When your heart breaks, or even cracks a bit, things are hard to hold together. But there I was, lying in bed with my wife’s back pressed into my chest, holding her tightly in my arms as she cried.
A few hours earlier an ultra sound confirmed what we knew in our hearts. Our baby had miscarried. Our little Poppy, named after the description a silly pregnancy app on Sunie’s phone used to describe our baby’s size (that of a poppy seed), was no longer to be.
Finding out that we had conceived was thrilling, and the fact that is occurred just four months after my open heart surgery lent the feeling of being doubly blessed to our little household.
We told our family. We made plans. We bought cool changing table at a local yard sale and I started a photo journal of Sunie’s belly in progress. My wife, always the expressive one, started to walk around with the top button on her jeans open despite not gaining much weight.
I had always wondered what kind of father I would make and now I would have the chance to find out. We were thrilled at the prospects of raising a child together and more than once Sunie had told me that one of the biggest reasons she married me was that she believes I will be a good dad.
It is safe to say I would make a better dad now than when we first met. Trading the cigars and cider for plant protein and tea were signals, and my mind and body are much more equipped for a young stranger to enter my universe more now than ever. I began to think that it was Poppy who was waiting for me to get my act together before arriving on our shore.
We talked about Poppy all the time. We started a vegetable garden and I went to work to prove that I could produce healthy produce for our growing family. We were happy.
The day I accompanied Sunie to her doctor’s office for an ultrasound this past summer was just another in a streak of optimistic afternoons. As I sat in the examination room I watched the doctor’s eyes widen and his lips get tense. I sat up, the doctor spoke, but he didn’t have to.
He sent us to the local hospital where their machines could get a clearer picture, but we all knew what it would show. At the hospital we saw the image. Poppy was in there, but Poppy wasn’t moving.
I could see the outline of her little head and tiny body. She was just resting without a single care in the world. But she wasn’t part of the world any longer. In her brief time she felt so much yet saw so little. She never saw the flowers, the birds or the sun. She never gazed toward the mountains or watched the waves of the ocean. But she felt her mother and shared in her warmth; and she felt the love of so many others she would never meet.
That afternoon when we stopped crying we got up from our bed, wiped our eyes and went about the things that couples do. The other things. It is the other things that keep you willing and able to deal with the bumps and bruises. The other things.
The woman that I get to lay with every day is a peaceful, special soul that can have her head so lovingly in the clouds while, at the very same time, digging her feet firmly in the soil.
I always claimed that I was unbreakable. That no matter what life threw at me I could survive on my guts and my wits, but I was wrong. Sunie took care of me, never wavering despite being seconds away from losing me. Sunie is the unbreakable one, and her greatest gift to me will always be picking up all of my broken pieces and putting them back together.
In this time returning from the brink I have learned many things. This has been a year of education, observation and exploration, and those actions continue every day. They have to.
I spent a recent weekend attending a writing workshop and during my ride home I was trying to remember a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how he thought of his audience when he was writing. As I drifted home, following the Housatonic River past old homes and open countryside I remembered what the man said.
“Every successful creative person creates with an audience of one in mind.”
This blog and the extremely rough and terribly organized draft of a memoir that it has turned into have been life altering creative activities. I often wondered, even doubted why I bother to write down these moments. I ask myself if writing it really matters. If anyone will read it, and if they do will they even care?
Then I think of Poppy, the sweet, beautiful creation of my most optimistic spirit. She is laying there listening and reminding me of what life is like when you live it truly happy and without judgement.
She is the spirit now. Poppy. My audience of one.