I know this is rubbish, and I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to go this long without posting anything- I've had a rubbish few weeks one way and another and I just couldn't seem to write anything, even though I have a ton of ideas and really wanted to. And now I feel like I've completely forgotten how to write! This really isn't the best, but it's the first thing I've finished for a while so I did want to get something up. I hope you like it more than I do- please do leave a review if you don't hate it! If you have any preferences as to what I update next, please do let me know that too!
You can also now follow me on instagram at Chloeggodard :)
Glasgow, 29 April, 1990
"So the lesson we've learnt from this, Chloe, is DIY piercings with a needle that's been fuck only knows where and an ice cube is a really, really bad idea." Ange sighs, closes her eyes for a moment, curses herself and all of her stupid, irresponsible decisions that have led to this mess she's in now. "You're probably a boy now I've started calling you that, aren't you?" she realises, leans back against the wall behind her, rests her hands over her bump, maternal, still.
She's so protective of this baby already that it physically hurts.
"I might just call you Chloe until you prove me wrong though, yeah?" she suggests. "What do you reckon? I think you're a Chloe. You feel totally different to your brother, I think you're a Chloe. Oh, for fuck's sake, this thing really isn't coming out, it's too infected," she curses herself, tugs at her belly bar, wonders why on earth she didn't just go to a proper, sterile piercing parlour like the rest of the world. "Can you get sepsis if I get sepsis, Chloe? You probably can, it's a blood infection, isn't it? Fuck. We'll worry about that later, okay?" Ange sighs, panic starting to rise within her now. "Mummy will look into that later. After I've got all my infected DIY piercings out. I might try and get my nose piercing out first, actually, that might be easier," she decides. "Less infected. I just really want to get this one out before you get any bigger and rip it out. You're so much more active than your brother was at four months, I think you're going to be huge. Aren't you? Hey? You going to be a huge, healthy baby? Even though Mummy's diet is a fucking mess. I need to stop saying fuck, don't I? We'll add that to my self-improvement before I have a baby list."
Something rolls gently within her, kicks out against her hand, almost as though in agreement.
It's the sweetest thing in the whole world, and yet at the same time it somehow manages to make Ange feel even more of an irresponsible, useless disaster zone than she did before.
She's not ready for a baby.
Not right now, at least.
She's not the off the rails, off her face complete, embarrassing mess she was when she first realised she was pregnant, admittedly.
Things have improved a little since then.
She's off the drugs, at least, off the alcohol, more or less back living at her mum's properly again, almost broken free of the gang she's been crashing with over the last few months at the disused railway station, she just needs a little more time. And she's back in school- far, far too late, really, for her to have any hope of passing her Highers, but at least she's trying- surely that has to count for something? And she's finally done what she should have seven months ago and let her crisis support worker at the SARC sign her up for counselling sessions, borrowed all the pregnancy and new baby books she could from the library, hidden them away at the back of her wardrobe where her mum won't find them, promised herself she'll read them all cover to cover as soon as her Highers are over.
She's determined to get it right this time.
The new baby part, at least.
All she really managed to mess up when it came to the pregnancy stage last time around was the actually realising she was pregnant before her third trimester part; nothing even remotely comparable to the awful mistakes she's made with this baby already.
And that's withoutadding in the multiple infected DIY piercings from her emo phase situation she's currently trying to correct.
No, she's let this baby down enough before she's even born, Ange reminds herself furiously, shudders, ashamed.
She or he, that is.
This baby might not be a girl.
It doesn't really change anything at this stage, though, Ange realises, sinking feeling in her heart again she's become horribly accustomed to since she realised she was pregnant.
Either way, she's a total failure of a mother and her baby hasn't even been born yet.
She's not exactly defying the whole irresponsible, self-centred, immature teen mum stereotype.
