Friday 16 May 2014

Something a little different

This year one of my classes I am taking is Creative Writing.  I thought I would love the paper but have to admit I am finding it hard because so much of it is about the analysis of writing, rather than 'just writing'.

In the poetry unit I wrote a poem that I thought was what the lecturer was after... it was in no way my own style of writing, and I was devastated when I got a lot of 'you need to fix this...' type feedback.  I had put so much effort into it and turned myself inside out writing it, it was a real blow to not get the positive feedback I was hoping for.

Then along came the fiction unit of the class.  As with the poetry unit, we had to submit a short story to go in our final portfolio, and the thought made me slightly nauseous.  Writing 1000-3000 words is something I do on a very regular basis, but I felt nervous about the fact it would be academically critiqued....

After discussing it with my wifey, I decided that I could build on a scene I have already written (obviously one that doesn't contain sex!), or  I could write some back story - something that happens in the past of one of my characters, something that wasn't touched on in real detail in a story.

Then it came to me.  Or to my wife.  I can't remember which.  In one of the stories I am working on, there are two characters - Jenna and Lucas - and before the point in time the story started they had lost a baby, Sasha, at 14 weeks.  I decided I would write the loss from Jenna's perspective, go into all the detail my story didn't.

THEN my wonderful wife suggested I could write the story from Lucas's perspective.  I immediately loved the idea and knew that was the path I was going to take.

The draft of the short story had to be submitted today, and I thought I would post it to my blog as well.  This ISN'T the final product, but you get the idea!


(Untitled... so far)

Four different text message tones rang out simultaneously, the melody of tones met by loud cheers as Lucas and his friends were welcomed back into the real world. No cellphone reception in this day and age? Surely that qualified as a crime against humanity? While everyone else busied themselves checking text messages and updating every social media network known to man, Lucas concentrated on the road and looked forward to getting out at the pub and being able to read the five text messages he had received. A smiled crossed his face at the knowledge that in a few minutes he could finally be back in contact with Jenna. God he missed her!

It was Trevor's stag do and Jenna had insisted that he attend. When he had refused she had looked at him sternly, her nostrils flared, lips pursed and figuratively and literally put her foot down, stomping it against the kitchen tiles as she had reminded him that she was pregnant not an invalid. Lucas knew she was right but he hated the thought of leaving her on her own. The first trimester had been rough for Jenna with the baby using morning sickness as a way to remind her five, six, seven times a day of his or her presence. When she wasn't grasping onto the toilet willing the sickness to stop, she was lying on the couch half asleep or walking around in a zombie-like state.

Lucas had never felt more useless than he had in those first twelve weeks of Jenna's pregnancy. Every day he would leave for work at the last minute and return as fast as was humanly (and legally) possible. Seeing Jenna so sick was hard for him, but whenever he admitted how helpless he felt, Jenna would remind him that it was all for a good cause and then take his hand in hers and rest it lightly on her belly. His hand easily spanned her belly and he impatiently awaited the day when it wouldn't, and he would be able to feel his precious baby girl (he knew it was a girl!) moving beneath his palm.

When he finally parked the car and everyone piled out Lucas locked up and they walked inside 'The Thistle', a pub that had over time become their pub. They had each had their 21st there, Rob and now Trevor had spent part of their stag night there; Scott's birthday party was always held at the Thistle. It was a sort of sanctuary for them, full of many happy memories, and now here they were ready to add to the memories as they celebrated Trev's last weekend of bachelorhood.

Sitting at the bar with a coke in hand Lucas finally checked his text messages, deciding to leave the voice message for last. He smiled happily as he read the texts from Jenna.
10.38am – It is so boring at home without you, I hope you and your boyfriends are having fun in the jungle xxx
1.17pm – Can you come home and cook for me? I can't be bothered... this bub is making me extremely tired today
3.42pm – Stretched out on the couch watching Food Network, it isn't the same without you here complaining about how hungry this stupid channel makes you. I love you x
4.22pm – Going to have a lie down, feeling a bit off... will ring you when you are back in the real world. I miss you and bubba misses you xxx

Lucas smiled as he held the phone to his ear so he could listen to the voicemail left by Jenna at 5.46pm. The moment he heard Jenna's panicked voice the smile dropped from his face and his heart started to race as key words sucker punched him in the stomach. 'Scared' 'bleeding' 'pain' 'losing baby' 'ambulance' 'need you' 'please come', each word caused bile to rise up his throat and his heart to race at an unhealthy speed.

Gotta go,” Lucas gasped as he stood up from his stool so quickly it fell over.
What the hell, it's my stag do! You can't leave, bro!” Trevor complained. Lucas could only shake his head.
Something is wrong with Jenna and the baby,” Lucas snapped at Trevor and ran through the crowded room towards the exit.

