Friday 12th March 2010
Gestation: 24 weeks
One year ago.
I visit my friends, while Suse goes on a girls’ night out. Libby and Jack have just moved out of their beloved flat in Richmond, and into a house in Blackburn, to be closer to Libby’s parents. They are – like every one of my friends – pregnant. They already have a 15-month-old tornado named Fletch. And on top of that, Libby is twenty-eight weeks gestation.
Fletch is a recent graduate from the short stay unit at the Children’s Hospital. He spent six hours in the waiting room, and then twenty-four hours with a tube down his nose rehydrating his way through a bout of gastro. The whole family subsequently got it last week, and it’s fair to say that Fletch is the only one who looks to have recovered.
It hasn’t slowed him one bit.
As I arrive, I walk through the door to find the three of them in the living area. Libby looks tired, twenty-eight-weeks-tired, while Jack just looks full-time-dad-tired. Fletch looks fine.
Fletch is a flurry of movement. He barrels around the house, always running, never walking. Since he learnt to balance, I have not seen him walk.
* * * * *
I’m given the guided tour through the house, in a state of repair, a builder friend of theirs helping with construction. As we enter one of the spare rooms, Libby turns to me.
“Fletch isn’t usually allowed in here. This is one of the special rooms.”
As if on cue, Fletch enters, looking around in awe.
“Fair enough,” I say, spotting four separate bare wires poking up from the edge of the carpet, at the back of the frame for a new set of robes. “Very kid-friendly.” I crouch down, recognising an ethernet cable, a phone line, a power line, and another unfamiliar cable. “An unidentified electrocution device.”
“Yeah,” Jack says, stooping, “I haven’t figured out what that one’s for.”
With that, there is a noise. We look around to see Fletch, his fingers gripping to a cupboard shelf, the whole thing angled precariously over him. Libby’s hand holds it, millimetres from his head.
“He just pulled it onto himself,” she says in disbelief. “He just reached out and pulled it.” Fletch grins, oblivious to injury that was about to befall him. “I can’t believe it,” she says.
“I can,” says Jack.
“I think we’ll lie that flat on the ground,” Libby says, her eyes still wide. “And I think it’s time to leave here, Fletch.”
Fletch lets out an unimpressed squeal as he is removed from the room and the door shut.
“Can he reach the handles yet?” I ask.
“Not quite yet,” Libby says, sighing.
“I can wait,” I whisper, repeating my new mantra to myself.
“Sorry?” Libby says.
There is no hurry, Mark.
Appreciate your freedom.
You can wait.
* * * * *
Jack and Fletch go off for a bath, while Libby and I re-enter the kitchen.
“How’s Suse going?”
“Yeah, ummm…” I pause. She sees the look on my face. “Up and down. The ectopic has been hard – it’s been really hard. And the hardest part is trying to stop it from become a project. Becoming pregnant, that is. It’s hard to not to let it become a big deal.”
“Yep,” Libby says, “I hear you. You stress so much the first time.” As if on cue, she takes a sip of wine. She lets out a laugh. “Second time around,” she says, waving the glass, “you chill out a whole lot more.” She rounds the word ‘whole’ in her mouth like a gospel singer.
“I believe it. It’s just that it’s been five months since the ectopic. Her cycle is usually clockwork, but it’s still all over the place. And she’s just worried about it.”
“Do you think I could get Nadine’s number from you?”
“Do you think she’d mind?”
“Hey, she’s a doctor. You’re a doctor. She lives for IVF. That’s her specialty. She’d love to help.”
“Not that I think we are going to need anything like that.”
“No,” Libby says, kindly agreeing.
“It’d just be good to have a chat to her.”
“Of course it would.”
“Just to know when I should start to worry.”
Libby looks at me, smiling in the way that only old friends can. “Because you haven’t started worrying yet?”
“Shut up.” She laughs heartily.
“Well, if it’s any consolation, when I was trying to get pregnant with Fletch, I used those ovulation tests to tell me when was the best time to have sex…”
“…Yes!” I burst in. Libby pauses, but I quickly continue, “Sorry, no… I’ve got a story, but, I want to hear this first…”
“Okay,” she says, winding up on a well-rehearsed tale, “well, I did those tests, religiously, day after day, trying to find out my peak days.” I nod excitedly, urging her on. “I get to the end of the seven days, and they’re all negative. I start moaning to Jack that I’ve gone into menopause. That I’m barren.”
“Yeah,” I say, still excited, “and… you just didn’t ovulate that month, right? And it didn’t matter, because you got pregnant next month?” I can’t help but try to finish.
“Nup,” she says, relishing the suspense, “even better.”
“I got pregnant that month.”
“I got pregnant the month it was negative.”
“The test was wrong!”
“That fucking test!” I yell out. “False negatives!”
“Fucking false negatives!” she yells back.
“Ninety-eight percent accuracy, my arse!” I yell.
“Both our arses,” she laughs. “The fucking thing was totally wrong! It tells me I don’t ovulate, I freak out, and I get pregnant. All in the same month.”
“I hate those fucking tests,” I say, venom in my voice.
We both laugh again, taking a swig. “Thank you,” I say. “That is the best story I’ve heard all week. We both get so caught up in it. It’s hard not to.”
“How do you not? It’s impossible.”
We go quiet.
“Did the packet have a purple woman on the side, smiling at a kid?”
“I hate that fucking woman,” she says.
I slap my leg, laughing so hard that I spill my beer.
* * * * *