"But I did two exams today!" she points out proudly, determined to focus on the positives. "Two, Chloe! I probably failed them, but still. AndI haven't had a cigarette since lunchtime, that's pretty amazing for me. I think that's the longest I've gone since I started smoking. We won't tell your Nana that though, she'd hit the roof. She's going to hit the roof when she finds out about you, to be honest. I promised her I wouldn't be having any more babies until I'd finished uni and I had a proper job and a husband, after I had to give your brother up." Ange closes her eyes again, runs her fingertips gently over the curve of her belly. "That didn't really work out, did it, Chloe? No, it didn't."
More kicking now, gentle, delicate, butterfly wings.
"I wouldn't change you for anything, though," Ange promises now. "I love you so, so much already, sweetheart. And I've got a plan, okay? It's not much of a plan just yet, but I'm working on it. I'm not going to tell your nana until I'm too big to hide it anymore, she doesn't need to know just yet, does she?" she decides. "And by then, I'll have done my exams and I'll get a job for the summer somewhere. I haven't quite worked out where, yet. But your nana can't say you're too expensive if I can pay for all the baby stuff we're going to need myself, can she? And I'll look after you on my own. I don't want anyone to help me, I want to look after you all by myself. Because I love you so much, Chloe. So, so much. I wouldn't try and get my shit together for anyone else. I probably shouldn't use that word either, should I? I'll sort my language out by the time you're here, sweetheart, okay? I promise. I'm not having foul language around you. Or drugs. Or alcohol, or cigarette smoke. Mummy still needs to get totally on top of that last one, doesn't she? But I will. I promise. I've still got some time left before you're here, haven't I? I'll have my life together by then. You'll see. Okay… so I've got one infected piercing out," she declares triumphantly. "And I've had to rip it out a bit and I don't think I've got a hope in hell of getting it back in after you're born now I've fucked it up, but at least the midwives aren't going to slaughter me when I go for your first scan, are they? Not if I let it heal first."
She's trying not to let herself think too much about the first scan.
Not just yet, anyway.
She can't seem to think about the first scan without either panicking that there's going to be something wrong with the baby, something she's caused through her drinking and drugs and chain smoking and sleeping around and the stress of it all, the trauma, or that the midwife she's referred to will take one look at the state of her and make a call to Social Services, that she'll be made to sign this baby over to a stranger before it's even born.
"Only four more to go, Chloe," Ange tries brightly - and she's as good as talking to herself, she knows she is, but somehow it makes her feel better, telling herself she's talking to the baby instead. "Only four more horribly infected piercings to remove, and then I'm done. "If you ever try and do the DIY piercing thing, Mummy's going to ground you forever. Just a warning. And then we need to go to the pharmacy and get some TCP stuff for those and my DIY tattoos. Why is Mummy such an idiot, Chloe?" she sighs. "No, I don't know either. I'm not doing that shit anymore though. I promise. So, then we just need to wait for those to heal a bit so I don't look like a fucking pathetic excuse for a mother, and until I've been clean for a bit longer, and I'm staying at Nana's all the time and stuff. And I'm out of the drug gang. You know, stability. And then we'll go to the hospital and have your first scan, okay? And Mummy can see how beautiful you are. I don't think we can find out if I'm right and you're a girl just yet, though," she ponders. "Not just yet. You're too little, aren't you? Well, you're not little for four months, I think you're going to be one massive baby, if you keep on like this. I might just skip the newborn clothes, when I finally have money to go shopping for you, and just go straight in with the one month stuff instead. You feel huge. I don't look huge, but I think you are. I wish I'd done that with your brother, to be honest, he was only in the newborn stuff for about a week. And you're definitely going to be the bigger baby. Aren't you? I'll take that, though. I was so scared you were going to have all sorts of problems because of the mess I was for the first couple of months, but as long as you're growing fine I think you're probably okay, right? If you could just keep doing that and stay in there for as long as possible, please."
She's not going to be able to hide it for much longer.
Another two months at the most, Ange figures.
She made it to almost six months before she realised with her first baby, before anyone else realised.
But this baby feels… different, somehow.
Bigger. More solid, more… there, than Darren ever was at fourteen-ish weeks- Ange knows that because she would have realised sooner, if it felt like this.
