By Lillian Neal
“Three minutes,” I say, struggling to keep the nerves from my voice as I start the timer. I use the mirror to gauge his reaction as I place my phone down beside the sink. His face looks pale, and his morning shadow is making him look tired. His grey eyes flick to mine in the reflection, both of us unable to move from the weight of what is coming. The same emotions both plainly on our faces, worry, pain and just the tiniest glimmer of hope.
“I love you regardless,” he says reaching to hold me in his arms. I try to nod but fail.
“I’m afraid,” I whisper tucking myself firmly against his chest. My eyes fill with tears as the possibilities fill my mind. A little line on a test window has total power over me. A positive or a negative. A baby or a failure.
“Two minutes and we’ll know.” He tries to soothe but it fails, sending me spiralling backwards into my memories. I picture his smile when I told him I was pregnant. I recall the moment clearly. I had laid out all the positive tests on our bed in anticipation of him coming home. His face upon walking in the door lit up, his smile the widest I had ever seen. He was ecstatic, he ran to me pulling me close. We had been trying for a baby for six months and I could finally give him the dorky shirt, promoting him to Dad. The pure joy we felt in the reality of beginning our own little family. We had never been so happy and so in love. Planning names, toys and clothes and debating over gender guesses. Everything was perfect. Every week was a blessing with my baby. I glowed as I saw the baby grow on ultrasounds every week. Until week ten when no life could be detected.
“Bub,” he says snapping me out of my reverie and back to the harshness of reality. “I know you are scared, so am I. But we have each other no matter what happens,” he promises.
“I don’t want us to go through the pain again.” I sob, clinging onto him like he was the only thing keeping me afloat.
“There is no grantee it will happen again Bub,” he tries to reason.
“One minute,” I say as the darkness creeps in consuming my thoughts. The painful memories burning like tar as they rise back up into my mind. Loss is never easy but living through your own body betraying you cuts like nothing else. The feeling of your own body rejecting what you wanted so badly. Your child, broken down and discarded, slipping through your fingers before you even got the chance to hold them. The uncontrollable bleeding with doctors and nurses telling you that this is normal and there is nothing they can do for you.
No one quite understands how to address a miscarriage. Not the doctor when they demand proof that you were pregnant before offering any assistance to your physical pain. Not your mother when she tells you that you were lucky because a baby would have ruined your life. Not your friends when they say it doesn’t matter because you can always try again. We were alone in our grief, no one else understanding why the pain crippled us with so much force.
“I don’t want to take away your chance to be a dad again,” I break as my memories come to an abrupt holt.
“You never took my chance at being a dad.” He says firmly. “We both lost the baby, and it will never be your fault.”
After the miscarriage everything in our relationship was tested. I let myself crumble; I became a shell of the person that I was. I was determined to let myself waste away, just like my child had. But he would not let me. He cooked dinner every night ensuring that I ate at least half of my plate. He laid out clothes and got the dogs leashed for walks, so that I would leave the bed and get some fresh air. He would run baths for me staying close the entire time to make sure I was ok.
“Bub, I agreed to try again because I know how much we both want this, the only reason I had doubt is because I am worried you won’t make it if we lost a baby again,”
Our first huge fight flashes back into my mind. I confronted him at dinner, demanding that we try for a baby again. His instant reaction was no. He refused to watch me go through losing a child again. I told him I could do it this time, that I had him and I knew I would be fine. He still said no. The pain of losing the baby broke him but not as much as I did, giving up on life. My eyes shift to the present and back to him.
“We agreed to try again because I got the help I needed, my counsellor is aware of everything and I know that no matter what happens in thirty seconds, I can get the help I need,” I say. “But that doesn’t mean I am not terrified. I am afraid that I will give you hope only to take it all away again.” I finish.
“I want the world with you.” He says “We have the house, the marriage, and the ridiculous number of pets. The next thing I want with you is kids. I don’t care if that is now, or in five years. I am willing to try as long as you are. Even if we don’t have kids, all I really need in my life is you.” My stomach tightens and my heart beats faster as I try to piece together what to tell him. I know that I want this with him, that I want everything with him.
“In ten seconds, we will find out and I am terrified.” I start. “I want kids with you more than anything, I want to be the person to make you a dad. But I am so scared that I will fail again.”
“Bub,” He says slowly “You could never fail me. I am in awe of your strength that you even agreed to try again. Your fear is justified but I have known you long enough to know that in the face of fear you do not stop, you power forward,” My heart feels lighter as he rubs my back reassuring my mind and putting my insecurities away for now.
The shrill of the timer fills my ears. Both of our heads snapping toward the test sitting on the counter. Reaching down he squeezes my hand.
“Do you want to look? Or do you want me to?” He asks. Bile constricts my throat as I form a response.
“Together,” I say, looking over to see him nod. Breathing deeply, I reach down. My fingers fumbling as I grasp the test. Shakily, I lift my hand and glance down. The test window reveals the truth.
“It’s positive,” I gasp. Not believing my own eyes. He pulls the test from my fingers to see for himself. His face cautious as he takes in the meaning.
“You’re pregnant,” he states slowly as if in disbelief. Butterflies erupt in my stomach. I have a baby growing inside of me. The what if’s start playing through my mind. What if I carry to term this time? Am I ready to be a mother? I think I can do it, I have him and I cannot wait to watch him become a dad. But what if I miscarry? Can I live through the pain again? Can he? Tears build on the edge of my eyes as his arms encompass me again, holding each other we cautiously wait for the future.
Lily Neal writes literary fiction with inspiration from events in her personal life. She is a part time university student working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Publication. She lives in Sydney, Australia with her three dogs, two cats and parrot named Kevin.