Pregnancy is an entirely natural process, one I'd studied and seen in all its stages. Yet in that moment, knowing that Bella was carrying our child, a little person somehow knit together from her and me, and the love we shared, it seemed a strange miracle—she seemed a strange miracle. Life, loss, love, and hope. (Angst rating applies to Ch. 1 only.)
Please be aware, this chapter deals with a miscarriage. Please PM me if you need more info. before reading on.
I close my eyes, wishing I could grab at sleep like I do the edges of my comforter, pulling it up over my head and blocking out the waxing daylight. Under the cotton, I'm surrounded by the smell of lavender laundry soap and Bella and me all mixed up together. It smells like home and comfort.
Don't wake her, go back to sleep, I tell myself, even as I'm reaching for her, sliding the palm of my hand across her lower back.
Her skin is warm and so smooth. That cautionary voice shuts right up as I rub slow circles over her back. The feel of her skin is addictive, and I wriggle closer to her, wrapping an arm around her waist, pulling her against me, her back to my chest.
"Mmmm." Bella sighs, and I feel a small twinge of guilt until I hear her breathing even out again.
Lifting my head to look over the bundle of sheets and blankets that Bella has entombed herself within, I search out the fluorescent glow of the clock-radio.
Dawn is sneaking in through the crack between the curtains, painting a strip of red-gold across the ceiling and down the wall, and bouncing sparks of light off Bella's tangled hair.
I squirm, trying to get closer than close, feeling like my nerve endings have been replaced with magnets, straining for Bella.
And then, with my hand flat against her belly, my nose buried in her hair, and my ankles tangled with hers, a new understanding settles into me with the quietness of dawn.
My fiancée is pregnant.
Her skin is softer. Her hair shinier. And her smell … fuck, she smells amazing. It's not that she smells different, not exactly. It's her, just … more potent or something. I don't even know if I can explain it, but it drives me wild.
And I'm so confident I'm right, I'm already imagining her belly growing round and her breasts getting fuller. I'm starting to imagine ultrasounds and doctor's visits and resting my hand over her belly to feel the kicks and punches delivered by tiny feet and fists.
And even as joy spreads through me, it's chased by sorrow and fear.
As much as I want to shake her awake and tell her my suspicion, as much as I want to ask her when her period is due and to offer to run down to the pharmacy to grab a pregnancy test, I won't.
I can't bring myself to do that to her, to plant even the tiniest seed of hope.
Because this wouldn't be the first time. We've been here before. The same signs, the same subtle changes. I couldn't keep my hands off her then, either.
Twelve Months Ago.
Tented beneath the sheets, my hands roamed across her back, smoothing along the curve of her hip. Bella squirmed, giggling as I pinched her butt.
"What's gotten into you?"
I shrugged, kissing her neck and creeping my hand from her belly button to her breasts. "Your skin is driving me crazy. Is it always this soft? It feels softer. I can't stop touching it."
"Mmm-hmm." She snorted. "I'm sure it has everything to do with my skin and nothing to do with this."
I groaned as her fingers wrapped around me, squeezing, pumping. I thrust against her hand. "Fuck."
"Mm. Exactly." Her false-irritation was unconvincing.
"Seriously." I grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away before she caused me to lose all coherency. "I'm not making this up. You're so soft." I traced a finger down her arm, watching her goosebumps follow my touch.
"And–" I tucked my nose into the crook of her neck and inhaled "–you smell so good. I … I want you. I always want you, but when you feel like this and smell like this … I want you more."
"You're a weirdo," she told me. But then she pushed me onto my back and settled herself over me, and I don't think she really minded too much.
Later that morning, we sat at the breakfast table, the weak winter sun catching on cutlery and water glasses, but doing very little to warm us. I watched Bella pick her way through breakfast, barely eating her croissant and wrinkling her nose at the mug of coffee I offered her. I pulled her onto my lap, sliding my fingers under the hem of her sweater.
"No way" she said, squirming under my touch. "I'm tired and I'm a little bit sore and I can't … not again. Maybe tonight … Or more likely tomorrow."
I chuckled. "I wasn't thinking about sex." That was only half true. "Are you getting sick or something? You barely touched your breakfast."
