Short Fiction ~ Sudha Balagopal
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 11
When the baby's heartbeat revs from the regular glug-glug-glop to a brisk dum-dum-dum on the monitor, when your contractions ride from dip to crest, a flurry of nurses prop your feet up on the stirrups.
You wiggle trembly toes, legs drug-deadened, while fraught nurses trot in and out, trundling trolleys and trays. You interlock frozen fingers while they discourse about the alarming pace of the fetal heart.
Earlier they pierced you and injected Pitocin when your contractions didn't progress.They followed that with the stab of an epidural. The numbness leaves you spiritless. And now, you're tired.
So, so tired.
“How are we doing?” the doctor asks. He's only checking on the foetus. “All set to deliver?”
You think of the couple waiting outside, perhaps pacing the lobby, perhaps crossing and uncrossing their legs, perhaps reciting prayers, perhaps rocking a tiny car-seat that rests on the floor, perhaps checking and re-checking a carry bag of frills and fluffy toys.
The doctor urges, “Almost there! Push. . .Puush. . . .Puuush.”
You fall back, spent, and the nurses urge, “Push. . . Puush. . . Puuush.”
One more hard heave, a strong squeeze, and she slithers out.
It's the wah, wah, wah, wails that send spasms into your uterus. Squalls that slice, sharp, in your chest while everyone flits about, removing vessels, papers, monitors, machines and in that blur of activity, you catch a flash of tiny, flailing arms and floppy legs before she sails into wide-open arms. They sweep her away even as you secrete bodily fluids, the room surrounded by odors of afterbirth.
You extend your limp hands; a wasted reach. No one notices. No one congratulates you.
Your fingers droop.
Someone―a no-one-special―asks a perfunctory, “Are you okay?”
You straighten and straighten the crumpled sheet over the contours of your now-empty belly.
Sudha Balagopal's recent short fiction appears in Matchbook, Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, Pidgeonholes and Milk Candy Review among other journals. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, and the Pushcart Prize and is listed in the Wigleaf top 50. More at www.sudhabalagopal.com