Healing Ourselves: A Formal Feeling
B. Gleed

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S he didnít smile and she didnít look at me when she opened the door to the beige examination room where MJ and I were waiting. It was then I knew it wasnít good news. You canít miss good news on a face. A face thatís got good news to tell you lights up like dawn, its eyes uplifted and ready to meet yours.

Bad news looks at its own shoes, and the doctor just couldnít quite make eye contact when she first opened the door. Thud. Thatís how Iíve always felt when a doctor doesnít look at me like that. I sank in my chair and reached for MJís hand because I knew that hers would be seeking mine as soon as the doctor said what I was now sure she had to say. We had just come over from the hospital where MJ had just undergone a strangely silent ultrasound.

Fear confirmed is an odd thing. Emily Dickinson had it right when she wrote, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes--". A certain discreet propriety surrounds the open wound and scabs it so fast the whole organism can survive, and only that little bit that you invested dies. I guess I feel like that now. Then, what is left but a mass of cells to be removed in a quick painless procedure?

Itís a pretty common thing, as common things go, for two people to have an unsuccessful pregnancy. The funny thing is, I donít know what to do. Iím not sure what to feel and I donít know whatís expected of me. MJ is at work today, and she carries on, and I am amazed. I am sitting here at a loss for words.

I was not aware I was looking so forward to playing with my two sons. I think he would have been a boy, although everyone I told about our pregnancy, men and women both, said he would have been a girl. Harrison would have been his name, and he would have looked up to his big brother. He could have been tailback to Willís ground-pounding fullback when we played the Patriots-are-losing-at-half-time game, each of us grimacing and rolling in laughter, after the balloon that served as our ball as we blocked and tackled our way across the living room rug. I wasnít aware that I was looking forward to that quite so much, and now that I realize I was, Iím a little surprised. I donít know what to say to people.

Men arenít expected to be very involved in pregnancies anyway. I always said that "we" were pregnant. It was comical to watch the looks cross many womenís faces when I would say that. I would feel a little insulted. It was as if they said to me, "Yeah right, youíre pregnant." Like they all think I wasnít there for the back aches and the swollen ankles the first time we were pregnant, or for the surprise and delight of feeling our baby kick as he stretched for room; Like they believed I had no connection to our baby until he was running over me on the living room rug. But I was with MJ when she had her first ultrasound and I heard for the first time my sonís heart beating, and I was with her again the other day when the ultrasound told us the heart of our new baby was not beating any longer. Now, here I am.

I was going to say that women need to give men more credit for understanding what it means to carry a life in your body, but maybe I wonít. I donít know what it means to contain a life, but I do know what it means to bring a new life into this world. "The baby is growing in all our bellies!" was how Will chose to look at what almost came to pass in our family, but I need to claim this for myself. Every man needs to claim this for himself. We were pregnant, and now weíre not. I was there at the beginning, and I was there at the end.

Maybe men can know and understand many things about women, and maybe women can know what it is to be a man, too, but if I donít know what it means to carry life inside my body, I do know what it means to carry that life in my daydreams, and in my consciousness, and in my heart. Any man would want the credit for that.

B.Gleed lives in New Hampshire, where he teaches at New Hampshire College, Franklin Pierce College, and Hesser College. He holds a Master's Degree in Writing, poetry option, from the University of New Hampshire, where he studied with the poet Charles Simic. He is a Contributing Editor of Maelstrom, a magazine of poetry, art, short fiction and humor. He has been a correspondent for The Rockingham County Newspaper. His poetry has appeared in Kettle of Fish, and Maelstrom. His work has appeared internationally in many small press magazines, anthologies and web forums. His poetry has been accepted to appear in Isosceles.

email B. Gleed at:

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