By Brandy Vaughn
Several years ago, a one-night rendezvous over the Thanksgiving break with a man from church I had only recently started dating led to a surprise pregnancy two weeks before Christmas. At the time, I was a single mom trying to make ends meet while going through a challenging divorce, and this “present” came at the wrong time. Still, I longed for another child, which—due to a number of recent miscarriages—lately had come to seem more and more unlikely. So I felt blessed despite my current circumstances. I wanted this baby and knew this pregnancy would be my last.
I told my two daughters—who were 10 and 15 at the time—and they were both very supportive and promised to help with the baby. Our excitement grew. We picked out names and wondered what the baby would be like, look like. Would I have a boy or a girl? They crowded around my belly and asked to hear the heartbeat. They asked to plan a baby shower. The father of this new child, however, was not as happy as we were about it, but he offered his financial support just the same.
I woke up one Sunday morning several weeks into my pregnancy and knew something was wrong. The nausea and morning sickness that had plagued me at all hours of the day since the start of my pregnancy ceased altogether. It was replaced by an all too familiar uneasiness. I left for church in what felt like slow motion, expecting the worst. During service I excused myself and headed for the bathroom. There, inside a locked stall, my heart dropped. The shock of red blood on my underwear. Denial crept in. Everything would be fine, I told myself. A little bleeding was just due to stress from a quarrel with the father from the night before. I went back to my seat, thinking—praying—it would go away. It did not. The next time I went to the bathroom and checked there was more blood. Dear God.
The emergency room doctor told me it was normal to have spotting during the first trimester of pregnancy. I bluntly counted for the doctor the number of times I’d been pregnant versus the number of children I actually had. This wasn’t my first rodeo, cowboy.
I was sent home, praying that bed rest would stop the bleeding. Prevent the inevitable. I bargained with God, pleaded my case, begged for the life of this child.
The bleeding didn’t stop.
My friend drove me to a different hospital emergency room the next day. I listened to the ultrasound with my breath held, waited to hear that beloved heartbeat, which I had heard only the night before. Silence saturated the room. The tech could not confirm what I already knew. They ran more tests. Checked my blood. The two of us waited. Then the doctor came in and delivered the verdict: there was no longer life beating inside me. The doctor offered his condolences and sent me home. I was told to follow up if I had not miscarried within a week. My friend called our pastor and shared the tragic news. The pastor then called the father, who said he was glad and did not care.
I laid up on the couch for a week. There was severe pain and cramping. When my loss finally happened, I was alone on the tiled bathroom floor. Tears gushed as I stared at the life that had been in my belly just moments before. I called the hospital and asked what I should do. The nurse on the phone offered no words of sympathy, or acknowledged my broken heart, but simply told me to flush the “pregnancy” down the toilet; they had no use for it. Shock. Disbelief. I could not breathe. I became hysterical. There was simply no way I could go through with flushing what I considered to be my child down the toilet.
“We arrived at the pastor’s house, and I was deeply disappointed by what I saw. The yard, the barn, and the oak tree were all there, just as I dreamt; however, I didn’t see the grass covered with little white flowers.”
I remembered reading somewhere about a woman who had miscarried and found a way to heal herself emotionally by naming her baby and holding a funeral. I wanted that. So, my friend called our pastor for me and asked if we could hold a small funeral for my baby.
As my friend drove me out to our pastor’s house, I fell asleep. I dreamed of a backyard with a red barn off to the side, a huge oak tree, and underneath that, a big grassy area filled with little white flowers. The dream was so vivid and real that when I woke from my nap, I thought it had already happened. I knew deep in my heart: this was the place my baby would be laid to rest.
We arrived at the pastor’s house, and I was deeply disappointed by what I saw. The yard, the barn, and the oak tree were all there, just as I dreamt; however, I didn’t see the grass covered with little white flowers. I thought for sure they would be there. I sat on the pastor’s couch and cried. I was so filled with grief. My soul like wet cement. That was when their cat—who usually didn’t like anyone―climbed up into my lap. She licked my tears and rubbed her face to mine, a soft, grey fur purring against my closed eyelids. It was like this cat knew my heartache, understood it. And I felt her comfort.
Later the three of us walked into the backyard to dig the small grave. The pastor went to the exact tree and spot in my dream. But, still, no little white flowers. As the shovel struck the muddy grass, my knees buckled. I went home where I cried myself to sleep.
That May, a church picnic was held at the pastor's house. I was nervous to attend because I knew I would be confronted with the pain of a loss still fresh. When I drove up the gravel driveway, the grassy area where we buried my baby not that long ago came into view. I climbed out of the car and just stared. Little white flowers had bloomed all over one section of grass under the oak tree. Just there, nowhere else on the three acres of farmland. I asked the pastor’s wife about the flowers.
“It’s weird. They weren’t there the year before and only grew in that one spot,” she said.
I didn’t think it was weird at all. It was the scene from my dream. And I had this extraordinary sense that this was meant to happen. I didn’t need to know why or how. I didn’t need to question. Just to know that it was. Just that. Seeing those flowers brought healing, an inner strength, restored me down to the deepest parts of my soul. I would no longer blame myself for the miscarriage. I would be okay. I picked one of those little white flowers with tears of joy. I hung my new symbol of peace from the rear-view mirror, so I would be reminded that the universe had heard me and knew my pain.
Brandy Vaughn is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.