Cette semaine, nouveau défi d’écriture de fiction, encore une fois venant de Chuck Wendig. Cette fois-ci, le thème donné était Nous avons besoin d’espoir devant le désespoir. À prime abord, le thème m’a rebutée. Je sentais qu’il s’inspire de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Donald Trump, et… je n’ai pas envie d’en parler! J’ai pensé ne rien écrire. Puis une histoire s’est imposée, et je l’ai aussitôt rédigée. Le défi était de le faire en 2000 mots, mon histoire en fait 1912. Encore une fois, je la publie surtout pour m’y forcer, pour le défi que ça représente d’oser. Mais encore une fois, je l’ai écrite en anglais (désolée pour ceux que ça désole). Ah oui: et je publie à chaud, tout de suite, sans avoir le temps de réécrire. Pour voir si ça me torture et me triture. Je me fais mon propre cobaye.
We’d discussed having children before we ever became a couple. We weren’t getting younger, we both wanted children, and we were on the brink of falling in love. She told me later that she would have stopped seeing me, would have prevented herself from truly falling in love with me if I hadn’t wanted at least one child; it was that important to her. She didn’t have to worry. Months and years passed and we felt, more and more, that we were made for one another. Both in our thirties, we knew finding someone with whom we had that much in common was a rare chance, and we grabbed it and built on it. We travelled together, spent our evenings talking and laughing, and we knew we were ready and felt safe starting a family, one that would be rock solid – our own histories made it very clear what we didn’t want, and we’d do anything to avoid those pitfalls.
She bought and read books, telling me which I’d enjoy and what she thought I had to know. After a while, every month came with growing disappointment when it became obvious she wasn’t yet pregnant. I tried to be supportive, I said we’d do what she wanted, see specialists if that’s what it took. She was ambivalent. She had started to feel like if a pregnancy was meant to be, it would come naturally… but I realized with some degree of fear that she associated a pregnancy with a sort of blessing of our union. Without it, were we really meant to be? It made me nervous that she could think this way, but she said it had more to do with her own purpose in life. She’s always wanted to be someone’s mother and the thought of it not happening opened a bottomless hole under her.
So when I came home one night and I could see her smile from the driveway and she hollered “It’s positive!” I thought I was the happiest man in the world. Everything was right: I was going to become a parent with the love of my life. She called right away to secure a spot with a midwife and was put on a waiting list. She put up a brave face and called back a few weeks later: She was in. It felt like winning the lottery a second time, that’s how sure she was things were as they should be. She’d give birth naturally, as she’d always dreamed, with me there and only women in the room beside, and there would be candles and gentle music and we’d welcome our child and everything would be wonderful. I know it’s a cliché but I truly did see her glowing, day after day. So happy.
We met with the midwife a few weeks later and chatted about our happiness, our plans, our ideas of how the future would turn out. We even showed her pictures of the baby’s room we’d started working on already. After filling out some forms, she proceeded with a gentle examination. With a barely swollen belly, what was there to examine, really? If we were lucky, we’d hear the little heart beating already! She placed her stethoscope in one place, then another, trying to locate that tiny heart with its little rhythm beating fast. And she frowned. She got another instrument, something with a speaker so we could hear it too. And there it was, a heartbeat! I thought my own heart would explode, and I held my partner’s hand as tears fell on her cheeks. “That’s one little heart,” the midwife said, as she moved her instrument, “and that… is a second one!”
Twins. I was ecstatic! I felt giddy, I wanted to cheer and say stupid things like “two for the price of one, woot woot!” but the future mother of two had stopped smiling. “Twins… that means a hospital birth… a c-section…” And it meant she could forget all her hopes and plans and dreams for the birth she’d come to feel was right for her, for us. The midwife we’d liked right away had to direct us to an ob-gyn at a local hospital, and the pregnancy became something more ominous, riskier. She wasn’t in her prime, the doctor we met said coldly before sending her off for several tests. He never even spoke to me – I was an unwelcomed prop – when he explained they’d schedule her c-section well in advance. She was crying when we walked out. After a few days of grief, she seemed to shake herself and she came to see our twins as a blessing: we’d have two children, no matter what happened next. “Hey, it’s no big deal! We’ll just buy another crib!” Sometimes I can’t help it: I can say the dumbest things.
I did some research on my own, asked around, and found a specialist who was usually willing to let her patients attempt a natural birth for twins. That visit went much better and we were reassured. The happiness returned to her pregnancy. She was gaining weight fast, and she looked wonderful, flushed, always smiling until evening, when she’d just feel exhausted. I did my best, cooking meals and trying to keep up with her standards for the house, which I’ll admit were, well… higher than mine, let’s leave it at that. She had nausea that didn’t let up after the first trimester and her blood pressure was high, but at her age, pregnant with twins… she took it in stride. Until the twenty-ninth week.
