Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: AMAZING (04/19/18)
TITLE: Baby Shrapnel
By kate mackereth
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The worst day of our lives had come.
Normally a good soldier knows how to prepare for battle and a good wife won’t stop him. I’ve been deployed so many times we know the drill.
I will check my kit meticulously and if something isn’t right, I’ll fix it. Lisa will fix my favourite meal. She knows ration packs make me homesick.
I’ll train harder and faster. She’ll hold me closer and longer.
I’ll put my old boots out the front so it looks like she’s not alone. She’ll leave a light on.
I’ll instruct with Army precision how best to mow the lawn. Lisa will pretend to listen. She’ll do it her way.
I’ll wonder if I’ve forgotten anything. Lisa would have already sent a care package for my arrival.
We’ll joke on the way to the airport.
‘Don’t let the dog sleep in our bed.’
‘Don’t annoy me when you get back.’
Knowing smiles play tug of war between us.
Then there’ll be silence. I’ll take in the smell of her perfume. Lisa won’t let a tear fall till I’m gone.
I don’t make any promises of my return and she won’t ask me to be careful. We both know life is bigger than the bubble we’ve created.
When I return home I’ll realise I forgot just how super sexy she is. She’ll tell me the look on my face is annoying her already.
But today I find myself unprepared.
I march her bags to the car this time. She’s already crying. We don’t joke on the way to the hospital.
I say the same prayer I’ve said for nine months.
‘Give us a miracle Lord. Do something amazing.’
The nurses get ready and everything’s so clinical. I didn’t expect that to bother me so much.
I hold Lisa’s hand and she screams out in pain. I can’t protect her, can’t shield her.
It’s a girl.
I feel like a bayonet has just ripped my insides apart. I’m open and exposed. It hurts.
Lisa wraps her like a jewel, pressing her to her chest. I stare at the ruby hair she got from her mother, a stubborn statement that she belonged to us, no matter what.
The nurse doesn’t ask what we will name her. She doesn’t congratulate my wife. She just pulls the curtain closed around us.
Because our baby girl has been born without a brain.
‘Ivy.’ Lisa says it anyway. She traces Ivy’s perfect lips with her finger then her piggy nose. I hold her tiny hand while my heart completely unravels. Her booties are too big.
I’m a soldier undone.
We give her permission to try. We give her permission to fail, permission to be known, loved and missed.
Ivy snuggles into my wife. It’s the first and last cuddle they’ll have together. Lisa smiles both pain and delight at once and I see the warrior woman she truly is.
The doctors told us to abort. It was kinder they said.
‘If it’s God’s will she lives, she lives. If it’s God’s will she doesn’t, others will live because of her. Either way there’s life.’
I had my doubts. Carrying a baby to donate its organs might help other families, but how long would I be picking the shrapnel from my wife’s heart? How could I willingly lead her into battle where the odds were against her, where her only medals would be stretch marks?
But now I’m watching mother and daughter clinging to each other and I know I could not have denied them this moment.
The nurse returns to take Ivy’s vitals.
‘Not long now,’ she whispers.
The pink in Ivy’s cheeks is already turning grey.
‘I’m so sorry we didn’t get our miracle sweetheart.’ I say it like I could have fought harder, wrestled with God longer.
‘This is our miracle.’ Lisa passes Ivy to me. Her bunny blanket is soft against my calloused hands. ‘We get to be her parents. She gets to be our child, even if only for a moment.’
And suddenly I realise how much it cost God to love me. I see His stubbornness, refusing to give me up. I see myself in His arms. I see Him claiming me as His.
We say goodbye to our baby Ivy with kisses and songs.
The nurse returns and mutters something about how sorry she is, how terrible and how tragic it is.
‘It is.’ I say. ‘But it’s also amazing.’
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