Her voice was so garbled with fear that I didn't recognize it at first. When her tears finally formed themselves into words, I responded instantly, my voice calm and steady. Then I hung up the phone, collapsed on the bed and sobbed until all my memories and selfishness had drained out, and I was ready to face her.
The doorbell rang and my husband let them in, asking her husband if he wanted to watch the game together while she went upstairs with me. They perched on the edge of the sofa staring unseeing at the TV screen as we walked away. I took out the little machine and the gel and turned it on to silence. No batteries. I hadn't needed to use it for awhile. We sat quietly on my bed watching my husband's truck race up the street to the corner store and back. Her face was blotchy and bewildered, as if someone had slapped her violently with no warning or provocation.
"It should sound like this," I told her, pressing the transducer against my swollen stomach. "It won't be as loud and clear, but it'll be fast like this, like a horse galloping. That whooshing sound like a wind storm is the placenta." I tried to hand the machine to her, but she shook her head and asked me to do it. I didn't know how to say no.
Lying on the bed, she watched me slowly cover every inch of her torso, erasing hope as I went, the room filling with the empty howl of a whirlwind. Suddenly a faint rhythm pulsed through the static. The slow beat grew stronger and stronger and I felt her muscles relax beneath me. "That's yours," I said gently, not looking at her, not wanting to see the light die out of her eyes. Reapplying the gel, I started at the bottom of her abdomen again, searching for the hoofbeats in the wind. I didn't stop until she told me to.
After the ultrasound, the hemorrhage, the hospital admission and the surgery, she called me to thank me. I told her any time she wanted to talk I was there to listen.
"Oh, I'm fine. It's just the physical recovery now," she said confidently. "I cried all day Saturday and Sunday, but I have lots of support and I'm OK now. All that emotional stuff is out of the way."
"That's good," I said and looked at the calendar. As I hung up the phone, I wrote a reminder to myself to call her in two months. I knew she would need me then, when her body had healed, everyone else had moved on and the baby was still dead. And she did.