It was a routine appointment and I had taken the morning off work. Perhaps she was a little pale, perhaps a bit more distracted than usual, but it all went fine until the doctor frowned – why do they all frown in silence? – and told us something was off. She worried – not for the babies but for my partner, and had to hospitalize her right away. Things went fast from there: a wheelchair, a room, a perfusion, nurses and more doctors coming in and out, a monitor that made all kinds of beeps. I was terrified. They explained things to us but all I could hear was the blood pulsing in my ears, all I could see were her eyes wide in shock and fear.
They gave her something to start labour. It didn’t do much. They said they’d have to perform a c-section now if the mother and children had any chance of survival. I sat down, held her hand. She took in a few deep breaths, squeezed my hand hard. Twenty-nine weeks. So early. She’d stay awake, I’d stay at her side. They transferred her to an operating room, numbed her from the waist down and once the anesthetic took effect it was only minutes before the first baby, our son, this tiny creature, was born. “Give him to me”, she told the doctor the second she heard him make his first sound. “Give him to me!” she said louder. And she did: he opened his tiny eyes and looked at her, and she pressed him gently on her chest, a nurse quickly putting a blanket over his minuscule body.
The doctor took out his twin, our daughter, and we felt the level of stress increase in the room. Nurses and doctors were now whispering with urgency. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I heard only parts of the answer, like keywords without grammar. No heartbeat. No vital signs. Not breathing. Resuscitation. They took our tiny daughter to the other side of the room. “We’re doing everything we can.” They finished the surgery but we were overwhelmed, not feeling involved in the mundane notions of sutures and bleeding. They said the c-section itself had gone well and my partner would be ok. I heard that and thought “How can either of us ever be ok again?” I think I was in shock. Certainly I didn’t realize I had just become a father.
Our son – our son! – had started nursing, snuggled against his sobbing mother, when they told us our daughter would not make it. No vital signs, still, no matter what they tried. “Bring her to me,” she said with force through the tears. The doctor hesitated but nodded and a nurse brought our daughter’s body to her mother. “It’s better if you take the time to grieve now,” the nurse said as she laid our daughter next to her twin and covered her too with a blanket. I asked that we be left alone for a while. The nurse said she understood and they’d be near, and only come to do what was essential.
The woman I loved looked at me and said we should meet our children like we had planned to, no matter what. If we only have a daughter for a few minutes, she should know we love her. So we caressed those little bodies. I pressed my nose into my son and daughter’s necks, smelling their newborn odour, I counted their toes and fingers like they do on TV, I carefully touched their little heads, with barely a fuzz of hair, the tiny, tiny legs, bent at the tiny knees. We were crying and snuggling and keeping our babies warm and close.
Our daughter was even tinier than her brother. One of my fingers was as big as her little hand, I saw when I opened her fist to touch her palm. That’s when she closed her fingers on mine and squeezed gently. “She’s moving! She moved!” The nurse who was near said “It’s a reflex, sir. I’m sorry we didn’t warn you, but it’s her body reacting, it’s not voluntary. Pure reflex.” She looked sad and left the room, mumbling that she’d be back with a doctor who would explain. I looked at my partner, seeing doubt and hope in equal measure, just as I felt. Our son had fallen asleep on her chest. “Hold him”, she said.
She held our daughter to her chest with both hands on her fragile skin under the blanket. She spoke to her and sang a lullaby she’d sung throughout her pregnancy. In my arms, our sleeping son moved his head and limbs, reacting to the familiar sound of his mother’s voice.
Her fingers gently stroking our daughter, she kept singing and crying. At one point she stopped abruptly and looked up. “She moved her hand, I swear she did.” She brushed the tiny fist with a finger, opened it like I had, and this time she was the one who felt a squeeze. She didn’t say anything, just looked at me and then back to her tiny baby. She moved her slightly so our daughter was close to a nipple and her tiny lips parted: we both saw her take a small shuddering breath. And our baby daughter opened her eyes slightly and they looked straight into her mother’s. Time stopped for us, but that exchanged look must have lasted a whole minute. Then our daughter turned her head slightly and her mouth closed around her mother’s nipple.
My love looked at me, her eyes full of tears but creased with a smile filled with relief and love. “Let’s call her Hope”, she said. She was still nursing when the doctor walked in and through my tears I saw his jaw drop and his hands shake as he tried to grab his stethoscope to confirm what we already knew. Hope would live.
L’histoire s’inspire d’une histoire vraie, qui s’est produite en Australie en 2010. Même Snopes dit que c’est vrai! C’était une tentative de point de vue masculin, entre autres. En tout cas, je constate qu’écrire de la fiction me met dans une sorte de transe que je n’avais pas vécue depuis vraiment longtemps. De ce point de vue, l’aventure est intéressante. D’ailleurs j’ai ajouté une page ici pour regrouper les textes de fiction que j’ai publiés et publierai. Pourquoi pas…