Peach - *Book Four*

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It’s been ten days since I’ve taken that damn pregnancy test. One and a half weeks of restless nights and distressing days. I have absolutely no idea what happens next. I feel like a pathetic, emotional mess. Rational thinking is an impossible task. Just one thing is certain. I can’t have a baby! A baby that resulted from a drunken night of obviously careless sex with some stupid moron.

Ugh, my mom would kill me if she knew!

I had to take a couple of days off work because I couldn’t concentrate on anything. And I’m still having a hard time. Seven hours into today’s shift, I sit at the computer, staring at the screen, once again totally lost in thought.

I need to tell someone about this real soon. This is eating me alive. Someone needs to tell me what I should do because I sure don’t fucking know. I do know though that I have to see a doctor as well.

I take a deep breath and try to focus on my work when the phone rings. When I pick up and recognize Rob’s voice, I cringe. I haven’t even told him.

“Hey, Em,” he says, “can you help out on the maternity ward for a few hours? We’re helplessly understaffed.”

“We’re understaffed here too, Rob,” I huff and roll my eyes even though he can’t see it.

“I know. And I already asked Ted, and he said they’d manage.” The cheerfulness in his voice makes me cringe even harder.

“You talk to the doctor in charge before you talk to me?” I rub my forehead in slight frustration. I managed to avoid Rob for most days this past week because I knew he would pick up on my strange behavior and call me out on it. And I sure wasn’t ready for that conversation.

“Yeah, sorry. So will you come? Pretty please? And we need to talk,” he adds in a low voice. “You’ve been acting weird for a while now.”

See? I knew it. I let out a long, slow breath. “And you think we’ll be able to talk during work?”

“No, probably not. But I’ll take you out tonight, after work.”

I need a moment to answer him. To tell myself that there’s no way around this.

“Okay,” I say, surrendering. “I’ll be there shortly.”

I take a deep breath, trying to pluck up as much courage as possible. Time to confess.

One hour later, I’m already on the verge of a crying fit. And it’s only 4pm which means I still have two hours to go.

Helping out on the maternity ward wasn’t my best idea. I’d even say it was one of my worst ideas ever.

I’ve helped out before which wasn’t a problem. But seeing all those moms-to-be with their significant others, all of them deliriously happy when they look at their unborn child on the screen of the ultrasound, turns out to be pure torture.

While they experience total bliss, my misery increases with every little beating heart that I see.

Because whereas pregnancy is a joyous and wonderful state for them, it is a state of dread and consternation for me.

There’s no way I’ll be able to handle this on my own. No way that I can be a good mom yet. I don’t feel ready.

And with my own mom being like she is, the wish to be a good mom to my future children has always been my priority. Whatever that means.

All these thoughts occupy my mind for the rest of my shift. I clean up after today’s last patient while Rob takes down some notes on a file. At least that’s what I thought he was doing until I turn around and see him watching me intently.

I stop in my tracks and grimace. “What?”

Rob gives me a concerned look and sighs. “Emma, you need to talk to me. What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

I take a deep breath, trying to keep those stupid tears that never left my eyes from falling. All I manage is a nod.

He closes the file with a little thud and attaches the pen to it. “Okay, grab your things. We’re going to your favorite restaurant, and you will tell me everything!”

We don’t talk while we leave the hospital, or on our way to this cute little Italian restaurant that I love so much.

When we walk in, I’m waiting for this familiar, pleasant feeling to settle in. The joyful anticipation of great food, a delicious wine, and some good conversation.

But it won’t come. Not when Rob and I are seated in a quiet corner or when the waiter hands us the menu, asking for our drink order.

Rob looks at me. “The usual?”

I swallow the big lump in my throat and shake my head. The usual would be that excellent red wine.

“Just a coke for now, thanks.” I smile at the waiter.

Rob gives me a quizzical look before he orders a coke for himself.

Once we decided what we’re going to eat, the waiter takes our order and the menus and leaves us in a really heavy silence—at least that’s what it feels like for me. Rob watches me closely before he finally asks, “Emma, what’s wrong?”

I look at him for a few moments before I take a deep breath and say, “I’m pregnant.”

