Maggie could not have been happier. Although being married was one of her dreams, I believe being a mother was far more important. Reading her letters made this obvious. Following are some excerpts from several of her letters.
"Actually, I think I have more of a maternal instinct."
(Maggie wrote this in an early letter to me when she was seventeen and still in high school. She was comparing getting a job and earning money with being a “stay at home” mom).
"You don’t know how I feel to be called 'mommy' "
(Maggie was telling me why she loved being around the babies and young children at St. Vincent’s Orphanage who associated the “white” in her nurse’s uniform with being cared for).
"The closest I ever came to happiness was at St. Vincent’s and I know now I’ll never go back."
"I’ll have my own children someday."
(This was Maggie’s comment after she had to leave the nurses’ training program at the orphanage because she could no longer afford the cost).
Being a mother meant everything to Maggie, so becoming pregnant so soon after we were married was a dream come true. She now had the man she loved and would soon be having the baby she always wanted. Although this was going to cause some hardship for us because I was still in graduate school and not working, I knew we would be able to handle whatever came along. Seeing Maggie this happy was all that mattered.
Following is a short story that follows the one I posted last week (“What A Day, What A Day”)
“Maggie, it doesn’t mean anything!” I inch closer to her on the couch and put my left arm around her shoulder. She stiffens to my touch.
I try to pull her to me but she resists. “Look,” I tell her, “It just happened. That’s all. Don’t make more out of it than that.”
Maggie continues to sit upright in silence, staring at the floor in front of her – not looking at me – and perhaps no longer hearing me.
I let out a deep sigh as I pull her tight. “Maggie, come on. It’s nothing!”
But that doesn’t console her as she shakes her shoulders free from my arm and leans back to rest her head on the cushions of the couch, looking up now at the ceiling. “No, Dennis, it does mean something. Things like this just don’t happen.” She quickly sits upright again, then, bending over, stares at the floor directly in front of her.
Exasperated at trying to help Maggie understand what I’m telling her, I sit on the edge of the couch, grab both of her shoulders and turn her to face me. “I don’t know what else to say to you.”
Maggie slowly raises her eyes, tears sliding down her cheeks, then turns her head from me.
I get up from the couch and, without looking back, walk to the kitchen, rummage through the “drawer that has everything,” grab what I’m looking for and return to the living room with a roll of tape in my left hand and dragging a kitchen chair with my right. Maggie remains seated, arms limp on her knees and head down. She glances up as I bend over, reach to the floor beneath the “Welcome Home Daddy” sign, and pick up the white booties.
I place the chair beneath the sign and, stepping up, triple tape the booties in the exact spot they once hung. While still on the chair, I hop completely around to face Maggie, catching my balance as I teeter to my left. Stable again, I stretch my arms out to my sides and proclaim “Ta-dah!” for my simple solution to this drama that has been playing itself out for the past twenty minutes. A hint of a smile crosses her face as I step down, sit next to her and again place my arm around her shoulders, gently pulling her toward me. Maggie rests her head on my chest, gives a long sigh and says, “It’s an omen, Dennis.”
Apparently it’s not over.
In utter frustration and in hopes of moving past this senseless superstition, I plead with Maggie, “Look! Let’s get back to where we were before this happened.” She knows from the tone of my voice that my empathy is losing its battle with my patience and agrees to continue the ritual of going through the litany of baby names that neither of us seem to be able to agree upon. But I can tell Maggie isn’t here right now as she continues to take furtive glances at the white booties securely hanging on the sign, believing they will fall again while willing them to stay there.
It’s getting late and, knowing that our thoughts have wandered far from where we are now, we decide to let them get completely lost. For the next hour, we sit silently and separately on the couch, bathed in the dim glow of some mindless television shows until we’re too tired to stay awake any longer.
It’s a restless night as Maggie tosses from side to side. I know where her thoughts are and I don’t want to go there. I can’t put myself where she is. I don’t understand her superstitions: a spoon falling on the floor means company is coming, you can’t put new shoes on the kitchen table for what reason I don’t know, and you’re not allowed to kill a moth in the house because it’s the spirit of a loved one. None of these make sense to me, but these superstitions sometimes chart her course. It’s not rational. Why does she do this to herself? Her mind works differently than mine. That’s what comes from letting feelings rule you. Yet, I love Maggie’s innocence. That’s one of her most endearing charms; so much like a child at times. It’s those moments of naiveté that draw me closer to her. But it’s also those moments that push me away.
Two days have passed as I sit at the kitchen table, drinking my morning coffee, reading the Chicago Sun Times, and cursing the Bears for losing nine out of ten games. Why do I bother with the sports section during football season? It’s now twenty minutes before we have to leave so I can drop Maggie off at work and continue on to school, but she’s still in the bathroom primping. She always takes long to get ready, so why does it bother me so much when it happens all the time? I know her day can’t start without a cup of coffee so I sound my morning alarm without looking up from the paper, “Come on, Maggie! Let’s go!”
I hear the bathroom door open. I’m engrossed in an article about Gale Sayers and continue reading, expecting Maggie to be pouring her coffee and sliding into her chair across from me. It takes a few seconds before I realize that this isn’t happening. Sensing something isn’t quite right, I glance up from my paper and see Maggie standing in the doorway of the kitchen—just standing there in the middle of the door frame, as if the frame is holding her in place and she would fall to the kitchen floor if she moved an inch. Her face is ashen and her eyes are silver with tears. She looks past me in silence as if not seeing me, just looking straight ahead.
“What’s wrong?” I question as I put down my coffee cup. She still doesn’t answer, just stands there - staring. “Maggie, wh…what’s wrong?” I repeat as I begin to rise from the chair. She doesn’t move; she doesn’t speak. “What is it!?” I ask with growing panic in my voice as I quickly move toward her.
“I lost our baby.” Maggie says as tears begin trickling down her cheeks.