TUESDAY OCTOBER 4, 2005

13:29 GMT-3

VICKI CHURCH

HALIFAX GENERAL HOSPITAL | HALIFAX

“I know you don’t like this Victoria, but we need to get you checked out.” Stephanie closes the Traverse and the view from our new home disappears, but the frown lines across her forehead don’t; they become even more intense. She drops her crystal door handle into her jacket pocket. “You’ve only been checked out once.”

I gaze up at the entrance to the hospital. It doesn’t look anything like a place for medical care—it’s looks more like a modern office complex. Cold and professional. But then again, I guess that’s the idea.

I rest my hand on my stomach; the bump feels even bigger now. The bump that wasn’t even there earlier today. I lift my hand away, and a sudden, sharp pain makes me stagger back.

“What’s wrong” Stephanie asks, rushing forward. She grabs my arm, stopping me from banging into the hospital wall. “The same pain?”

“Yes.” I force out the words as I gasp for breath. “Feels like someone just mangled up my insides.”

Stephanie kneels and presses her ear to my stomach. “I think someone probably did.” She stands and takes my hand, pressing it tight between hers. “That’s why need to get this scan… to see if everything is normal and OK.”

“I just don’t want Dad to find out… I’m pregnant.” I say, the panic of him finding out overrides the pain in my stomach. “Not yet, anyway.” Pregnant. The word crashes around inside my mind like distant thunder. What kind of storm will this baby bring?

We head through the sliding glass doors into a bright white reception area. The floor pattern looks like a London tube map from back home—lines move off in all directions. I guess that’s how people navigate around this huge building.

Stephanie stops by a tall free-standing sign listing all the hospital departments. Her finger stops halfway down the list. “Have you thought about what I mentioned yesterday?” she asks, without turning around.

“No, and I’m not going to,” I say, not realizing how tight my arms wrap around my stomach. “Mum was a firm believer in protecting all life, and I am too.”

Stephanie slowly turns around. “I’m sorry I brought it up.” She sighs. “We just don’t know what’s happening to you.” Her eyes fall to my stomach. “We don’t know if this is normal.”

Normal. The memory of that far-from-normal morning flashes through my mind. Waking up knowing something was different, something felt different. Then the sickness and the stomach cramps… How can I be pregnant? It’s just not possible. I rub my hand over my stomach, over the bump, trying to force the memory of that day from my head.

“Thanks for doing all this for me, Steph,” I say. “I really am grateful for all your help. You’ve been like a mum…”

Her left eyebrow raises.

“Like a big sister.” I quickly add, unable to hide the grin spreading across my face. It feels nice to smile again, if only for a brief second.

Stephanie checks her watch. “I paid for a private scan, so we should be able to walk straight in without waiting.” She heads toward a row of silver-colored elevator doors set in an alcove on the far wall. “Come on, Victoria.”

A sudden sense of fear washes over me. I’ve not felt scared like this for a long time. Not since I was seven and I fractured my nose. The intense fear of waiting for the x-ray, not wanting to see my own skull.

Stephanie suddenly grabs my arm. Her face is full of concern. “Is it the pain again?”

“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m just scared at what we will find out… what we will see.”

“Come on,” she says, her soft voice, soothing my nerves. “This shouldn’t take too long.”

The first elevator in the row opens its shiny doors and we step inside. Stephanie presses the button for the fourth floor. It’s a smooth ride with hardly any movement at all. The doors quickly open onto a small corridor; bright white walls lead to a matching white desk at the end. Alerted to our presence, the middle-aged woman sat behind glances in our direction.

A dull throb bounces behind my eyes. “All this bright light is giving me a headache.” We exit the elevator and head down the corridor, our heels clicking on the polished floor like a tap dancer in a fast routine. I stop and grab Stephanie’s arm. “Are you sure there’s no way Dad will find out about this?”

“Don’t worry, no one knows us here. That’s the reason why I talked your father into letting you come here.” She taps her purse. “And I paid extra for discretion.”

We get to the end of the corridor, and it opens out into a large waiting area. A heavily pregnant woman sits at the back, reading a magazine which rests on her huge stomach.

“Take a seat while I deal with this,” Stephanie says, nodding at the woman behind the desk.