Rob is speechless. He looks at me with wide eyes and opens and closes his mouth several times. Okay, maybe I should have broken the news to him a little more gently.

“You’re pregnant,” he finally repeats.

I nod.

“How? When? Who’s the father?” He gasps, “Shit, don’t tell me that was your one-night stand from Abby’s wedding?”

I frown. “I suppose it was. Unless this is a case of immaculate conception.”

Rob chuckles and shakes his head. “Damn, Emma. I would congratulate you, but judging from the state you’re in, this isn’t happy news for you.”

I grimace. “No, not really.”

“How are you feeling? Physically, I mean.”

I shrug. “Not too bad. That’s probably why I haven’t realized it sooner. I mean, that was like what? Two and a half months ago?”

Rob takes a deep breath. I know exactly what he’s thinking, but he doesn’t ask until our food arrives and we take our first bites.

He puts his fork down, chews, swallows, and looks at me. “Do you want to keep it?” The frown on his face conveys precisely what he thinks about that. I know that he’s all for a woman’s right to choose, and he would never turn anyone down or desperately try to talk them out of it. But he would refer them to someone else.

I sigh deeply and put down my fork as well. “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about that. But I know I can’t just take the easy way out, even if that wouldn’t be an easy way either.” I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose. “I don’t know, Rob. I really don’t know.” I look at him with a pained stare. “How is this going to work? How am I supposed to take care of a child all by myself?”

“You wouldn’t be alone. You have me, and Brad. And I’m sure even your mom would support you. And I definitely know that your dad will be thrilledto finally have a grandchild, no matter the circumstances. We’ll figure it out.” He puts his hand on top of mine and gives it a reassuring squeeze.

We continue to eat and talk about possible support until Rob asks, “Have you seen a doctor yet?”

I shake my head and look at my food that I’m mostly shoving back and forth over my plate. “I wouldn’t even know which doctor to go to.”

“Don’t you have a gynecologist you go to?”

“I do. But just if I can’t help it. I don’t really like her.”

He studies me for a moment and takes a deep breath. “You want me to do it? Just the ultrasound and see how the baby is doing?”

I think about his offer for a moment and wait to see if it feels awkward or anything.

But when I look at him, it doesn’t feel weird or bizarre. So I nod.

He smiles at me. “Okay. Finish your food. Then we’re gonna go to the hospital.”

On our way to the maternity ward, he tells everyone, who we run into and wonders what the heck we are doing here at this time of day, that he just forgot something on his desk. And with that charming smile he gives them, no one questions us further, not even the nightshift nurse who sees us walk into one of the exam rooms with an ultrasound device. But she—just like everybody else—suspects us to hook up regularly anyway.

I let Rob talk me into coming with him here tonight pretty quickly. At first, I told him that it could wait until tomorrow. But he insisted. And in a way I’m glad. At least I’ll know soon if there really is a baby growing inside my uterus.

He gestures for me to lie down on the examination table. “Okay, I’ll do an abdominal ultrasound now, but we might not get the best images like that. Which means tomorrow you’ll come back and we’ll talk to Susan, and she’ll do the full examination. Agreed?”

Susan is one of the other doctors here at the ob-gyn department. And I know I can trust her. She won’t ask any questions, and she won’t start any gossip. So I nod. “Agreed.”

I lift up my shirt a little and push down the waistband of my pants so Rob can apply the ultrasound gel to my belly. I flinch a little when he spreads the cool gel on my warm skin with the ultrasound transducer.

But I flinch even more when I look at the screen where I see my worst fears confirmed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Rob look at me briefly as if he was trying to read my reaction. When I bite my lips and breathe in deeply through my nose, it should be answer enough.

“All right – there it is,” he says just above a whisper. “As far as I can tell, everything seems good. If I calculated correctly, you’re eleven weeks pregnant, and the embryo is as big as it’s supposed to be for its gestational age. Do you see it?” He smiles at me when our eyes meet.

His enthusiasm makes me smile too, but only for an instant. Because when I look at the screen again, just as I’ve done so many times this afternoon, what I see is exactly the same thing as all the other times. And just like all the other times, tears well up in my eyes.

But this time I let them fall because this time, I’m not looking at someone else’s baby’s beating heart...

This time, it’s my baby.

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