I am at work on a Wednesday, writing an article about how arts organisations cope with chaos. I have spent my bus trip into the city making lists. I look up maternity dresses to wear to a friend's wedding in September and scour forums to find the narrowest brand of baby capsule. Archie will only be in a car seat for another year or two, I calculate. The baby will be born in early January, my first summer child. I imagine breastfeeding on the deck, the baby in just a nappy and singlet, chubby limbs flailing.
By midday, I am miscarrying. Some light spotting is normal, but this is not light spotting. I am cold, and shaking. I sit down at my desk, collect my phone and notebooks, spend far too long fumbling with the lid of my water bottle. The tears start as I walk down the three flights of stairs to the laneway, and they don’t stop for the next few hours.
I call a nearby medical centre and am seen immediately. The receptionist offers me a tissue and a Mentos, and ushers me through to sit on the high bed. It is warm, and smells faintly of Dettol and urine.
The nurse gently spreads the cool jelly across the curve of my stomach and moves the ultrasound wand in small circles. Tears are pooling in my ears; I am choking with the effort not to wail. She pulls a curtain shut and probes my insides. The screen is turned away and she explains that I was ten weeks pregnant, that the egg came from my left ovary and that I should have someone come and pick me up.
I cry on Elizabeth Street, leaning against a phone box, waiting for Lee take me home. He is pale, and holds my knee as he drives in silence.
Once home, I climb over the lip of the shower with my knees pressed. The blood makes dark rivulets down my legs before turning pink at my feet. I am one hundred years old, I am an infant. I want my mother.
Lee brings me chocolate and a sausage roll, and I watch Sister Wives and sob. The electric blanket is cranked up and I wrap myself in blankets and flannel, hugging my childhood teddy bear. The reality TV show about Mormon family with four wives and 18 children is my panacea. I began watching it as a distraction from the morning sickness of my first pregnancy, and seven seasons later the show has become a shorthand for rest, for switching off, for self care. In the episode I watch now, the eldest daughter of the first wife comes out as gay. The way her strictly religious family embraces her makes me bawl.
Lee leaves to pick up the boys from childcare, and my mum walks in the door just as he walks out. She climbs onto my bed and I lay my head down and sob. Neither of us has had a miscarriage before; we both fell pregnant within weeks of stopping contraception. This is uncharted territory for both of us.
The boys have spotted their nan’s car and we hear them shout, ‘NAN!’ as they scramble to take their gumboots off. Jed spots her on my bed and puts his hands over his mouth and throws his head back with fake laughter. They love my mum, these boys, and she loves them.
They climb up on the bed, all poky elbows and sandy hands. I explain that I have a sore tummy and Archie says, ‘Maybe you have a sore tummy because you are having a baby soon’ and my throat closes and the shivering begins again.
My inquisitive boy has overhead me telling my dad about the baby and became intrigued with the whole process of conception, pregnancy and birth. I tried to keep it age-appropriate but months of ‘HOW does the baby get in there?’ and ‘What do the mum and dad DO in the special cuddle?’ meant he had a pretty firm grasp of the facts of life.
‘The baby isn’t in there anymore,’ Mum tells him.
‘Because babies just stop growing sometimes.’
And they do.
They stop growing, and we expel their remains from our bodies, and keep mothering the children we have. And we climb out of bed and read them James and the Giant Peach and answer questions about the International Space Station and bees and why too much cheese isn't good for you.
And we throw them birthday parties, and build Lego towers, and grieve quietly, and quickly. And then we get back on the bus.