By: Bella Baxter
I once had a baby growing deep inside me, floating in my galaxy of organs and liquids. A little human, beating out the tune of the universe with its tiny heart. I am reasonably sure it was a boy. A son. He would be seven now. My son never took a breath in this world, and although I never speak about it, my house is full of candles burning quietly for him.
The morning I found out I was pregnant, I woke from a dream where I was pushing a baby out of my body. I remember absently watching as my vagina was split neatly in two by a dark haired head. When I was fully awake, I laughed to myself. As if I would be pregnant. I was a student with a boyfriend I didn’t love, and a rented room in a ramshackle share house. Pregnancy was something that happened to women, and I was still a girl. I had a swollen stomach and tender breasts but with all the wisdom of a 22 year old, I began to suspect I might be lactose intolerant.
It was my mother who broke the delusion, “Go and see the Doctor.” I walked to the sexual health clinic slowly while munching on salty crackers. In the waiting room I clenched and released my pelvic floor muscles to distract me from my bulging bladder. The doctor laughed when she pulled the stick out from my cup of urine.“You’re definitely pregnant!” All I could think was no. No. No. No. And then after a few minutes had passed, I felt a gentle, sudden, yes. I went home and researched how big my baby was, and all the things that were developing on his body. I placed my hand low on my stomach, creating warmth for him. I thought of names I liked such as River, and Archer, and Byron. Then, before I had time to think all the thoughts in my head, I was empty again. A tomb on two legs.
My soul swung low with grief; I was an open and sore human shaped wound. Women I knew repeatedly told me how common it was, as if its regularity made it more digestible. Did they not realize I saw babies everywhere? Each place my eyes landed there was a grubby hand hanging out of a pram, a red face squished into a short brimmed sun hat. Hurried, tired mothers with tiny lords strapped to their chests, padded feet dangling. My landscape was suddenly laden with babies. For a very long time the only relief I felt, came from two fantasy scenarios I had carefully and meticulously constructed. The first scenario was that he was safe and chubby after being recycled into another woman’s belly. He would have been born into a loving, clean home to wealthy, middle-aged parents. I imagined his mother would be brunette and married. She would sit on a Danish sofa and burp him. He would have a sensible name like Simon. Or Thomas.
The other scenario I occupied myself with, was that as soon as he left me, my ancestors in the afterlife had gathered together to welcome him. I pictured hundreds of arms reaching for him as he was passed from one cupped hand to another. Him as a tiny, pink bean, being loved on my behalf. The trouble with this fantasy however, was that I would begin to fret that we may all actually collide in the afterlife, and I worried that all the apologies I had for him would get stuck to my tongue. What if I couldn’t find the courage to say, that after a lifetime without him, he was all I ever missed.
I am not a person who weeps and moans. I am stoic and pragmatic I ignored anyone who looked at me with tender eyes. I broke up with my boyfriend and cut off all my hair. I moved house and began gardening. I bought pots, and potting mix, fruit laden plants and neon coloured packets of seeds. I bought netting to protect the trees from birds, and sticks to guide the vines up, and out. I invested in shade cloth and fertilizer. I switched from ceramic pots to plastic, and then back again. I would check the weather forecast, and on more than one occasion, I dragged all the pot plants inside for respite from the pummeling winds. I would tease out the roots of tiny seedlings and gently place them into finger holes in the soil. I fervently watered and pruned, surrounding myself with healthy and strong plants whose roots were buried deep in the earth. I created a living homage to him. I’m looking at it now. The winged banana palm, the incorrigible mint, the sheer amount of rampant citrus. It’s all there. Reaching up to the sky, growing for him.