At the hospital, we were given a room, told to wait. As I walked the room, bending forward over furniture with the cramping, Anneke told me I was handling the pain very well. D was on the phone, trying to reach our doula Bregitta, leaving messages.

It seemed like we were waiting forever.

Finally the doctor and nurses arrived wheeling in the ultrasound equipment. I have a habit with horror movies, a strategy to deal with the suspense, the scariest parts: it’s never what’s on the screen that really scares me. It’s the sound. I put my hands over my ears and block out the soundtrack and the screams. Then somehow I can handle the images in front of me, free to look away, safe. They turned on the monitor, covered my belly in cold gel, applied the wand, and I covered my ears over with my hands, hard. Harder than D’s hand on my shoulder. I looked at their faces, not at the screen. They stared for a long while, speaking Lowland sentences I wouldn’t have understood anyway, their faces even and serious. It was so obvious.

Finally they turned from the screen and I saw they were through, and I had to come up for air, I had to hear. I’m sorry. Your baby is dead. The doctor looked at me firmly, holding my gaze with her eyes. I could hear D sobbing, the sound somewhere above me.

She looked back at the screen. She told us that she could see that the head was bloated with fluid, that our child had been dead for some time, probably days. Her appearance would be altered, we might not want to see her; they would let us know, after.

It’s a girl, she said with a kind of downward sigh, not how we imagined that line being delivered. It was so hard to hear that. A girl was who we imagined, dreamed of and named, despite ourselves.

It was so hard to hear it was our girl, gone.

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