This month of blossoms and birthdays is finally over. As Raahi’s birth month, it brings new leaves to trees, and slaps me hard every day. Inside out. Upside down. It pricks me hollow, and it makes me weep, bleed, go white with numbness as pink cherry blossoms and lavender crabapple flowers erupt around me. People greet me in flowing dresses and tresses, their light feet floating on petal-ridden sidewalks, their smiles lingering at corners even as they turn, like seasons. Winter lingers in the mellow sun, its softness scorching my eyes, April showing me the permanence of life. April showing me the mockery of life.
For us, garbed in our fool’s costume, April brings showers, flowers, pricks, and tricks. Starting with a fool’s day, April is indeed the cruelest month (thank you, Mr. Eliot, Sir). It laughs at us, smiting us with its scents, scorning us with its soothing hues. Us, parents of fallen petals, blown blossoms, lost babies. Us, who felt one with nature in being pregnant, and believed that we would be fortunate to give birth to, and raise, a living baby. At us, April gapes its toothless mouth, and grins widely. April Fool!
We’re all fools.
The women in my cardio class huddle in a circle as D walks in with her pregnant belly. She is like a Greek goddess, her muscular limbs easily carrying the weight of the world. The instructor – who birthed the last of her seven children straight out of the studio – smiles meaningfully at the group, dissipating now into neatly drawn parallel lines. After forty never-ending minutes of cutting open my lungs, the class ends, and D saunters away, smiling abstractedly.
The group huddles again, now confident of their unobstructed congregation. The instructor whispers about a baby shower, a gift card, about surprising D, since her family lives in a different country. Everyone chirps, promising to chip in, exchanging emails, plans, contraptions. I smile my own abstract smile.
Later that day, I get the email. It reeks of faith, brimming with the phantom assurance of life. It bursts with so much complacence that it does not even need to mention words like hope or promise. D’s baby is due in three weeks. Let’s shower her with our love, our support, let’s come together as a community … I smirk. That vitriolic smirk that can drown a season out. The baby is not here yet, you bumbling FOOLS – I scream at the screen. There is no guarantee she will be. There is no guarantee that D will not be returning the love and the support to stores, and shutting this damned community out in three weeks. I grit my teeth.
I write a polite email to the sender that I would rather wait for the baby to arrive before getting something for her. I choose my words carefully, lest they belie my truth, and they see me as the harbinger of ill omen I somehow feel comfortable being, and yet become too self-conscious to enact.
I wish her well. And I don’t give a damn that I don’t know what that means anymore. Life can play the prank of death at any time. Life itself is a bloody long April Fool’s Day.
I should not even get D something after the baby arrives. Raahi died two days before she turned three months old. There are expiry dates on gift receipts. Not on actual expiration.
The only constant in life in change. The only certainty in life is death. Such profundity. Such weight. Saccharine words churned from the collective wisdom of humankind, where death is a rounded period at the end of a linear life. A linearity that can only speak of certainty, like it is the fluffy new foliage on spring trees. It will come, rest assured. Rest in peace, life, for death will certainly come.
What about the hole that the round period cuts out from life? What when change means a complete uprooting, even of the idea of change? What when death comes before life, and life continues, like a monstrous mockery, long after death? Does the albatross still make the wind blow when its wings are shut tight in a dead weight against the mariner’s neck (Oh hi there, Mr. Coleridge. See, I haven’t forgotten the Romantics. I still love how romantically forlorn you all are.)?
Was the mariner tricked into bringing the albatross too close to himself? Was the mariner tricked into believing the bird would only sail the ship in the right direction?
Was the mariner the fool? Or was he himself fooled?
The shock of this trick is something I have not been able to overcome in six years. That I fell for the trap. I have heard from babyloss parents how the loss of their baby in an otherwise uneventful life, at the end of an uncomplicated pregnancy was like being hit in the face by a bolt of lightning. I get that shock that jolts you out of the naivete. I understand how ridiculous it must be, when you don’t know the “other,” and suddenly the “other” becomes you.
What I don’t get is how I fell for this prank. I had had a rough childhood, trouble conceiving, one complicated, and one very complicated pregnancy. My baby needed surgeries. She stayed in the hospital for ten weeks. Nothing went as per plan; we never experienced any of her best-case scenarios. Always one, or two, steps away from the worst. I should have given up hope. I should have prepared for disaster. I did not. The doctors told us it was nothing to be worried about. I should not have believed them. I did.
I know. The rational part of me knows, that they were right in assuring us. Raahi was stable. She had a “benign” condition. It was a matter of time before all would be well.
It is the instinctual serpent crawling just under the undisturbed surface of awareness that hisses impatiently. I should not have trusted them. I knew better. I should not have trusted life. I should not even have trusted the certainty of death.
I should have known the lull of complacence. I should have known how the destination in sight can become a narcotic, a shield, a blanket of security. I should have seen through it. That the mirage was tricking me into letting my guard down.
And then I was blindsided.
Now a baby. Now no baby. Now a new life. Now the forever death. Now you’re smart. Now, you’re not.
Was I the fool? Or was I fooled?
Do you feel tricked into believing all was okay before hell broke loose? Were you the fool? Or were you fooled? How do you react to these social tropes after your loss?