Emily: Chapter Nineteen

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PICKING UP THE PIECES

Emily slowly began trying to put her life back together. It was a much more difficult task than she felt up to on most days. Every time she caught her mother-in-law’s eyes, she thought that she saw disappointment there and it made her both sad and angry at the same time.

Anything Emily touched reminded her of her pregnancy. What was hardest to do was – everything. Nevertheless, life had to move on. The first thing she decided to do was return the crib and pram that she had bought for the baby. She had caught hold of the notion that if it was out of sight it would somehow make all of it easier to deal with. Abbey offered to do it for her. Emily refused, telling her that she had to do it herself to get closure. She stood about two feet from the exchange counter with the bills clutched tight in her hand, lips trembling for almost half an hour before her mother and Abbey couldn’t watch any longer and took over the awful task, finishing it on her behalf.

Some days later, while searching for something at the back of her cupboard, she found a box of baby clothes Mummy had packed away probably to save Emily the heartache of doing it herself. It hadn’t worked. Emily cried for almost the whole day – thinking of herself as a failure both as a daughter-in-law and as a mother.

A while later she turned on the radio, hoping that music would soothe her aching soul. It was retro hour and they were playing Johnny Cash. ‘You are my sunshine’ came on.

‘…as I lay sleeping,
I dreamt I held you in my arms.
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken,
So I bowed my head and cried…’
 

Emily, in near hysterics, pulled the music system from its socket and threw it as hard as she could. How could the world send her such brutal reminders of Grace and plunge her back into the cold swirling vortex just as she was trying to resurface and breathe again?

Emily wanted to talk to Ethan but every time she looked at him, her eyes would fill up and she would turn away. She was so very sorry she hadn’t been able to keep their daughter safe. She didn’t know how to apologize and Ethan was giving her limited opportunities to try. It seemed as though he was spending more and more time at the hospital. She wanted to be able to grieve with him, but she felt so guilty that she needed a little more time before she could ask Ethan to share some of the intense weight of the sorrow with her.

The day before her mother and Abbey were leaving, Emily caught them whispering about something for what felt like the millionth time since they had been at her flat. Exasperated, she shouted, “What are you two always whispering about? Mad Emily? Crazy Emily? Emily needs to see a shrink? Has Emily’s lost her marbles because she can’t stop crying at everything??”

“No, Emily. It’s not like that.” her mother said, as soothingly as she could.

“Then what is it? Why are you two always whispering and then turning into stone the second you see me coming?”

“It’s…it’s…” Abbey began, tears welling up in her eyes.

“You’re crying?” Emily shouted, laughing like a maniac. “It’s WHAT Abbey?”

“I just found out that I’m expecting…” Abbey mumbled. Mrs. Vaz took hold of her hand and Abbey squeezed it.

The air had been sucked out of Emily’s lungs. No. She hadn’t heard right. Not now. Not when she had lost Grace only days earlier. She stood there immobile. She told herself to breathe. She knew what she had to do if only she could make her body do it.

Emily swallowed. “That’s…that’s amazing Abbey…I didn’t know you guys were trying again…” Emily somehow managed to say in an unnatural shrill voice, forcing one foot in front of the other till she was standing in front of Abbey. She raised her arms and gave her elder sister a stiff hug.

“Yeah…” Abbey replied uncomfortably, not knowing if she could ever tell Emily, who had been on such a rough road, that it was an unplanned pregnancy.

“I’ll…I’ll get something to celebrate…” said Emily, going to the kitchen so that they wouldn’t see her cry.

She needed to yell at someone. But at whom? God? Clive? Abbey? At whom? She felt hot tears streaming down her face and it was a while before she was able to stop sobbing and reappear in the hall with some cookies and juice. Her eyes and nose were red, but she had managed to stop crying. “Sorry I don’t have anything more celebration-y.” She said, trying to sound excited.

Abbey smiled and squeezed her hand. “Are you alright?”

The brown eyes met the black and Emily knew that there would be no point feigning happiness with her sister. Abbey knew her better than she knew herself. So she said softly, “No. Not really. I’m sorry. I am happy for you…at least I’m sure I am somewhere deep down inside. It’s just…I…I’m…”

Abbey held her in a warm, long embrace. “I know Emmy…I know…”

******

Thanks for coming back today! If it’s your first visit, you can read the previous chapters here.

UBC: Post 23

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Emily: Chapter Eighteen

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GRACE

The doctors at the emergency ward rushed Emily to the labour and delivery room where they tried to find the baby’s heartbeat.

The silence was deafening.

Everything after that was like a nightmare for Emily. The nurses prepped her for an emergency cesarean section. Emily wished they wouldn’t give her the anaesthesia. She felt like she needed to feel the intense pain to cope. That she had to endure physical agony in preparation for that which was to come. It couldn’t have been very long after the surgery began, yet it felt like several agonizing hours had passed before a perfectly formed baby girl was placed on Emily’s chest.

Through tears, she said, “Hey there, Sunshine. Do you want to open those beautiful eyes for me? Mama loves you so much. I…I…I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep you safe. I’m so sorry I couldn’t do the one job I was supposed to do. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m…”

As she broke down into hysterical sobs, one of the nurses gently eased the sleeping baby away from her and the anaesthesiologist gave her a sedative. The last thing she remembered was watching the nurse take her baby away.

