I call her she, even though it’s just a shapeless whisper of an embryo, barely even a weight in the palm of my hand. At six weeks in utero her head is not yet clearly defined from body and the spinal cord wraps her entire back side and curls up like a pearl necklace. Small buds appear where the arms will sprout and there is no sign of legs. I don’t know what I thought a miscarriage would be like, but I did not expect this outcome, standing half naked in the middle of the bedroom holding her in my hand.
“Nick, honey, I think I have the embryo, can you please get me a container? No no, not a ziploc, like a tupperware or something.”
“You want me to put it in the fridge?”
“Yeah, ok, that sounds good.”
She had stopped growing weeks ago the doctor said. It was very common at this stage of pregnancy, she said. I know, I said. Anyway, I’m 40, I added, the odds of this whole thing seemed pretty wild to begin with. But possible, she said, totally possible. Of course it had happened in the middle of our months long trip, with Massimo napping in the next room and the impossibly hot Parisian day pounding on the sidewalk below our window. The lust and the passion were right there on the surface, a reminder of being 20 and roaming those same streets, searching always for something, someone. Now I had this body next to me that I loved and knew so well, while outside the sound of scooters mixed with church bells, inside the impression of stolen time and lassitude pulled us to bed. Although I had never managed to become pregnant outside of major interventions from science, I was not surprised when I learned it was that moment which had done it, finally.
We wrapped her in a pumpkin leaf and buried her under the olive tree nearest the house. Nick ran at the last moment for a purple sprig of verbena to tuck inside the green folds. I found a broken piece of pottery from the flower garden to cover the spot. It was only the second time I cried over her, and will likely be the last, but at least now I have somewhere to go to remember, that hot afternoon in Paris, this warm day in California where I held her in my hands.