O’Farrell’s essays, dealing with near-death experiences, are both terrific and terrifying. From pulling off an escape from a rapist to grappling with her daughter’s severe allergies, O’Farrell delivered gripping stories through her compelling storytelling. Here’s is an excerpt about her missed miscarriage:
You do walk out. The nurse tries to stop you but you don’t listen. You’ve been through this enough times to be fully aware of “what happens next.” As you take the stairs down, away from the scanning department, you feel the notion, the idea of the child leaving you with each step. You feel its fingers loosening, disentangling themselves from yours. You sense its corporeality disintegrating, becoming mist. Gone is the child with blond or dark or auburn hair; gone is the person they might have been, the children they themselves might have had. Gone is that particular coded mix of your and your husband’s genes. Gone is the little brother or sister you pictured for your son. Gone is the knitted rabbit, wrapped and ready in tissue paper, pushed to the back of a cupboard, because you cannot bring yourself to throw it out or give it away. Gone are your plans for and expectations of the next year of your life. Instead of a baby, there will be no baby.
You must adjust to this new picture. You must give it all up. You must somehow get past the due date: you will dread its coming. On that day you will feel the emptiness of your body, your arms, your house. You must intercept the letters from the maternity unit that keep on coming, despite everything. You must pick them up off the mat, almost persuading yourself that you haven’t seen them, you don’t know what they are. You tear them into flitters and drop them into the bin.
You will watch your body backtrack, go into reverse, unpicking its work: the sickness recedes, your breasts shrink back, your abdomen flattens, your appetite disappears.
I thought of my wife who went through this experience twice and I almost cried.