Clutching the memory box the nurses carefully put together, I was wheeled down the quiet hallway. Tucked at the far end of the maternity ward in the room reserved for such tragedies, it was decided I would be brought down the back exit. I kept my head bowed since it felt like the cherubic babies in the Anne Geddes portraits were watching me. If I looked into their eyes, I would turn to stone.
The hearts and cupids plastered on the walls reminded me that I had not yet made Valentine's Day cards with the kids. It is funny where the mind wanders when it does not want to come to terms with the realities of what had just happened hours before. There would be no beautifully crafted construction paper hearts glued to doilies this year. I was hoping the dollar store still had pre-made cards in stock.
The door swung open and the cold air stung my raw eyes. Realizing the date, the acid bubbled in my stomach and burned the back of my throat. I have always disliked the number 13. It would figure, this date would haunt me for the rest of my life.
Finally in the car, I decided we needed to go to Target. Valentine's Day was the next day, and the kids needed gifts. Once I get something in my head, there is no changing my mind. My husband, afraid to upset me further, drove straight to the mall.
Bright colors, the smell of popcorn, and music tried to infiltrate the gray I was seeing everywhere. My abdomen, still swollen and stretched from 22 weeks of pregnancy made me look as if I was still expecting. Although it felt as if there was a neon sign on my forehead, the woman standing next to me didn't realize I had labored and delivered a perfect baby a few hours ago. Placing my hand on my now doughy belly, I yearned to feel the faint kicks I had only just begun feeling a few weeks before.
The Dollar Spot was sparsely populated. Clovers and leprechauns were peeking out of the bins. It didn't matter, because my mission was clear. Pumped up on hormones and grief, I was going to make sure my children had Valentine's Day. Would a cellophane bag filled with goodies cushion the blow? I faced the fact that I needed to go home and tell them that my body had failed me…failed them. Their brother was gone.
Counting out seven of each item was a painful reminder that I would not need eight of anything in the foreseeable future. Staring at the shiny foil hearts, I began to feel nauseated. As my husband tried to stick some extra candy in the basket for me, I proclaimed that there would never be another Valentine's Day celebration for me.
Amazingly, stickers and candies brought an instance of joy on a dark February day. Despite my heartache, I was able to create a semblance of normal as our lives were turned inside out.
Four years out, as Valentine's Day approaches, I can celebrate all that we have, as well as what we lost on that thirteenth day of February.