Tuesday, October 14, 2014


When the nurses in the delivery ward of a hospital receive word that a patient is incoming with a stillborn, an entirely different set of procedures are put in place. The first thing you notice, if you've been previously admitted for a regular birth, is the lack of urgency. AT ALL. There are no monitors, no one scurries in to make you comfortable or begins an endless series of tests. There is simply silence. The door opens periodically. A nurse who just began her shift who hasn't been told, or a chaplain who offers solace and Last Rites for the child who never had any to begin with.

When you ask the doctor about the C-section that must be forthcoming (because who would expect a woman to deliver a dead baby, surely you must just cut it out and end the nightmare quickly) you are informed that that is a very dangerous thing to do and the best way is to just let the fetus expel itself. "Let the fetus expel itself" is not mentioned in the baby books or at BabiesRUs when you are shopping for onesies.

So you get a shot of pitocin and wait alone until the cramps come. Cramps so wrenching, you may as well be having the baby. Or dying. A gunshot doesn't feel worse than this pain.You get the shot and endure. Endure is a good word for this. Flip through the channels waiting for your husband to come back after he drops the three year-old off at Nana's. The three year-old is excited to have a baby brother or sister. You aren't sure which. You'd asked to not be told so everyone could be surprised. Life has so few real surprises anymore, you had thought. What an idiot.

He arrives right when the insides of your body have begun churning and clenching. The doctor comes in and asks if you want the epidural. Can it be administered to my heart and brain? No? Fine. Get it over with. Just get it all over with.
Instead of the birth certificate people showing up, the people from the funeral home come and volunteer to inter your child however you would like. For free, even, as long as you select the basic design, just like a checking account. You are not a plain with address-type so you pick one that looks like a beautiful Indian hand-grenade. A cremated baby takes very little space and you don't live near a family cemetery. It seems appropriate.

When it is time and the contractions aren't stopping, the doctor and nurse come in with a tray and a pink bucket. The kind they might toss a tumor into during surgery. Your baby. The one you carried and talked to and loved and had hopes and dreams for is going in a pink plastic tub like it is a piece of useless trash.

That is when you want to die and you close your eyes and talk to your 3 year-old in your brain and tell him Mommy is going to be home really soon and you're sorry he's not a big brother and you talk to God and tell him he's a fucking asshole and you hate him forever because of this and when the baby finally comes you can't even look, let alone hold it.
If either of those things happen, you will go a kind of crazy that there is no coming back from.

They take your girl away. Yes. It was a daughter. Your husband, for all his faults and inadequacies, had the balls to see her and kiss her and be with her and you don't. You failed. YOU FAILED.

You will not be able to look at or touch a baby for the next four years without having to excuse yourself to go shriek silently in an alone place or hyperventilate.

You know that there are women walking around everywhere who this has happened to and no one ever talks about it. You are not one of those women.


The phone rang at 4:45 am, jerking the sheriff out of his dream and into the tiny den off of the kitchen that he'd been sleeping in ever since Pam died. He couldn't bring himself to sell the house. It was full of the memories of everything good that had happened in the last 20 years. He also couldn't stand the idea of laying in the bed they had shared,or getting rid of it, so every night he climbed into the tiny twin that he had bought for the nurses and home workers, and twisted the ring on his left hand around and around until he fell asleep.

His first thought at the sound of the ring was to let it go. If it was an emergency, Dwayne or Myrna would start calling on the radio and if it was anyone else, well, it was his day off.


Whoever it was had better be bleeding.


Meadowbrook was a bit of a misnomer.
There was no meadow to speak of, just a few chicken and dairy farms covering about two square miles in the corner of Hopkins County. As far as anyone could remember, there had never been anything so much as resembling a brook, although Glover Rayburn swore there was a trout pond there once that got hit by lightening in '66. "Biggest fish-fry you ever set your eyes on", he'd tell anyone who asked.

The police department had two employees, including the sheriff. The dispatcher was the deputy's wife who came in at night to bring him dinner and keep him company while they watched Golden Girls reruns on TV Land. During the day, the calls were routed through Wood County since they usually had a grand total of four cars driving around at any given time.

When Wichita Foster opened the manila folder Garland had left on his desk and took a look at the girl they had brought in the night before, he was surprised to see a pair of clear blue eyes and the pretty face of a girl who looked to be the same age as his daughter.

The surprise wasn't that she was attractive. It was her expression. There was not a hint of sadness in her face. Not a mean pull at the corners of her mouth, no squint or glare. None of the usual hardness or anger he was used to finding on the faces of these young women who turn so violent.

He wasn't sure where he stood on genetics vs. environment but he was sure this girl had come from a good

He'd have been half right. Esper Parker was a drunk, but he was a friendly one who worked hard to feed those kids and keep a roof over their heads after their daddy drowned.