I could see a McDonald’s down the street as we sat at the red light. “I want a chocolate milkshake. Can we stop?”
The husband’s hands tightened on the wheel. “Why?”
Because I want a milkshake? Because I worked ten hours today? Because I’m seven months pregnant? Because…because? Rather than say anything, I shrugged.
“We’re going to eat at the party. You can’t wait?”
I shook my head.
He sighed deeply and turned into the McDonald’s drive thru. I could tell he wasn’t happy. As if his body language was not enough, he practically threw the milkshake at me when the cashier handed it to him.
I wondered how he would treat our son when he asked for things. I wondered if he would be different. Kinder.
It was New Year’s Eve. Our last year childless. We wished at midnight for good things, for ourselves, for our son. For good health. At least I did. I don’t know what the husband wished for. I never asked.
Our first year childless.
I ordered a white box online; I thought it big enough for all his things. The website promised the box would come in just two days time—plenty of time before the funeral. I had it engraved with his name and the day he died. Saying his birthday felt weird to me then, though it’s something I do now to make others feel comfortable. But then, it was the day he died.
I suppose I can say it’s both.
Sitting in the waiting room of the OB the week after, I was surrounded by a bunch of expectant moms and their husbands and I wanted to stab myself in the eye. I had dreaded the moment I’d have to come back here, tried to come up with ways to get out of it. But it was necessary, I’d been told. To care for myself, after. The receptionist had called me two days prior: “I notice you have an after care appointment scheduled. Would you like to cancel your 39 week appointment then?”
“Yes. Yes I would.”
“How’s the little one?”
I wondered why she’d even ask that. Though I suppose it’s a natural response. But I still sat quietly in the waiting room that day. I stared at my lap, my hands folded and my thumbs tapping against each other. I didn’t want anyone to ask. I didn’t want to have to answer, to say the same thing I’d said that day on the phone.
I didn’t wish hard enough.
Childless is a weird term. To have no children. To be without a child. To have never had children. To have once had children but not anymore. It can be used in so many different ways. There are many things a person can wish for, but this isn’t one of them.
When you fill out forms and they ask if you have children, there is only yes or no. There’s no line that says “I had a child who died.” No line to acknowledge a life that is gone. And when that happens and you have no other children, you are childless. For a long time, I left that line blank on forms. At the doctor. At work. Taxes. I never figured out how to say “I had a child and now he’s dead.” I still haven’t. I wish I could.
I never will.