“I want a baby sister!” Demanded my four-year-old, screaming at the top of her lungs while spinning in circles in our kitchen. Her pink tulle skirt spread around her like a cloud.

“No, I want a baby brother!” Yelled my five-year-old at an even higher pitch than his sister. He ran into the kitchen, sliding around the counter as his socks attempted to grip the wood floor.

siblings painting a rainbow - When You're Children Don't Know

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People always ask if they’re twins. Each one sports matching brown eyes too big for their face and dirty blonde hair.

They’re fifteen months apart in age, so not quite twins, but admittedly it is hard sometimes not to treat them as such. My son has always been a little slower to learn things, but my daughter has stayed on his heels.

Recently, my son learned how to flip across the sectional couch without breaking his neck, and soon thereafter, here comes Sister right behind him. Unfortunately, with her reckless tendencies, she probably will break something.

Brother is the cautious one always poking a single tip of a toe into the water before jumping in, but Sister skips the toe and jumps right in.

“Mommy, let’s have two babies!” She exclaimed, her eyes huge like two saucers. “At the sammmmmme time!” I could see the wheels moving in her head as she eyed my belly.

“Yeah! And we can name them Max and Ruby!” My oldest chimed in, quickly venturing to the television show theme song—Max and Ruby, Ruby and Max—a song sure to stick in all of our heads for the rest of the evening.

Both kids climbed on top of me, poking at my belly, curious to see if there would be enough room for two babies. I closed my eyes as my body sank into the couch cushions, which fell under my weight like rolls risen too high.

“I think there will definitely be enough room for two in there,” brother declared in a serious, investigative tone, poking at the purple stretch marks hanging on to the loose skin like chipped paint, begging to not lose grip.

After putting both kids to bed, but not without the usual bedtime marathon involving sixteen books, three water breaks, and a few lullabies, I tip toed out of the kids’ bedroom, sneaking across the hall to my own bedroom. The cold fabric of the cotton sheets rubbed against my bare legs as I slid myself under my weighted blanket. I sighed as my head pressed into the plum-colored pillowcase. The smell of fabric softener filled my nose.

With the tips of my fingers, I traced the rough, bumpy surface of my belly.

Then I cried.

Some short while ago there was a baby in there, but they didn’t know that.

A six-week-old fetus is the size of a pea.

At this size, the loss of a pea, is just a medical procedure to the white coats and scrub caps.

It is just a tiny blob in the womb—a speck on an ultrasound photo.

My medical file reads, “incomplete pregnancy,” which sounds like a missing homework assignment I need to stay after-school to finish.

Google predicts a possible miscarriage when you start asking it questions about spotting after a positive pregnancy test and cramping during early pregnancy, which sounds like I in some way mishandled the carrying of the child.

I have spent several months wearing my grief around my shoulders like an old, heavy shawl from a consignment store.

Really, there is no word or words to describe it.

Metal instruments banging against the cold, hard surface of the silver instrument tray stung the silence like a bumble bee buzzing into the heart of a flower on a hot summer afternoon.

I was alone, staring at the brown stain on the ceiling tile just barely peaking from the corner of the room. There was a small, rectangular window just above where the ultrasound TV hung from the wallpapered wall. The room was chilly and the naked branches of the tree planted too closely to the building’s red brick exterior was tapping on the glass.

“Take a deep breath, you’re going to feel some pressure,” a stern voice said to me from the other side of the flowered sheet draped over my trembling knees. The paper covering the exam table crinkled as I rested my elbows against its surface, hands draped over one another covering my belly button.

I closed my brown eyes, pushing a tear from the corner of my eye; I could feel it tiptoeing down my cheek, leaving a trial of black mascara over my light brown freckles.

As I lost a piece of myself on that table on that cloudy evening, I imagined her— my baby.

There she was.

She looked just like her sister, dark eyes with rose lips. When she giggled, her voice would vibrate the exact same way as her brother’s. Her baby toes tucked under and curved just like mine, but her nose was straight from her father’s face, wide and plump.

“A bit more pressure,” the voice said softly. The flowers on the sheet were pink and yellow, which reminded me of a baby blanket I used to wrap Sister in when she was a newborn. We used to call it her baby burrito, and for that little snuggle bug, the tighter the blanket was wrapped, the more calm she was.

I tensed up in my upper thighs and squirmed a little. The paper crinkled underneath me, revealing my discomfort.

“Just a bit more pressure. Can you take a deep breath for me?”

I closed my eyes again, focusing on the clinking sounds of the branches tapping their melody on the glass panel and the piercing sound of the metal instruments being picked up and put down in rhythmic motions.

There she was.

Her little fingers wrapped around mine as she reached for me from the coziness of the bassinet next to my bed. The smell of her hair fresh from the bath ran through my nose and her little coos echoed through my ears.

This is what should have been.

“We’re almost done,” said the voice behind the flowered sheet.

My body was hollow, only left with the emptiness of my womb like an old tin can thrown to the side of the road.

The kicks and hiccups I never felt began to sprint over my ribs like a stampede of startled animals.

Where is she?

My pea-sized blob.

My baby girl.

The black clock above the door clicked with every passing second and the branches tapped harder with each gust of cold wind. Summer had left, and fall was quick to follow. The darkness of a snow-covered winter would be upon us soon.

But I could feel her— soft, pale skin freshly lathered with pink baby lotion.

But I could see her— sandy brown curls down her back and hand me down sundresses covered in sunflowers.

But I could smell her— onsies covered with the scent of baby laundry detergent and dried formula.

But I could hear her– soft coos fighting afternoon belly time and cries demanding a late-night feeding.

I opened my eyes.

She was gone.

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