"I'm fine." She shrugged, tapping my nose and laughing when I crossed my eyes at her.
"You shouldn't do that," she told me. "You'll damage your eyes."
"My eyesight is great." I waved her off, and shifted her weight on my thighs. "You sure you're okay?"
She sighed. Looking away from me, she drummed her fingers against the table in an agitated rhythm.
"Would you stop fussing?" She pushed my hands from her waist and stood up. "You … ugh." Hands on her hips, she tapped her foot a few times.
"I wanted to wait until I was certain. Surprise you." She pressed her lips together as she looked at me.
"I think I'm pregnant."
I stared at her. Her lips twitched as she waited for me to make sense of the four words she'd spoken.
"You–" I licked my lips and swallowed hard. "How–" I shook my head. The how was obvious. Around six months ago, we'd decided to, well, take a more lax approach to contraception. We hadn't been actively trying to get pregnant, but we had agreed that if it happened, it happened, and we were ready to be a family.
"I'm not late yet," she said after a few moments. "But …" She pulled her hair from its ponytail and re-tied it. She shrugged. "I'm pretty sure I will be."
"Wow." I shook my head again.
"Would you stop shaking your head, please?" Bella said. "You're making me nervous. I thought we agreed we wanted this."
"No … I mean, yes. Yes. We wanted this. We want this." I closed my eyes. "I'm just surprised. It's not – it's not really sinking in. I just … oh my God."
Bella laughed, a short, nervous sound that dragged my gaze back to her face. My stomach flipped and flopped the way it does on a rollercoaster.
I lifted my hand and set my palm against Bella's belly. "Are you–" I swallowed. "Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure." She smiled down at me, folding her hand over mine. "I guess there's only one way to be positive."
My hands were clammy around the steering wheel as we made the quick trip to the drugstore. Wait, I told myself. Don't get your hopes up yet. Beside me, Bella was quiet, seemingly lost in her own world as she stared out the window.
Three minutes might as well have been three hours as we sat staring at the plastic stick pinched between Bella's fingertips. The whir of the exhaust fan seemed too loud in the tiled space. "I'm going to disconnect that thing," I muttered.
Bella frowned. "Huh?"
"I'll get Jamie to come over, wire it to its own switch. So it doesn't come on just because the light is on."
Bella nodded, but she wasn't listening. Her gaze flicked from the timer she'd set on her phone to the test in her hand.
"It's positive," she said, setting the stick on the bathroom counter.
With that word, the strings of my self-restraint were snipped away. My heart ballooned, as if it were floating away from its anchor in my chest, but getting stuck in my throat, making it impossible to speak.
She caught my eyes in the mirror. For a few minutes, we simply stared, searching each other's faces, desperate to know what was passing through the other's mind.
I cracked first. "I'm going to be a dad?" The words hung in the air, growing, filling the space between us.
Bella turned to face me, her smile wide and her dark eyes wet with tears. The joy I expected, but the awe I was feeling caught me by surprise.
I knew almost everything there was to be known about Bella, from how many pieces of toast she ate for breakfast (four and a half—she always thought she wanted another piece, then couldn't finish it) to the strange way she clasped her bra (she did it up under her breasts and then shimmied it around to put the straps on). And pregnancy is an entirely natural process, one I'd studied and seen in all its stages. Yet in that moment, knowing that Bella was carrying our child, a little person somehow knit together from her and me, and the love we shared, it seemed a strange miracle—she seemed a strange miracle.
"You're going to be a daddy," she said, her voice breaking a little. "I'm going …" She shook her head. "I'm going to be a mommy."
And then she was in my arms and we were laughing and crying and though we were shocked and still half unable to believe, we were so utterly convinced that this was just so right.
"Apparently doctors have some ridiculous way of calculating how pregnant you are," Bella told me, when she returned from her first appointment. "They said I'm five weeks pregnant."
"Yeah. Apparently they count it from the first day of your last period."
"Oh, right." I nodded. "Yeah, they do that."
"It doesn't make any sense. If I had my period, I clearly wasn't pregnant." She giggled. "Whatever. I'm two weeks more pregnant than I thought I was. I'm excited. We just got two weeks closer to meeting baby."
Later that week, winter arrived early. The temperature dropped, heavy clouds swept in from the west, and the rain started.
