Seven months. It has been seven months now, and I'm still counting avidly. It took a few failed attempts, certainly, but this time, it's lasted.
We were married on the first day of last Sólmánuður at the behest of our parents – though it didn't matter to us. In fact, it was the perfect arrangement: ever since the entire village witnessed my somewhat ridiculous display of affection towards him, I was pretty much promised to Hiccup. Not that either of us were bothered – it was awkward at first, as we really had to play the couple for the sake of the village until we got... acquainted with each other. But I love him, and he loves me – such privileges are very rarely experienced when it comes to marriage in our culture.
And now... well, now, we're expecting.
But not for the first time. Two months after the ceremony, I got ill. Like, magnificently ill. At any hour of any day, I could just double over and retch until I coughed up blood – for a while, I thought I would just about die. But when I was diagnosed, so to speak, Hiccup was just ecstatic – though, Stoick was, more so. Our first child. The first child of Berk's prodigal boy. But nothing lasts forever. Three months in, it withered and died.
Hiccup didn't blame me, but every time I looked into his eyes I could see the despair. One day, he had been so happy and engaging, wanting to feel and see and know everything about what was happening to me – the next, not even flying could snap him out of it. To him, losing a leg was incidental. But losing a child... that changed him entirely. Hiccup still had the capability to function, but he did it with such heaviness that for a while I thought I'd lost him. He would come home from the forge and play with his food, feed his dragon and head to bed. Hours later I would crawl in beside him, and we'd try and find the warmth in each other again.
That warmth came back not long after when I fell pregnant for the second time. He was so sure that it was going to make it, that we would see it the full term. Five months in, I lost it. People reassured us, as they had before, that this was natural, this was fine, and that sometimes these things just happen. Which is true – there are so many miscarriages here, given the climate, and it's become such a frequent occurrence that most people don't even bat an eyelid anymore. Back on the dragon Astrid, just try again until you succeed. So we kept trying, and trying, and failing, and failing... until now.
Hiccup's away on a raid right now – I wish I could go with him, if not just to swing an axe or feel the rush of battle. But, given my condition, I doubt I'll ever return to what I considered normal. But, I guess... that's okay. I can live with that, because I know that when Hiccup comes back after each raid, there'll be a new normal. We'll embrace, we'll kiss, and we'll be in love. That's normal now. That is, provided he comes back at all.
I'm not stupid – I may have been resigned to a life in this house, at least for the time being, but I've not forgotten who we are, and what it is our people do. We're Vikings: it's true, we don't kill dragons anymore, but we always find something new to fight – we always adapt. Stoick has been sending fleets, whole armadas of ships and dragon-mounted warriors across the sea in search of something new to slaughter. From what I hear, they've reached new lands and new, more human, more savage foes – Hiccup is right there, in the thick of it. He would never kill another being, of course – but he still provides the weapons, and he still faces the enemy. I would give anything to be fighting alongside my friends and my husband. Not because I'm afraid he'll die... but just because I want to live.
To tell the absolute, honest-to-Odin truth, I have never been more scared of anything in my life. I don't want to be a mother – I want to be a warrior, a real Viking. I want to experience the danger as it's happening all around me, and claim the spoils of war. I want to defend our people, and if that means clashing iron with the barbarians in the frozen wasteland, then I wouldn't hesitate for a second. This... whatever this is, it is no life for me. I don't want a child. I want freedom.
Frigga hears me – and I think she's been intervening. She's trying to tell Hiccup and I to give up, and to stop treating this as an obligation. Frigga listened to my subconscious pleas and saw past my brave, beaming face. She knew I was dying inside; so she reached inside me and killed what was draining my life. Sure, Hiccup was in agony for months after each consecutive miscarriage... but, if we're to keep to this honesty... I was relieved. Thankful, even. I thanked the Gods silently every time I lost a baby for giving me another chance. I'm not even seventeen yet, and I've lost everything I was working towards. The Gods are merciful, and they just wanted to make me happy. But, even still... I hate myself for being so happy.
I look at Hiccup, and everything is wonderful. I would do anything for him; after all he's done for me, and for our people. He is the one who single-handedly changed our way of life, and now he's out there to bring glory home to Berk. I love him, and not because I have a duty to, but because I just... do. I feel like I'm betraying him every time I lose a child, and it's almost unbearable. But at the same time, I'm betraying myself, because right now, this thing is growing inside me, and in all likelihood, it will live to see the daylight.
Give it time, I tell myself. Give it time. When you see it for the first time, when you hold it, and when Hiccup holds us both, then you'll know that it was worth it, and that you were just being selfish and horrid. Give it time, Astrid, and when you bring something into the world that has your strength and his compassion, you'll know you were destined to do this. After all, there are only a few months left. You won't have to wait much longer. In a few months, you'll be a mother, and the love you feel for Hiccup will be felt for this little piece of him, too.
But, do you know something?
I won't. I will not, nor cannot love it. And that terrifies me.