Cycling

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Chapter Seventeen

I groaned, heaving myself into bed. I was surprised at how cumbersome I felt, with still so much time left in my pregnancy. Barely over halfway there, and already it was hard moving around. The second trimester had seemed easy so far: my morning sickness had vanished, I no longer needed at least one nap a day. But now…my back was achy, and my feet hurt, and, oh, God, the heartburn! Seventeen more weeks of this was going to be…interesting.

“You okay over there?” Ben called from the closet, where he was getting ready for bed.

“I’m fine. I was having trouble getting into bed.”

He stepped from the closet. “Seriously?”

“Well, I have some extra weight settled right here,” I said, circling my arms over my increasing belly. “It’s got me off balance.”

“We should name her.”

“The weight?”

“The…baby?” Ben replied, gesturing emphatically toward my midsection.

Oh, right, her. It’s like I genuinely thought I was merely getting fat.

“Oh. Uh, yeah, I suppose we should.”

“We had a name list back when we were expecting Daniel.” I pulled a face. “Or,” Ben continued, “we could think about some different names.”

“Yeah, we should do that.”

“What kind of names are you thinking?”

I’d mostly been thinking that I hoped she didn’t die. That was not the attitude to have right now.

“Anna?”

It was literally the first name that popped into my head. Short and sweet and to the point. Yes, I liked this one.

“Huh,” Ben said. “I guess that’s okay.”

“You have a better idea?”

“Claire?”

Okay, I wouldn’t call that a better name, but it was certainly fine.

“We could flip a coin,” I replied.

“All right, heads you win, tails I do.”

I paused a moment, considering. “Loser gets middle name?”

“Sounds fair.”

It was heads, and that was how our daughter got her name. Other couples went through weeks of bickering back and forth about names, or endless searches through baby books and family records. For us, it all came down to a coin toss. If I had lost, I probably would have protested.

I smiled at my victory, and placed my hands on either side of my belly.

“Hello, Anna, our love. We are so excited to have you. See you in seventeen more weeks.”

I fought to sit upright in bed. My legs were wet. I was bleeding. We shouldn’t have named her. It was bad luck. I knew that was why I washaving a problem. She’d had a name for mere hours, and suddenly things were going wrong.

I struggled out of bed and staggered to the light switch. Ben woke up as soon as the light was on. He sat up in the bed, staring at me, a look of panic on his face.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I’m bleeding,” I answered.

“No you’re not.”

I looked down. I wasn’t. But I was soaking wet. Had I wet the bed and freaked out about it? I was going to be embarrassed about this later.

Ben threw back the covers on the bed and I saw that this was not an accident.

“My water broke,” I said, staring at the mammoth wet spot on the bed.

“Oh, Jesus. Let’s get to the hospital.”

Ben grabbed my robe from the bathroom and pulled it around me. Then he led me carefully to the car. As we drove to the hospital, I clung fiercely to my belly, begging my daughter to stay put.

“Hold on, Anna, love, we’re almost there. Hold on.”

At the hospital, we were rushed to the labor and delivery floor. I was given magnesium to stop labor, and steroids to help Anna’s lung development. We were merely days from viability. If she came out now, she wouldn’t survive. If we could keep her inside for another week, our chances multiplied. As they would every week we could keep her inside.

I lay in the hospital bed feeling numb. I had made the mistake of believing everything could be okay. I had thought it was safe to name her, and now my water had broken at twenty-three weeks gestation, when she was too small to possibly survive. I was so mad at myself for believing that things could be okay. Why had I let my guard down?

We’d been at the hospital less than an hour when Dr. Smith came in. He hugged Ben before taking my hand.

“Oh, Elise, I’m so sorry.”

“How could this happen?”

“I don’t know. Everything looked perfect at your last exam.”

He squeezed my hand again before washing up to begin his own exam. Ben stood next to my head, brushing my hair back from my face.

“Are you feeling any contractions?” Dr. Smith asked.

“No, I feel totally normal.”

I was hooked up to a monitor to measure any contractions, and we had yet to see one. The magnesium had given me a headache, but otherwise I felt the same way I had when I’d gone to bed hours earlier.

“Your cervix is almost completely closed. Your membranes have ruptured, but otherwise I think you’re looking surprisingly good. I’m going to do an ultrasound to check on the fluid levels around the baby. If that’s good, we’ll try to hold off the contractions. I’m also going to have them start you on some antibiotics, because my biggest concern is that you or the baby will contract an infection. If you get an infection, we may have to deliver to save your life, or your uterus.”

He pulled the ultrasound machine over to the bedside. I turned away from the screen, unable to look, in case something had gone wrong. I couldn’t bear to see that she was gone.

“She looks good,” Dr. Smith said. “She has okay fluid levels, a little low, but okay. She’s moving. Her heart rate is excellent. If you can keep her in there and stay healthy, there’s a good chance you will both be fine.”

I looked over at the screen. She did look okay, waving her hands around. How could I believe that she’d be okay? My water had broken. I could go into labor at any moment. If that happened, we would lose her.

“We’re going to keep a close eye on you and the baby,” Dr. Smith said. “I am going to do everything I can to make sure you take this baby home.”

I wondered how much control he really had. I knew that the magnesium would keep me from having contractions, to a point at least. What if it didn’t work though, or stopped working? Then what would happen? If I went into labor now, how long would she live? Would I be able to hold her? Or would she already be gone?

I couldn’t stop the questions that were racing through my mind. I didn’t want to ask them, fearing that doing so would seal my daughter’s fate. Yet I wanted comfort, I wanted to know that everything could be all right. I wasn’t sure Dr. Smith, or anyone, could give me the level of comfort I needed.

For now, I could only lie in the bed, hoping that the doctors knew what to do to keep my baby inside of me for as long as possible.

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