It only makes sense, she supposes- aren't second babies always supposed to be bigger?
But not like this.
Sometimes, there's a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that it shouldn't feel like this, not yet, not this early in pregnancy.
That she shouldn't be feeling movement yet, shouldn't be aware of the life growing inside her, not yet, not this early.
But then she reminds herself that she can't be any further along, no more than sixteen weeks, absolute maximum.
Thirty-three weeks is the only other option. Thirty-three, nearing thirty-four, because the last time she'd had sex before the time sixteen weeks ago was…
Ange can't bring herself to say it.
But it doesn't matter anyway, she tells herself.
There's no way she's that far along.
She was huge, by the time she was thirty-three weeks with Darren, undeniably pregnant, had been for at least a month- she was just good at hiding it, those last couple of weeks before anyone noticed.
She'd know, if she was thirty-three weeks pregnant, surely?
Of course she would.
She'd just know.
It would be obvious.
"I think you must be due in November," Ange continues now, pensive, calculating in her head as she wraps her arms around her bump. "Or maybe October, I'm not too sure., there are… there are a few possibilities, I guess, around the time I must have gotten pregnant. I don't know exactly, but I think you must be due sometime between the end of October and the middle of November. So, I'm thinking, when my exams are all a disaster I can hopefully squeeze in October retakes if you stay put. Fuck knows what we're going to do after that, though. We need money because there's no way your Nana's going to help me out after your brother, but I can't exactly take you to work in the pub with me, can I? We might have to win Nana over. I could retake my exams in October, have you at the end of October or preferably in November, then if we can just persuade Nana to have you on Saturdays, I could work then, I guess. That's a short-term plan, isn't it?"
Gentle kicking, solid, strangely reassuring.
"So if… if you're twelve weeks, you're due at the beginning of November, so if you're more like fourteen or sixteen you're due right in the middle of Highers resits," Ange realises now, heart sinking. "Oh god. I'm going to have to cross my legs and hope I go overdue like I did with your brother, aren't I? Can you hold off until November, Chloe? Yeah? Just so Mummy has time to get her shit together? And then I can just focus on you once you're here, can't I? And I can… I don't know. I don't think I can get funding for childcare until I'm eighteen, we looked into that when I had your big brother and it wasn't an option. But maybe I can sort my life out and go to uni later. I don't know. We'll come up with something, Chloe, okay? It'll be fine. I don't have to go to uni, I can do something else. If it's between going to uni and keeping you, I'd pick you every time. I promise. I can't even begin to explain how much I already love you. We're staying together. Okay? I can't go through the pain of giving up another baby I want this badly, I think it would just about destroy me. So we'll work it out. Won't we, Chloe? We'll work it out somehow. We just need to get through the next year, don't we? We just need to get through my exams, and then we just need to manage until I'm eighteen and I can get free childcare for you and you're old enough for me to actually send you off to nursery or whatever. And then I can… I don't know, I can get a job and go to uni part-time, or something, and we can work the rest of it out as we go along, can't we? We'll be fine. Everything's going to be fine, Chloe. I promise. As long as I've got you, everything's going to be fine."
Glasgow Children's Hospital, 3 July, 1990
"Mum, help me. I can't do it," Ange panics, heart twisting in fear as she looks down at the impossibly small baby laid across the hospital changing mat, lets go of her arm before she's even attempted to gently move it, freaked out, terrified of hurting her. "I can't do it. She's too small, look at her. I can't…"
"Yes, you can, Angel," her mum tries to reassure her. "You were always fine changing Darren, weren't you..."