Outside he ran straight to his car and then spent what felt like an hour fumbling with his keys trying to unlock the damn door! Finally sitting behind the steering wheel, Lucas forced himself to take deep breaths in an attempt to regain some form of composure. It was a fruitless exercise, the only thing the supposed calming breaths did was make him realise he had wasted thirty seconds which could have been spent travelling home.

Rationally Lucas knew he shouldn't be driving but he didn't care. He NEEDED to be with Jenna and would do whatever it took. A cursory glance at the dashboard clock told him it was 7.58pm and he cringed when he realised that meant Jenna had been alone, in pain and terrified for over two hours. It was all his fault. He never should have gone on the trip, he should have been the one to put his foot down and tell her that NO – he wasn't going. If he hadn't gone perhaps it wouldn't be happening. Maybe there was something he could have done if he had been home?

At some point during the journey his cellphone started to ring. He had no idea how long he had been driving, only that every second he was a second closer to being by Jenna's side. When he picked up his phone, it was just like Jenna's voicemail, he only registered key words. 'Doctor Bishop' 'threatened miscarriage' 'gave her something to help her sleep' 'get here as soon as possible' 'obstetrics ward room 4'. Obstetrics ward room 4. Of all the words he had managed to take in those were the words swarming through his brain. Obstetrics ward room 4, Jenna, their baby. He had to get there.

The sight of the city had never been so welcome or terrifying and as Lucas drove closer to the hospital he found it impossible to stick to the speed limit. It felt like his heart was going to burst with a mixture of sheer panic and the immensity of the love he felt for Jenna and for their baby.

He silently begged a magical higher power to stop the pain for Jenna, to keep their baby's heart beating nice and strong, to be able to take Jenna – and her burgeoning bump – home the following day, to have the whole experience deemed 'unexplained but resolved'. They had so many dreams for their baby, for their family, and he couldn't fathom life without those dreams. Or their baby.

Parking in the hospital carpark and making it up to the obstetrics ward was a complete blur. He had no idea if he had parked in a legal capark, he had no idea who he had spoken to to get directions and make it up to the obstetric ward, but there he was. The corridor seemed to be a painfully bright white and it was eerily quiet. No one was there to greet him, to lead him solemnly down the hall to Jenna's room... so he ran.

His lungs and eyes were burning as he passed room after room, the numbers on the doors slowly getting smaller... 32 – 28 – 20 – 16 – 12 – 10 – 8 – 6 – and finally 4. Lucas burst into the room and moved so quickly to Jenna's side that he had to wonder if he had flown.

As his lips pressed gently against her forehead Lucas could feel tears starting to stream down his face, hot, wet, sticky tears which burnt his eyes. Clasping her hand in his own he tried to send a silent message to her that he was there, that she wasn't alone anymore. He felt her fingers move against his and as he watched her eyelids flickering he was again overcome by emotion, tears burning a trail down his cheeks as Jenna slowly woke up and realised he was there.

There were no words exchanged, only a look which said far more than any words could. Jenna was terrified, he was terrified, and they both knew what was coming. Lucas perched on the side of Jenna's bed and when she moved over he lay beside her. The moment his arms were securely around her he felt her body quivering as she started to sob. Her fingers dug deeply into his hip, like she was clinging on for dear life, trying to anchor herself to him... as if he could protect her from the tragedy that was unfolding.

A soft knock on the door was soon followed by the soothing voice of a doctor who had come to check on Jenna. The doctor – Doctor Bishop from the phone – introduced himself and explained they were keeping a very close eye on Jenna and the baby. The words 'threatened miscarriage' were spoken again, but the look on Bishop's face made it clear to Lucas that they were no longer dealing with a 'threatened' miscarriage, and rather were waiting for the inevitable.

If only he had stayed home. Surely he could have stopped it? What sort of father was he?

Bishop placed the doppler on Jenna's belly while Jenna and Lucas clutched onto each other's hand and squeezed their eyes tightly shut, neither breathing or moving a muscle.


Who knew a heartbeat could sound so melodic and heavenly?

Record it bub, please? I want to be able to hear that when...” Jenna whispered, tears coming in place of the end of the sentence.

Bishop smiled sadly and knowingly as he held the doppler in place and Lucas took a sound recording of their precious baby's heartbeat. He didn't want to hit the 'stop' button, feeling that by doing so he was giving their darling baby permission to die.

It's slower, isn't it?” Jenna asked Bishop, her voice cracking as she tried to fight back tears.
I am extremely sorry, Jenna, but yes, the heart rate has been steadily decreasing since we began monitoring when you arrived,” Bishop told them honestly as he turned the doppler off and wiped the wand with a tissue.

Lucas hated doing so but he had to ask what would happen next. As with Jenna's voice message and Dr Bishop's phone call earlier, the discussion was foggy with only key terms registering in his brain. 'Dilation' 'natural delivery' 'epidural' 'surgery' 'D&C', some were terms they had once been excited about hearing, others were terms they had hoped to never have to hear.

