A/N: This is a one-shot that wouldn't leave me alone.
Please be aware that this story deals with themes that may cause some readers distress.
She endures agony.
The fiercest pain she's ever known.
Hour and hours of her body shaking and wracking in pain.
It's supposed to be the most joyful moment of her young life. It's supposed to be amazement and bewilderment. Instead, it's beeping and bustling, controlled chaos, and grim glances when they think she's not watching.
Instead of breathtaking joy, it's "I'm so sorry, Miss, but she never started breathing on her own."
She feels empty. Numb. And achingly alone.
He's spent the last three days staring at the white walls of his apartment. Tonight he's doing his rounds in Palliative Care when he gets the phone call. The irony is not lost on him. He's going to be an uncle in a few hours. His shift finishes in an hour, so he promises his sister he'll be down as soon as he's done.
He leaves the nurses with instructions for the fading and the dying, and heads to Delivery to see his little sister bring new life into the world.
When he arrives on the ward, he cringes at the feminine cries seeping through the walls. Screaming, moaning and weeping filter underneath closed doors and assault him. He feels unwelcome, somehow disconnected from the collective female wailing.
The nurses are talking in hushed voices as he approaches, seeking directions. He hears snatches of their whispered conversation: "all alone", "baby never started breathing", "the father took off when he heard she was pregnant", "poor young thing."
He interrupts their maternal prattle, receiving directions to find his little sis. As he wanders the corridors, he hears one cry that sounds so different from the others. There is pain, so much pain, but this cry also screams of loss and despair and hopelessness. The cry sounds so much like the one he keeps caged within his own chest. The one he locks away whilst he navigates through the workday, and releases only when he returns to the empty, white flat he inhabits.
He peeks through the little window in the semi-closed door, and his broken heart splinters further as he sees the girl sobbing into her pillow, her dark hair falling around her, strangling her in her grief. There is no one with her. Why is no one with her? Why is there no one stroking that dark hair away from her face, holding her hand, whispering words of comfort.
He drags himself away from the tiny portal into the unknown girl's heartbreak. His little sister is in the room next door, surrounded by family. Her husband, his mother, her mother, even their fathers are present. His own father is consulting with the obstetrician in the corner. He is quickly absorbed into the whirlwind of joyful kisses, hugs and excited chatter. His sister is 10cm dilated, and everyone is preparing for the impending moment of joy.
His heart is pierced through as he contrasts the joyful chaos of this room with the lonely despair of the girl next door.
He exchanges quiet words with his father.
"Stillbirth", is the answer to his quietly spoken question.
"Can't contact any family," explains it further.
Overwhelmed by the excitement and anticipation that suffocates the room, he slips back out into the corridor unnoticed.
His white coat and ID badge allow him to slip into the room next door unquestioned.
The girl doesn't look up, doesn't acknowledge him in anyway. She is too lost, adrift on a sea of her own despair.
He cannot help himself; he takes her in his strong arms, stroking the dark hair away from her face, whispering, murmuring words of comfort. He makes her no promises that it will be okay, because he knows it won't. He simply tells her that he is here, that he cares, that she is not alone anymore. She collapses into his embrace, her sobs eventually petering out until she drifts off in an exhausted sleep.
When she awakes, she doesn't question his presence. She doesn't know who he is, or why he is there, but she knows she doesn't want him to leave. Some strange bond of despair has forged them together.
He stays with her when the midwives allow her a few short moments with her lifeless babe; he even takes the child in his own arms and sheds tears for her loss. She speaks only once.
"Abigail. Her name is Abigail."
Eventually he must go to meet his new nephew, who has been named in his honour. He steals away for a moment, the tiny child in cradled in his arms, to introduce the little boy to the broken girl next door. He's not sure why he thought it was a good idea, but the girl bursts into fresh tears, overwhelmed by his kindness and quiet thoughtfulness. She holds the child close for a few minutes before she passes him back to his uncle.
She finally looks at him.
"What is his name?" she whispers, her voice hoarse from sobbing.
"Edward." He smiles, "They named him after me."
When she is released from the hospital's care, he holds her hand and drives her home. He doesn't leave her side for days, and when duty forces him back to tend to the old and the dying, he promises to return.
He stands by her side as she slowly puts herself back together. As she returns to work, remembers how to smile, and eventually gives him the greatest thrill of his young life when he finally hears the tinkling of her laughter.
Three years later, they find themselves in the same place they began.
"Bella, Bella," he says, pride making it difficult to speak. "It's a girl, my sweet Bella. Abby has a little sister."
They cry together, remembering her firstborn.
"Hope." She sobs, "Her name is Hope."
My deepest sympathy goes to those who have had to endure the pain of losing a child. I mean no disrespect by this story, nor I do I suggest any of it will ring true. A friend told me recently that when she lost a child to SIDS, the greatest comfort she had was in being able to hold another's child. I don't pretend to believe that would be the case for all those suffering loss, but it is what inspired this story.