Pronouns and Midwives
"I'm pregnant," Carly had said, practically beaming with joy.
Not all of the Autobots present in the rec room had understood immediately, being not overly familiar with human reproduction. However, those who were better informed had taken it upon themselves to enlighten the more ignorant ones, and within astroseconds, the young mother-to-be and her husband were surrounded by a bunch of excitedly chattering mechs - including Optimus Prime himself, who was the first to shake the couple's hands.
"That's wonderful news, Carly," he said warmly. "My congratulations to both of you."
Ratchet had been as happy for them as everybody else, no doubt about that. He had smiled and congratulated them and - by popular request - had given a crash course concerning the basics of the human gestation period. After a night of sufficiently convivial drinking - courtesy of Jazz and Sideswipe - he had started to familiarize himself with the medical aspects of Carly's condition. Since Carly was an honorary Autobot and she and Spike spent a good three quarters of their time at the base anyway, it was no question that Ratchet would attend to her during her carrying just as much as her human doctor would.
This in mind, he had sat down and absorbed even the tiniest bit of information on human pregnancy and childbirth he could get his hands on, had consulted with a number of human physicians and had had some long talks with Carly herself to gain an insight into her thoughts on the matter. He had equipped his med bay with human medical emergency tools, just in case, had learned to handle them properly and had even persuaded Spike to act as a guinea pig while he and Wheeljack tested the devices for their functionality. And even though it was the first time for him to oversee a human carrying, and even though he was somewhat nervous and excited, he was still confident that he was suitably prepared for any eventualities that might decide to pop up during the next nine months.
This blissfully ignorant belief had lasted a whole two Earth weeks.
Bluestreak came rushing into the med bay in alt mode at something approaching light speed and hit his breaks hard, grinding to a halt with screeching tires. Ratchet managed to dodge him just in time, or the result would have been a painful collision. "Is there a reason why you're trying to knock me over, Bluestreak?" he snapped irritably, but to no avail. The young gunner was already in full rant mode.
"Ratchet, Ratchet, you have to do something, it's Carly and the sparkling, it's really bad, please -"
"What about Carly?" Ratchet interrupted, his medical programming jumping to life instantly at his charge's name.
Bluestreak's passenger door popped open, and a very pale-looking Carly got out, wobbling slightly on her feet. Ratchet knelt down instinctively and offered the young woman his hand so she could support herself on it. "What happened? Are you injured?"
Carly shook her head and leaned into his palm. "It's nothing, really," she murmured. "Just the usual thing..."
Bluestreak transformed back into his bipedal form. "I found her outside, Ratchet, and she was purging her tanks really hard, and I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with the sparkling, and you must help her, Ratchet, please, can you help her?"
Ratchet had stopped listening at 'purging her tanks', as this told him enough. He picked Carly up carefully and gently cradled her to his chest plates as he carried her over to one of the examination berths. A quick scan confirmed his assumptions: Her β-hCG levels were considerably elevated, as was to be expected in this stage of the carrying. Her heart beat was a little too fast, and her blood pressure a little too low, but these were normal side effects of the purging. He handed her a clean cloth to wipe her face. “Lie down for a moment, Carly,” he told her, and then turned to Bluestreak who was nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot. “Stop fidgeting, you glitch, and get me some water, will you?”
The young gunner stared at him for a moment, then threw a quick glance at Carly. “Water. Yes. Of course, Ratchet. Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back, okay? And don’t panic!” And with that he hastened out of the room as if Megatron himself was after him.
Ratchet refused to give this odd behavior a second thought and instead turned his attention back to his patient. Carly had wiped the cold sweat from her forehead, and her cheeks were gaining a little color again. Ratchet picked up one of his scanners and slowly passed it over the young woman’s lower belly.
“Well,” he said, smiling, “judging from this data, I’d say the reason for your discomfort is fine and dandy.”
Carly propped herself up on her elbows, and he turned the scanner so that she could see the three-dimensional picture of the sparkling on the screen. Carly stared in fascination.
“He’s growing so fast,” she observed. “It’s incredible. Last time he wasn’t even half as big.”
That wasn’t quite correct, Ratchet thought, but she was right, the little glitchmouse was indeed growing at an amazing speed. It still bore more resemblance to an odd mix between a fish and a tadpole than to a human being, but it already sported a pair of big optics, four little stumps with tiny appendages that would once be fingers and toes, and most of the vital organs, including a beating heart. It was fascinating.
“He’s still looking like a little alien, isn’t he?” Carly said amusedly, as if she’d read his processor. She tilted her head to one side and narrowed her eyes to slits. “But I think he already has Spike’s nose.”
