An excerpt from chapter 26 of Waiting For Spring.
(Mature themes, imagery, and language.)
The door opened again, and in walked The Doctor.
She was friendly. Motherly. Earth mother, actually; a true Granola with proudly graying brown hair and no make up. She told us her name but I didn’t pay attention to it. In my mind she’d always just be The Doctor.She looked at Rachel’s chart, scribbled something down and nodded to herself. Then she looked up. Asked Rachel if she had any questions.
She did. Just one and it surprised me. Because although The Doctor misunderstood her at first, I knew, right away, exactly what is was she meant.
“Is it gonna hurt?”
“I’ll be giving you a few injections, to numb your cervix. That will sting just a little, almost like a pinch. But it will help with the–”
Injections. Needles. She winced. And it was a relief for me to see that she really did hate them. “I know. They told me that already. I mean…is this gonna hurt the baby?”
For a few moments there was nothing but silence, except in my mind. Because what I heard there was a scared, lonely voice that said:
It’s not a baby, Rachel. Not a baby. It’s an embryo. A fetus. A mass of cells. A mass of something. But not. A baby…
The doctor cleared her throat and said. “No. Not at all.”
And then she told us about nerve centers and weeks of gestation. Explained that there was no fetal pain before twenty-six weeks. That was a fact. And I looked at her, looked to her. Because she was The Doctor. The One Who Knows. And I searched her eyes, suddenly panicked. Because there was something that I needed to know.
Is this bullshit? Something you tell women to make them feel better? To ease their conscience? To ease yours? Because how is that possible? How the fuck, how the bloody goddamn hell can you even know that? What tests can you run to figure that out? What kind of scientific proof could you possibly have that could possibly fucking tell you that Rachel’s baby, or fetus, or embryo–that the mass of cells inside of her–won’t feel a thing?
But she wasn’t looking at me. She was looking at Rachel. Calm. Confident. Competent. Which is exactly what she should have been doing. What I should be doing. So I did it. I held Rachel’s hand and she looked at me. Determined, still, but scared. I looked right back at her, looked her right in the eyes. And I said it.
“She’s right, Rach. They’ve done tests and stuff. So they know.”
She gave me a weak smile, nodded, then lay down on the table. She looked up at the ceiling so I did, too. It was a drop ceiling, a grid. Big white squares with yellowish water stains here and there that looked just like piss. The Doctor and Dusty Pink Nurse talked to each other in low voices, about whatever it is that doctors and nurses talk about. And then it was time.
Stirrups. Ultrasound. The screen was pointed mercifully away from Rachel. Even if it hadn’t been she wouldn’t have seen it, because she didn’t shift her gaze, not once. Still looked straight up and I wondered if she was counting tiles. Or maybe counting the tiny little holes in the tiles. What were those holes? Were they there just for looks? Ventilation? Air bubbles that formed when the factory cooked the tiles? What the hell were those tiles made from, anyway? Styrofoam? Plastic?
It didn’t matter, and now I had to listen to The Doctor again. She was saying something about sedation. Demerol for pain and Valium to help her relax. Rachel nodded. She was all for that. Until The Doctor mentioned the dangers of giving it to her if she’d consumed any drugs or alcohol in the past twenty four hours. And that’s when she had to tell us.
She’d taken Something last night. Right before she’d hopped into bed.
“Just so I could sleep, Tess. Just so I–”
I put my hand up. “It’s alright, Rach.”
I said it even though it wasn’t alright. It was as far away from alright as we could get. But it was a done thing and right now I couldn’t do anything about it. Right now she needed to settle down and not worry about Condemnation and Judgment and Consequences. There would be enough of that later. But when it came it wouldn’t be from me, and it wouldn’t be about the Something that had helped her drift off to sleep. It would be even worse. It would be Rachel judging Rachel. I knew it. I could see it in her eyes. Already.