This is my reply to my own challenge, 1000 words, inspired by the phrase, "Don't cry over spilled milk." It's sad, but it's what came to me.
PSA: This is very sad and involves the death of a child. It is the story of a grieving mother.
Samantha woke with sharp pain, she grabbed her husband's shoulder and her belly as the pain rose and passed. She practiced keeping her breathing calm and smooth, like they had taught her, as the contractions rose and fell all night. She wanted to stay home for the first several centemeters of labor, so she lounged in the tub while he got their things ready.
When the pains were fast and frequent, Mark put his foot down and said they were going, now, and he called Sam's midwife on their way out the door. Every bump in the road, however small, was a cruelty, causing the usually meek woman to swear violently, but he held her hand and she smiled at him as they drove the short distance.
“We're going to be parents soon,” she sighed happily.
“We already are,” he squeezed her hand in his own.
They checked in and her labor progressed nicely on its own until early morning when they told her she could push when ready. It only took thirty minutes of trying before the midwife caught the baby in the birthing tub and lifted his face out. But something was wrong.
The cord was wrapped thrice about his neck, tightly, and the boy's face was blue. The nurses whisked him to a table across the room, and set to work. The midwife stayed with Sam, calmly assuring her this happens and he will be just fine, while Mark stood watching as they unwrapped the cord and put the breathing mask on his son.
The pediatrician stood and pumped the mask again and again, Sam birthed the placenta and was helped from the water to see her baby. They brought her blankets to cover her nakedness and the world stood still while machines beeped angrily and people in scrubs eclipsed the infant from view.
An eternity passed, and eventually, despite the screaming of the machines, the pediatrician sighed, set the mask aside, and turned to the parents. There was no time of death, he was simply “born still”.
The placenta would be sent away for testing to see if they could find out why it happened. But it didn't matter. No answer would be enough. All that mattered was her beautiful little boy, Seth, and being able to hold him as long as she could before they took him away.
Mark found the camera buried in a bag and took pictures. The staff took pictures, and the tiny boy's parents stared at him as though trying to memorize his features while they still could. But the tears did not come, not even when the nurse came to take him away.
The grief councellor came and gave information about a support group, but they did not care. Sam grew angry when a lactation consultant dropped in and introduced herself.
The woman apologized, “I'm so sorry to hear about your little boy, Mrs. Davis,” and Sam's face softened. “I know how difficult this must be, but I was wondering if you might consider donating to our breastmilk bank for a while.
“I won't ask you to answer me today,” She held up her hand when Samantha began to protest, “I just ask that you read over this, and think about it. I am so sorry for your loss, and I won't bother you any longer.” The woman handed Sam a small glossy trifold paper and excused herself.
She looked it over after the woman left, and she wondered if she really would make a difference if she decided to try. Mark rolled his eyes and shook his head when she mentioned it to him, but the idea took hold, and she asked to tour the NICU before making her decision.
While there, she met one of the mothers. “Tiny as my daugther is, I can't pump enough for her. I'd rather use human milk than formula, but the bank always needs more donors. If you choose to, you would help give these little ones a fighting chance. Help them grow strong. They would be your son's legacy.”
The words stuck with her, and when her milk came in on the third day after her delivery, Sam requested a pump. She pumped as regularly as she would have nursed, and spent more time with her pump than her husband after she returned home.
Seth's funeral was a much larger service than Sam envisioned. Mark set most of it up while she was in the hospital, and he did a wonderful job, but Sam was awkward sitting there, tear-free while her husband was a blubbering mess.
That night, he accused her of being heartless; broken, “You haven't cried, not once. What's wrong with you?” When she had no reply for him, he stormed out of the room. And she sat, alone, with her pump. How could he say she was heartless when she was giving away what should have been her son's? When most people wouldn't even think about it?
When their son should have been nine days old, Mark went back to work. And Samantha, swollen and leaking, packed up the first batch to donate. The bags of milk went into a box with ice packs, and she made the drive alone. She was carrying the box across the parking lot when she tripped on a stone she could not see, and fell. The box squished beneath her weight, and watery milk began to seep out the corners onto the pavement.
Bags burst. Maybe not all of them, but enough.
Sam sat upon the asphalt, defeated, knee scraped and bloody. She simply sat right there, in the middle of the lot, and the tears began to flow at last. Not for the milk that was spilt, but for the boy who would never drink it. For her son. The tears came, and with them came a strange sense of peace. She wasn't broken after all.