An Explanation

Rebecca Edwards

You were too shy. You were reluctant to face the jagged branches, the sharp-winged birds.

‘A little mouse,’ your father said as we stood before the screen. It held six photographs of you. Six stills.

‘I’ll give you some time,’ said the radiologist. ‘You don’t have to leave through the front. I’ll let reception know.’ Her name is Julie, she tells us, as she ushers us into the consulting room. I lie down on the bed and lift my shirt. I am still hoping for good news.

Paul sits where he can see the screen. I watch the radiologist. Her face tightens as she draws the transducer across my belly.

‘Do you want me to tell you what I’m seeing?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you sure?’

I reach out for Paul’s hand. The radiologist turns the screen towards me. ‘Here is the foetus.’ She points to a grey blob at the bottom of a grainy black cone. ‘I should be able to see a heart-beat, a little flash, just here.’

I squeeze Paul’s hand, still hoping, because she has not yet said.

‘I am going to keep looking because I would hate to be wrong.’ She clicks a button on the transducer’s side. Patches of red and orange appear among the grey. ‘I’m checking for blood flow.’

There are no red or orange patches on your body. I start to cry.

‘I’m sorry,’ I say to Paul. ‘I’m so sorry.’

‘It’s not your fault,’ he says.

‘I’m still looking for a heart-beat,’ says the radiologist. I hold my breath. We watch the ridge-line of your chest.

You do not move.

‘Poor little thing.’ I’m crying again.

‘It doesn’t know,’ says the radiologist immediately. ‘You are the one who is suffering.’

Then she says: ‘It was nine weeks and five days old.’

Soon I am allowed to get up.

‘Take your time.’ She closes the door gently behind her.

We go back through reception because we don’t know how else to leave. The receptionists don’t stop us or ask us to pay nor do they ask us if we would like a picture to take home.

Paul has to go back to work. A deadline is due. In engineering terms it is called a ‘deliverable’.
I get out at the lights across from the church. I could go there and talk to someone. Paul’s car swings around the corner, heading down the hill, and I wave.

I don’t cross at the lights. I don’t go to the church. I don’t have anything to say.

On the walk home I smell eucalyptus and honey. Sulfur-crested cockatoos tear at flowers above my head. A thin autumn sun shines against my back. The thought comes to me that you were too shy.
You died without knowing you were alive.

‘A little mouse,’ your father said and touched you on the screen.

Now we have to let you go.

6 months ago