Chance

I plopped down on the baby blue folding chair cushioned with a 1980's burgundy pillow with missing fringe. My hand reached for a computer mouse and shook it left, then right, turning on the large computer screen that sat in front of me. This morning I had planned to write about the mundane of everyday life. I wanted to see where the mundane took me. I picked up my iPod and turned it on. I prefer listening to music as I write.

Morning sunlight streamed through the window next to me and landed on three vintage cameras on the sill. The window framed Mount St. Helens in the background, and the click boxes looked like they were in waiting to capture the image of the volcano. One of the cameras was a Bull’s-Eye Brownie with a flash affixed to a cheap plastic body. Every time I looked at the Bull’s-Eye Brownie, it seemed to wave at me. The remnants of orange clove wax melted into a glass container next to the camera and no longer scented the room.


I continued to tap, tap my fingertips on the small boxes found on my panel of keys. A Buddhist prayer bracelet with wood beads, or malas, filled the sill space between two of my three vintage cameras. I can't remember the language engraved on the beads. Once I scoured through Google, but I never found my answer. I kept meaning to ask my oldest son Bryce about the meaning of the beads. He had purchased the bracelet for me when he lived in Korea.


The lyrics of Ed Sheeran's “Small Bump” blared in my ears. I thought, Sheeran is a writer; he understands the craft of writing. Last night my husband and I watched the music video for “Small Bump.” Sheeran had a friend who miscarried, and the video was about her unborn child. During the video, my husband drew his face close to mine. He said, “That’s like Chance.” I smiled.


Chance was our stillborn son. On October sixteenth in the year 1996, I entered the hospital with labor contractions. I was thirty-six and a half weeks and even though I was delivering a few weeks early, I expected to come home with a new baby boy. Instead, the nurse placed a doppler on my stomach to monitor the fetal heart rate and said, "I can't find the baby's heartbeat. I'm sure it is because he is in the birth canal." Moments after our son's birth, an emergency code was called, and hospital personnel filled our room. My husband and I tried to process the situation as staff surrounded our black and blue son.


The hospital photos were complimentary. We held our baby who was wrapped in a free hospital blanket as the photographer arranged me and my husband. It felt wrong—photographing us with our dead son. I resented the moment. Later that night a nurse entered my room.

 

She said, “If you want to cry, or just talk, I’m here for you.” I thanked her and stayed silent.

 

Days later I was sent home with a large white zippered bag that held a knitted pair of booties, a hospital birth certificate with a stamp by his foot, and photos of my deceased child. In the pictures, he wore a baby blue beanie hat that matched his booties. It had a puff ball sewn on the top, and it covered his dark, matted hair.


At the funeral home, one of the funeral directors told me he was impressed by how composed I was after the death of my son. He said, “My wife would have been a basket-case.” He meant it as a compliment. All I had was guilt. I could not cry.

 

I thought, Is there something wrong with me? Why can't I grieve? 


Three months passed before I allowed myself to acknowledge sorrow. In the middle of winter, I traveled to Utah to visit my parents. It was amongst the snow-covered mountains of a small town with a population less than one thousand where I found my tears. I poured my grief into the lukewarm water of my mother's oversized, clawfoot tub while candles flickered shadowed images on the walls. Sorrow had no timeline.


My wireless mouse blinked on and off. A warning flashed in the right-hand corner of my computer: “Mouse batteries are low.” I was annoyed. I needed to go outside. I placed my iPod headphones in my ears and strolled out the door. The lyrics to a song blared and a twenty-something, redheaded musician from the UK sung about the loss of a friend's baby. I played the song over and over again and remembered my son Chance on my mundane walk.

 

Ingrid McQuivey is a freelance writer and cultural photographer who is based in the Pacific Northwest. She is passionate about travel, connecting with new people, hiking the Pacific Northwest, and culture. You can connect with her here and see more of her work here