Old Eggs

It was a Tuesday. I remember the walk across the car park and back to my car, the slow drip of blood between my legs.

I remember squeezing my pelvis, as if by this simple movement of my body I could hold on, hold onto my little Horatio.
Horatio, I said under my breath. Horatio, hold the bridge.

The doctor had told me it was too soon to know.
It’s not unusual to bleed in these first few weeks, she said.
It might not spell the inevitable.
The inevitable, she said, was not inevitable, though to hold my grief, or to help me to focus on something else, some greater grief perhaps, she offered her own story:
How she, at forty-two years, had stopped IVF, and finally made the decision to accept her fate.
‘You already have three children,’ she said.
‘Think on it. Even if the inevitable happens, you have something to fall back on.’

And I was thrown back in time.

A ten-year-old girl, I stood beside my mother in the front garden of our house.
The geraniums had wilted under the summer heat, and my mother picked at them carelessly.
She plucked off the dead ones and threw them away.

Mrs Bruyn from up the street stopped at our fence.
‘I was sorry to hear about your baby,’ she said, and my mother’s eyes filled with tears.
‘But you still you have your other children,’ Mrs Bruyn said. ‘They must be a comfort to you.’
My mother nodded and Mrs Bruyn walked away. I watched her floral dress billow in the breeze. I heard the clip clop of her heels on the concrete path.
Mrs Bruyn also came from Holland, the land of babies, my mother told me, the land where people wanted big families, but there was no room.

Mrs Bruyn had room for babies but she had not made any.
It was not her fault. My mother told me, something to do with her eggs.
Eggs, I thought, like chicken eggs, eggs that sit under the warmth of a hen for days and then one day crack open and out pops a chicken.

I thought again of my own eggs. Old eggs, the doctor told me.
‘You must not leave it too late to have your babies. Once you reach forty, your chances halve.’

But I had waited too long for this last one, as she had waited too long for her first. Our eggs were old.
The lottery of pregnancy, the doctor said. The later you leave it the less chance of success.

I did not tell my mother about my miscarriage.
She did not tell me of her still born until later, years later when we could share our grief.

My mother had another miscarriage, years before I was born, she told me. She had lost the baby in the toilet, like a penny doll. She could see its arms and legs, its little eyes.

Horatio did not hold the bridge. Ten weeks into the world and he was gone.

No matter what we do we cannot save them, these lost babies.
My husband has white lumpy bits on both his ankles. That’s where the babies were attached in utero, he tells me, or so his mother once told him.
All the dead babies that he managed to out live, as if his life cost theirs.

And Mrs Bruyn who lived up the street had wished my mother well.

The dead ones do not count as long as there are lives to take their place.
Even in Australia, where we have plenty of room, there is not room for everyone.

Someone has to go.