Sarah Rosales, Academy for Information Technology
Is there a way to make anger feel tender? To make the blood in our veins feel like the soft petals of a rose instead of its thorny stem? Fury hides its filthy face until we let it escape from the depths of our heart. It’s buried beneath layers of sorrow, and we don’t know it’s love until it claws and roars and forces us to look at it head on.
The answer is yes, anger can be gentle, but only in the beginning. It’s like that phrase sailors use: “the calm before the storm.”
My husband and I liked each other well enough. We didn’t expect a lot from each other. We were quiet and modest, always trying to find something to like about one another, so that we wouldn’t feel miserable in a marriage we had rushed into. We wanted to get away from the pressure that our families had put on us. The only thing we knew about each other is that we didn’t want to grow lonely as we grew old. Loneliness was a beast that liked to gnaw the mind first, then tackle the heart later.
He told me it was alright if I didn’t want to have children; he didn’t want to force me into anything—he never did. He was always so kind. I wondered where he put his anger. He never showed it in front of me as I have heard husbands have a tendency to do.
“I’m pregnant,” I said in disbelief one day, and it shocked him too, as if we’d both forgotten how children were made. But then there was a slow buzzing of excitement in the both of us, and we realized we were going to need to turn the extra guest room into a nursery.
That period of anticipation was bliss. My husband doted on me more often than usual, even when I insisted I was still capable of doing my share of the chores. We discussed how we would raise our child, the future we wanted it to have. I whispered in his ear the name I would give it, and he grinned so wide that it reached his ears. Love bloomed in my chest like wildflowers, and my baby was going to have all of it.
The memory of the hospital room still haunts me. I can never forget the rush and the anxiety and the nurses who surrounded me. I remember my husband held my hand all the way through, even when I had him in a white-knuckled grip. As I screamed murder, my thoughts were still filled of the name I would give my child. I smiled, despite it all.
She was a beautiful girl, and I held her only once. She was light and warm and her hands were so, so small. My heart beat as quick as a hummingbird, and I wondered if she could hear it against my breast. I had only said one word to her, her name, whispered it against her forehead like a prayer that would protect her.
But that brief moment of possibility and elation was met by quiet. The room was silent. It shouldn’t have been, god, it should’ve been filled with the clamouring cry of a newborn baby.
“She’s-,” I said, heavy and scared, “She’s not breathing.”
Despite the nurses trying to take her, and the terrified look of my husband right next to me, I didn’t let her go. They had to pull her away from me. My arms became bare, and my body ached—with exhaustion, with uncertainty, with the love I still had yet to give.
I crossed my arms over my abdomen and turned in the bed. My husband gave me one empty look and wordlessly left the room. In the silence, I was alone.
Afterwards, I clutched my stomach so often that it became habit. My husband and I talked less than before, and I found ways to distract myself. I threw myself into work and didn’t want to think about anything. There were too many emotions inside my ribs that I wanted to feel, but just couldn’t face. My shoulders hurt constantly.
“Are you okay?” My husband tried to reassure me. “Do you need anything?”
I didn’t respond. Only nodded my head no. I had sewn my throat shut, just like the rest of me.
It was heavy, the loss we felt, like a shackle we had no way of removing. There wasn’t even much to mourn, but a whole universe left with my daughter. Some days, I imagined all the people she could have been, and suddenly, I was overwhelmed with them, as if they were choking the air right from my lungs. Would she have looked like me or her father more? How would she have cried and laughed and hugged? What books would she have read and reread until the pages fell from their spines? Who would she have loved, and who would have loved her in return?
It was those little pockets of possibility that followed me, and when I opened the door to the nursery, they all collapsed and dragged me to the floor. I had thought that the love I stored for my daughter had left with her, but it hadn’t. It was alive and overflowing in rivers and oceans. It had escaped its oppressive weight of grief to remind me that it was still here, and wasn't going anywhere.
I had fled from myself, hoping that if I ignored the persistent drumming in my veins and the aching of my bones, they would leave me be. But grief embraced me in that small nursery, and so did anger. I had forgotten what that felt like. There was anger at the nurses for not trying hard enough, at my husband for leaving me then—there had been no comfort. They had all walked out and left me alone. But mostly, I was angry at myself, because maybe if I was different, I could still be carrying her in my arms.
Here was the storm, breaking free from my heart, crashing in tumultuous waves, and anger striking in rolling clouds of thunderous uproar.