There is a tree in my backyard. It is like no other tree.
The garden seemed to bleed with me. Everything surrounding me, everything I touched became red with oozing blood. A strange sympathy shown by the very same nature that ripped me apart.
We women are used to blood, we become used to it from an early age, so it isn’t so bad, is it? It isn’t so bad being rooted.
But this was bad. This was really bad.
I was already a mother of three when it all started in innocence. We were the most normal family around. We had had our ups and downs. My husband worked hard to keep us floating and being a mother of three is a full time job for me, most of the time. In fact I was lucky if I got any sleep at all the first few years.
He had approached the subject carefully. Thinking I would be against it. I wasn’t, but I knew that my body wasn’t young anymore. It’s one thing having three children at the age of twenty-something or thirty-something. It’s an entirely different thing to have one at the delicate age of forty-something. I knew this, but I was naive enough to think that mother nature would be kind and that if she wasn’t then at least modern medicine would be able to fix it.
I was the Lizard Queen, I could do anything.
What was the harm in trying?
There were other concerns, of course. Would we be able to keep up the energy to follow a toddler around again? You can say you have a certain routine, having had three already, but the truth is that they are all different and it doesn’t get any easier.
You were always so calm and collected. Always so certain in your solitude. Always so peaceful.
If only they knew.
The first few weeks of pregnancy were easy. The next few weeks were harder. That’s when it all started. It all started with a small red dot in white panties. That innocent looking little dot.
Blood, it’s the life-giver.
The red dot thing had happened before, but when you’re pregnant the blood suddenly represents something horrible. It represents something much worse than Freddy Kruger or Jason. It represents something much more sinister and unspeakable.
The doctors said it wasn’t uncommon to bleed. The nurses said to wait it out. It would get easier, but each blood stain became a minor nervous breakdown, conjuring up anxiety the size of a mountain in a chest that was the size of an ant. Everything about pregnancy is strange, and out of proportions, and that’s when it works well.
When it doesn’t? It’s just absurd. The horrors of hell can’t be worse.
My body was suddenly not mine anymore and all I could do was wait. I, who don’t have the patience to wait for a bus, was supposed to just sit and wait for this.
Impatience is a child jumping up and down waiting, that agonising minute, for the promised lollipop.
This was something else entirely.
It was in January. The darkness of winter upon us like a bad dream. The kids were all sleeping, thankfully, and I felt the blood starting to ooze.
I had heard it hurt a lot. I had heard some things, but not too much. People aren’t willing to talk about this. This is the subject that just keeps people shy, they walk away, not even trying to make up excuses. They don’t want to know, because the loss is too big and the agony in your voice is too loud. And if they’ve experienced it themselves, and chances are they have, then the sores don’t scab, they are always semi-open, the blood still red, still trickling down your legs.
I had started wearing dark underwear to hide the stains. I wished I could buy dark pads, so I didn’t have to see the red stains as I threw the pads, one after the other, into the trash bin. My mood was low, seesawing between hopeful and hopeless, always anxious, unable to sleep.
Then the ultrasound. Realising that the look on the doctors face is bad, she isn’t going to give you good news. My husband not there because there was another panic playing itself out at home. A normal panic, that still needed attention from a grown-up, however much he wanted to be there with you.
And there I was, alone with this little life, that wasn’t alive.
The look on the doctors face as she realised that something was wrong. The tears, stuck in my tear canals, unable to seep out. Unlike the blood that just kept on trickling down as if that’s how you cry for such things.
“We’ll wait until after the weekend,” she said.
The snow on the way home. Feigning smiles. Feigning life. I was the Great Pretender.
Sitting on the couch as the tap slowly pulled itself out.
And that’s when the blood started oozing.
I stood in the tub, thinking this can’t be right, this can’t be good. Putting a towel between my legs, but it became wet with blood, in no time.
Pushing another towel between your legs, pushing hard and telling your husband and the children that you’re going to the hospital, smiling stiffly, wondering if they can see the strange look on your face and the pouch between your legs, you remind yourself of a kangaroo, but you walk like a penguin.
“I’ll be back later,” I told them. Like it was no big deal.
Driving to the women’s emergency room. Because they have to keep that separated from everything else. Because life happens there, and one of the worst forms of death too. The look in the caretakers eyes sympathetic. The words echoing sadness and condolences.
