587. - Lucien
Maddy listens to Nancy's rant about the ultrasound with a soft smile, letting the woman get her word out before even trying to say anything.
"You're right," she says calmly, which clearly surprises Nancy. "That's actually what I came to tell Emma. There's still no real reason to worry, but the doctor figured we had better be safe than sorry. We want to do it tomorrow morning."
"Oh." says Nancy. She'd clearly prepared for more of a fight. "That's excellent, then."
Maddy, still smiling, then focuses her attention on Emma. "If you're willing we'd like to try cutting off your medication already. It'll give us a chance to monitor how you're doing and how close an eye we need to keep on you after you've been discharged."
"I'd sure hope there's going to be weekly check-ups!" Nancy breathes.
"Mum!" Emma gives her mother a fierce look. "Again, I'm sure they know what they're doing."
I wonder if there's anywhere I can tell about Maddy handling this overly worried mother. "I assure you, ma'am, we'll keep an eye on her. But the stress of constant checkups when there's no reason to could be harmful to both mother and child. If we find reason to, we'll find a proper way to do so with the lowest risk imaginable. Everything we do, is in the best interest of both Emma and her baby, not to worry."
Nancy flushes lightly, giving a curd nod. Emma smiles gratefully. "Stopping the meds sounds great."
"Wonderful! I'll tell the doctor then, so he can take them off your list. I'll come back in a second to disconnect your IV as well - you'll be able to move a little more freely."
Emma pales slightly around the nose. "You're going to take it out?"
Maddy laughs and shakes her head. "Not yet, don't worry. I'll give you a proper heads-up for that. I meant I'll take the tube off, so you won't be connected anymore. The applicator will have to stay just a little longer, just in case something goes wrong. But there's no needles involved either way."
The stretcher the hospital provided for me to sleep on is not all comfortable, but I know better than to complain. Considering I'm not married to her nor am I directly related, I'm not really allowed to stay. But on the first day, the night nurse on shift bend the rules a little bit so that I could stick around. I only went home briefly to get some things for Emma and to take a shower.
Even though it's been three days and three nights, I'm still nothing less on edge than I was when we first walked in here. I've slept maybe eight hours since then. Emma's never asked, but I know she's dying to. I want to tell her - just not before we're back home, because reliving the story in the hospital seems like a recipe for disaster. We're just waiting for Maddy to tag along to the floor where we'll have the ultrasound, after which we'll finally be able to get home. Neither Emma nor I can wait.
Soon enough Maddy pops in the door, telling us we're ready to go, and we follow her down the halls. I'm happy to see that Emma is able to walk again. Just last night I had a darling little nightmare about finding her in the bathroom with that awful grey colour, only this time she didn't wake up. Hospitals truly fuck me up.
"This is where I leave you," Maddy suddenly says. "Sorry I can't stick around, the ward is oversaturated so they need me there. Good luck, and I wish you all the best in your pregnancy!"
We're invited in not long after, the gyno welcoming us with a warm smile, introducing herself as Linda. She instructs Emma to lay down, unbutton her pants and pull up her shirt. Like this, with her skin exposed, there is a definite bump visible. It causes my stomach to tingle the same way it does when you're in a rollercoaster. Something changed in both of us, somewhere in the past two weeks. Fear is no longer the main emotion. We're ready for this. For this little girl. In just one week we'd be able to find out the gender, but we haven't even discussed if we want to know or not.
"This can feel a tad cold." Linda says before applying the gel. I can see the goosebumps on her skin, and she reaches for my hand. I kiss her knuckles. The sound of the heartbeat last time is still fresh in my mind, one of the most amazing sounds I had ever heard. "Ready to see your baby? He might wave!"
"She." Emma corrects gently. "We think it's a she."
How they're able to see anything distinguisable on the grainy screen will forever be a mystery to me. I just see light and dark blobs, moving as Linda moves the probe. I still can't look away from the screen, though. The paper on the bed crinkles as Linda shifts, taking another angle. The blobs still mean nothing to me. Last time, the gyno was already telling us where to look by now. I glance at Linda, and immediately wish I didn't; she's wearing a grave expression that I know can't mean anything good. Emma notices too, because her grip on my hand tightens.
Another angle. A blob that I think might be a baby, but is much more unmoving than the videos we saw online. But Linda lingers on it. She dials a button, up and down and up again. I'm not sure what's supposed to change, but I don't think anything does. Her expression stays the same throughout, while Emma's grip still tightens.
"I'm sorry." Linda says gently, looking at us with a profound sadness in her eyes that tells me all I need to know. "I can't find a heartbeat."
And just like that, the world gets swept away under my feet. It collapses around me, leaving me to balance on a single pillar surrounded by emptiness. My heart shatters, then shatters again, and again, until the pieces are so small I don't think I could find them again. I hear Emma stifle a sob, but I can't look away from the screen. I will it to move, to shift, to live, but it doesn't listen to me. It stays perfectly still.
"Is this..." I whisper, barely able to hold my voice. "Because of -" I can't even bring myself to say the words, but luckily I don't need to. Linda shakes her head.
"No, I promise you it's not. They checked for the heartbeat when they first brought you in, it was still there. This just... happens sometimes. I'm so terribly sorry."
The screen has gone black now, she's taken the probe away. From the corner of my eye I see how she's cleaning Emma's belly, the tiny bump that up until five minutes ago was my entire future. I have to look away. I have to look at Emma, be there for her. This is going to be so much harder to her than it is for me. I manage, even though it takes me every bit of strength. Emma's face is wet with tears, eyes bright red, and her free hand now lays on the bump that was our child. Is still our child, just not...
I force myself to think the words. It shreds me to pieces, rips me apart, but the truth cannot be dressed up pretty.
It's still our child, just no longer alive.
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