“This room is a little smaller but it’s the quietest. You’ll have some privacy here.” The nurse helped settle Amy into the bed. Meg was still in her arms; she hadn’t put her down since the delivery.
“Thank you,” I said, forcing my manners to the surface.
The nurse dimmed the lights to a low hum. The door hesitated a hush before closing itself behind her.
I watched Amy stroking Meg’s pale face again. It was the affected effort of a mother about to be separated from her child.
“Is it all right if I call my mom now?” I looked at Amy. With her eyes still fixed on Meg, she nodded yes. She hadn’t said a word in the last two hours.
I dialed the numbers. My phone kept beeping at my finger’s clumsy errors. Finally, the phone began to ring. My heart pounded louder with each trill.
“Kevin, is that you? Is she here?” Mom’s voice was ecstatic on the phone. Her naďve enthusiasm was inappropriate.
“Yes, Mom,” I said.
She’d been waiting weeks for a call. We’d been waiting weeks to make one, but not this one.
“Richard, Richard wake up. Kevin and Amy had the baby!”
Her nightgown muffled and rubbed against the receiver as she nudged Dad awake.
“Congratulations, Son,” my dad mumbled. It was 2:30 in the morning. I couldn’t blame him for his mediocre zeal.
“Oh, Kevin, I’m so happy for you. And Amy? Is she doing all right?” Mom’s voice bubbled.
“Yes, Mom, Amy is healthy. She’s holding Meg right now.” I looked over at my wife. Our daughter lay silent in her arms. This scene I imagined over and over, but not in these hues. Meg’s lips were so blue.
“Meg, what a lovely name,” she said.
“Mom,” my tone abrupt, “Mom, there’s something I need to tell you.”
I heard the bedside light click on. She caught the intonation. “Kevin, what is it? Is something wrong?”
“Mom, she… she didn’t make it. Meg was stillborn.” I couldn’t say dead. Dead would mean acknowledging our life existed without our daughter. It would mean acknowledging that we were going home empty-handed.
Amy pulled Meg close and began to rock again. She moaned in soft throbs with each beat of her wounded heart.
Mom’s voice caught. “Oh, Kevin.”
This caught Dad’s attention. “What happened? What’s wrong?” His voice crowded Mom’s. He was listening now.
“They don’t know yet. They’re not sure… She looks so perfect.”
Dad was shouting at the phone. “Kevin, we’re coming straight out. Are you at Memorial? We’re on our way, Son.” The springs squeaked as Dad got out of bed. I heard him dumping his keys and change back into his pant pockets.
It was too much, the idea of anyone disturbing our sacred space. Blood began to throb in my ears.
“Mom, stop Dad. We just… we just need to be alone right now. Please.”
“Of course, sweetheart,” she said, but she didn’t mean it. My words smacked against her cheek. “Dad and I will come by in the morning. We love you, and we’re praying for you both.” Her nose sounded stuffed, the receiver wet.
“I, we, love you, Mom. We just need a few hours, alone, with Meg.” My finger scratched the corner of the phone in rhythm with the rat-a-tat-tat-tat of my foot on the linoleum floor.
“Kevin,” she said in the same tone that comforted me after nightmares.
“Uh-huh,” my façade was crumbling fast. I took a deep breath, sounding like a crashed wave on the mouthpiece.
“God is with you, don’t let the silence fool you. I’ll see you in the morning.”
The phone chirped as she turned it off.
“What’d they say?” Amy didn’t take her eyes off Meg, but she spoke. We would grieve together.
“They’re coming in the morning, they love us, and God is in the silence or something like that.” I walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. The vinyl mattress crackled under my weight.
I put my arms around Amy, our baby between us. I strained to hear the noises that weren’t there. No newborn cries. No cooing mom. No jubilant congratulations.
Even so, God was with us, tethering us to life with monitored beeps, the rushing of water through pipes, and the rubber-soled footfalls that rose and fell outside our door. God kept us from falling into the silent abyss that night by giving us ambient noise.
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