I couldn’t see anything.
I was driving home from work on a perfectly clear day, on the brief stretch of highway that connected the city where I worked with the city where I lived. Normally, after coming over a slight hill, you could see straight ahead for a couple of miles – and in turn see all the businesses pressed against the sides of the road, patiently but eagerly pleading for attention. I passed these businesses every day, and knew several of them well. They were landmarks, of sorts – they helped me figure how far I was from home.
But this day I couldn’t see any of them.
A few weeks before this day, I had pulled off this same stretch of highway and into a gas station to wait out a rainstorm. It had come on suddenly, and as I passed over that slight hill I realized that I couldn’t see a few feet in front of me – let alone miles. The brightly-lit exterior of the gas station became a north star for me as I maneuvered off the road and into the parking lot. When the rain finally slowed down, I went home.
But today wasn’t overcast and the lights of those businesses huddled together along the side of the road didn’t stand out at all from the sunshine. Nonetheless, I somehow managed to make out a stop light. A few turns later I parked in the Walmart parking lot and tried to catch my breath, which proved difficult to do between cries of agony. I was broken. Completely, totally shattered. A part of me had been ripped away and my soul had been bleeding out – for years. I called a friend, and told her I just didn’t know what to do about my miscarriage.
It took her a moment to realize that I meant the one I had in high school, some years prior.
“You’re still thinking about that?” She sounded sincere, if a little confused. I had mentioned my miscarriage to her maybe one time, right after it happened, only so much as to report that I had had one, since we had only just discussed my pregnancy.
“Yes,” I answered. “I never stop thinking about it.”
It was quiet as I sat shaking in my car, sputtering snot and tears through strained breaths. An entire world seemed to fall apart around me; a façade I had created, an illusion for myself in which this had never happened, even though it was constantly in the back of my mind. For years I had woken up late on days I’d been able to sleep in, only to resent the absence of the sounds of little feet accompanied by a little voice waking me much earlier. I’d attended family functions and felt the sharp absence of another soul. I’d spent hours of late nights on websites geared toward “predicting what your baby will look like,” plugging in younger photos of myself and photos of the would-be father I had taken from his Facebook page. But beyond that, there was The Real World – the world where I lived and worked and had never, ever been seen as a mother.
From the other side of the rubble of my fairy land, my friend’s voice broke a terrible silence:
“Give her a name.”
It was something I had never thought of. I had only ever known the absence of a child – I’d never considered the presence of one. To give her a name would make her “real,” a slightly more tangible concept than the grief I had labored so long to push down. I had never thought of baby names before, but without much thought and a great deal of nervousness, with a name I carried my baby from the darkness of my own denial into my life. I named her Adrian Josephine, for St. Joseph, and asked the Blessed Mother to hold her for me, to raise her for me, to tell her I love her. I couldn’t ignore her anymore. Everything had changed.
It has been years since I left that Walmart parking lot, but I still carry with me the renewed longing born in my heart that day. I am always aware of her absence, and the hope of meeting my little girl in heaven one day sometimes presents itself as bitter pangs of grief. But I know that she is with Mary, and even though I can’t see that far ahead of me, one day I will see – and I’ll be able to go home to Adrian.