By Edwina Shaw
A possum clomped on the roof like a workman in boots. Fiona lay on top of her sheets under the fan, listening and sweating. At seven months pregnant she was hotter than ever. She felt like she was wearing scratchy woolen bed socks like her Gran used to knit, except she couldn’t take them off. A Braxton Hicks contraction tightened her belly and she rubbed away the soreness as she lifted her phone again, blue light making her squint in the dark. She was afraid. She’d read every comment on the Facebook pages and chatrooms for women who were pregnant again after losing a child. Her baby hadn’t moved all night.
On the corrugated iron roof above her, the possum scratched and thumped, and Fiona finally gave up fighting the urge to pee, yet again, and got out of bed for the third time that night. She paused by the kitchen. Maybe if she ate some chocolate like Thirdtimelucky had suggested in the stillborn support group, the baby would move. Sugar woke them up, she’d said.
But it was the middle of the night and her stomach was still burning with acid from dinner, so Fiona made her way back to bed, down the long dark hallway that seemed to be full of ghostly presences whispering bad omens. She hurried back into bed beside her sleeping husband. He never woke up, not even when the possums were fighting.
What would she do if there were ever burglars? It would be her who would have to fight them off, Bill would snore through it all. He never lay awake and worried, either. He believed what the doctors said, that this baby was healthy, that she would be born alive. He didn’t feel the weight in his belly and in his heart that Fiona carried every minute of every day. Heaviest at night. So heavy that sometimes she felt as if she’d fall through the mattress, right through the bed down into the earth, hurtling all the way to the molten centre of the planet where she’d melt into the lava. Sometimes she wished she would.
Fiona rolled onto her other side, rearranging the pillows between her knees and under her belly. She massaged around and around her swollen shape, begging the baby to move. To give her a sign. It had been too long. Hours and hours and hours. She was sure of it.
It was useless trying to sleep. Fiona shifted again. Maybe she should get up and try that chocolate? No, that was silly. She should be more like Bill and not worry so much. She knew that’s what he’d say, “You’re being silly, worrying over nothing.” But it didn’t feel like nothing. It felt like everything.
She stared out through the open window at the full moon, begging for a sign. Claws clattered down the drainpipe. An acrid eucalyptus stench blew in on the tepid breeze. Then she found herself staring, not at the moon, but right into a possum’s too-wide eyes.
On its back was a baby. Small glowing eyes peeked out at her from behind its mother’s shoulder.
Fiona lifted her head and reached out towards them, almost close enough to touch. Her heart thumped high in her throat as she stretched out her fingers. Frightened, the possum scuttled away, leaping to the grass with the baby clinging tight to its fur.
Fiona rolled out of bed and stood at the window, watching the possums scurry away into the night. She rested a hand on her belly, lifted the sweaty hair around her neck, catching the whiff of dawn floating in on a flash of cool air.
And felt an unmistakable kick.