Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)
By Lisa Holloway
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Suddenly, I found myself on the floor, surrounded by well-meaning flight attendants intent upon ensuring my well-being. The oxygen mask they placed on my face blocked out the stale scent of coffee and the spicy aftershave of the man leaning over me. I lay there breathing in and out, slowing coming back to normalcy.
By that time, we were beginning our descent into Washington-Dulles. Upon arrival, they required me to wait for the EMTs to meet me at the gate (much to my chagrin) and, with misgivings, allowed me to walk to meet them unassisted.
After a slough of questions—including whether I was pregnant, which I denied, having received a negative response to a pregnancy test only weeks before—I assured them it was merely because I’d left the hotel about 4 a.m. and so hadn’t had breakfast before flying. I went on my way and drove home, returning to work the following day.
But it was only the beginning of my strange problems. The next day I felt warm, but basically normal. Then, as I was cooking stir-fry that evening, the dizziness returned worse than before. Once again, my world began to go dark and my stomach heaved. I was totally uninterested in food at that point, but continued cooking until I was so dizzy I had to turn the stove off and go sit down. Then the blood began to pour from me, fast and furious.
I retreated to my room, saying I felt a little sick. I thought it might be “female problems.” My husband and stepson looked mildly puzzled, then shrugged and went to finish the stir-fry, high heat quickly reviving the scent of garlic and ginger. I was miserable. Every few minutes, I found myself needing to pace as the discomfort intensified until finally I was too drained of energy and the cramping was too strong. I huddled on the cool floor of the bathroom, closeted like some woodland animal whose only urge is to retreat to privacy and safety. I was beginning to suspect what was going on, but knew no one could give me back what I was losing at that point.
Between the contractions I would doze, until finally a couple of hours later the worst of the pain passed and I held an odd-looking palm-sized bundle in my hand, covered in fingerlike projections—a perfect little placenta.
Surprise: after years of trying, I had been pregnant.
Not knowing how to grieve publicly for something that had been wholly private, I wrapped the placenta, which was all I had, in silk and tears and placed it in a gray marble box carved with curving swirls, heavy for its size.
On my dresser, I had two tiny marble elephants. Their bodies were open with lace-like carving protecting a baby elephant inside each. One had been broken on a trip back from India years before. I placed the whole one in the box with my “baby,” keeping the broken one for myself, and buried it all alone.
A week later, there was nothing to show for my pregnancy except for the memory of what I’d held in my hand. Amazing how something that shredded my heart remained so invisible to everyone around me.
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