We both stare into the barren wall of Dr. Bäcker’s office, striving to dissolve the moment into nothingness. Peter, our newborn son, has been diagnosed with mongolism. His face is flat, his eyes and ears are tiny, and his entire body is supposedly smaller and stouter than it should be. He will always face developmental and functional issues, the specialists say, and he will never be able to sustain life on his own.
The doctor straightens his spectacles and tells us we can take as much time as we need to process the news; he will be a few rooms over, preparing the lethal procedure. The obtrusive examination table swallows me whole as reality sets in. Emmerich sits in silence, his icy hands clasped firmly around mine. I see compassion in his eyes, but only for me. He releases my hands and turns towards the solitary window. Through it looms a darkened sky scattered with flecks of snow.
I close my eyes and run my hands over my now empty stomach, rocking back and forth slowly. There was no way we could have known that our precious bundle would turn out to be a burden. Yet, I do not mind. But as I stare at my husband’s back, I realize that he does. I want to ask him so many questions. I already know the answers, though, and it makes me shiver. He would not have gotten me pregnant had he known. He claims it is more his fault than mine, as if taking the blame makes the situation any better.
I feel his presence behind me as he pulls me in for a hug, but his breath on my neck causes my throat to tighten. “Shall I let Dr. Bäcker know? Gisela?”
I look back at him and wish we had never met. Not because of our child, but because of his lack of consideration. Emmerich is always thinking of himself, and I am only a thought because I sometimes bring him happiness and pleasure. He finally caves under my gaze, shoves his hands in his trousers, and looks out the window again. His stature is one of defeat, but also one of gentleness, and for a moment, I can see my old Emmerich again. But then he straightens his uniform—his pride and glory—and turns back to me, not as a husband, but as a soldier. His eyes are darker now, any traces of softness have vanished from his face. He will do anything for the Führer, even if it means harming his family.
I slide off the table and reach for my jacket. It is clear to me now that our love has changed drastically like our country. I cannot find renewed hope in either. Emmerich’s eyes widen as his mouth narrows. He places one knee on the ground, his sapphire eyes searching for mine for signs of allegiance. He opens one arm and beckons me to come. I take a step towards the door, my arms wrapped tightly around my body in a meager attempt to stop the chill overtaking my soul. He stands up again, fists clenched, and he beckons me to return to the table.
“We need to get this over with now,” he says.
The love is gone from his voice and replaced with a stoic tone usually reserved for his Nazi soldiers.
“I will let the doctor know we are ready for it to be euthanized,” he says.
I yank the door open before he can stop me and sprint towards the nursery where they are holding my last loved one hostage. Everything will be alright. Everything must be alright.