A seagull over the Pacific Ocean
A seagull over the Pacific Ocean (Miranda Hernandez)

I walked into the hospital on the morning on my 41st week of pregnancy, feeling achy and anxious, but never dreaming — it’s still hard to say the words.

I walked into the hospital thinking about the appointment scheduled for the following day, the appointment where we had agreed to talk about being induced. I walked in thinking about the best way to transfer the results of this “routine” testing to my midwives, who worked across town. I walked in thinking about trivialities, and I was blindsided. Nobody tells you that stillbirth is a possibility. I still remember, even while screaming, that I was thinking about the three other women in that testing room, and how I must have been their shocking introduction to the fact that babies die.

And sometimes, when I really need to cry and just can’t get there, I think back to that morning. I think back to that moment — after the nurse had left because she wasn’t allowed to tell me, after the doctor came in so quickly and finally said the words — I think back to that moment when I’m lying on the exam bed, and it all becomes so real. And I see this moment, not from inside, but from out — I am looking down on myself from a distance. I am surrounded and also alone. And the word that I screamed was, “No.”

I have never been afraid of my tears, even in public. I cried when I paused at a kiosk in the mall, and I ran my fingers over an elephant ornament I decided I wanted, even though I don’t put up a tree. There is no shame in finding, on a random Tuesday, that your tide is overflowing, that you’re drowning while still breathing.

Sometimes tears are armor. For a while, I tried to donate my milk. I never made it very far; it’s so much harder than I knew. But the first day I went in to the bank, clutching my insulated bag of translucent bottles, and the coordinator asked for the age of my child, my tears were my protection. I only had to turn my face, and I didn’t have to say anything; she instantly knew.

When leaving my last job, I had to give a speech. And it was important to me, then, to acknowledge what that organization had been to me. It was important to address the enormity of the support I had received, the way that they had bolstered me. And I wonder still if I went too deep, if people were made uncomfortable by my words, but I will never regret my tears.

I have a lot of trouble settling into my new world today. So many things are perfect here (too perfect, maybe?). So many things are easier. I have the freedom I craved to just — be. I spend a lot of time walking and exploring and staring at the waves. I spend a lot of time writing. I am nearly always writing. I have beauty and support and all these things I’ve needed, and something still is always missing. Not just my son, that constant aching, but also my tears. I need and I miss and I love my tears.

And on those days, when I miss him so much that my presence is aching, I think back to that morning, to that day when he and my innocence and I all died. I think back to that morning, and I think of those screams, and that is what allows me to cry. I always want to cry.