“Relax Mrs. Kent. I know it’s difficult but just try. You have to resist...”
She tuned her out. The room smelled of anti-bacterial cleanser. Monitors beeped and thumped. Lois looked at faces in the dimly-lit room and none of them was the face she desperately needed to see. He was not there. She didn’t know where he was exactly and that made the situation all the more frightening. She needed him and he wasn’t there. He had always been there in the past; sometimes at the last minute but always there.
God, she loved him. She loved him more than life itself. Even after twelve years of marriage, she never grew tired of him; never took him for granted and always worried about him when he was gone. He always had returned to her and the next day there were always amazing stories of feats performed by Superman. And she knew unequivocally that he felt the same way about her. He often told her how he felt but he never really had to; he proved the way he felt by the things he did for her.
Pain wracked her body in waves that rose and subsided. Long before she had promised herself that she would not scream and show her pain; she would not succumb to it. She would not make a spectacle of herself but it was harder than she ever imagined; harder because she was suffering it alone. She clenched her teeth as the next wave of pain hit hard.
“…the urge to push. You’re not ready.” The doctor was kind and she certainly was competent. “I am going to recommend an epidural. If it’s not administered now, it may be too late.”
“I don’t want our baby drugged on arrival,” Lois replied, the contraction having subsided and now fading.
“Lois, we discussed this already. Only you will be affected; not the baby. It will actually cut down on the trauma to the baby. Your body will not feel the contractions so you won’t be nearly as tense,” she explained patiently. “I strongly suggest it but it’s your choice.”
“It won’t make me loopy, will it?”
“No, Lois. It simply blunts the pain caused by the contractions.”
Lois considered it. She had not even begun to deliver their baby but she was already exhausted. The contractions had wrung the spunk from her and she was running on a combination of nervous adrenaline and fear. She looked up into the kind eyes of the doctor and nodded. “As long as it won’t affect the baby.”
The doctor smiled. “I assure you, it won’t,” she replied. She turned to the labor and delivery nurse and told her to summon the on-call anesthesiologist. The nurse quickly left and the doctor took Lois’ hand. She smiled sadly. “Where is Mr. Kent, Lois?”
“On assignment,” she said. “A big story.”
“This is the biggest story of his life and he’s going to miss it,” the doctor replied. “I can’t believe that there is any story more important than the one you two are going to make tonight.” On her face, the doctor wore her disapproval of Clark working on the night their child would be born. Lois wished she could tell her doctor the truth but she could not. The doctor would forever consider Clark a terrible husband; that saddened Lois.
Tears formed in her eyes. “He would be here if he could,” Lois replied. She knew it was the truth but she also knew that it was the one aspect of her life she regretted. Clark was gone at important times in their lives. Anniversaries, birthdays, parties, and even award ceremonies had been missed because of his call to duty. It was the life she signed up for but their child had not. And now what she feared most was the question, would Clark be there for their child as it grew up?
She didn’t know the sex of the child. She suspected Clark had snuck a peek at some point but he denied it. They didn’t want to know whether it was a boy or girl. Too many secrets had cluttered their in the past. Those secrets had made them both say and do things they regretted. But this was a good secret that neither of them knew; it would be a joyous surprise for both of them. That was unless Clark peeked; which Lois believed he had.
She knew he wanted a son. Emil had told them that the baby would be part human, part Kryptonian and she knew Clark hoped their child would take his place someday; a boy to carry on the Kent name. But that might be years after she died and that thought was very unsettling to her: that her child would take his or her father’s place as mankind’s greatest protector and she would not live long enough to see it. She worried that their child would spend hundreds of years without it’s mother; raised by a father that was absent at critical moments in his or her life.
The anesthesiologist arrived with the labor and delivery nurse. He was a tall man, with thinning hair that was graying at the temples. He smiled as he entered the room. The nurse wheeled in a cart with a variety of items covered with a white cloth. Her doctor rose and spoke the specialist in quiet tones.
“We need to do this quickly, then,” she heard him say. He looked at her. “Mrs. Kent, my name is Doctor Wambier. I’ll be administering the epidural. I’d like you to turn on your side and curl up as best as you can, okay?”
Lois complied and winced at the unpleasantly sharp pain in her spine followed by stinging warmth. “That’s it,” the doctor said. “You can lay back now. It will take a few minutes to work.”
Lois rolled back. “And this isn’t going to make me loopy or not in control, right? Because, if it does; you need to just put me out completely. I must be aware of what’s going on; I can’t lose control and start blabbering. I don’t want to start talking about things I shouldn’t be talking about…you know, my sources and stuff.”
The doctor smiled. “That only happens when I miss and rather than traveling down, the anesthesia travels up. You’ll know if that happens if you start feeling fuzzy.” He patted her arm. “But I seldom miss.” He turned and left the room. “Good luck with the delivery, Mrs. Kent,” he said as he departed.
She felt a painful wave begin to build but it suddenly diminished. “Is it working?” Lois asked.
“Yes,” her doctor replied. “You’re having a contraction right now; a big one.”
“I really don’t feel it at all,” Lois said, relieved that the excruciating cramping sensation was now under control.
