They say that if one does not plow, there will be no harvest.
I have sown all my life—seeds that others have given me to plant.
But I am afraid of the reaping.
Chandler paced in the stark waiting room. Occasionally a nurse or two would come out, leave, and go back in, avoiding his gaze the whole time. One had taken a metal cart with her, filled with shiny instruments that Chandler didn’t want to look at. He had only seen Ella for a moment before she had gone unconscious. They said everything had been going okay, and then they had found a complication. They hadn’t said more than that.
It felt like an eternity had passed. Certainly the worst two hours of his life. He couldn’t stop checking the clock, and every tiny noise in the hallways made him jump. Apparently they did a good job soundproofing these rooms, because he had tried and hadn’t heard a thing from Ella’s room. He had tried meditation, keeping his mind blank, but it was all he could do to not bang down the door. He just wanted to know.
Finally the door opened slowly and a young looking doctor came out—the same one that had run into the room two hours earlier and told him to wait outside. An even younger nurse followed him with what looked like dirty bedclothes in her arms. She left immediately, but the doctor stood there, watching him.
Chandler shivered. There was blood on the doctor’s scrubs. His expression was unreadable.
“She’s going to be all right,” the doctor said softly.
Chandler rushed the door but the doctor stepped in front of him. “We should let the mother recover before you see her. It was a… delicate procedure. It will take some time.”
“What did you do?”
The doctor took a step back, concern on his face. “We did what was necessary, Mr. Wang. We encountered some complications. Fetal distress. And she was bleeding profusely.” He gave Chandler a pointed look. “We saved her life.”
“We were forced to perform an emergency c-section. I am glad to say that she is going to recover just fine.” He paused. His face contorted into an expression that Chandler didn’t understand. “Would you sit down?” he said carefully.
Chandler’s face went cold. He sat, not taking his eyes off the doctor. “What happened?” he repeated. The words were hard to get out.
The doctor stayed standing awkwardly. His eyes wouldn’t leave the floor. “Things… happen sometimes,” he said, “that are hard to accept. They can be difficult to explain.”
Chandler’s throat constricted.
“The procedure became… complicated. Even the best of physicians cannot always plan for what happens. Sometimes, we have to make choices. We made the choice we felt you would have made, Mr. Wang.”
“Just say it,” Chandler said quietly. His teeth were clenched and his fists balled up.
The doctor faltered. “We did everything we could. I am afraid that to save her life, we weren’t able to save the child’s.”
A moan escaped Chandler’s lips. He dropped his head in his hands to mask the burning tears that were threatening to fall down his face. Minutes passed. Maybe hours. He heard the doctor sit next to him.
“You did everything you could?” he said through his hands. His voice sounded too loud, too harsh, echoing down the white halls.
“Everything,” the doctor said quietly.
Chandler nodded slowly. “Okay,” he whispered. He paused. The pressure in his chest built and his throat was constricting. “What was it?”
The doctor’s voice sounded muffled. Chandler’s ears were ringing. “It was a boy. 8 pounds, 4 ounces. Full head of dark hair. Blue eyes.”
The tears came. Chandler gulped in air, trying to control himself, but then he heard the doctor’s footsteps leave his side and he gave up trying. He sobbed, shaking, not even attempting to hold back the tears. Anyone would have been horrified at his reaction. But Ella would have told him to get it all out, to feel what he really felt.
A boy. His boy.
Ella… what was going to happen to them?
Chandler’s mind started reeling. There was too much here, too much in his chest, pumping and building and exploding in little bursts inside him.
What happened to his son? Where was he? What did he look like? Would they have a funeral? Would they have any other children? What would they do on this day every year? What would Ella do when she found out?
He paused. He lifted his head from his hands and wiped the tears away. He realized he was being selfish. He hadn’t even seen her yet. She was going to be in pain, and upset, and probably feel the gaping hole that had just torn through his own chest. They needed to be together right now. He looked at the door to her room and steeled himself. He would be strong now. He knew now that he had been selfish.
He had always been selfish.
The room was quiet except for the beeping of a machine by Ella’s bed. Everyone had gone. Outside, the traffic lights shot wavy patterns on the walls. The curtains were a gauzy white. Everything was white.
Ella was covered in a blanket, sleeping, a needle still stuck in her hand. Chandler looked around in the dim light at the equipment, the IV drip, the machines. He sat on the edge of her bed and took her hand softly. She didn’t move.
“Ella,” he whispered. She didn’t stir. He glanced around, then at her face. She was truly lovely. “Ella, something happened to us today. Something… unspeakable.” He blinked as the tears started again. “We were both so excited for this. We thought it was going to be the start of our new life together. We were going to be really great parents. You were going to be the best mom there’s ever been.”
