On July 19, 2007, I’m on the South Carolina coast, a place I’ve known for 29 summers. It’s possible I’m doing one of the following: sitting in a beach chair, a book in my lap and a beer bottle in hand; balancing on the prow of my father’s boat, my toes dangling in the water as we navigate the tricky creeks of an inlet once inhabited by pirates; talking on a screened porch with a family friend; or tossing a Frisbee with my husband on the beach. These sound like damned fine things, don’t they? They are.
What’s more likely, that day, is that I’m alone with my dog, the only creature I can stand to be around this summer for longer than an hour at a time. I’m throwing her bright orange dummy out beyond the breakers as hard as I can, watching her fling her glistening black body into the waves to retrieve it over and over again. Or, even more likely, I’m running with her to the south end of the island where beach gives way to the sharky mouth of the inlet. Letting the sun, already brutal by 8 a.m., beat back any feeling save physical exhaustion.
In my journal from this week there is one entry. It is written at a flourishing, but near-to-illegible slant. I am drunk.
At this point in my life I write in my journal almost daily. So it’s suspect to discover that in addition to the inebriated entry, I haven’t written once in the more than two months prior. Not even about my little sister’s wedding, which happened only weeks before: an event I should’ve chronicled in detail. The discrepancy in these dates side by side, and the gaping hole between—at left, May 7, 2007 and at right, July 19, 2007—startles. The May 7 entry begins, “Today is hopefully my last miscarriage appointment.” The July 19 entry begins, “I am not drunk, just a bit tipsy. But I am highly cognizant.”
I miscarry the first week of May, at six weeks along. I have not been pregnant before, and although I’ve been married for a few years, it is unexpected. I choose not to have a D&C: a procedure many women do after a miscarriage (dilation and curettage, to clear the uterine lining). Other than taking pain medication, I want to heal naturally. Because of this, I bleed, slow and erratic, for weeks. My sister is married on June 7th. In July, we go to the beach.
For weeks after the miscarriage, I tell myself it is for the best. I don’t feel I’ve lost a life, but instead, the promise of one. I study medical diagrams and see a tiny tadpole with stubby limbs and holes where eyes will be. I feel doubly afraid: of not wanting and of wanting a baby at the same time. Afraid of feeling everything and nothing.
I don’t write because a decade ago I am 29, and I believe that pain and discomfort are to be bested by willful amnesia and a good attitude. This is how I’ve been trained to deal with the hard stuff: smile, never let them see you cry, and most important, never complain. Flash blue eyes and a wide, white grin. Make everyone comfortable. Cast everyone in your glow.
I cry once that week, on July 19. My father’s best friend, a man I think of as a second father, catches me in the hallway of the beach house. He puts a gentle hand on my shoulder and says, “I’m sorry you lost your baby.”
Katherine Scott Crawford is a college English teacher, newspaper columnist, and author of the historical novel Keowee Valley. Her writing has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, South Loop Review, The Santa Fe Writer’s Project, and in newspapers across the country and abroad, including U.S.A. Today, The Detroit Free Press and the Herald Scotland. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her family.
Katherine would like you to know more about The Cindy Platt Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County, whose mission is to enable young people, especially those who need them most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. Katherine also suggests you take a look at The Pisgah Conservancy, an organization that provides much-needed funding to preserve the natural and scenic beauty of the more than 25,000 acres of the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Visit www.bgctransylvania.org and www.pisgahconservancy.org.