A/N: I wrote this a long time ago, posted it only to my tumblr, and then let it get buried. I was going through all my stuff tonight doing some tagging-related housekeeping and decided to go ahead and post this little piece here as well.
Emma spent her first month in prison marking time, drawing big, fat tick marks that almost broke through the paper in the wide ruled composition notebook the social worker had given her. She didn't bother to write down any of her feelings; she preferred to pretend that she had no feelings at all. And, anyway, what more did she need to remember this time in her life than a clear, visual metric of days wearing on, each the same as the last?
That all changed the morning she woke up with cramps low in her belly and realized, after glancing over her notebook, that the period she should have had more than a week ago had never arrived. The stick test just confirmed what she already knew.
"Looks like you're about six weeks along," the prison nurse, a matronly lady with corkscrew black curls and the deep voice of a life-long smoker, told her. She tapped the folder with Emma's blood test results against her knee and asked, in the most professional, nonjudgemental way a person could: "Do you know what you want to do?"
"Do you want to terminate, sweetheart?"
"What? No." Terminate? God, what an awful word. "Of course not."
"I'd like to give you some literature anyway, just so you know what all your options are." The nurse wheeled her chair over to the wall and retrieved several pamphlets which she pushed into Emma's hands. "You don't have to make any decisions right now. Think on it for a couple of days."
Emma didn't need a couple of days.
A week later, she got her first exam. The OB wheeled a cart with a small TV monitor into the room before beginning. Lying there in her paper dress, naked and cold with her feet in the stirrups as the doctor poked and prodded and palpitated, both with instruments and his fingers, Emma tried her best not to look as humiliated as she felt. Then the doctor directed her attention to the monitor.
"See that?" he said. "That's your baby."
It didn't look like much: a black circle with little white bean in the middle, blinking with a quick, fluttery heartbeat.
"Measuring right on track. Seven weeks. Perfect."
Emma stared, finally able to conceive of what it meant that there was a baby growing inside of her. A real, living being. A child. Her child. The doctor ran off a freeze-frame and handed it to her, still warm from the printer. Back in her cell, she folded it into her journal and began a new count: seven weeks, two days.
Morning sickness never struck. But all-consuming exhaustion did.
In truth, Emma was glad for it. Spending her days drifting perpetually in and out of sleep helped them pass more quickly, made it easier to lay back and dream rather than face reality - to imagine that Neal had taken her with him to Canada and that he'd slip into bed beside her soon, put a protective hand over her belly, and whisper his love in her ear.
The exhaustion wore off sometime around week twelve.
At week eighteen, the hard lump she'd been able to feel in her stomach while lying down finally began to show. No one commented on it, except for the prison guard who brought her a new pair of pants with a stretchy panel for a waist band.
They struck her as so depressing, so demoralizing, that she didn't put them on right away. Only later that week, while reading a well-worn 1950's print of Peter and Wendy that she got off the library cart, when she felt the first flutter of a kick press against her side, did she finally pick the maternity pants up off the foot of her bed and try them on. Through the smooth waist, she could feel every tick, every tiny, fragile movement.
And she knew this would be all she'd ever have: these quiet, private moments alone, just her and the baby, moving together, being part of one another. The weeks ticked by in her journal. Her stomach grew. And in the dark, she ran her hands over the small, wriggly little lump, unable to help but love it.
At twenty weeks - halfway through her pregnancy, slightly more than a third of the way through her sentence - the doctor again wheeled the ultrasound machine into the exam room to do what he called an "anatomy scan."
"Would you like to know the sex?" he asked.
For weeks, she'd had an intuitive feeling that it was a boy. She'd even started thinking of him rather than it. And that was a dangerous path to start down, because Emma desperately, more than anything, wanted to keep this baby. She wanted to hold him and to smell his hair, to watch his eyes turn from newborn gray to green, just like hers, and to feel his warm, tiny hand tighten around her finger. It made her heart clench how badly she wanted that. But she knew it was something she just couldn't have. Not like this. A teenager in prison.
This child deserved so much more than she could give him, including a real home and a real family. All the things she'd never had.
"Looks nice and healthy," the doctor told her over the steady swish-swoosh-swishing of baby's heartbeat.
