When I was pregnant with triplets my husband affectionately called me “Big Mama” a term of endearment in his mind… his nice way of saying I’m not really sure what to make of the complete loss of your figure so let’s just laugh about it, in mine.
Soon after the birth of our triplets and the loss of my “Big Mama” status and the shattering days that followed, my eldest daughter came to visit us in the hospital. She was coming to see her brother and her two sisters because, after all, that is what her mom had given birth to, the siblings who should be waiting for her when she arrived.
We decided that I should tell her.
I tried to sit as tall as my fresh c-section scar would allow so as to absorb the weight of her pain, the looming conversation so unbelievably wrong.
As much as I did not want to talk, as much as I wanted to crumble into a useless heap of grief in my hospital bed, in that same way that a mother is never allowed to call off sick, I was unable to call off devastated.
I was at the center of my worst nightmare. I didn’t remember this chapter in my book on expecting multiples, if it was there I flipped passed it of course, because that would never happen to me.
I told my sweet daughter, through choked back tears and blood shot eyes, that when we made our trip down to the NICU, there would be one less sister there waiting for her.
When I explained the unexplainable to the best of my abilities and my impending tears began, I held her as much as she would let me while reality filled her heart, trying to weather her pain in any way I could.
Twelve year-olds should not know that babies die.
Somehow, this awful conversation, this shared pain and unimagined grief, united my husband and his step-daughter in a new way. He recognized a fragment of our loss mirrored in this adolescent piece of his family and reached out to her. The misery of conversation slowly came to an end and, as he helped us both out the hospital room door, my husband gestured for my hand, looked at me as if my tear-stained face and deflated body were an attractive new style and, in as suave of a voice as he could muster, raised an eyebrow,
“What’s your name?” he asked.
I squeezed his strong hand and held my fragile daughter’s.
“They call me Big Mama.” I answered, my lips testing out a smile.
And the three of us laughed together, through voices raw with pain,
because she needed to know we still could.
This piece was written in response to the prompt “A piece, no more than 600 words that should take no longer than 3 minutes to read aloud. One character MUST tell a joke and a character MUST cry. One character can do both.”
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