She never saw her child again.

The days that followed were no better than that early morning on which little Grace Mendonca said goodbye to this world before she had a chance to say hello. Emily tried to show courage and strength but it was beyond her to do so. In her hospital room where she spent three miserable nights in order to recover from her physical injuries, her eyes kept darting to the side of her bed where a baby crib should have been. Every time a nurse or a doctor or Ethan entered the room, she involuntarily glanced at their arms hoping that were carrying her little girl and they had decided to put an end to the cruel joke life seemed to be making at her expense. She couldn’t believe that her Grace was gone.

Reality hit her like a brick when the hospital administration staff  handed her the baby’s death certificate as they were being discharged from the hospital. She collapsed into unstoppable tears and had to run out of the hospital to draw in some fresh air to breathe again. It didn’t help that when she got into their car, the blood stains were still visible on the car seat. She noticed that Ethan, or somebody, had tried to scrub them away and had been unsuccessful. The large brown patch brought back the horrors of their drive and Emily almost couldn’t breathe again. She slammed the front door shut and got into the back seat shivering. She began to hyperventilate and Ethan handed her a paper bag in which to breathe. He tried to put his arms around her to help calm her down. She pushed him away. Silently he got back into the driver’s seat and took her home.

Emily had hoped that when she got home, things would get better. They didn’t. When she walked into the bedroom, she was greeted by the baby crib she had ordered. It stood there fully assembled, waiting for a baby that would never lay in it. She felt irrationally angry at Ethan for being so insensitive to her feelings and leaving the crib there in full view. She crawled into bed, drew the covers over her head and cried until there were no more tears left. Then she fell asleep.

When she woke up the crib was gone and her family, as well as Ethan’s mother, had arrived. Emily, who could barely pull herself out of bed, found that she had lost the will to talk or eat and wanted to be alone, in the quiet dark world into which she had gone.

She would need time, and lots of it, to heal. Her world had been shattered and she felt as though she had been left there, alone among the million fragments. She would have to pick everything up and fix all of them together again. It had to all fit together if she was to go on. But, how could it when one of the biggest pieces of all had been lost forever?

******

You can read the earlier chapters here.

UBC: Post 22

Emily: Chapter Seventeen

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WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING

Pregnancy was not the wonderful journey Emily hoped it would be. For the first few months, she spent a fair amount of her working day in the restroom vomiting or retching, never quite being able to decide which was worse. When she went home in the evening, the kitchen which was once her sanctum caused her nothing but distress. The aromatic spices and flavourful masalas made her insides churn. She was forced to abandon cooking for some time and lived off crackers, pickle, and salted buttermilk. Unfortunately, Ethan who had grown accustomed to Emily’s good cooking suddenly found himself subject to a similar diet and chose to have most of his meals at the hospital canteen. She was exhausted all the time and was envious of women who glowed during the forty weeks they played host to another living being while she lost so much weight so quickly that she looked like she was suffering from a major illness. It was only when the morning sickness, which is the most misleading terminology for a nuisance that exists all the time, subsided fully, more than five months into her pregnancy, that Emily began to enjoy being pregnant. She revelled in feeling her hyperactive baby twist, turn, dance and buckle around inside her.

Sadly, after her initial rotten mood, thanks to always being sick and tired, Ethan had buried himself in work and was rarely at home. Most of their conversations happened via text messages and only occasionally was he around to share a meal with her and bond with their baby as it grew in her womb. So although Emily was happier than she had ever been before, she was once again lonely, like she had been those first few months after she got married.

Since she had her baby to think of and having been advised to walk to help have an easier labour and delivery, she spent her free time strolling leisurely in the old park where she had once found solace. Leanne and the others with whom she used to play basket ball had moved on with their lives – some had got married, some had children in school and others had moved away. Although she ached for the old familiar company, she was not disappointed for too long. She met and made friends with a few other mothers-to-be who were also following the same advice she had been given. She enjoyed being able to discuss pregnancy related ups and downs with them and was able to take her mind off of swollen ankles and the ever-threatening-to-return morning sickness in their company. When she was at home alone, she read stories and sang songs to her belly in her tone-deaf voice. Her favourite song was ‘You are my sunshine’ and she hoped to see some sign of recognition in her child’s eyes when she sang it to him or her.  She was astounded by the depth of her love for her child. The sheer intensity of it often caused her heart to ache and she couldn’t wait to meet her little one to smother him or her with that very love.

At about thirty-two weeks pregnant, Emily began looking at baby furniture and clothes, placing orders for all the baby essentials – a baby crib, a pram and some clothes for the little one. When the clothes arrived, Emily was beside herself with excitement. She hand-washed them, something she never did, and hung them out in the bright summer sun to dry. The mere sight of those soft pastel coloured onesies fluttering in the gentle breeze gave her an inexplicable amount of happiness. She began counting down days to her due date when she would be able to dress her baby in them.