“It happens to a lot of women,” they say. And you wonder why all those other women don’t look like they have scars the size of mountains on their faces. The feeling of the Niagara falls having just plumaged out of your womb.
And you saw the clump. It fell in the toilet and you wondered if you should pull it up. Put it in paper and do something with it.
Bury it. Like proper people are buried.
Except this wasn’t yet a proper person. Only in your mind, and in your husbands mind. And you wonder what he must be feeling at home, pretending that everything is alright. The youngest still too young, you don’t want them to experience this too – not this. In fact you don’t really want to share this with anyone at all, but him. And that’s when you realise you are slowly becoming one of the crowd. One of those many experienced women.
And somehow you manage. Somehow the next day comes and then the next and you are still alive but it isn’t. It’s gone and your body reacts like it’s supposed to. It closes up and your mind tries to explain the unexplainable. Tries to make you focus on different things.
So you worry. You worry about everything from heaven to earth, just so you don’t have to think about it. I realized only afterwards that the mechanism the mind uses to try to help is sometimes faulty. It sometimes breaks down.
Hours and hours of worrying turn into hours and hours of trying to feel better. Walking in the forest, telling yourself that if you just make it to the evening everything will be fine. Trying to tell yourself that you’re not about to die.
You survived and it’s not like you were in a war… so many women go through this, those words echoing through your mind, again and again. And you wonder how they coped. How their minds reacted to the sadness and to the insane bodily panic.
And somehow you manage to feel like you again. I became a person again. You became I again. I could laugh with my children again. I could spend a day with them without feeling the utter sheer shriek of panic upon me. I could laugh and play and the days turned into happiness again and everything was fine.
And sure, we can try again. People do that. It’s what people do. It’ll be better this time.
The slow snow of winter chilling you down. The darkness of the first days of the year humbling you. The shrieks of new life echoing through your body again. Except this time it goes wrong almost right away.
Painlessly, almost bloodlessly it just slips away and vanishes into the toilet. The faces of the doctors this time not as kind, more accusingly they tell you again that this happens, especially at your age and you find your heart shrinking.
The blood oozes out of you, more emotionally this time and you vanish into the backyard. You go there to make it stop. You sit in the snow and let the roots sprite under your feet. You feel them burrowing into the frozen ground. Feel the earth engulfing them. You feel your feet break out of the pants and then grow together into a giant stem. Your body becomes longer, stretching out towards the sky, still oozing blood. And then your hands and fingers turn to branches, the head becomes stale and stiff, the agony still written on it, carved into it. Your hair turns into small branches too – stretching towards the dark night sky. Everything bloody and red and oozing and you realize you will never stop bleeding. It will continue forever and the agony will always be inside your chest along with these lives that never were.
It can’t be spoken. It can’t be told. This story. It can’t be told right. So you do it the wrong way. Or not at all.
It can’t be told. And nobody wants to hear it anyway. Because who can deal with other people’s silent shrieking pain? Reminding them of their own.
And then summer comes and the tree stands there tall, bloody and red. Its leaves are bigger than they should be, the branches stretching up into the heavens with a longing you’ve never seen before. It’s red hue a bit disconcerting, but it puts a nice spin on the backyard.
And the children are happy. They are, and you settle down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a pen in your hand. And you realize, like you have so many times before, that there is no way to tell this story. There isn’t enough fake blood in Hollywood for it, there aren’t enough painful words in your, or anyone else’s, vocabulary.
And you find yourself thinking different thoughts. As if something in you has changed with the experience. Or something old has suddenly come back to you. You are nineteen again. Except you have that Niagara Fall’s scar in you, on you, written all around you. And you wish things you never wished before. Hope things you never hoped before.
And you become an I, again. And the giant scar you carry may change you, but it makes you wiser, you see the scar in other people, you see the way they try to hide it, just like you hide yours.
The tree stands tall and bright red. A reminder. And the agony stays with it. And though you find yourself inside it, screaming, from time to time, still feeling the roots shooting into the cold soil, you have mostly separated yourself from it.
You are an I again. And you better enjoy it while it lasts.
I better enjoy it while it lasts.
I am the Lizard Queen, I can do anything.