"I know, but that was different," Ange insists. "Look how tiny her little arms are, they aren't much wider than my fingers. If I try and get her arms into the sleeves I'm going to break them, but she's going to be so cold when I take her outside she needs layers, doesn't she? I can't take her out in just her vest thing, and that was stressful enough to get onto her. And that didn't involve anywhere near the amount of moving her limbs around anything warmer is going to. How on earthdid Mummy think you were going to be a huge baby, Chloe?" she babbles to her daughter, strokes her cheek, feels her forehead, paranoid. "How? Hey? I got that hilariously wrong, didn't I? You're the tiniest little baby I've ever seen, nothing about you is huge. We need you to get the hang of swallowing properly so we can do something about that, don't we, sweetheart?" Slowly, oh-so-gently, she adjusts the excess fabric of her baby's vest, still-too-big preemie nappy, desperate to lift her back into her arms as quickly as possible, cuddle her, feel her heart beating. "Now,I know it's July, but shall we put you in your snowsuit thing, Chloe? Yeah? So you're nice and warm? Although I'm not sure I'm brave enough for that either, actually, that thing looks pretty stiff. Shall we just wrap you up in all the blankets instead? I'm not even going to try getting a jumper over your head, I don't think I could cope with that level of anxiety."
"You can get her into her sleepsuit though. You aren't going to hurt her, Ange, I promise," her own mum tells her. "She's not as delicate as she looks. The preemie sleepsuits are still far too big for her, aren't they, if you look at the legs. Not that the vests are much better. She's still just so skinny, aren't you, Chlo? So you aren't even going to have to move her arms much, look. Like this."
"You're going to…" Ange begins to protests, heart in her mouth, suddenly panicked, as Peigi takes hold of her daughter's left arm, gently pulls it through the sleeve she was far too afraid to try and get onto her baby herself.
She's just so small.
Her little Chloe is just so horribly small, scrawny, skin still a little see-through, doesn't move, doesn't cry, doesn't even seem to have worked out how to whimper and it terrifies her, because how is she going to know if she's hurting her baby if she can't make it clear to her? Because the NICU staff keep telling her that she needs to be careful she doesn't overstimulate her daughter, that she might still struggle to cope with too much contact and too much sound at once. That Chloe is vulnerable, still can't tell her when she's hungry- that she might not even know when she's hungry herself, that Ange needs to keep on top of the feeding schedule the specialist drew up for them but at the same time she mustn't force her- but how is she supposed to know if she's forcing her if Chloe won't give her any cues?
She's so frightened of hurting her.
She's spent the last six weeks desperately longing for the day she'll finally be allowed to take Chloe out of her incubator for longer than it takes to feed her and give her a quick cuddle, but now that the NICU staff have finally said yes, she's utterly terrified.
"Of course I'm not going to hurt her," her mum promises. "She's fine, Angel. She's not going to break, I promise. We do need to be extra careful with you because you're so, so tiny, don't we, Chloe?" her mum addresses her baby now, somehow manages to guide her other arm into her sleepsuit. "See? You already treat her like she's made of glass- that's not a criticism!" she adds quickly. "You're brilliant with her, darling. You aren't going to hurt her. It's just getting used to how much smaller she is than Darren, that's all."
"She's still less than half the size Darren was when he was born, Mum," Ange points out quietly. "And babies shouldn't be this thin, you can still see her ribs…"
"But she's getting there, Angel. She's gained a whole pound from her birthweight now, the consultant said that's amazing given how many issues she's had with feeding, didn't he? She'll catch up. She just needs a bit more time."
"We have more clothes for her here, right?" Ange worries. "Because she needs more layers. You're usually supposed to put them in one more than you're wearing aren't you, but she's the skinniest baby I've ever seen, I don't think that's going to cut it. We don't want you getting cold, do we, Chloe? Hey? No, we don't, sweetheart."
