Thursday, October 15, 2009

Untitled by Monika Konski

© copyright SUC English Literature 2009

“Once upon a time…” Sophie read aloud as she rocked back and forward in the old battered rocking chair overlooking her young daughter’s bed. The cliché was immediately recognisable: greatly overused and indicative of a story which is likely to be, in all honesty little more than the confected relation of a moral lesson. As she read through the children’s fairytale, laden with confected realism and a cliché in almost every sentence, another cliché came to Sophie’s mind: the claim that “everything happens for a reason”. But how, after what she had been through, could it ever be remotely possible that things happen for some higher beneficial reason.

Images flashed through her mind’s eye: crisp white sheets, bright iridescent lights, soft pink skin, a heartbeat, numerous tubes and beeping machines, giving readings that neither Sophie nor her fiancé, a corporate lawyer in his mid-twenties, could find any meaning in.

“What’s wrong mum?” And it was gone. The sound of her daughter’s cautious voice had broken through Sophie’s brief moment of reverie. In her daze, Sophie chose not to answer the question in her daughter’s vivid blue eyes, continuing to read the bedtime story. Her thoughts drifted to another pair of bright blue eyes – but the memories were still too raw. She remembered the pain like it was yesterday and not twelve years ago; the pain that made her feel like her heart was being ripped out of her body. The knowledge that this wondrous being who had been a part of her for so long would never again be a physical presence in her life threatened to send Sophie down a steep spiral into the darkness that was all too familiar to her. The confusion at her mother’s sudden lack of composure during such a trivial task as reading a bedtime story was still evident in that piercing gaze, a gaze which belonged more to a twenty year old woman than a six year old child.

Sophie, having finished reading the story, was gently extricating herself from the rocking chair, hoping to quietly leave the room without disturbing her daughter, who had fallen asleep. But as she reached the door, her daughter’s voice, drowsy with sleep, called out to her. “I wish I had a big brother, like the girl in the story – to look after me.” Sophie gently closed the door and as she did so, whispered quietly to herself “You do.”

It was late and her husband had called her to join him in their master bedroom. Sophie obliged, climbing under the warm blankets into their comfortable bed; his strong, comforting arms wrapping around her as he fell asleep.

Sophie lay there tracing the patterns of her blanket, her thoughts far away from the childlike star embellishments her fingers were following. Her mind drifted back to the day, thirteen years ago, when she had discovered she was expecting a child with her fiancé. She recalled the excitement and joy she felt as she carried the child in her womb; the hopes for the future; the sudden jolt as she felt the pressure of its first movements. Sophie remembered with fondness her husband’s smile, the exuberant glow in his eyes when the ultrasound technician told them that she was carrying his son. He was going to be the spitting image of his father; successful and ambitious. She smiled as she recalled her fiancé’s voice, joking that “he’ll have my looks and your brains”.

They were living their own fairytale, awaiting the arrival of their son, but they soon realised that fairytales cannot last forever. He was born three months early; his lungs did not work on their own, his beautiful blue eyes could not see any of the world around him. Sophie realised that there was little wonder in the world of respirators and monitors, yet she still yearned to hold her son’s tiny body in her arms, so that there might be a moment of recognition between him and his parents who love him dearly. “There is still hope” the doctor said as he checked the numerous neonatal monitors and recording data onto his charts. Sophie and her fiancé clung to this glimmer of hope, praying with every fibre of their being that their beautiful son would have the strength to pull through this enormous challenge in his tiny precious life.

Sophie vaguely remembered hearing someone say that “life is like a rose”. Her recognition of the truth in this statement changed somewhat after the loss of her child. Life is like a rose. It is beautiful to look at, but with thorns of difficulty, heartache and unimaginable suffering which are generally overlooked. Those metaphorical thorns in an individual’s life impact on the growth of their inner self, these experiences shape the person they become.

It was a moment that she would never forget. No words she could find would ever be sufficient to explain the feelings of desolation, the absolute terror, the chill that reverberated through her whole body as she looked down at her unmoving child. His listless blue eyes gazing into the distance; his tiny precious body still connected to the tubes which had supported his short earthly life. It was a moment that Sophie did not want to remember, but willed with her whole heart not to forget. For this was the only time that she would be able to see her child.

As Sophie lay in her warm bed, an uncharacteristic cold shiver traveled down her spine. Sophie shuddered as an enormous wave of remorse washed over her, as she tried to recall if something she had done during her pregnancy could have contributed to the early onset of labour, which she willed herself to believe had cost her son his life. The familiar torrent of unexplainable guilt came in currents of “what if’s”: what if she had taken more time off work to allow her body to care for her son properly? What if she had led a healthier lifestyle, with a better diet so he would not have wanted to leave her body so soon? What if it was her fault, that her body was not good enough, or strong enough, or she was not worthy enough to carry her son to full term? What if his death was a punishment for something in her past, that made her unworthy of being a mother? But her anxieties seized as, in that very moment, she felt the connection with her son’s spirit that added reassurance to her heart – she is in fact his mother, an earthly mother to her own precious Angel, whose life was too beautiful for this earth.

Though fairytales cannot last forever, memories remain. Memories and love. So when this new child was born into the world, Sophie appreciated it so much more, but in the back of her mind she always yearned to hold that one child, for whom she would forever mourn. She wished that she would have the strength to tell her daughter that her big brother is the brightest shining star in the sky; the Angel sibling who will forever brighten and protect the path ahead of her. But the time would come.

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