“And that’s the beauty of the epidural,” her doctor replied. “You won’t really feel the pain; just a little pressure from time to time.” She looked at the monitors and frowned. She turned back to Lois. “I want to check the monitor; it seems that it may have shifted when you had the epidural and I’m not getting much of a reading on the baby’s heartbeat.” She pulled back the covers and lifted Lois’ gown.
Lois looked down and her belly seemed smaller than it had before. “Has the baby moved?”
“Um, maybe,” the doctor said as she adjusted the fetal monitor band that wrapped around Lois’ stomach. “Something has happened.” The doctor adjusted the band repeatedly, trying to find the heartbeat. The concern was visible in her face but she tried not to expose it. Instead, she feverishly began shifting the position of the fetal monitor. Lois then noticed that only the beeping of the machine measuring her heartbeat could be heard. The muffled thumping of the baby’s heart was no long audible.
Lois grew alarmed. “Is everything okay? Why can’t I hear my baby’s heartbeat?”
“It’s the monitor, Lois,” the doctor tried to say convincingly. “I’m sure it’s the monitor. Everything is going to be okay; please just relax.” She kept glancing between the fetal monitor display and Lois’ stomach as she shifted the monitor around. “Your baby is strong and healthy, Lois,” the doctor reassured.
“Then why can’t I hear its heartbeat?”
“It’s this monitor,” the doctor replied. She pulled a stethoscope from her lab coat pocket and put them up to her ears. “Breathe normally, Lois.”
Lois tried breathing normally but felt a wave of panic rising in her. The device monitoring her heartbeat began beeping more quickly. Clark, she thought, I need you. Hurry! She looked down and her stomach appeared even smaller than before. “What’s happening?” she cried.
“I don’t know,” the doctor replied. “Just be calm. I’m trying to find the baby’s heartbeat, Lois. Calm down.”
The labor and delivery nurse moved in to assist the doctor. She threw back the sheets that were only draped across Lois’ pelvis for modesty reasons. “No bleeding, Doctor,” she said evenly. “But…” she began and halted in mid-sentence.
“But what? Doctor!” Lois barked and grabbed the woman’s arm so tightly that she winced from the pressure. “Tell me what’s happening!”
“I don’t know, Lois…I can’t seem to find…” The doctor who seemed so competent and confident moments before now abandoned her calm façade and began to panic.
“Find what…the baby? How is that possible?” Lois scanned the room for answers but found none. All she found was a birthing room that seemed pleasant and comforting hours ago but now invoked feelings of dread. The air now seemed stale, hot and cloying. The soothing pale blue color of walls now appeared gray and drab; prison walls. The gentle lighting now seemed sinisterly insufficient; conspiring silently to hide the truth from her. The wallpaper border of smiling, hand-stitched teddy bears no longer seemed cute. Their black dead eyes peered down at Lois; their grins now sneering maws and their hand-stitching reminiscent of the way corpses were sutured after autopsies.
She cried for Clark but to no avail. Fear became convulsions that wracked her body and sent her into a full-blown panic attack. “Clark!” she screamed but no sound came from her throat. She looked down. Her stomach was now flat and taught as it was when she was a teenager.
The doctor tried to comfort her; to tell her that everything was okay but Lois could see the truth and see the deception in the kind woman’s eyes. She knew the truth: her baby was dead but more to the point, it was gone. It had vanished somehow and her fear turned into overwhelming sorrow. She sobbed at the pain of losing the baby without ever seeing it; without even knowing its gender. Clark had been so happy and excited upon learning they were going to have a baby and now…now there was nothing but pain and emptiness. She sobbed uncontrollably until the seeds of guilt took hold. She killed their baby; it was the anesthesia. Had she not taken the epidural, the baby would be alive and fine. She would finally be a mother and…
Lois bolted upright out of her dream. It was still early and the new day’s sunlight had just begun to lighten the eastern horizon beyond the silhouetted buildings of Metropolis, standing like resolute sentries against the coming day. The hot stagnant air was gone; replaced by cool, dry air and the faint fragrance of eucalyptus that was ever-present in their apartment.
She found herself in the bedroom of the terrace apartment they had moved to ten years earlier. Martha returned to Smallville after opting against a second term in the Senate and had settled back in at the farm. For several reasons Lois and Clark felt they needed a place of their own; someplace close to the Daily Planet.
“Lois; are you okay?” Clark whispered and rolled over to face her.
“Yeah,” she replied unsteadily. She tasted the salty tears in her throat and softly cleared them away. “Bad dream.” She lay back down and found her pillow moist from her tears. She rose up, flipped the pillow over and looked sadly at Clark. She smiled weakly at him. “Same bad dream,” she murmured.
“I thought so,” Clark replied, reaching out and pulling her close to him. He stroked her hair. “You’re all I’ve ever needed, Lois. You know that, right?” he said softly, accentuating his words with a kiss on her forehead. “I’m thankful for every moment I have you.”
“I know that Clark.” She paused and then added, “And I feel the same. But I also know what you’ve always wanted, too. You deserve to get things you want. After everything that you have done for us, you deserve more than just the things you need.” Tears came to her eyes and her throat tightened. “You deserve so much more…” she said and buried her head in his chest, softly weeping.