Throwing the crossword puzzle I was trying, and failing, to finish onto the coffee table, I watched the raindrops slam into the window and slide to the ground. The garden beyond the glass was a blur of greens and greys. Thunder rumbled in the distance, barely audible over the soft music drifting from the speakers. Bella had put on some cello concerto—she'd read that babies should be exposed to classical music, so she'd gone out and purchased a bunch of CDs during the week.
"Should we start telling everyone?"
Bella set the magazine she was reading on the arm of the sofa, her eyes moving to the window, as she disappeared into what I mentally called her thinking space. Early on in our relationship, I used to get annoyed, thinking she was ignoring me when I'd ask a question and her gaze would drift over my head. I'd since realized it's just a habit she has when pondering something.
"Maybe at, I don't know … twelve weeks … even a bit later?" She met my eyes again. "I don't – I just want to keep it special, just between us. For now. You know?"
"Okay." I knew exactly what she meant, and I was a little bit relieved. To be honest, I was unsure I was ready to deal with my mother's excitement.
Apparently, Bella's mind was running in the same direction. "Like, if we tell our parents, you know both our moms are going to start dropping by and calling up and fussing and it'll drive me absolutely crazy."
That was true. Mom and Renée are really similar, almost scarily so, and they're both very different from Bella. They thrive on conversation and company, on constant activity. My fiancée on the other hand, needs periods of quiet and solitude or she gets stressed out. It's probably one of the reasons we work so well together—Bella copes easily with an empty house, and the strange hours nursing requires me to keep.
Lifting her feet onto my lap, Bella looked at me. "Are you okay with waiting to tell them? Because if you want to–"
"Let's wait," I said. "I, well, I kinda want …" I shook my head, grappling for the right words. "Once we tell them, it's all in, you know? It's everyone's excitement then … as it should be, I guess. I don't know. But I kind of like it being just our excitement, for now. It feels special." I shrugged, looking at my hands.
Bella pushed them out of her way and settled herself on my lap. "Exactly," she said, tucking her head under my chin.
"So, what are you reading?" I reached across the couch for the magazine she'd discarded.
"Just some stuff about how to choose a stroller," she said. "I don't know, it's probably a little premature."
I shrugged. "No harm in being prepared."
"I don't like the yellow," Bella decided, tipping her head and squinting at the stripes of color we'd painted on the wall. "I prefer the mint."
She lifted her arms over her head, stretching. Her shirt rode up to reveal a sliver of belly. At almost fourteen weeks, her stomach was still flat, though she insisted she felt like her waist had expanded hugely. I'm not sure how that was possible, seeing as she still fit into all her clothes easily enough.
"Really?" I scratched my jaw. "I don't know. It reminds me of toothpaste."
"Toothpaste?" Bella scoffed.
I shrugged. "I don't know. I think the lemony yellow is happier, you know? More vibrant or something."
"The mint is more calming. This is where baby will sleep. It needs to be soothing, not stimulating."
"You do realize," I said, wiping my paint-spattered finger on the sleeve of my shirt, "that babies can't see color when they're first born?"
Lips pursed, eyebrows lifted, Bella folded her arms. "I do realize that," she said. "I may not have the experience and training you do, but I do know how to use the internet. Regardless, I don't see how that helps your case. We're not repainting when baby gets a bit older and suddenly won't sleep during the day because the paint on the walls is too … energizing."
I scratched my scalp, squinting at the paint samples. "We could wait until we find out the sex. Then go with blue or pink."
"What? And reinforce gender stereotypes from birth? Fantastic idea, Edward."
"Bella …" I sighed, rubbing at my forehead. She wasn't actually angry, but I wasn't in the mood for an argument, no matter how playful.
"You have paint in your hair," she told me.
I looked up. "Really?"
"Yep – oh." She giggled. "And you just wiped it all over your forehead."
"Great." Heaving a sigh, I chucked my paintbrush into the drip tray. Turning away from Bella, I reached for the hem of my shirt.
I turned back. Bella's lip was between her teeth as she looked from me to the stripes of paint on the wall.
"Let's sleep on it," she said, her voice soft. "Or wait until the weather clears up, maybe. We'll see what they all look like in sunlight, okay?"