"She doesn't need you to put her in one sleepsuit over the top of another one and then her snowsuit, Angel, she'll overheat. You need to be just as careful she doesn't get too hot as you do about her body temperature dropping," Peigi warns. "Just put her in her snowsuit and then take her some blankets out, just in case. Or she's got this cardigan thing your grandma knitted her…"
"She's not wearing that, Mum, it's hideous. It was nice of Grandma, and everything, but it's the ugliest thing I've ever seen," Ange shudders. "Isn't it, Chloe? And it looks really scratchy, I'm not putting you in that. You've got enough eczema already. Shall we just put you in your snowsuit thing instead, sweetheart? Yeah? I know a snowsuit in July seems a bit overkill, but I just think you're going to get so cold if we don't put you in that, aren't you? You need to start taking all the extra feeds Mummy keeps trying to offer you, Chloe. Babies are supposed to be chunky, you're not even close to chunky yet. Are you? So we're just going to have to wrap you up warm instead, okay?" She lifts her daughter as though she's made of glass, heart pounding, somehow manages to get her legs in through the openings. "There you go, you're okay. We've totally got this, Chloe. Haven't we? Between us, we've got this. Your snowsuit thing's in size newborn so it's going to be absolutely massive, but I think you'll make a really cute bear, won't you? Look, it's got bear ears! I think the hood's going to be twice as big as your head, but you'll grow into it. Oh my god, her little feet are only about halfway down the legs. You're tiny, Chloe. Aren't you? You're so tiny you're still not even close to the minimum weight for your car seat, fuck only knows how we're going to get you home if you don't have a growth spurt soon."
"I don't think you should use that language around her, Angel."
"No, I know, I'm really trying to get out the habit, Mum," Ange agrees guiltily. "I honestly am. As long as I'm not swearing around her when she's learning to talk it's not the end of the world, is it? No, Chloe, I don't want you to hold onto my finger, sweetheart, I want you to let me put your arm in your snowsuit so we can take you outside for a bit," she coos. "You going to let go? I don't want to prise you off me in case I break your fingers, they're stupidly tiny. Oh my god, and look at the length of your nails. How am I supposed to cut those, Chloe? Hey? I think we're going to have to try and file them down, I'm not brave enough to go near those with nail clippers. Come on, baby girl, you going to let go of my finger? That's it. There we go, we're going to have to roll these sleeves up as well, aren't we, but you're the most adorable bear cub ever. Aren't you? I love you. I love you so, so much, Chloe, you're the sweetest little thing. Shall we get your other arm through, then? Good girl."
"Shall I leave you to it?" her own mum asks gently. "Angel? Why don't I go and get us a cup of tea, or something, and I'll meet you outside?"
"Are you sure you don't mind?"
"Of course I am. I think you've got things from here. It's just a bit nerve-wracking at first, isn't it?" her mum smiles sympathetically. "You worry you're going to break them even when they aren't this tiny, that's normal."
"I didn't worry about that with Darren." Ange busies herself with pulling on Chloe's hat, adjusting it, fusses over her, tries to distract herself from the ever-present guilt she still feels where her first baby is concerned.
"Well, you were young." Peigi squeezes her hand sympathetically. "You were young, with Darren, you were still a child yourself. You're still a child now, come to that…"
"But I'm ready now," Ange insists defensively. "I'm ready this time, and I'meighteen next year, I…"
"I know you're ready," her mum soothes. "I know that, darling, I'm already convinced. Okay? You don't need to win me over. I've seen the way you look at her, how you interact with her. How careful you are. No one's doubting you're ready to be her mum, Angel, believe me…."
"The NICU nurses are." Ange glares furiously at the ward manager, zips up Chloe's snowsuit. "Have you gone back to sleep, sweetheart? Chloe? Do you think you might be able to keep your eyes open for a few minutes when Mummy takes you off the NICU? Yeah? I think you're probably going to just sleep, aren't you, and then as soon as I bring you back up here again you'll be alert for ten minutes. Hey? I bet you are. That's okay. You can just sleep if you want to, I don't mind. We can do this again, can't we? Yeah? I'm sure if this goes okay, we'll be allowed to do it again. And then you just need to get completely better, and then you can come home with Mummy, can't you?"
"See? No one watching the two of you together is going to doubt that you're a brilliant mum," Peigi tells her firmly. "No one. Age doesn't matter, okay? She belongs with you. You know exactly what you're doing, Angel. So you take her, and I'll come and meet you in a bit, alright? You going to go and sit in the garden bit out the back with her?"
