternoon—she was bleeding.
She had noticed some spotting the day before, though it was so small she didn't think anything of it, but when she went to the bathroom just after lunch, she was bleeding heavily.
"Steve, meet me at the doctor's office, they want me to come in immediately," a frantic Heather told me while driving to her doctor. I was halfway there when I got another call on my cell, this one from the doctor's office saying she had been transported by ambulance to the hospital emergency room. By the time I got there she was already in surgery. I called both her parents and my parents and told them what little I knew. They wanted to come down but I asked them not to until I had more information, no use everyone sitting around for hours over maybe nothing. Well, I hoped against hope it was nothing.
"Mr. Moore," the doctor, still in his green scrubs, addressed me. "Your wife is resting comfortably and you'll be able to see her in an hour or so after she's awake in an assigned a room."
"The baby, how's my son doing?"
"I'm sorry, Heather lost the baby," he said in such a monotone voice I thought for a minute I'd heard him wrong.
"I don't understand, we did everything right this time. We were so careful, I don't understand," I said for the second time. "What happened?"
He couldn't give me the specifics on why her body had miscarried and I probably wouldn't have understood the medical jargon anyway. But I needed something, anything to say to my wife when she woke up and asked me what the hell happened.
"She'll be awake in an hour or so, and I'll be in to check on her shortly after that. Heather will need to stay for probably a day or two so we can run a few tests and after she's discharged she'll need a couple of days of strict bed rest. After that she'll be able to do most everything she could before."
"What do I say when she asks me why?"
"Just tell her I will be in to see her and explain everything in detail to her. Again, I am sorry about the baby." At that point he walked back through the two big swinging doors where he'd come from. The word sorry just wasn't cutting it anymore.
I called our parents and broke the bad news to them. I told them that tomorrow would be a better day to visit because she would be just coming out of the anesthesia, and the doctor wanted to talk to the two of us in private. Both parents wanted me to tell Heather how sorry they were for our loss. That went without saying.
She was still half under when she was wheeled into her room. She saw me, smiled and went back to la la land. Over the next fifteen to twenty-five minutes she came in and out of consciousness. Finally I noticed she was awake but had her eyes closed, like she wasn't sure what was going on.
"Steve," she started to mouth, but I told her to close her eyes and rest. I knew what her first question was going to be and I wasn't quite ready mentally and emotionally for it yet. I held her hand and kept stroking her face and hair. I needed time, hell I needed that damn doctor in here to tell her that she was okay, but I knew she wouldn't be no matter what he told her.
"I love you," I whispered, burying my face into the pillow next to her head. I saw a slight upturn in her lips for a split second knowing it would be the last smile I would see in a very long while.
She cried, I cried, listening to the doctor doing his best to explain in layman's terms what happened. It wasn't her fault but she wouldn't believe it or didn't accept what he was telling her. Some women have a hard time carrying a baby to term and she was one of them. He didn't say that she couldn't have a baby, but next time she'd have to be under strict medical care for her entire pregnancy.
"There won't be a next time," she told him. He didn't say anything after that and neither did I. I just held her hand letting her come to grips with what the doctor had told us. What was there left to say?
Our parents visited her the following morning and she was better, but only on the outside. Everyone cried and said how sorry they were but I found the word sorry had lost a lot of its luster—it just didn't seem to be enough.
Heather spent hours staring at the ceiling; all the while I sat on the chair next to her bed holding her hand. The hospital chaplain came in that afternoon and asked if she wanted to talk. She just looked at him, then shook her head no. She was grieving. I took her home on Wednesday and put her right to bed. She hadn't said more than a few words, even to me, but the last thing in the world I wanted to discuss with her right now was the baby we'd lost. On Friday, when I had to go back to work, her mother came over for a few hours and kept an eye on her for me.
Heather took a month leave of absence from her work. They gave her her accumulated sick days and even advanced her an extra week of vacation so she'd get paid for three of the four weeks she was out. Her friends from work took up a collection and put together a little basket of food items and brought it over to her. She accepted it and for the hundredth time people said how sorry they were.
A month didn't even touch the surface of her healing. Physically Heather was back to normal but emotionally she was still that girl in the hospital who was being told she had lost her baby. It helped a lot when she went back to work, it gave her something else to think about but it was far from a cure all. I talked with her when she brought it up but didn't initiate any conversations. When she got up one night and closed the door to what was going to be our baby's room I became even more concerned. A week later I found I was not the only one worried about her.
"Steve, Heather needs help," her dad said the following Sunday after church. "She's depressed and needs to talk to someone about it."
"Hank, I brought this up to her about three weeks ago and she about took my head off. She told me she was grieving for the baby she lost and what about that didn't I understand? Also, she said that talking to some damn shrink wasn't going to bring her son back. I'm worried and I don't know what to do anymore."
"Well, maybe I'll talk to our parish priest. Maybe he can talk to her."
"Hank, if he tries to tell her it was God's will or something to that effect she's going to lose it. Let me get with my insurance carrier and see if I can find a female counselor she can talk to because clearly she's not getting any better."