Joan rolled over in bed, trying to find a more comfortable position. As the days went by she was desperate to get this child out of her. She was very uncomfortable at times, and it was even worse when she had to go from sitting to standing.
Vera brought her a glass of water which she took gratefully. Joan slowly moved into a sitting position. “Thank you.”
“The doctor said you really need to take it easy.”
Joan rolled her eyes. “Easier said than done.” She grimaced, feeling the dull ache in her back.
“Does your back hurt?”
“Yes… my lower back.”
“Do you want me to massage it again?” Vera asked gently.
Joan nodded, and laid back onto her side. She sighed as Vera’s warm hands massaged along her back. Closing her eyes, she felt her body slowly relaxing under Vera’s touch.
“Does that feel nice?”
“Yes, it helps.” She moaned softly as Vera’s fingers kneaded a particular spot.
“Is there any way we can induce this labor?”
Vera frowned. “I mean, I guess if they recommend it, but I think we’re going right on schedule. I just wish you would get a C-section.”
“I’ve told you, I want to have this baby naturally. I don’t feel comfortable having surgery. I’m strong, and I should be able to do this like every other woman in history.”
“Joan, you’ve had a lot more stress this year, and with your age I just think it would be safer.”
“You don’t understand,” Joan grumbled.
“Maybe I don’t, but I’m just thinking of what’s best for you and the baby.”
Joan lifted her hand to her stomach. “I know, but I just feel I want to try this without the C-section.”
“Okay… would it feel better if I gave you a bath?”
Joan’s lips twitched. “Maybe.”
Joan sat back in the tub, and while she would have loved Vera to join her, they decided it was easier for Joan to get out this way. Vera was so afraid of her accidentally slipping and falling.
She sighed in pleasure as Vera gently ran her hands through her hair. “You really didn’t have to wash my hair too,” she said quietly.
“I know, but you find it relaxing,” Vera said, smiling.
“That’s true. Carry on.” She closed her eyes when Vera poured water over her head. Soft lips kissed her neck and she smiled.
“Are you hungry?”
“Vera, I’m always hungry these days. I’m surprised you even have to ask at this point.”
“What are you in the mood for?”
“You know what I’d really like that I haven’t had in a very long time: fish and chips. Oh, and with malt vinegar. Wait… actually, maybe not since you’re called Vinegar Tits at the prison.” Joan bit her lip, trying to stop herself from smiling.
Vera inhaled sharply. “If you really want fish and chips I’ll get it for you, including malt vinegar. But if you call me Vinegar Tits again, you won’t ever see my tits anymore.”
Joan tried to keep a straight face. “You have my word. I just hope you won’t douse yourself in it again,” she said, and started to laugh.
“Joan! For God’s sake! It’s not funny!”
“You’re right… it’s not. Especially not when I found you in Medical later, with that very distinct smell.”
“That’s it! I’m going home!”
Joan grabbed her hand. “Don’t go home, not this time, Vera. Please… I was just teasing.”
Vera rolled her eyes. “Strange sense of humor you have. I’ll let it go this time to you being weird and pregnant. It’s really odd for you to even joke like that. Are you feeling okay?”
She helped her out of the tub and wrapped a towel around Joan. She didn’t get an answer before Joan leaned down to kiss her.
“I’m feeling fine,” she whispered and smiled fondly.
As the two women ate, Joan felt somewhat out of sorts. She wasn’t sure what got into her earlier. A sudden playful mood and all she wanted was to hold Vera and kiss her. She had such strong feelings of tenderness towards her that she wanted to tell her how she felt. Emotions be damned, even if it was a mistake.
“Joan, are you all right?”
“Hmm? Yes, I… I… uh, we’ve spent quite some time together and I’ve grown to really appreciate all you’ve done for me and the baby. It’s not easy for me to say this but I want to tell you that… I--”
“It’s okay, Joan. I knew that sooner or later you’d want time alone. I’m glad I was here for you too.”
Joan slowly shook her head, and placed her hand over Vera’s. A reminder of that fateful dinner long ago. She swallowed and licked her lips, feeling her heart pounding with anxiety. “Vera, that’s not what I wanted to say. I’ve developed some… uh, it’s been such a long time since I’ve said this but I… I love you,” she said simply.
Vera’s eyes widened and she dropped the chip in her hand. “Joan, that makes me so -- oh, my God I think your water just broke!”
Joan stared at her. “So that’s what that is… that feeling. Yes, then yes it broke. My water just broke.”
“Let’s get your things and head to the hospital.”
Joan suddenly felt like she was outside of her body. She stood up and knew it happened but it was still a very surreal feeling. This meant the baby was coming. She was going into labor.
“Joan, it’ll be okay. I have your things and we’ll be on our way.”
“You’ll stay with me?” She asked, unsure of what the answer would be.
Vera’s eyes softened. She took Joan’s hand and squeezed it. “Of course I will. You won’t be alone, I promise you.”
Joan was extremely tired. Contractions had been going for a while and she couldn’t remember if she was dilated enough. She panted, and she was in so much pain that she just wanted it to be over. Vera held her hand, and she looked into her eyes.
“I don’t know why I went through with this. I’ve never felt this level of pain before. I don’t think I can do this, Vera. What was I thinking?” She cried, the pain and exhaustion beginning to overwhelm her.
Vera stroked her forehead, wiping the sweat from her hairline. “Joan, you’re one of the strongest women I know. You can do this, do you hear me? And once this is all over, you’ll have a beautiful baby girl.”
Joan nodded, squeezing Vera’s hand harder. Vera made a grimace and then smiled at her. “You’re doing just fine.”
“It’s been too long… something has to be wrong,” she said weakly. Her doctor motioned Vera to the corner, and Joan couldn’t tell what was being said since they were far away.
Vera came back and held her hand. “Everything is going to be all right.”
“What’s going on?”
Her doctor slowly came into view. “Hi Joan. You’ve been doing very well, but for the safety of you and your baby, we need to do an emergency C-section.”
“No, I don’t want to have one. I can have this baby.”
“Joan, your labor isn’t progressing as it should. You’re not dilated enough, and it’s been too long for you to safely deliver this baby naturally. We have to do an emergency C-section.”
“Please,” Vera whispered.
Joan nodded, and turned to Vera. “If anything happens, you’ll take care of her.”
“Joan nothing is—”
“Promise me, Vera.”
Vera’s breath hitched. “I promise.” She leaned down to kiss Joan’s cheek and whispered, “I love you too.”
Everything seemed to slow down for her, even though she knew that the doctor and nurses were moving quickly. She was given local anesthesia, which made it a little bit easier to be aware of what was going on.
She was vaguely aware of a pulling sensation, and it wasn’t long before she saw the doctor holding a small baby.
“Is she okay?” She asked anxiously.
“You’ve given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl.”
She felt tears in her eyes. “Can I see her?”
Her baby was gently handed to her. She stared in wonder at the small child, and lifted her hand to stroke her cheek. She had a very small patch of dark brown hair.
“Hello little one,” she, and smiled when the baby wrapped her hand around Joan’s finger. A tear ran down her cheek as she kissed the baby’s forehead. She was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of fierce love and protection.
“She’s so beautiful, Vera.” Another tear escaped and she stroked her baby’s cheek.
“Yes, she is.” Vera stroked Joan’s hair. “Everything turned out fine, just like I told you.”
“I’m so glad you’re here with me and… Chloe.”
Vera smiled and kissed her forehead. “Me too.”
Joan smiled lovingly at Chloe. “My daughter,” she whispered.