Ratchet frowned. He. Ever since the very first day of her carrying, she - and Spike also - insisted on referring to her offspring as male, and that confused him. It was much too early to specify the sparkling’s sex; the sexual organs hadn’t even developed yet. But then again, Carly was physically connected to the little one. Could she sense details about her sparkling that Ratchet’s scanners couldn’t pick up, similar to a Cybertronian carrier?
“How do you know your sparkling is male, Carly?” he asked her.
She gave him a questioning look as she sat up. “Sorry?”
“You keep referring to the embryo as ‘he’,” Ratchet explained. “How do you know it’s male? Can you... feel that?”
A surprised smile flashed across Carly’s face at the question. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “No, I can’t feel that, it’s just... it’s just the pronoun of choice, I guess.” And when he blinked his optics in lack of understanding, she added: “It’s what most people do, actually. You don’t know if it’s ‘he’ or ‘she’, but you don’t want to say ‘it’, ‘cause it’s so impersonal, so you go for ‘he’.”
“That’s illogical,” Ratchet said bluntly. Carly laughed. “Yeah. Force of habit, I guess.” She placed a hand onto her belly and regarded it thoughtfully. “Spike says he wants a little girl. A girl with my eyes.”
Ratchet tried to imagine the little tadpole as a minature version of Carly. “And you?” he asked. “Would you prefer a daughter, too?”
She looked up at him with the same thoughtful gaze she had given her belly. “I don’t know,” she answered slowly. “I haven’t thought about it much. I mean, boy or girl... it’s not that important as long as my baby is healthy, don’t you think?”
Ratchet couldn’t help but smile touchedly. Obviously the differences between Cybertronian and human creators were not so big after all. “You will both be alright, Carly,” he assured her. “I’ll see to it.”
She smiled again, somewhat shyly this time. “I’m glad you’re getting so... involved in this, Ratchet,” she said softly. “Not that I don’t trust my gynecologist, but this whole baby thing is so new to me and... well, it’s just good to know that there’s a friend keeping an eye on me... or an optic sensor,” she corrected with a grin.
Ratchet would have very much liked to answer this, and be it only because of the deep surge of affectionate gratitude he felt for her at this moment. However, he didn’t get the chance.
The doors to the med bay swished open with a hydaulic hiss and Bluestreak came stumbling in, carrying a stack of polishing cloths and a large bowl that gave off thin clouds of white steam. “Here’s the water, Ratchet,” he panted, placing both bowl and cloths onto the examination berth. “And I got these, too.” He pointed to the pile of fabric proudly.
Ratchet threw a glance at the door out of pure habit, half expecting to see Sideswipe and Sunstreaker standing there and laughing their afts off at their newest prank, but there was no sign of the two Scourges of Primus. He turned back to the gunner. “Bluestreak,” he said slowly and pointed to the objects on the berth. “What is this?”
“Hot water,” Bluestreak answered in an ‘isn’t it obvious’-tone. “And some clean cloths.”
Ratchet felt something in his processor grind together uncomfortably. He was beginning to get a fairly good idea where this would lead them. “And what the Pit do you intend me to do with it?”
A look of bewilderment started to creep over Bluestreak’s faceplates. “I... I don’t know,” he said uncertainly. “But that’s what they always call for in the movies when a human femme is having a sparkling. Hot water and clean cloths.”
There was a moment of silence. Carly looked back and forth between the two mechs, and then she started giggling so hard she nearly fell off the berth. Ratchet pressed two fingers against his forehead, a gesture he had adopted from Sparkplug and found very useful at times like these.
“The sparkling’s not coming yet, you moron,” he ground out, carefully maintaining control of his voice. “All I wanted was some clean, cold water for Carly to refill her fluid reserves!”
“Oh.” Bluestreak’s expression changed to a mix of embarrassment and disappointment. “Oh. Okay. I can get that for you, Ratchet, just a moment, okay?” He turned to hurry out of the room, but paused again at the door. “Are you sure the sparkling’s not coming yet?” he asked Carly.
“Quite sure, Bluestreak,” she answered, thoroughly amused, and the young gunner trotted away with the air of someone who had just been well and truly disillusioned.
“You know,” Ratchet said dryly as he watched the doors close behind Bluestreak’s back, “there was a reason why I picked this job. I just can’t remember it right now.”“Aw, come on, Ratchet,” Carly said with a mischievous grin. “Look at the bright side! I think we’ve just found the perfect midwife.”