The traffic light turned green, and I quickly pressed the accelerator. I glanced at the speedometer, it was going over the speed limit.
I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. Next to me, my wife was sobbing.
“Calm down,” I said. “Everything is going to be fine.”
But deep down, we both know it was a lie.
The day my wife found out she was pregnant, she burst into tears.
“Congratulations.” Our gynecologist gave us the ultrasound picture.
My wife tried to say something but she couldn’t. She was overwhelmed with emotion.
It hadn’t been an easy journey.
We’ve been waiting for seven years. We’ve tried everything from traditional Chinese medicine to IVF treatments with no result. Last year, my wife quit her analyst job at her thirty-fifth birthday.
“I want to be a mother,” she said. “My time is running out.”
She had been in five failed IVF cycles. I could tell that she was on the edge. She broke down each time one of her friends got pregnant. I tried to be more understanding and supportive, but it wasn’t easy for me too.
When we learnt that the sixth cycle was successful, we were overjoyed. But we decided to wait until after the second trimester before sharing the good news.
The first few weeks were nerve wrecking. My wife started to feel nauseous. But whenever the nausea passed, she panicked and quickly used a home pregnancy kit to make sure she was still pregnant. We were afraid that the baby wouldn’t make it.
Finally, the first trimester was over and we began to call our friends and relatives. The first call my wife made was to her mother, but she only talked halfway before she began to cry. I took the phone from her hand.
“Congratulations, you’re going to be a grandmother,” I said.
“Oh my God,” my mother-in-law exclaimed.
I overheard her relaying the message to my father-in-law, and soon, both of them were crying too. They were going to have their first grandchild.
I hugged my wife and she buried her face in my shoulder.
“Can you believe it?” she whispered. “We’re going to have a baby.”
We converted the guestroom into a nursery and filled it with new furniture. It was too early to tell the baby’s gender. I painted the walls in beige to keep it neutral.
My wife was always looking forward to the routine checkups, especially when it came to the ultrasound pictures.
“The baby has your nose,” she said.
I smiled obligingly even though I could barely tell where the nose was.
My wife bought a pregnancy album to fill those ultrasounds pictures. She also penned down sweet little notes, like the food she craved or the dreams she had. Those days, she was beaming.
At 11 weeks, my wife went for the OSCAR test. She didn’t talk much, but I could tell from her sweaty palms that she was nervous because of her age. Thankfully, the experience turned out to be positive.
We heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
“Would you like to know the baby’s gender?” the consultant asked.
We nodded excitedly.
“Congratulations, it’s a girl.”
My wife smiled, and I smiled too. Tears rolled down from my wife’s eyes, and I held her hand tighter.
On the same day, we went to buy a lot of baby clothes. My wife hand-washed them one by one. When I saw the clothes hanging on the drying rack, I thought they looked so pretty.
We also started to look for baby names. There was a list, a fairly long one.
“You need to start crossing some of them,” I said.
“I can’t decide,” my wife said. “But don’t worry, when the time comes, I’ll have my winner.”
My wife’s baby bump was getting visible. She looked radiant.
Strangers smiled at her and gave up their seats. Older women would enquire about her pregnancy and give parenting advices. My wife would always listen patiently.
We went for hospital tours and made our choice. We also joined the prenatal classes there. It was slightly surreal to be in the same room filled with fourteen other pregnant ladies.
My wife was very attentive during the class. She took copious notes. We practiced with baby dummies and I learnt a myriad of baby related things during those seven weekly sessions.
“Can you guess which part of the classes I like the best?” my wife asked after the last session had ended.
I thought about it for a moment.
“The part where husbands learnt to massage their wives?”
She laughed. “Close, but not quite right. I loved it when the instructor addressed us as Mummies and Daddies. Never failed to give me a warm, fussy feeling.”
‘Shall we do the same?” I hugged her. “Mummy?”
She smiled and nodded. That’s when we started addressing each other as Mummy and Daddy. We were happy, we were excited.
We were going to be parents.
My wife was wheeled into the operating theater, still sobbing.
“What happened?” the nurse asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “Her water bag burst in the middle of the night.”
“How many weeks is she?”
“Coming to twenty five.”
Her face paled, and so did mine.
The baby we were waiting for finally arrived, but it was too early. She was really tiny and red. Her cry was faint.
“We’ve tried our best,” the doctor said.
“How long do we have?” I asked.
“You’ve got three to four hours to say your farewells.”
I looked at my wife. She was quiet, her eyes looked empty. I turned to the nurse who was cradling our baby, but she looked as lost as I was. I knew I had to say something to my wife, but I was lost for words.
The door opened. A middle-aged nurse entered.
“What are you waiting for?” she asked. “Mummy, you need to nurse your baby.”
She took the baby from the younger nurse and brought it to my wife.
“Please open your shirt, I’ll help you position her.”
My wife, still dazed, followed her instructions. The baby began to suckle and the nurse gave more pointers to my wife.
“What’s her name?” the nurse asked.
“Gabrielle,” my wife answered. I didn’t know she had made up her mind.
“That’s a pretty name for a pretty girl.”
After the baby was full, the nurse took down her measurements, wrapped her in a white blanket and passed her to me. I held the baby stiffly.
“You need to support Gabrielle’s head.” The nurse adjusted my elbow.
Soon, the baby fell asleep in my arms.
Half an hour later, the same nurse escorted me into the nursery and taught me how to bathe the baby. I managed to put on her diaper and clothes all by myself. They were too baggy for her. But the swaddling was trickier. I couldn’t get it right, so the nurse had to help. We returned the baby to my wife, who was already in her room for the second feeding. After the baby latched on, the nurse left us alone.
I sat beside my wife.
“Isn’t she pretty?” my wife asked.
I tried to answer, but no sound came out.
“I was right,” she said. “Gabrielle does have your nose.”
I thought she was going to cry, but she didn’t. My wife had changed. She was stronger. She is a mother.
She seemed to possess a hidden strength I never knew she had.
The baby fell asleep again. She looked fragile, but I could feel that inside that tiny body, she had this strong will to survive against all odds.
I took her little hand in mine. I swear, she was smiling in her sleep and my wife smiled along. Both of them looked so beautiful. I began to weep in silence.
Slowly, Gabrielle’s breathing slowed down. She fought until the very end, but the world got the upper hand.
Soon, her breathing stopped. An alarm on the monitor behind us started to sound. Someone turned it off, but I only had eyes for my little girl.
“Rest, my Gabrielle,” I whispered to her still body. “Rest, my little angel, until the day we will finally meet again.”