As Emily rounded the corner of thirty-seven weeks, Ethan began to come home early again and had requested the hospital to be relieved of night duty till the baby came as well as a few weeks after. Emily was grateful that he was around because it was becoming more and more difficult to manage things on her own.

Then one night, when she was only a few days away from her due date, Emily went to bed to the bouncing and dancing of her baby in her belly. A few hours later, she woke up feeling wet. Thinking that her water had broken, she shook Ethan awake to tell him it was time to go to the hospital and turned on the lights. What she saw next took her breath away – and not in a good way. There was a large pool of dark red blood in the place where she had laid. When Ethan saw the blood, he muttered, “Placenta…” at a decibel that was barely audible and shot a worried look at Emily. Throwing her house-coat to her he shouted urgently, “We’ve got to move quickly. Now Emily! Let’s go!!”

At two-thirty in the morning, there wasn’t any traffic on the road and Emily and Ethan reached the emergency ward in about ten minutes. Emily sat in a little puddle of blood and wondered why there was no pain. She prodded her belly trying to get her baby to move. The absence of an answering kick or punch terrified her. She feared the worst, but she wouldn’t allow those terrible thoughts to take form in her head.

The baby was almost due.

The baby only had to be born into this world.

Nothing could go wrong now, so late into her pregnancy.

It just couldn’t.

******

Keeping my fingers crossed for Emily. Read the earlier chapters here.

UBC: Post 21

Emily: Chapter Sixteen

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THIRTY-FOUR

Emily was beside herself with excitement when she rushed out of the toilet to shake a still sleeping Ethan out of bed to give him the news. “We’re pregnant E! We’re pregnant!!”

Ethan looked at her with blurry irritated eyes before understanding and a lopsided grin appeared on his face. He pulled her into an embrace and kissed her tenderly. He was happier than he thought he would be and in all sincerity said, “That’s the kind of news I needed to hear at the start of an extremely hectic morning Emmy. It’s what will keep me going through the day. But,” he added, “Perhaps you should see Dr. Rao and make sure that you are pregnant before we spread the word?”

Emily who had been scrolling through her contacts to find her mother’s number, which she had forgotten for some reason at that moment, paused and looked up at Ethan. “Hmm…I suppose that makes sense. I’ll make an appointment right away!”

Emily was lying on the doctor’s table wondering why the air conditioner in Dr. Rao’s consultation room was always set at a temperature so low it caused the hair on her body to stand up when the nurse came in to get the equipment ready.

The nurse noticed her goose bumps and smiled, “Don’t be nervous Ma’am. All is well. The doctor is running late because he is finishing an unscheduled emergency caesarean section. He’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

Emily nodded and thought about how she could possibly be that woman in the operation theatre a few months from then. Hopefully, there would be no emergency surgery and she would be waiting for the baby to crown. She squirmed in excitement, a grin spreading across her face.

“Ah! Mrs. Mendonca, how late did you say you were?” asked Dr. Rao, coming straight to the point as he drew the screen around her bed, probably more out of habit than out of the need for privacy since there was only one bed in the room.

“About ten days. I’m usually very regular. I’ve never been this late before.”

“Let’s have a look-see then.” He said, running the ultrasound transducer right below Emily’s belly searching for the amniotic sac. “There. Can you see it?” Dr. Rao was pointing at a tiny blob on the screen.

Emily looked at him and said, “That? That’s the baby? You’re sure, aren’t you, doctor?”

Dr. Rao laughed. “Well, not the baby per se, it’s the amniotic sac. The fetus is a little too tiny to make out just yet, plus, it’s not like it has tiny arms and legs for you to see. On this old machine, you can’t even hear its heartbeat yet. But,” he finished hastily as Emily began to look worried, “to answer your more important question, yes, I’m sure you’re about six weeks along.”

Emily felt tears well up. She was crying again. This journey of pregnancy which she seemed to be only beginning at last, had already left her in tears so many times. At least these weren’t tears of frustration and disappointment anymore.

As he wrote out a prescription for standard supplements, Dr. Rao added, “You’ll be given no end of advice from all the well-meaning women you know who have had children before you. Other than refraining from alcohol consumption, smoking and drugs there is nothing you must or cannot do at this time. Some women work in the fields till they go into labour and usually if they’re not teenagers, these are the women who have the easiest deliveries. Pregnancy is not a disease. It is part of routine life and unless you are advised by me, don’t give up on anything that you’ve been doing so far. Also, don’t suddenly shock your body and do something absolutely new, no matter what you read on the internet. I hate to say it but, the internet is full of idiots leading idiots. Don’t take anything you read about medical issues on the internet seriously. Come straight to me if you have any fears or doubts and take these tablets. I’ll see you back here in a few days for your next appointment.”

As Emily was getting up to go, Dr. Rao turned to her and said, “One more thing Mrs. Mendonca. Congratulations!”

Emily felt her eyes become wet again and was walking on air when she met Ethan outside the clinic. “Thirty-four weeks till baby time E.”

He looked at Emily, the woman who was going to be the mother of his child and in excitement repeated, “Thirty-four weeks…” before bursting into loud laughter.

******

Post 20!

Catch up on the previous chapters here.