"I think so. This is all going to be so new and exciting for you, isn't it, Chloe?" Ange turns back to her daughter, gently, gingerly, lifts her up, cradles her in her arms. "We're taking you outside for the first time ever, we want to take you to the nice bit of the hospital grounds where you've got flowers and stuff to look at, don't we? Well, you were born outside, weren't you, but we're not counting that. Are we? So shall we take you outside for the first proper time, then? Yeah? Come on, sweetheart."
She feels as though she's stealing Chloe, walking out of the hospital with her.
She clutches Chloe tightly to her chest, one hand around her small body, supporting her, one hand protectively cupping her head, and she feels like her mother in a way she never felt like Darren's as she passes through the corridors, takes the route she's become so unwelcomely familiar with over the last six weeks her daughter has been a patient on the neonatal baby unit.
But she still feels like she's stealing her.
She wishes she could say she never felt as though she'd stolen Darren, like an imposter, an immature child playing at being his mother, but it simply wouldn't be true.
She never felt like a mum, the first time around.
Sometimes she'd wished she really had stolen Darren, because then she could have just handed him back to his real mother, escaped the nightmare in which she'd found herself trapped at barely fourteen years old, too young, too irresponsible, nowhere near ready to look after herself, let alone a baby.
It's completely different this time.
She feels like she's stealing Chloe, yes, but not like that.
Ange is just so used to having to visit her baby girl in her incubator, to touching her through a window, needing the staff's permission to cuddle her, handing over expressed milk for someone else to feed her through a syringe, that she feels as though she should expect to be ambushed by Chloe's consultant at any moment, told to take her back at once.
It's just too good to be true.
Chloe is really hers.
Chloe is hers, her beautiful, perfect, tiny baby- and she's been hers all along, of course, Ange does know that.
It just hasn't quite felt like it.
Not until now.
But now, as she carries Chloe out of the hospital, along the path running beside the car park and around the building towards the nature garden, oh-so-conscious of her delicate heartbeat against her chest, her snuffling, it's finally starting to feel real.
She's really Chloe's mum, and she's ready, this time.
She has the most precious small human depending on her, cuddled up in her arms, eyes closed, sleeping.
And it's been messy, complicated, traumatic, agonising, the hardest thing Ange has ever had to do in so many different ways.
But it's worth it.
Chloe is worth it.
Chloe who stirs gently in her arms as she lowers herself onto the bench at the end of the nature garden furthest from the hospital, still sore from her surgery six weeks ago, still recovering.
Chloe who flutters her eyelids sleepily, makes the most adorably pathetic preemie attempt at a wriggle, yawns, finally blinks up at her sleepily, and she has no idea, Ange realises now, heart melting.
Chloe hasn't the faintest idea how loved she makes her mother feel, how needed, how completely at peace with herself.
But one day, she will.
Ange is absolutely determined of that.
"You awake, baby girl?" Gently, she runs her thumb across Chloe's cheek, watches her protectively as her eyes struggle to focus, hazy, newborn sleepy curiosity. "Hey? You looking at the flowers? I'm not sure they are flowers, actually, I think they might be weeds," she admits. "It's not actually that great out here, is it? I mean, it's better than being stuck inside the hospital. Isn't it, Chloe? Hey? But whoever called it the nature garden was probably being a bit optimistic. We don't mind though, do we? At least we can get you outside for a bit."
She leans back on the nature garden bench now, rests Chloe against her chest so she can hold her with one hand, lays her finger across her small palm.
Chloe curls her fingers around her own, fragile, delicate, tiny, but hers.
"I love you so much," Ange whispers. "I love you so, so much, Chloe, and as soon as we get you out of here I'm going to be the mum you deserve, okay? I promise."
"Oh, she's adorable, isn't she?" A voice interrupts suddenly; elderly patient allowed out for some air with her daughter, Ange figures, given the age difference between the two intruders, close resemblance. "She's a tiny wee thing. You're helpful, aren't you, looking after your baby sister for your mum."
"She's my baby, actually," Ange tells her, already anticipating the judgemental look being Darren's mother has taught her will follow, but she's so blissfully happy in that moment, she just doesn't care. "My daughter. She's mine."