Emma turned her face away. Even sketched out in black and white, a blob that only occasionally resembled a human being - a leg and foot materializing there, a face in profile there - she didn't dare look.
The last half of her pregnancy went by quickly, the tick marks in her journal advancing inexorably toward her due date. Her stomach grew without her even noticing, the rounded belly like something she had always had. His kicking and shifting reminded her constantly, comfortingly, that she was not alone, which was a foreign, pleasant feeling for Emma. She'd miss this when it was over, she thought one day while waiting in line for her lunch, the baby punching her hip bone as if he could tell that meal time was approaching.
Emma didn't know what to expect in labor.
The nurse tried to help. She gave her books and leaflets and showed her terrifying charts of bisected women's bodies in the various "stages" of labor.
(Jesus Christ, Emma had thought. There's more than one stage?)
All of it had been too overwhelming and too alarming. So she'd ignored all the nurse's well-meaning lectures and set aside her "literature" without bothering to read it, figuring there wasn't much she could do other than ride it out when it came time anyway.
She wished she'd paid a little more attention when, three days before her due date, she felt a swift thump in her belly and a warm gush between her thighs.
"Would you like some ice chips to suck on?" the nurse asked her while they waited for the doctor to arrive.
Emma laid on the bed, one wrist chained to the rail, and shook her head. The contractions took the breath out of her, made her back cramp, and left her nauseated. But she had long breaks in between: ten minutes for a while, then five, then three. The nurse tried to offer support, tried her damndest to be there for Emma. But it wasn't the same as having someone who really loved her. The nurse wasn't Neal. Wasn't her mother. And Emma shut down, refused her hand, didn't want to be helped.
"You're far enough along that if you'd like, you can have an epidural," the doctor announced when he arrived.
Emma shook her head.
"Are you sure? It only takes a few minutes, and then once it kicks in, you can relax until it's time to push."
"I don't want to relax," Emma snapped.
She wanted to feel this. Wanted to remember the pain and the agony and her last, clear moments with her baby.
No. Not her baby.
She needed to keep reminding herself of that.
She'd signed all the adoption papers already, but they had made it clear that she could still change her mind once the baby was born. A lot of people did, they'd said. One look at their child and all thoughts of giving it up vanished.
Emma couldn't afford that. Neither could the baby.
They'd found him a nice, stable home. A single woman somewhere in the northeast - they didn't tell her exactly where - with a big house, plenty of money, and a high-powered job. Something in politics. It sounded like a good fit. Even the single mother bit, which Emma particularly empathized with.
As the contractions grew more intense, Emma lost the ability to think about anything. Her sadness faded into the background, drowned out by the noisy rhythm of contraction and break and contraction and, finally, finally, push.
Pushing felt good. It refocused her. Eased the pain.
"Almost there," the doctor encouraged her.
Push. Push. Push.
It was the most intense, the most highly-pitched moment of Emma's life. Her heart raced. She felt him there, just there, ready to be born. Ready to leave her. And part of her wanted to stop pushing, to gather him back up inside and stay that way forever. But her body bared down all on its own.
The lights flickered.
And then...a cry.
Big and lusty and, dear sweet God, the saddest sound Emma had ever heard. Her whole body trembled. Molten tears streaked down her cheeks.
"Do you want to see him?" she thought she heard someone ask.
No, no, no.
Without the pain of labor, Emma became all to aware of the very real, very physical anguish of her heart coming to pieces. Every coherent thought she'd had about this moment broke down. Everything she'd told herself in the night, that it would be better this way and that she had no business being a mother, disintegrated under the monstrous tidal wave of hysterical need that took hold of her.
Crying. Wanting her.
Just to hold him. Touch him. Look at him.
She pinched her eyes closed and went to dash the tears away, but the cuff on her wrist clanked as it pulled tight against the bed rail.
The warmer rolling out of the room sounded loud as a hurricane as the nurses took him away.
And Emma was, once again, alone.
When she returned to her cell two days later, still sore, but too numb to cry, she closed the notebook that she had left open on her bed and tucked it underneath her pillow along with the pen.
Two more months left.
But there was no point counting anymore.