Hi there. It has been ages since I last updated this story, and for that I apologise. There are plenty of good reasons why, but I won't bore you with them. Just know that I'm back to writing this and shall try and keep updates more frequent.
Quick recap, because I needed one so I think most of you will too: They tried IVF and failed first time round, became aware they are both carriers of a genetic illness (Werdnig-Hoffman disease/SMA Type 1), and they embarked on round two of IVF. That round was successful and at the very end of last chapter they were at the clinic, having just been told they were pregnant.
Give Me A Little Trust
Chapter Twenty Two: Guilt
Finishing up with the doctor took another twenty or so minutes but then we were out of there. Edward called his parents in the car and told them the news, which made them drop everything and head for home. We were going to celebrate, apparently.
I wasn't exactly sure how much celebrating I could do from being on bed rest but they still wanted to try, which I could hardly blame them for. After all, this was their grandchild, their first grandchild. Perhaps it was premature of us to celebrate, because until we got past the twelfth week things were still risky. I could still lose the baby, our baby.
Then there was the small chance of it going wrong, of our baby being sick. There was a twenty five percent chance. Twenty five percent now sounded like a lot. What if we were celebrating the life of a baby that would never make it to its first birthday? Was this selfish of us, to even think of having children when we knew what could happen?
"Hey, what's going on? You look really upset," Edward said, reaching across the car and taking my hand. I turned to face him and smiled a little, but it was pained. "Talk to me. We should be all smiles right now. What's going on in that brain of yours?"
"What if we made a mistake?" I asked, worrying over the life in my womb.
"A mistake? You don't want to have a baby? Cause if that's the case then it's a bit late now, don't you think?" He looked at me like I had lost it.
"No, no I don't mean that. I mean, what if we made a mistake implanting the embryo, or embryos that could be sick?"
Edward pulled the car over into a space at the side of the road and put it in park. Unbuckling his seat belt, he turned completely and looked at me, worry all over his face.
"Bella, we don't know if that embryo took or not. We don't even know if it was one of the two selected to be implanted. What we do know is that we're going to love this baby no matter what. This is us. It's a part of you and a part of me. It will be perfect, even if it is sick. We will manage because we will love it with all our hearts. Do not worry about this, please."
I welcomed his embrace, desperate for the comfort. He was right, but my worries did not let up. Until this baby was born and I saw that it was completely healthy then I was going to worry. I needed it to be okay.
"Now, shall we try and put a smile on our face and go see my parents? They'll be dying to see you." I nodded and sat back in the seat.
There was no need to worry Carlisle and Esme. They didn't need to have my fears projected onto their celebratory mood. This was a big day for them, they had a grandchild on the way, so I was not going to ruin it.
I pushed all my worries and fears to the back of my mind and thought of the future ahead, instead. We were parents. My God, we were parents. The baby was on its way. That thought certainly brought a smile to my face.
"That's more like it," Edward commented, grinning at me. I rolled my eyes but couldn't help the smile on my face. I was happy, truly happy.
Arriving at home, we found that we had beaten Carlisle and Esme. Edward, not taking any chances, whisked me upstairs and put me to bed. He puffed up the pillows, brought me a more comfortable change of clothes, tucked me in, and fetched me a glass of water. The man was nothing if not thorough.
Not long after, Esme and Carlisle pulled up. They honked the horn to let us know they were here and then proceeded to come in the house, laughing, crying in Esme's case, and singing congratulations to us both.
Edward led them upstairs, informing them of the new regime to keep me in bed at all times, and unleashed them on me. Carlisle was practically glowing with excitement. He hugged me tightly, kissed my cheek and told me I would be a fantastic mother. Esme, on the other hand, gave me a weepy smile and pulled me into her embrace.
"This is the best news I've had all year. I never thought this day would come," she said, mothering me like Renee used to when I was young.
"Never?" I asked, glancing over at Edward who was deep in conversation with his father.
