Counting the grey tiles on the ceiling. One, two, three.
I’m about to have a catheter fed into my uterus, via my cervix, through which a not-quite-creature will pass. Four, five.
‘It’s the smallest speculum we have, I’ve wet it with warm water, but no gel – the embryos don’t like it.’
‘Mm.’ I shift my bum down the bed, place my feet in the stirrups. Six, seven.
‘Speculum on its way.’
Ouch. Eight, nine.
The nurse turns out the main light, leaving the doctor’s head bathed in the warm glow of a spotlight. She’s between my legs, her gaze flitting between me and the glare of the ultrasound screen while the nurse glides a probe across my belly. Ten.
A burst of white light, a swing of the door. In strides a tall man, an embryologist, a god, I guess. A life-maker, a love-maker, a heartbreaker, holding a long thin tube in one hand, a small card in the other.
‘This you?’ He shows me the card. I read my name and see a symbol like a spaceship next to it. That’s me.
‘Yep’, I reply.
The god passes the tube to the doctor.
‘Feeding it through now. Keep your eyes on the ultrasound.’
The nurse pushes down with the probe. I squirm – my bladder’s full and it stings. I look at the screen. A flash makes my womb glow – what a sight – a shooting star zooming across deep space. How lucky I am to see my baby from the first spark of life.
Welcome, not-quite-being, I call silently into my body. I’m in love with you already.
The doctor passes the now empty tube back to the embryologist. He floats out of the room.
‘Now we wait. Let’s see if she clings on.’
I hadn’t thought of it as a ‘she’. Now that’s all I think of – a flash of life, becoming something no longer on the brink, becoming she.
The doctor removes the speculum. I close my legs and sit up, clasping my hands over my belly, as if I’m already pregnant.
‘Can I get up? Will she fall out?’
Both the doctor and the nurse laugh. I feel silly.
‘No, of course not – your womb will cling on to her for dear life.’
For dear life. I’ll give anything, for dear life.
I talk to her, every day, willing her on. Maybe I’m praying, not sure who to. Just stick little one. I see her. Sometimes, when I’m walking, I feel her. I feel the warmth of her tiny pink new-born hand curl around my forefinger. Life finds a way.
Except, she doesn’t.
She washes away, before she makes it into a whole being. She becomes tears. She becomes a stabbing pain in my chest, the baby that will never be. Not quite a miscarriage. But not just a period.
They ask why it hurts so much, at least she wasn’t real, they say.
Exactly for how long was I talking
to an empty space?
Was she ever anything but nothing?
Victoria Brooks (she/they) writes queer fiction and has been published in Litro, Punk Noir, Stone of Madness Press and Lickerish Library. She was also runner-up in the Good Sex Awards 2021 (Best LGBTQ scene) and is working on her debut queer sci-fi novel.