I nodded, relieved to shelve this argument for the day. "Sure. It's not like we don't have time."
The rain still hadn't cleared up two days later, when Bella's voice wobbled through the closed bathroom door, pulling me out of bed. "Edward. I need you."
The shake in her voice was my first clue that something wasn't right. The second was the fact she called me into the bathroom while she was using the toilet.
Even after living together for more than three years, Bella was still shy about certain bodily functions. No matter how many times I told her that peeing and farting were completely natural, or that I'd seen so much urine and shit in the years I'd been nursing that nothing could possibly turn me off, she would freak out if I walked into the bathroom while she was doing her business. Even when she took the pregnancy test, she made me wait outside until she'd finished peeing.
"You okay, babe?" I hesitated at the door, my hand on the knob.
She sniffled. "No."
When I pushed open the door, I saw the tears tracking down my Bella's cheeks, and the crimson stain on her panties where they were twisted between her ankles, and I knew.
I swallowed hard, trying to ignore the sick feeling churning my stomach. I grappled for the professional detachment that I relied on when situations got critical in the hospital. It was nowhere to be found. And how could it be? How could I switch off the grief that threatened to choke me as I looked into Bella's face and saw the fear and despair there?
"It could just be spotting. It might not …" I let the empty words trail away. They would bring her no comfort.
There was too much blood.
The fluorescent light flickered above us. Bella had been asking me to change it for weeks, but the damn tubes are expensive, so I'd been putting it off.
"Do we … do we need to go to the hospital?" Her voice was quiet, her heartbreak audible.
"Yeah, we do, sweetheart. I'm so sorry." More empty words. But they were all I had.
I held her hand and we cried when the doctor in the ER shook his head sadly and confirmed what we'd suspected.
Bella closed her eyes. I could feel her hand shaking in mine.
"Because you were more than fourteen weeks along, I'd prefer you to have a dilation and curettage than wait for your body to deal with the miscarriage on its own. It's your choice, but that's my recommendation."
As a scrub nurse, I'd held the hands of numerous women as they came in for the same procedure. More than once, their sorrow had brought the sting of tears to my own eyes. But standing by Bella's bed, holding her hand as she was put under general anaesthetic … I wasn't sure we'd ever be whole again.
When we returned home, there was a silence between us. It grew over the days that followed, an empty space that stretched between us. I hated it, but how I could I force closeness? How could I ask her to talk to me? To look at me? To touch me?
So I followed Bella's lead and stayed quiet, and with each hour, each day, the distance grew and seemed more impossible to breach. Even in our bed at night, the few feet of space between us seemed like miles. My chest felt tight constantly, as though Bella had set her palm to my sternum and was physically pushing me away from her.
I assumed Bella was taking what she needed—distance, silence, solitude. I figured that was her way of dealing with our loss, and I let her have what I thought she wanted.
And then, on a Tuesday morning, about three months after we'd returned from the hospital with empty arms, the light bulb blew while Bella was in the shower.
I rushed into the bathroom, still half-asleep and wearing only my boxers, when I heard her shouting. A cloud of steam whooshed out the door as I wrenched it open.
"How many times have I fucking asked you to change it? I told you. I told you this would happen."
Standing on the bathmat with her wet hair nearly black and water dripping down her body, she aimed a finger at me. "I asked you to change it months ago. Months. But no, you couldn't get off your ass and just do it. What if I'd been shaving? What if I'd cut myself? Or what if I'd fallen over? You're so … you're so …" She shook her head, tears chasing the water that dripped from her hair to her chin.
I grabbed a towel and held it out to her.
She stepped into the towel, when I closed my arms around her, she didn't push me away. She collapsed into me, the moisture from her wet body soaking through the towel and dampening my skin.
"I'm sorry for shouting," she said, her voice cracking. "I just … I just …" She shook her head, crying quietly against my chest.
And as much as the sound of her grief made me ache, there was relief, too. Relief that, though I was powerless to take away her pain, she was letting me hold her as she cried. I could support her, physically, and keep her on her feet as she sagged against me. It felt like progress.