"After the last attempt, I feared the implantation would never take. Oh, I prayed it would, but couldn't help but worry. I worried that the two of you would never get your baby, that the whole process would tear you apart. But, for once, I am very happy to be wrong. This is brilliant news. I couldn't be happier."
Sitting back, letting go of me, Esme then began asking about how I was feeling. I didn't want to worry them in regards to the possible genetic abnormalities, therefore just told her I was overwhelmed, which I was.
Edward, having heard my response, kindly ushered his parents downstairs and kissed me softly, telling me to get some sleep. It was exactly what I needed. In fact, I was surprised he didn't need to have a nap, too. He must have been as tired as I was, having gone through all the same emotions. Then again, Edward wasn't carrying our baby, adding more fatigue to my already exhausted body.
They all left me and I settled back to get some rest. My mind, though, was having other ideas. I just couldn't stop thinking about the possibility of our baby being sick. He or she would be perfect, no doubt about it, but knowing I was condemning something so innocent to a life of pain made my heart ache. Had I just sacrificed my child's happiness and life for a selfish need to have children biologically related to me? Was that really what I had just done?
Fighting back the panic attack threatening to overtake, I scrambled off the bed and started rooting through my drawers, looking for the folder on the clinic. I had to know. I couldn't help myself. I needed to know whether or not the embryos implanted were healthy or not. It was stupid though, because by knowing I wouldn't be able to change anything.
What if they told me that the embryos implanted were unhealthy? Would that then change how I felt about the pregnancy? I certainly wouldn't have an abortion, over my dead body would that happen, but would I cripple under the guilt of knowing I had made my baby sick?
It was wrong to know and it was wrong to not. I had to know if my baby was healthy, but I knew it was better to stay in the dark so I didn't become overwhelmed with guilt. Even worse was the fact I wasn't considering Edward in all this, but it was too late to go and talk to him. I wanted to know, regardless of the consequences, and that thought alone had me dialling the clinic and asking to speak to Dr. Chilton.
After speaking to the receptionist and then being put on hold, I was finally put through to him. He had all the answers, and I needed them. His voice on the line calmed the storm of emotions building beneath the surface. He could tell me what I needed to know. He could help.
"How can I help you, Bella? Is something wrong?" he asked after the pleasantries.
"Oh no, nothing's wrong. I was just wondering, you have the results of the genetic test, correct?" My voice was shaky at best, but I had to know. My nerves were not going to stop me from finding out.
"I do, yes."
"And you know if they embryos implanted suffer from any genetic abnormalities, right?"
"Indeed, I do. Have you changed your mind? Do you wish to know?" He didn't sound at all surprised as he asked. Then again, he'd probably dealt with plenty of couples like Edward and I who had changed our minds about knowing. Though, Edward hadn't changed his mind. He was still in the dark.
God, what I was doing was wrong. It was like I was betraying him, but I couldn't stop. He was no longer my number one concern. This baby was, and I needed to do everything in my power to protect and care for it.
"That's not a problem, is it? I think it would just take a weight off if I was aware of what's to come."
"No, it's not a problem at all. Give me a moment and I'll get the results up." I could hear him typing away on the other end, and waited anxiously. Downstairs I could hear the chatter of Esme and Carlisle, and the guilt hit me like a freight train. I should have spoken to Edward, but my mind was set, I needed to know and I needed to know now.
"Alright, Bella, in the notes here it says that there were only three viable sperm. All three were used and successfully fertilized your eggs. As you know, though, our clinic only implants two as a rule." I hummed, letting him know I understood, and waited for him to continue. "It seems as though two of the three had genetic abnormalities, and therefore the healthy embryo was implanted along with one of the others." He paused to let that information sink in, and I dropped my head, closing my eyes quickly.
There was no way of knowing which embryo had taken; no way of knowing whether or not I would have a healthy baby. There was a fifty percent chance now that my baby would be born with a genetic condition, and would suffer greatly before succumbing to it.
God, what had we done?
"We will monitor the pregnancy very carefully, of course, and we can watch out for anything untoward," Dr Chilton explained, trying to ease my fears.
