A Pocketful of Glitter
An ordinary day can be turned into a magical one with a simple ray of sunlight shining onto a plastic white stick.
“There it is,” I say, tilting the stick to the side. “Can’t you see it?”
Tom squints. “Maybe, Ali.” He is humouring me, as he does every month when I complain of sickness or a cramp, or a something that might mean the impossible has happened. But this time I can really see it, and a feeling like summertime strokes its way down into my belly.
A blood test confirms what I already know, and in that time between the little crimson vial nodding its head and our appointment for the first scan, I hold this secret in my fist; a pocketful of glitter, sparkling and hidden from everyone but us.
I see the shape on the screen like a little black bean, and I smile at the doctor. He doesn’t return it, but keeps angling the wand inside me, trying to get a better view. It hurts.
“It’s early days,” he says. “I think we’ll get you back in a week. I can see the pole and the sac, but no heartbeat yet. That’s common, and it’s probably nothing to worry about. Let’s get you in next Tuesday.” My heart beats faster. This is how you do it. Can you feel this? I picture my blood flowing through you, starting your engine.
Tom and I squeeze hands as we leave. It’s fine. It’s just early. My other hand creeps into my pocket, reaching for something that I can’t quite find.
The week takes forever. On Friday I feel sick, and cry happy tears. On Saturday I don’t feel sick, and I cry frightened tears. I picture a wave of red blood cells surging around my body like a tsunami, and filling your body with life. Is your heart beating too? Don’t leave me.
It’s Tuesday, and I lie on the bed again, with the wand pushed up inside me. Tom is joking with the doctor and they laugh briefly; humourlessly. The doctor focuses on the screen.
“There! Look!” I point to the screen. “The heart!” The beat sparkles like a star, and we cry happy tears. My hand rests on my belly, stroking you. You did it. I knew you could do it.
The doctor doesn’t smile.
“The heartbeat is too slow,” he says. “We’ll check again in two days, but I anticipate that you will have miscarried, or that the heart will have stopped—in which case we will book you in for a D&C to remove it.” He pauses. “I’m sorry.”
“But it could get faster, couldn’t it?” I look at Tom, who is staring at the floor. The doctor nods slowly.
“It could, but my expectation is that it won’t.”
He talks some more, but I’m not listening. I’m clenching my fist tightly, and I am holding on to you. Stay with me, little star.
Tom puts an arm around me as we walk to the car, but we have nothing to say to each other.
“It’ll be okay,” I start, but then I see his face and the words fall down like raindrops and puddle around our feet.
My phone blinks with a message from my sister. She wants to know if I’ve had the blood test yet, and if this round of treatment has worked. I turn my phone off.
We are robots, moving through the days like we’re automated. I nod and smile at things people say to me, but I don’t really know what they are talking about. A colleague jokes about the likelihood of me wanting to have babies one day, and I scoff: “As if!” We both laugh, and then I shut myself in the bathroom and try not to vomit with guilt.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, hands on belly. “I didn’t mean it. Don’t go. Don’t go.” There’s a noise inside my heart, and if I let it out I am scared it would never stop.
I blink and it’s Thursday, and we are staring at nothing on a screen. I am looking at blackness—just a shape of something that was once you. I am to go to hospital to have you taken out of me. The walk to the waiting room feels like a betrayal with every step. I am letting them take you away. I failed you. We are silent.
My hands are in my pockets as I wait for the nurse to call me. There was glitter here once but now there is just ash—the dust between my fingers that only we can see. A star has gone out and the sparkles have become tears in our eyes.
The nurse helps me on to a trolley, and wheels me in to the operating theatre. She never lets go of me, and her tears match mine.
“It will happen for you one day,” she whispers. The world begins to fade away, and from another ward I hear a baby cry.