“Lois,” he said, “There’s nothing you can do; nothing anyone can do. It’s just biology and that’s bigger than both of us.” He hugged her gently and kissed the top of her head. “Our legacy will be a remarkably better world and that is something that very few people leave behind.” He held her as her gentle sobs subsided, inhaling the scent of shampoo in her hair and the residual aroma from the perfume she dabbed on the sides of her neck. “And as long as I have you, I truly want for nothing,” he whispered.
Clark held Lois until her breathing became normal and then settled into a slow, rhythmic pace. He listened to her heartbeat slow and then settle into its sweet, soothing melody. He closed his eyes and sleep returned to him, aided by the comforting sounds and scents of the woman he loved.
Lois usually spent her Saturdays doing the weekly grocery shopping and more often than not, taking a stroll in the business district window shopping before settling down in front of the TV to watch college football games or NASCAR races. It was a routine she had grown comfortable with throughout 12 years of marriage. But today was not a normal Saturday. Today she sat on the terrace, sipping a cup of coffee and listlessly staring at the city while Clark read the paper.
Clark knew that she was suffering the after-effects of her dream. He’d noticed Lois’ first marked change almost two years ago. It began after Lucy had asked them to watch her two-year old son, Sam for a weekend. He noticed Lois acting differently and wondered to himself if little Sam had carried an illness that Lois contracted.
That had been a wonderful weekend for both of them. Clark marveled at the little man that Sam seemed to be and took great delight in doing things that made the toddler laugh. Frolicking with Little Sam, Lois saw a side of Clark she had never before seen and it made her begin to think. Things that never crossed her mind before or never seemed very important now seemed urgent. She felt a stirring inside her when she held the boy in her lap or bathed him at night. She marveled at the chubby little hands, the delicate fingers and toes, and the way his eyes lit up as he splashed in the tub.
They had taken Little Sam to a nearby playground; Clark carrying him on his shoulders while the little boy squealed with excitement and grabbed Clark’s hair in his tiny fists. Pushing an empty stroller along side of the two, Lois caught the smiles of passers-by looking at the sight of Sam on Clark’s shoulders. She watched Clark gently push Sam in the toddlers’ swing and when their eyes met, a sad smile passed between them.
After Lucy arrived and took Sam back home, Lois fell into quiet introspection. Her muted persona was broken when she remarked how fun it was having Little Sam spend the weekend with them and asked if Clark had ever wondered what it would be like to have kids.
“I thought about it a few times this weekend when we had Sam with us,” he admitted.
“Really? What thoughts ran through your head?”
He smiled. “Watching you with Little Sam I thought what a great mother you would be and honestly, I felt bad about it.” He looked down and then back into her eyes. “Jor-El told me years ago that it would not be possible to have an heir because of the differences in human and Kryptonian physiology; Emil later confirmed that.” Clark paused and noticed a shadow cross Lois’ face. He reached out and took her hand. “I asked because I was worried about you, Lois,” he added. “I was worried what it might do to you if you got pregnant with a Kryptonian baby. Haven’t you ever wondered about it?”
She shrugged and cocked her head. “Does it sound terrible to you if I said I never even considered it possible? I just assumed we never could…for probably the same reason that Emil told you we couldn’t. I just sort of dismissed the possibility from the beginning.” She emitted a soft sigh. “I guess I just wish that I could give you a child; you really seemed to have a good time with Sam and I know you’d be an amazing father.”
Since that weekend two years ago, Lois had begun to have other moments of quiet reflection but they were not tied to any visit by Little Sam. When Clark had asked her what was troubling her, she told him that she had simply had a bad dream. They were never exactly the same but they always ended the same: Lois awakening in tears with a profound sense of loss.
Clark tried to talk to her about the dreams but she often brushed aside his attempts by saying they were just bad dreams. But when the dreams began to take on a more sinister tone, Lois did reveal the theme. At first they were dreams were mysterious: a child that she knew was their child but she could never see the baby’s face. Later on, the dream became more frightening: the child whose face she never saw had become lost in a crowd and because she could not recognize the child, she could not find it. Those dreams were overtaken with horrifying dreams: a still-born child that the delivery nurses would not show her before taking it to the morgue or, in its latest incarnation, a child that vanished from the womb in the midst of delivery.
The one constant in her dream was that Clark was never there. She was alone facing the tragedy without him at her side.
Her current mood told him that the early morning dream had affected her and he offered to take her out for lunch and that afterwards, they could go visit Martha at the Kent farm in Smallville. Visiting Martha was always a treat for Lois and the suggestion brightened her mood.
He called his Mom and asked if she could stand some company for the day. Martha laughed. “Do you think you need to ask me that, Sweetheart? You two need to get out of that dreary old city and come spend the weekend with me,” she said. “Get some fresh air for a change; take a walk in the fields. It will do you both wonders!”
“I’ll see what Lois has planned and let you know, Mom,” Clark replied. “But I think it’s a safe bet that spending the weekend with you would be just fine with her,” he added.