In a room at the end of the maternity ward,
I find my puffy-eyed sister in bed.
She tells me she must wait until the "baby" is "ready."
The doctors have outlined how a C-section is too risky.
The OB/GYN claims this method allows the parents to get their minds around the
to process what is happening,
as though there were some circumstance in which
giving birth to a corpse would be acceptable.
They knock you out for wisdom teeth removal, but not for this.
This is barbaric.
There is nowhere to sit so
I perch quietly on the built-in metal cooling unit at the base of the window.
It is an uncomfortable seat, but how can I complain?
Nurses enter carrying various birthing items.
One pushes medical instruments on a tray, another pushes a baby
They speak softly. They do not rush.
They have done this before.
The doctor arrives.
She places my sister’s feet in stirrups which had been hiding inside the
My sister wears the fuzzy pink socks I gave her for Valentine’s Day last year.
My brother-in-law holds my sister’s hand.
She is instructed to push.
She is crying, from pain or grief, or maybe both.
Horrified in my makeshift ringside seat, I want the air vents to suck me in,
carry me away.
Yet, I am riveted to the scene before me.
With such preparations, part of me expects the child to be alive.
Instead, I watch them pull him out like a piece of rubber.
He does not move.
He is a mouth-open tiny corpse with closed eyes,
miniature hands, half-open, as if grasping something.
The doctor wipes off the gook, and wraps him gently.
“How does he look?” My sister peers at the bundle.
“Like he is sleeping,” a nurse says.
Except he isn’t, I want to scream.
“Is he all there?” my sister whispers.
“Yes. Everything has formed. Perfectly,” the doctor tells her.
Perfectly? What medical school teaches that dead babies are perfect?
Somehow I stay silent, frozen to my air conditioning unit.
My sister cries and gently touches her dead child’s hand.
Her husband starts to sob. It is more like a howl.
“Why? Why is he dead?”
There is no answer, only the desperate sound of my brother-in-law’s choking
and the hum of the motor on the air conditioning unit beneath me.
I feel the uncontrollable banging of my heart.
Even the doctors have no idea how to heal a soul.
* * * * *
Frances Lynch is an attorney and writer in Tucson, Arizona.