"In the third trimester, sometimes the fetus stops moving as much and no movement can be felt. That's usually a sign that the genetic abnormality has started affecting it. However, if you are worried, and want to know before then, there is a possibility of having an amniocentesis done to check. That would take place between week fifteen and week twenty. Of course, we will have to take into account the situation at the time, but it's an option."
"Right, okay." I didn't know what else to say, I felt numb.
Dr Chilton tried to reassure me some more, but I couldn't handle it, and needed to get off the phone. He clearly knew I was worried, but nothing he said was going to change the sheer panic I felt. The twenty five percent risk had just risen to fifty percent. Then again, if both embryos implanted, then one of my babies would be born unwell, and all because of me.
I felt selfish, and the guilt had quickly destroyed all the happiness I had felt earlier. What were we thinking? Had Edward and I gone mad? We were risking an innocent baby's life on our needs. That wasn't right. That wasn't what parents did. No. This wasn't fair. Our baby might have to suffer because of us.
It wasn't about how much we'd love it, that didn't make a good parent. One could love their child unconditionally, doesn't mean they were perfect parents. We had already failed our baby. We should have put the baby's needs first, rather than our own. We should have checked what embryos would be implanted. We should have told them not to implant the ones with abnormalities.
Did that make me a horrible mother though? Was I denying the unhealthy embryos a chance of life? Was I denying my own child because they would be sick?
No. I couldn't think like that. It wasn't that I didn't want them. Hell no. I wanted them. I wanted them so badly, but could I watch them suffer and die in front of my very own eyes knowing I had caused that? No, I wouldn't be able to do that. That would be impossible.
Then again, that may just be what's in store.
Pulling the curtains closed, I plunged the room into darkness and sank beneath the bed covers. It only took a few moments before the pain and fear crept up and had me sobbing uncontrollably. I tried to keep it quiet, I tried to hold it in, but there was no stopping it.
My baby might be sick, because of me.
I was an awful mother, a truly awful mother.
The rollercoaster emotions had lulled me to sleep, and I awoke several hours later, still exhausted, and with a killer headache from all the crying. Downstairs, I could no longer hear Carlisle and Esme, which I took to mean they had gone home. That was for the best, as I needed to talk to Edward.
We now had a lot to discuss.
Heading into the bathroom, I washed my face and tried to make myself look presentable. I didn't want him knowing straight off the bat that something was wrong. He'd immediately think I'd lost the baby or something equally as awful, and putting him through that wouldn't be fair.
My eyes were still puffy and I looked worse for wear as I headed downstairs, listening carefully as I took another step. Edward was in the living room, the TV was on, and I assumed he was having some down time.
I didn't want to ruin it. I didn't want to go in and tell him about what I had done.
I was a coward, a bad mother and a coward, as I turned right at the bottom of the stairs rather than left and headed back towards the study. Bursting his content and happy bubble would be dreadful, and I wanted him to enjoy for a few more hours. Or at least that's what I told myself to justify my actions. Really, I was scared. I wasn't afraid of Edward's reaction, but more the pain that my words would cause him.
Not only was I a coward and a bad mother, but I was also a bad…girlfriend. That didn't sound right, but that's what I was. We weren't married, after all. Perhaps that was a good thing, now especially.
Entering the study, I booted up the computer and took a seat. If my baby was sick then I needed to learn as much as I could about how the illness would manifest. Although we had researched everything when we found out that we could pass on the genetic illness to our baby, I wanted to know more. I wasn't looking at it like that was happening to my child, and that's how I needed to view things.
With Google at hand, I typed in my search and dove straight in. After about twenty minutes it became apparent that it would be best to write important things down so I didn't forget. Before long, I had filled pages upon pages with questions to ask doctors, things to look out for, tips on how to care for my baby, and the facts and figures about survival, new treatments and success rates.
It was all a little overwhelming.
