A recurring dream featuring supermarket cheese aisles and knitting nurses circles around the same persistent question and painful realisation in Kerry Byrne’s tautly written and moving short fiction, ‘Miscarry’.
Content warning: this piece contains references to miscarriage.
In 2019, we lost our baby during my treatment for breast cancer. This flash is inspired by the recurring dreams that haunted me, all a variation on the same theme centring around the persistent question ‘Am I still pregnant?’, until I no longer wanted to sleep. Writing this piece has had a cathartic effect, a way to both process and distance myself from the emotional trauma through creativity.
I am in the cheese aisle. Rub my belly. It feels flat. Lift up my top in front of the mirror. In the clothes section. Turn to the side. There is a slight bump. I’m sure of it. Not sure of it. Am I pregnant? I can’t remember. Must remember to find out.
I am in the cheese aisle. Looking for nappies. The shelves stocked with multipacks of Wotsits. Rub my belly. It feels flat. Grab an orange jumper off a hanger. Draw the curtain. Lift up my top in front of the mirror. Turn to the side. There is a slight bump. I’m sure of it. I am pregnant.
I am in the baby aisle, wearing an orange jumper. Looking for something I can’t remember. I can smell Camembert. Feel my belly somersault. An echo of a sensation. I look down. Expect to see a foot or fist pushing through the soft wool. Rub my belly. It feels flat. Look across at the pregnant woman standing next to me. She has my hair and eyes. I follow her, my basket empty.
I am in the baby aisle in a hospital. The shelves are empty. I crave Stilton crumbled on poppy seed crackers. Can hear the moans of labour. Watch her in the mirror, knees spread, teeth gritted. She has my hair and eyes. Nurses flank the bed, one holding each hand as she leans forward to push. Rub my belly. It feels flat. Remember I am pregnant. How many weeks? Eight? Twelve? I should find out again and remember.
I am in an aisle, a sterile aisle – no, a corridor – in a hospital. There are nurses everywhere: spooning formula into bottles; scrubbing baby grows in buckets between their knees; knitting small orange blankets, purl one, knit one. I try to talk to one, then another, and another, but they’re all busy. I approach a nurse behind the reception desk. She is talking on the telephone – to colleagues – on the telephone – to colleagues. I stand and watch. Rub my belly. It feels flat. Try to remember why I’m here.
I am in the corridor of a maternity ward. There are nurses everywhere. Talking on telephones. To colleagues. On telephones. To colleagues. I approach a nurse behind the reception desk. She is knitting, purl one, knit one. My lips move, but no words come out. I start to cry. Rub my belly. It feels flat. The nurse casts off and puts down the needles. Comes out from behind the desk and comforts me. Wipes my tears with a corner of the small orange blanket she has made. Its wool soft, like newborn skin. She has my hair and eyes, her tunic stretching over my bump.
I am eating Wotsits in a waiting room. The nurse comes out from behind the reception desk. She has my hair and eyes. Calls my name. I hand over my maternity notes. Rub my belly. It feels flat.
On the bed, I lift up my top. The nurse wipes her tears with the corner of an orange knitted blanket before tucking it under my navel. Its wool soft, like newborn skin.
About Kerry Byrne
Kerry Byrne lives and writes in the Fens with a backdrop of sky-filled waters and endless horizons. Her writing has been published by Pidgeonholes, streetcake magazine, Bandit Fiction, Selcouth Station, From Glasgow to Saturn and tattie zine. She is editor of FENACULAR, an online publisher of short writing in response to fen art (www.fenacular.com), and is currently studying for a Creative Writing MLitt at the University of Glasgow. Find her on Twitter @kerry__byrne and Instagram @kerry_byrne
This piece was commissioned for our latest mini-series, Our Body’s Bodies
Everything is written on the body – but what does it mean to write about our bodies in the era of Covid-19? And is it possible to write about bodily experiences in the face of such pervasive and continued violence? Using different modes of writing and art making, Lucy Writers presents a miniseries featuring creatives whose work, ideas and personal experiences explore embodiment, bodily agency, the liberties imposed on, taken with, or found in our bodies. Beginning from a position of multiplicity and intersectionality, our contributors explore their body’s bodies and the languages – visual, linguistic, aural, performance-based and otherwise – that have enabled them to express and reclaim different forms of (dis)embodiment in the last two years. Starting with the body(s), but going outwards to connect with encounters that (dis)connect us from the bodies of others – illness, accessibility, gender, race and class, work, and political and legal precedents and movements – Our Body’s Bodies seeks to shine a light on what we corporally share, as much as what we individually hold true to.
Bringing together work by artistic duo Kathryn Cutler-MacKenzie and Ben Caro, poet Emily Swettenham, writer and poet Elodie Rose Barnes, author Ayo Deforge, writer and researcher Georgia Poplett, writer and poet Rojbîn Arjen Yigit, writer and researcher Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou and many others, as well as interviews with and reviews of work by Elinor Cleghorn, Lucia Osbourne Crowley and Alice Hattrick, Lucy Writers brings together individual stories of what our bodies have endured, carried, suffered, surpassed, craved and even enjoyed, because…these bodies are my body; we are a many bodied being. Touch this one, you move them all, our bodies’ body.
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