These stairs and I have a tense relationship. It’s not my fault. Sometimes these things just happen.
We used to see each other all the time, outside the Women’s Center. Three pregnancies in four years, I got to know them well. We met when I was too impatient to wait for the elevator. Please don’t ask a pregnant lady to wait for one more thing. Soon, I could travel them by muscle memory, and chose them even when I couldn’t see my feet.
From the top of the parking garage, I’d descend them on my way to doctors’ offices and childbirth classes, an awkward spiral, all knees and elbows. They led me to my promised land — the sacred place where I learned to count in weeks instead of months, how to clean a freshly knotted bellybutton, and that women really do have babies every day.
Worn smooth, steady and predictable, this passageway delivered comfort in the midst of constant change. These stairs were my place of winding and unwinding, rushing and waiting, giving in and toughing out.
I’d enter in, tune out the chaos and barrel down on the reason for my visit. Down I’d go. Right-Left. Dot-Dash. Lub-Dub. Lub-Dub. Lub-Dub. The letter “A” in Morse code. The walls would echo back in complete agreement with the heartbeat of my feet.
I’d choose the stairs for my return climb too, spirits soaring from the excitement of being one step closer to my due date. Dash-Dash, Dash-Dash, taking two at a time. I’d grab the rail and push away the pain. You’re almost there. Don’t forget to breathe. On the best days, black and white ultrasound pictures streamed from my hand, a banner raised high.
And on it went with each visit. Down and Up. Wind and unwind.
Even Stephen. Or Stella. Time would tell.
I always chose the stairs.
Until one day, I didn’t.
When something is ripped from your woman’s center can you even focus on the step right before you?
The ultrasound revealed no heartbeat, no growth. The bundle I carried out the door babbled of steps to recovery and stages of grief, my film strip left on the cutting room floor. I fled the place of life and death and broken wings and Please Excuse Our Dust.
They say my angel baby flew to heaven.
Angels don’t need to take the stairs.
I shuffled blindly to the parking garage, weighed down by the I’m So Sorry’s, and snubbed my trusted stairs. The elevator doors closed in around me. That felt wrong too. Elevators are for mommies with babies in strollers.
This was my red button emergency.
I was raised against my will. The doors parted and I recoiled, gasped for air. I stepped out, turned my head and let the sun begin to dry my tears.
I never got to say goodbye.
*Inspiration sparked by the Monday writing prompts so generously provided by Amber Haines of www.therunamuck.com.