Tiny handprints. Tiny footprints.
I stare down at the tiny cutouts sitting at the nurse’s station that I glue onto the official documentation. Handprints that are too tiny.
The last eight hours whirl through my mind.
Hushed introductions. Quiet voices. Apologies for no faults committed. A teardrop on the labor white board.
Many phone calls. Social work. The preacher. Anesthesia so she doesn’t feel the labor pains.
Hushed voices. Little pushes now. Whispering comfort in a language I don’t understand but I know what is being said. Holding tight to her husband. Holding tight to me. Holding tight back my tears.
It’s not my turn to cry.
Tiny hands. Tiny feet. Too tiny.
They don’t want to see. Too painful. He doesn’t have a name. He can have a name if you want. Buried in her husband’s arms, I see a small shake of her head. No.
The nurses gather up keepsakes. Take pictures. A lock of sandy blond hair. The parents don’t want the box now, but they might someday. The box is filed away on a cabinet with a dozen others. Maybe someday the hurt won’t be so raw. We save them all, the nurse explains to me. She sighs deeply. She’s assembled lots of boxes. I place the lid over my first one. Maybe someday.
I sit at the nurse’s station. Numb. Quiet. Still speaking in hushed tones. Almost time to go home.
I get in my car. Sit in a haze of exhaustion, seemingly anesthetized against my heart. Stare out the windshield. I’m inside a shell.
The drive is a blur. Fall into a dreamless sleep, too tired to feel it all. The rest of the world turns on. Lights up. My world keeps moving as if normal. This is my new normal. All the grief, all the joy only on the inside.
Inside a shell that is brimming to the top threatening to overflow.
My first day. His first and last.