A Due Date, But No Baby
By Lucia Allamandi Schwenker
mindshare and the Author of this work wish to advise that “The Face of Stillbirth” contains themes that may be distressing to some readers. Content follows themes of stillbirth, infant loss, and grief.
If you feel you may be affected by this piece, please reach out to someone you feel safe with, or a mental health service. Feedback may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org .
During his childhood, my husband Scott’s family spent most holidays by the beach in Port Neill, Barngarla Country on the Eyre Peninsula. Being an immigrant myself, I envy his ability to revisit special places from his early days, a road mostly closed for myself and fellow non-natives. His privilege of belonging not lost on me.
It took us seven hours by car from Kaurna, Adelaide to arrive in Port Neill, including a long lunch stop in Port Augusta and a quick break in Snowtown for toilets and morbid tourism, projecting eeriness as we left.
Last time I was in Port Augusta I was a teenager, sixteen or seventeen having recently arrived in Australia. My depression was at its worst and I struggled adapting to a different world and language, listening to my parents fight constant and aggressively. Immigrant Syndrome exacerbated by puberty blues, I had no interest in being there, at that tiny, brown, dusty, empty place. I could barely understand the Australian accent and felt utterly isolated and alone, I had no memory of the region, just of how horrible I felt.
Arriving in Port Neill, Scott took about three minutes to drive across the entire town and back to its only pub. He made sure to point out the ‘famous Port Neill Jetty’. I cannot help but laugh at his white-person enthusiasm for jetties. Each time we go past one, it doesn’t matter if for the first or tenth time, Scott wants to go down the jetty. To me, the fast winds, the smell of fish and layers of bird shit on the handrails are too much of a deterrent.
The next day was supposed to be my due date, when I would birth my first son, had him not died inside of me in his fifth month gestation. We would have finished painting the nursery, a calming blue and green combo. I hoped that those colourful walls would house many creative moments. This was not how it turned out however, and the nursery is now a room with a permanently closed door, a room we both avoid.
I woke up feeling miserable, incomplete. Scott tried to cheer me up all day long, but nothing could. This was hard for him as well and I wish I had been in a better position to support him. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t in a position to support myself.
We sat by the beach side by side, both silent. The speakers played the ‘Melancholia’ playlist I had curated on Spotify, a collection of songs I considered sad, specifically chosen to cry to. I stared into the ocean and considered not coming back to Adelaide.
I fantasized about hunting for pills in the accommodation, taking whatever I could find with the wine we had brought from home. I’d take all Panadols, Ibuprofens, ‘happy pills’ I still had (ie, my antidepressants, Sertraline 100mg), the anti-histamines. I’d search through the host’s cabinets for forgotten medicine, look for a pharmacy to get additional sleeping pills, as much as they’d sell me. I’d wash it down with the alcohol, making myself as numb as possible. I’d write a goodbye letter to Scott, to my sister and my mum, assure them I loved them more than anything and it was not their fault. They had given me the love and support but I couldn’t go on any longer, I had nothing to live for anymore and that I was so sorry. When properly inebriated, I’d walk down the quiet beach and into the cold water alone, step by step, my last minutes. I’d be afraid but relieved, I hoped. The water would take my last breaths and I’d be free.
I imagined Scott finding me lifeless, washed up by the sand, a memory I’d be immensely sorry for giving him. He does not deserve yet another loss. I thought of my mum, possibly never recovering. I thought of taking her will to live with me, as I went. Life can be fucking cruel.
Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ started playing, # 14 on my ‘Melancholia’ Playlist, Chris Martin’s whingeing voice threatening to start when I turned off the speakers.
‘I should probably update this list’ I thought, looking through new songs to add to my sad list, hopefully improving the experience of my next bout of despair.