Taking a break, I headed to the kitchen and worked on getting some dinner. It was important to remember I was not just eating for myself anymore, a fact I was going to have to get used to. Skipping meals and eating small bites wasn't going to help at all. My baby needed all the help it could get, something I was going to take seriously.
The sound of me opening and closing cupboards, looking for something to eat, must have alerted Edward to my presence downstairs as he came bumbling in a few seconds later. His clothes were wrinkled and he was rubbing at his eyes, clearly having fallen asleep on the couch. Good, he needed the rest.
"Hey, what are you doing out of bed?" he questioned, coming up behind me. I felt his lips on the side of my neck as his hands ran over my stomach.
"I was hungry," I mumbled, the guilt hitting me square in the face. He was so content, and I was going to ruin it. God, was I destined to make all the wrong choices in regards to this pregnancy?
"You should have called, I would have gotten you something," he whispered in my ear, his lips carefully kissing their way down my jaw. I loved his touch, but I didn't deserve it, not at that moment.
"It's okay, I can do it," I replied. Sliding out of his grasp, I opened the fridge and pulled out some leftover pasta. Edward didn't say anything, but rather watched me reheat and plate it up. It was only when I tried to go back to the study that he spoke up.
"Are you sure you should be up and about? Wouldn't it be better to stay in bed?"
I paused in the doorway, plate in hand, and shook my head. I refused to look at him, I just couldn't do it. He would be able to tell something had changed, that something was wrong, that I knew something he didn't, and right then, I wasn't ready for that conversation.
"Being pregnant doesn't make me an invalid. I am capable of doing things for myself." My tone was light to make sure he didn't take offense to what I was saying, but it also was final. I refused to be treated like I was made of glass.
I was willing to spend most of my time in bed, if that eased his worries, but I still planned on getting up and going out. The hard part had been overcome. We struggled to get pregnant, but now we were, and that made all the difference. Every test I had done on me said there was nothing wrong with my body, and I was capable of carrying a baby to full term, therefore I wasn't going to take it easy. I needed to get back on track with my life.
He had spoken of keeping me on bed-rest for the full pregnancy but that was maddening, now that I thought about it. I would go stir crazy, and that wouldn't help my baby at all. It needed a mother it could count on, not some loony toon who had lost it by staring at the same four walls for nine months.
"I know that, but do you really want to take the chance?" Edward asked, sounding a little anxious at the thought of me staying out of bed.
"My body is capable of doing this, Edward, so don't worry." That was all I was willing to say on the matter, and with his silence I quickly scurried back through the house. The study welcomed me back, and I set about researching some more.
Edward didn't come and get me when he started locking up the house, but I knew he was going to wait downstairs until I made a move. Given that we still needed to talk, I closed down the machine and put my plate in the sink, vowing to wash it in the morning, and headed up the stairs after him.
I changed out of the comfortable clothes he had given me earlier, and put on some pyjamas. Edward was doing the same, completely oblivious to my skittering behaviour behind him. I kept wringing my hands nervously and couldn't stop from chewing on my bottom lip.
This was it. This was really it. I had to tell him. He had a right to know. There was no way I could keep this from him. It's his baby, too. If only I had remembered all that earlier before making the call. We should have spoken about it, rather than me jumping the gun. Too late now. Too late now.
God, I just had to say it. Why was it so hard? Why couldn't I say it? All I needed to do was open my mouth and let the words flow out. Why weren't they doing that? Why was this so impossibly hard?
"I called the clinic." Slamming my mouth shut, I waited for his reaction. I really hadn't expected the words to fly out like that. Surely it could have been down with a little more tact.
"What?" Edward stopped and turned to me, looking frightful. "Why?"
"I needed to know." He shut his eyes and took a deep breath, holding back whatever emotions were fighting beneath the surface. My excuse was lousy, but it was the only one I had, it was the driving force behind calling Dr. Chilton. I needed to know and I needed to prepare for the outcome.
"What did they say?"