He had to be strong for Jenna, but hearing about the procedure for after the baby had been born was too much for Lucas. With Jenna's hand in his own he slumped forward with his face in the mattress and was overwhelmed by the intensity of the tears which came. They poured from his eyes like waterfalls and there was nothing he could do to stop them. His heart was shattering into billions of little pieces and the world felt as if it was closing in around him.

That morning he and Jenna had shared a very passionate kiss before he left, he had then dropped to his knees and smattered little kisses all over her belly as he told the tiny joy inside to behave for Mummy. Only two weeks earlier they had seen their baby wiggling around on the ultrasound screen and had been excited at hearing the heartbeat for the very first time. The first time of many, the midwife had promised.

Yet there they were. Preparing to hold onto and say goodbye to their darling first child twenty-six weeks earlier than expected. Their baby wouldn't be crying or nuzzling at the breast, nor would he or she be wrapping his or her tiny hand around his finger. The child they had been so excited to meet at the end of the year would now fit in the palm of his hand and weigh 'around fifty grams'. No crying, no nuzzling, no moments that would melt their hearts.

'You don't have to see or hold the baby if you don't want to', Bishop had informed them.

That wasn't an option. They may have been welcoming their child into the world under vastly different circumstances than they had expected, but regardless of how small their child was, he or she WAS their child. Lucas wanted to know if they had a son or daughter, he wanted to know if the child would look like him or (he hoped) like Jenna, he needed the chance to commit their precious child's face to memory.

It wasn't long after Bishop left the room that Jenna's pains began to get worse. Lucas held her hand through each pain and told her to focus on her breathing. He tried to be calm, he tried to use a soothing tone of voice, but when the pains got so bad that Jenna was crying, Lucas's whole façade came tumbling down. The red button on the console beside the bed was pushed over and over until nurses ran into the room and Lucas begged them to stop the pain Jenna was in.

Upon suggesting perhaps she was in labour, Jenna agreed to let a nurse examine her, while another squirted gel on Jenna's belly and began to use the doppler.

Silence filled the room.

There was no longer a hoof-like THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP resonating from inside Jenna's belly.

Sympathetic looks were offered to them as Jenna gasped for breath, choking on her raw grief. Lucas shook his head. No. They hadn't used it in the right place. Try the other side. No. It couldn't be. NO.

“So sorry for your loss.”

Urgent looks passed between the two nurses. “CALL BISHOP NOW”.
“No dilation.”
“Blood loss.”
“Quickly say goodbye.”
“Please step out of the way.”
“A nurse will be with you as soon as possible.”

His baby was gone and now what, he was going to lose Jenna as well? Lucas fell to the floor and sat staring at a speck of yellow cotton on beige lino. Never in his life had he felt so alone, so terrified, so useless or so petrified. He didn't understand what was going on, only that their baby was dead and something was drastically wrong with Jenna. It was impossible to breathe through the pain, or perhaps he didn't want to breathe? What was life without Jenna? As the room went black his last silent words were an apology to Jenna. He had left her alone. Their baby had died. Jenna was having emergency surgery. It was all his fault.

It felt like fifty lifetimes before a nurse happily confirmed that Jenna had made it through surgery and was in recovery. It felt like one hundred more lifetimes before he was back at the bedside of the love of his life. Jenna. He still had his Jenna.

And temporarily they had their child. Their little girl they had named Sasha. So small it was hard to comprehend, yet she was perfect. A beautiful little nose and lips just like her mummy. Ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes, her daddy's big feet, her mummy's dainty little hands.

Never before had he experienced such conflicting emotions. The feeling of complete and utter pride and joy, mixed with the most painful grief known to man or woman. His heart burst at the sight of Jenna holding Sasha, and at the same time it broke into a trillion tiny little pieces. It was an experience no person should ever have to go through, but as Lucas sat looking at Jenna and their little girl, he was struck by what a hauntingly beautiful sight they were.

He needed to capture that moment.

Holding his cellphone as steadily as he could Lucas took a photo of Jenna and Sasha. Of his two girls. Mother and daughter.

It was something he had never confessed to Jenna, but since they had found out she was pregnant Lucas had looked forward to the day he could make the background picture on his cellphone a picture of Jenna and their baby, the two loves of his life.

The day he and Jenna became parents might not have played out the way he'd imagined it would, and the idea of going home without their darling Sasha was something he hadn't even begun to face up to. No parent ever imagined they would go home without their baby... yet there they were, getting horribly close to the moment they would hand their daughter over forever.

There would be no baby sleeping in the cot that was already set up in the corner of their bedroom. The baby clothes in beautiful shades of pink and blue they had purchased would remain forever unworn.

Their child would never sleep in their arms, but he and Jenna - they would always be proud parents.

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