I have only written about my miscarriage once. It came out in a rush and I have never been able to write about it again. If you’ve read my book The Paper House, you have also read the only words I’ve ever used to recall what happened.
I was about twelve weeks along. At the time, I was working at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Laverton, west of Melbourne. My security clearance hadn’t come through yet. Every day, a man I hardly knew had to escort me to the bathroom and wait outside the door while I checked on the progress of my spontaneous abortion, a paperwork term for an indescribable pain.
It’s blurry now. I used to know the exact date it happened as though it were stitched into my aorta but, all these years later, I have to go to Facebook and look it up. On the 15th of November 2008 I wrote:
Anna Spargo-Ryan lost someone very small and special today
(Underneath, someone has commented: Not one of the cats?!)
For a long time afterwards, I drove around with a pair of tiny socks in the centre console of my car. They were not in their original packaging; I had washed and folded them again, giving the illusion they had been worn. When the fists of grief pummelled me, I took them out. I sniffed them. I unrolled them and put them on my fingers to imagine them in action. And when it had passed, I put them back in the console for next time. Eventually they just smelled like my own stale tears and I realised I couldn’t make them become an infant, however strongly I willed it. I don’t know where they are now. In landfill, more than likely.
I took the matter I had from the pregnancy — did the hospital give it to me? did I fish it out of my friend’s toilet? — and buried it in secret under a new tree in the garden I had lost in my divorce. I knew that tree would grow tall. On a low twig I hung a plastic Christmas ornament shaped like an angel. I let myself imagine the organic matter that had been my pregnancy would nourish the tree. I sat next to the tree and cried. I touched the ornament like it was a baby. When my ex-husband moved out, I took the ornament and put it in a box that’s somewhere in my house but I don’t know precisely where.
I keep a small bag of baby stuff in the wardrobe in my bedroom. There’s a grey knit jacket with big wooden buttons and a taupe two-piece with striped feet. There’s a cheap cotton onesie with ‘I’m one in a million’ embroidered on the front. It’s all wrapped in an expensive woollen blanket, pink-striped, which I bought from a flashy boutique after I knew I would miscarry. It cost all the money I had — several hundred dollars. An exorbitant amount for a baby blanket. But that felt like the right thing to do, to give this collection of cells everything, since I would never give it anything more.
In the beginning, I took out the blanket every few days and wept into it, but I couldn’t tell you exactly where it is now.
I suppose this is how loss goes.