She moved a little but her eyes didn’t open. He rubbed her hand.
“I used to have this dream about you, you and our baby. It was always really bright, and you were in a field somewhere. You were laughing with this little kid, he was maybe three, and every time you would move birds would fly up from the grass all around you. Remember that dove we saw last year? It’s stupid to remember, but I remember. It was just like that. Hundreds of white birds, and they would disappear in the sun, and you would just laugh and laugh….”
His voice was shaking so he stopped and swallowed. “Ella,” he said. “We aren’t taking our baby home. We lost him.” His voice broke. “He went to heaven. He’ll be back…” he paused. He didn’t really believe in reincarnation, or really even in an afterlife. But it was better than the alternative. “He’ll come back to us. We just have to be patient.” The tears were coming fast now. “He’ll come back….”
Chandler stopped. He couldn’t do this and he knew it wasn’t helping. He lay his head next to hers and wrapped his body around her. She smelled like Chanel. He couldn’t help but laugh quietly, blubbering here like an idiot. She had bought that perfume six months ago and refused to wear it until they had gone to the hospital. She called it her baby perfume. She wanted the first thing that baby smelled to be sweet.
Chandler ran a finger lightly through her hair. He wondered vaguely what would become of that perfume. It didn’t seem to matter very much. Nothing really did. He closed his eyes and rested against her sweet-smelling neck. He let the beeping lull him into something—a dark, blank space. It wasn’t sleep. Maybe it was what nothing felt like. He cherished it, because here the pain quieted down a little.
Ella’s hand twitched. Her eyes fluttered open.
“Chandler?” she murmured.
The tears started again. He couldn’t help it. “Hey, baby,” he said quietly.
She turned her head to him, a sleepy smile on her face. “I just had the weirdest dream,” she said. “There were all these white—“she paused when she saw the tears on his face. She looked around, as if she had forgotten where she was. Her forehead crinkled.
“What happened?” she said. “I don’t… I don’t remember… did we have the baby? Did they—”
Chandler choked. “We…” he suddenly didn’t have any words. “No,” he just whispered. He hugged her tight around the shoulders.
She looked down at her belly. Her face went blank.
“I hurt,” she said simply.
Chandler was shaking. “They had to do a c-section,” he said. Where was the speech he had planned? Where were the comforting words?
Her face went hard. She had no expression. “Where’s our baby?” she said.
“I don’t know,” Chandler said. “Gone.”
Her entire body went rigid. “We lost it?”
She chewed on her lip. Chandler started crying again. “Yes,” he said, burying his head in her neck.
She made a strange, muffled noise, kind of like a cat crying. She slowly pushed her head deeper into the pillow, staring at the ceiling. Tears fell down her cheeks, landing on Chandler’s forehead. They were warm but they stung like poison. He held onto her like a lifeboat. He suddenly realized how afraid he was of her leaving him. He swallowed hard and clung to her. She didn’t respond.
Her breathing started coming in shallower, louder gulps. Her chest heaved and shook. She turned to him with shining eyes and whispered, “Can we see it?”
“Him,” Chandler said. “He is a boy.”
“Was,” she corrected him. She didn’t even seem surprised. She turned back to study the ceiling while Chandler called in a nurse. They were silent until a woman came in wearing green scrubs.
“We’d like to see him,” Ella said quietly. “The baby we lost.”
The nurse nodded and they made arrangements for a wheelchair for Ella. Chandler felt as tense as he had ever been in his life. Every muscle in his body was starting to ache from being clenched for so long. They were led to the NICU, to a little clear plastic box where they could see him.
He was small. Smaller than Chandler had expected. His eyes were closed. He had thick, black hair. And his little fists were clenched. He was yellowish and splotchy. Chandler couldn’t look for more than a moment. He watched Ella instead.
She looked at the baby for a long time, her face blank, her mouth closed in a straight line. She ran a hand through her hair and caught onto Chandler’s hand. Her grip was like a vice, and her hand was shaking.
“He doesn’t even look like me,” she said.
She looked up to Chandler, who hadn’t been able to stop the tears this whole time. He rubbed her hand and said quickly, “He has your eyes. The doctor told me he had these beautiful blue eyes.”
Her eyes searched his, and he could finally feel her for the first time since she had woken up. Her lip quivered and her face was taut. Her eyes were wide and unblinking. She was trying to find an anchor in him. He tried to reach out in his mind, to tell her that he was there—that he would always, always be there. That she wasn’t alone. That they would still have a family.
But all he could do was hold her hand and cry.