I don't know how long we stood in the semi-dark, Bella crying, me blinking away my own tears. The steam had dissipated and the mirror unfogged when she finally pulled back, looking up at me with sore, red eyes. Tears clung to her eyelashes, her nose was running, and her mouth curved down. It hurt to see, to look her pain in the face and know there was nothing I could do to take it away.
Bella sniffled, her gaze shifting. "What's this?" She traced the line of black ink circling my bicep. It wasn't too thick, maybe about half an inch wide.
I cleared my throat as guilt ricocheted through my insides like a pinball. "I, uh … I'm sorry."
She pulled back a little, frowning up at me. In the dim bathroom, her eyes looked black. "Mourning?"
I nodded, the words caught in my throat.
"I would've come with you," she said, and I could hear the hurt in her voice.
It hadn't even crossed my mind to ask her.
She stepped out of my arms and pulled the towel tight around chest, tucking a corner in to keep it in place. I trailed after her as she walked into the bedroom, cursing myself for my self-centeredness.
Perched on the edge of the bed, she looked up at me. "Why?"
I knelt down in front of her, my hands on her knees. "About three weeks after …"
She nodded, and though she knew what I meant, I forced myself to say the words, to let myself speak all the words and feelings that had become so jumbled up inside of me. "Three weeks after we lost the baby, I … well, I just had this feeling that – I don't know how to explain it." I pulled my hands away, crossing them over my chest.
"I started to wonder if it had even been real – not because I wasn't feeling the pain of it, God knows I was. But … because the baby was with us for such a short time. Like, w-we'd barely even been able to comprehend what was happening before it was snatched away. And I hated it. I hated that feeling … the temporality." I shook my head, frustrated at the way the words seemed so inadequate.
"So I had to – I wanted to do something to make it real, permanent. Our child was taken from us before we even got to hold him or her, but that excitement and joy we felt—and then the pain and grief—it was real, all of it, and I wanted to …" I trailed off, wondering if I'd made any sense at all.
Bella wiped her eyes, sniffling. "I understand," she said, her voice breaking.
She was quiet for a long time, and when she spoke, her words were like being doused with ice cold water. "Do you blame me? Is–"
"Of course not." How could she even think that?
I felt her fingertip trace across my tattoo again. "You didn't talk to me. Why d-didn't you talk to me? You barely look at me." Her voice grew higher and more strained. "The doctor cleared me a month ago to have sex again and you haven't even tried to touch me. You're so far away, and I–I've needed you. I need you."
I am an idiot. I've made this so much worse, thinking I was giving her what she wanted, what she needed.
She continued, her voice breaking. "Maybe it was my fault. Maybe it w-was that … that piece of brie I ate two days before? Or maybe it was because I–"
"You don't even know–"
I cut her off again, my voice hard. "No."
Her lips pressed together, she looked at her hands as tears dripped into her lap.
I took a deep breath and pushed myself to my feet. Sitting beside her on the bed, I wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She didn't resist as I pulled her close. "Sweetheart, no. It wasn't your fault, and it wasn't mine. It wasn't because of the cheese, or the vacuuming, or the painting, or because we had too much sex, or because of anything you did, or anything I did. There is – it's just …"
I shook my head. "There's no reason, baby, and I know it sucks, and I know it hurts. But it – it just happened because it happened."
"You d-don't … you … but I failed, Edward. How can I ever be a mom when I've failed before I've even started?"
I grabbed her chin, trapping her gaze. I was careful not to hurt her, but I needed her to hear me.
"You. Have. Not. Failed."
"No. This is not your fault, and it's not mine." Tears started to slip down my cheeks. "But I'm so sorry, Bella. I'm s-so fucking sorry."
We held each other and talked and cried, sharing all the thoughts we'd kept hidden from each other, until we fell asleep, our ankles tangled and Bella's head on my chest.
One small step forward.
And now, running my hands over Bella's back in the quiet of the early morning, I know.
There is a child growing in her womb. And though I'm terrified, though I try to beat it away, I'm powerless against the joy I can feel swelling inside me, constricting my lungs and speeding my heart.
A/N: To all those of you who have experienced the pain and grief of losing a child - I am truly sorry that you know this heartbreak. My heart goes out to you.
To BelieveItOrNot - thank you. You know how much your advice, honesty, encouragement and friendship mean to me.
Thank you all so much for reading.