I drop into the nearest seat and rest my hand on my bump. The skin under my top feels tender, like I’ve been caught in the sun. Rubbing my hand around in a circle seems to soothe the discomfort. I glance over my shoulder at the woman sitting in the back. Her stomach looks even bigger than I first noticed. Will I get that big?  I suddenly feel very heavy—probably all that water Stephanie made me drink before we left.

“Come on then,” Stephanie says, tapping my shoulder. “You were miles away.”

We make our way past the desk. The woman looks me up and down as we pass; her eyes focus on my stomach. She’s unable to hide her disapproval as she shakes her head.

“Ignore her,” Stephanie says, loud enough for the woman to hear. “Old people stuck in their ways.”

We continue down a small corridor until we reach a door marked with a silver number four.

“Is this us?” I ask.

Stephanie nods and knocks once on the door. It opens straight away, revealing a nurse in a pale blue uniform. She smiles and invites us inside. In contrast, this room is darker than the rest of the hospital. The lights are low, and a blind covers the window, blocking out the daylight. I spin around. “This low light is a nice change.”

“We need it low. It helps with the scan.” The nurse smiles. “I’m Jill, and I’ll be your sonographer for this scan.” She swings her arm around, indicating to a large padded couch. “Can you lie down on there?” she asks, as she pulls a monitor over to the couch. The ultrasound unit. She turns to Stephanie. “It’s a dating scan, isn’t it?”

Stephane nods as she helps me onto the couch. I can’t take my eyes off the monitor screen as the nurse wheels it over.

The memory of my x-ray, all the fear I felt as a seven-year-old, plays in my head like a horror movie on repeat.

“Right, if you can lower your pants to your hips and pull your top up to your chest, then we can get started.”

I let go of Stephanie’s hand and unbutton my pants, pulling them down a little. The material slides over the bottom of my stomach, sending butterflies raging through me like a hurricane. My heart almost stops as I lift my top. I can’t catch my breath—the bump that wasn’t there this morning is very visible now. Stephanie gasps; her hand goes straight to her mouth in shock. Thankfully, Jill doesn’t notice our reactions. She’s too busy tucking tissue paper under my pants and my top. My bump looks like it’s sitting in a nest of tissues.

“This might be a little cold,” Jill says, as she squirts some clear gel straight onto my stomach.

She’s not wrong. It’s like the feeling you get when you step into a cold bath, when it’s too cold to breathe.

Jill opens her mouth to speak, then stops, like she’s remembered something. Is this the “discretion” that Stephanie mentioned? Instead, she reaches for a large, plastic, pen-shaped device attached to the ultrasound unit.

“This is the transducer… the ultrasound probe that will allow us to see your baby.” She smiles as she positions it over the gel on my stomach.

I can feel my heart rate shoot up as she lowers the probe onto my skin.

“Don’t worry,” she says, sensing my panic. “It will be fine.” She rubs the probe over my skin, spreading the gel around.

I take a deep breath and watch the monitor as patches of gray flash up. I know the science behind an ultrasound, but right now, at this moment, it feels like magic. Like when my magic first sparked.

A black oval appears on the screen, like a large eye which suddenly opens. Revealing…

“A baby.” Stephanie leans close to the screen. Her eyes open wide, like a child at Christmas.

I continue to stare as the impossible image becomes clearer. A baby, my baby, before me on the screen.

Jill points at the image. “There are the legs, the arms…”

Her voice fades away as it finally sinks in. I’m going to have a baby.

“So, can you tell how many weeks gone she is?” Stephanie asks, snapping my mind back into focus.

I watch the screen as the baby suddenly moves, stretching out its legs. I expect to feel the movement, a little something, but all I can feel is the probe as Jill keeps it pressed firmly against my skin.

“I just need to get the baby in a good position, so I can measure it,” Jill says, moving the probe around. “There, that’s great.”

She positions a cursor on the screen, but my eyes are drawn to my baby’s head. I can see the nose and the eyes. The fear I had dissolves into a sense of wonder. The hurricane of butterflies turns into a summer breeze. I’ve experience all kinds of magic, but this is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt. Questions suddenly race through my mind at a hundred miles an hour. What will my baby be like? Will it be a girl, or a boy?  Will they be an Enchanter like me?

“Sixteen weeks,” Jill says, cutting through my thoughts like a hot knife.

I can see Stephanie working it out on her hand. In the space of four weeks, my pregnancy has advanced at four times the normal speed.

 

 

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