"Due to the low number of viable sperm, one healthy embryo and one…" I didn't know what word to use. Sick, ill, unwell, unhealthy, diseased, abnormal, each and every one of them sounded wrong, sounded offensive and hurtful. That embryo was our baby, regardless if it was the one that successfully implanted, I couldn't describe it as anyone of those words. "…the other embryo has the genetic abnormality."
Edward dropped down onto the end of the bed, his head falling into his hands and he sighed. I wanted to crawl across the bed, and rub soothing circles on his back, but I knew that would be the wrong move. He was angry and hurt by what I had done.
"Why?" he asked again, his voice strained.
"I needed to know."
"What about me? Do I not get a say in this?" he exploded, rising from the bed sharply and turning towards me. "This is my baby, too, Bella. I have a right to know what's going on with it. You should have spoken to me. You should have come to me and discussed this."
"I panicked! I had to know what we faced, what our baby would face."
"But you still don't know! You have no idea what embryo took. You don't know if we're having a healthy baby, and sick baby, or hell, both! You have no idea! All you've done is put more pressure on us, on you! We don't need that. Why couldn't you have waited? Why couldn't you have waited until we were past the twelve weeks mark, huh?"
"I panicked," I repeated, accepting his verbal lashing. "I wanted to know what the chances were so I could prepare for what's to happen. I need to be able to look after our baby to the best of my ability, especially if we only are parents for a short amount of time. There are signs to look out for during the pregnancy, and there are things we can do to make our baby's life easier if it was born unhealthy. We have to be prepared."
Edward just gave me a disheartened look and shook his head. "Well, as long as we can be prepared," he said, hurt laced through each word. "I'm going to stay in the spare bedroom tonight. I just…I can't look at you right now. This should have been a decision we made together."
"Why are you so angry at me for this?" I asked, clutching at the covers. I didn't want him to sleep in the other room. This was meant to be a good day for us. He should be sleeping next to me, holding me, holding our baby as we slept. "Look, I am sorry, Edward. I should have spoken to you, but I didn't and I can't change that."
"I didn't want to know."
"Why? This is our baby, we need to be able to-"
"The guilt!" he cried, clenching his fist in anger. "God, Bella, do you think I'm going to be able to look myself in the mirror knowing that I have condemned my own child to a life of pain? What kind of father does that make me? An unfit one." I shook my head and advanced across the bed, reaching out to pull him closer. He stepped further back and held up his hand to stop me from moving any closer. "No. Don't. Don't touch me."
My heart broke at the pain and sadness behind his eyes. He wasn't repulsed by me, but by himself, and I wished I had acted differently. The guilt had already taken hold of him. He hated himself, and I had caused that.
"I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry, Edward," I choked out, pushing away the tears streaming down my cheeks. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I promise, I didn't mean to-"
"Stop, please, just stop," he said, cutting me off. "You need to calm yourself. The stress can't be good for the baby." He dropped his eyes and refused to look back at me. "You should get some sleep. We can again tomorrow."
"No, Edward, please. Please stay here tonight," I begged, shaking my head at him. He didn't see it as he moved towards the bedroom door.
"I can't. I'm sorry." The door shut behind him with a resounding thud and I sank backwards, knowing I deserved that kind of treatment. I had hurt him by being selfish. But wasn't that what we had done to our baby, acted selfishly?
Either way, I had messed up, but I hoped Edward would see why I acted the way I did. This baby was more important than us, more important than our feelings and our emotions. We needed to give it the best chance possible, and knowing whether or not it was sick was the only way to do that. We needed to start acting like parents. In time, he would come to realise that, surely.
Knowing he wouldn't return, I turned off all the lights and crawled into bed. Despite being alone, I knew I really wasn't; I had my baby, my defenceless and innocent baby. Running a hand over my abdomen I silently prayed to God that it would be healthy, just so it didn't have to suffer. My job as a mother was to care and protect, and I was going to do everything possible to make sure I did just that.
From now on, the baby came first, and Edward's guilt would just need to take a backseat, we had bigger things to focus on.