When most people think about hospitals, what usually comes to mind is not pleasant: injury, illness, death. Going to the hospital is a bad thing; it means something is wrong with you. It also means money is going to probably come out of your pocket, which would be another reason people don’t like hospitals so much.

Aside from my personal experience, my observation of hospital activity has been punctuated by the creation of new life. I spent more than half of the last year in birth clinics or ob/gyn wards, surrounded by women nurturing babies, their growing bellies testament to the life brewing inside them. Or else there were women coming in for their post-partum check-ups, carrying their newborns with them, cradled close to their hearts, and looking tired but happy. From February to September, I watched them and felt a kinship with them. We were mothers in the making, carrying new life within us. We had nothing to be afraid of.

But I know better now. I knew then too; I was just too afraid to let those terrible whispers take hold of me and force me to face the stark truth of existence, that life is often tenuous, and it can go as quickly as it comes. Those tendrils of fear come creeping in all through pregnancy, and we push them away in our certainty that everything will be alright. And for the most part, that’s true. The majority of pregnancies go without a hitch, and life comes screaming to meet the world.

And for the rest of us, we have lost that innocence. We know that life can be silenced in a moment, even before it’s had a chance to draw its first breath.

Geordie and I went in for my post-partum check-up today. We knew it would not be easy; it’s been hard enough seeing families just while we’re out and about. Now, we would have to sit in the ob/gyn waiting area, just as we had four weeks earlier when our daughter still had a heartbeat. Only, this time, we would be alone, just the two of us, surrounded by lives still growing and lives newly born.

I would not wish the loss of a child upon any woman, but it’s so hard to watch a mother with her baby and think, Why me and not her? Why my baby and not that one? Why couldn’t I keep my daughter alive? What’s wrong with me? It’s not malevolence that makes me think such things, it’s just the sheer unfairness of it all. For 38 weeks, our daughter was healthy. I had a relatively easy pregnancy with no complications. How can all these women have strong, healthy babies while mine is lost to me forever? How could something like this happen?

The sad thing is that there are no answers to that question. We spoke to the doctor about what test results they had, and it’s all the same. Lauren was healthy, her cord and placenta were healthy, I was healthy. There is no explanation. Unfortunately, that’s the way life goes sometimes. I will always wonder if there was something I could have done to save, just as I will wonder if there wasn’t, if it was out of my hands from the beginning. Life is funny that way.

As for the check-up itself, that went well. My body has made a full recovery from pregnancy and delivery. While this is good news, I can’t help but feel a little betrayed by my body. My heart is broken, and my mind is hardly at peace – how is it that my body can feel so normal? I feel so thoroughly shattered that it’s hard to believe my body is still in one piece. How could it go back to normal so quickly? I’m glad I’m healthy and everything is alright, but immediately after leaving the hospital, I felt that it was like I had never been pregnant at all. That all traces of Lauren had been erased from me and I had nothing to show that I had carried her.

But upon further reflection, I know that’s not true. It may not be obvious from looking at me, but the wear shows on me in places that cannot be seen. In my heart, for example, where there will always be a place for Lauren. In my thoughts, daily. And should I need a more physical example, the memory of pregnancy in imprinted upon my bones. For as long as my pelvic bone exists, it will carry the marks of pregnancy upon it and be physical proof that I am a mother. For some reason, I find comfort in this, proof that my body will not forget what has come to be one of the most defining moments of my life.

In the end, it’s a relief to be finished with Juntendo University Hospital. It was not my initial choice for Lauren’s birth, but I don’t regret going there. The staff treated us well, and they did all that they could for us. It’s not a place I ever want to return to, but I will keep it in my memory for a long time to come, as long as I have a memory to hold on to. It is, after all, the place my daughter was born. They couldn’t save her, and they can’t piece me back together again, but it’s where I saw Lauren for the first and only time, and that is an image I will carry in my heart for the rest of my days.

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