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Author: Laura Stevens
Year: Hope

12th April 2020

The journey to the hospital is eerily quiet. A journey that would usually take upwards of an hour lasts less than twenty minutes. The tension within the car is loaded as I had decided to potty train my son as a lockdown project. Instructions accompanying the letter from the hospital had made it crystal clear that no-one would be allowed to accompany me during my appointment. Today was the first time in over a month that my son had left our house. He embraced the novelty as toddlers sometimes do alongside a vague interest in the promise of snacks during the journey. It is humbling to see an almost three year old be the most resilient member of our household bubble.

As we descend the M77 down into the outskirts of the city, I feel a pang for those glorious sunny days that Glasgow is renowned for. April 2020 is a month that brings unusually sunny, mild weather. My son had been playing in a small paddling pool most of this week whilst I supervised from a sturdy deck chair. This pregnancy already feels hard on my body. My joints ache. The all consuming tiredness hits much earlier than I remember from last time.

“How are you feeling?” my partner asks, as we take the exit for the hospital.

“Nervous. But ok.”

His eyes focus on the road but I can tell what he is thinking. He shares the same emotions bubbling away inside my body; the fear of what news the scan will bring. What scares me the most is telling him that my body has not done its job again; our hopes for the future gone in an instant.

The maternity unit car park at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is notorious for constantly operating over capacity. Today it is manageable and my partner manages to park within waddling distance of the entrance. Arriving considerably early gives us more time to sit and churn over the nervous energy circulating around the car, alongside the air conditioning. From the back seat, I can hear my son watching Hey Duggee on his tablet.

I check over the contents of my bag: water bottle, baby wipes, two bottles of precious hand sanitiser, and a snack bar. Time passes as it is expected to do and I leave the car. The nerves are bubbling up inside me. I cannot kiss my partner goodbye. I do manage to kiss my son on the cheek which he ignores, engrossed in his cartoon.

The air feels different as I slowly walk inside the building. Here it feels thicker, more threatening with each breath I filter through the confines of my mask. The main reception desk area inside the hospital is empty. Laminated signs accompany me, using my muscle memory to recall where the scanning department is. I try hard to ignore the signs for the Early Pregnancy Unit and all the tears shed there.

I find the department waiting room and sit in a hard backed chair, trying to lasso my wandering thoughts. It’s never long before they linger over the thought of a blank screen in a darkened room. Instead I try to settle on the last time we were all with our family, two months earlier. A birthday meal with no wine for me.

There’s the sound of a door closing and the swish swish of overalls coming down the quiet hallway. A masked woman appears beside the unmanned reception desk and calls my name

I nod and rise as my throat clamps shut. It’s here, it’s now, the point where hope grows or dies. I follow her down the corridor, masks removing the need for small talk. Eventually we reach a large room, lit low, with a raised bed along the wall. There are three screens overhead. Another masked woman in hospital overalls sits in front of the scanner. Quiet introductions are made. I lie down on the table, pull the waistband of my trousers below my growing belly and try not to gasp as the cold jelly is rubbed onto my skin. At first there is silence as the technician gets to grips with navigating the scanning tool across my middle. I watch her progression on the screens above my head. At twelve weeks it’s hard to determine what is on the screen is actually a baby. Nothing compared to the joy of the twenty week scan and seeing face, feet, hands.

‘Good, there’s a heartbeat.’

It’s those words that send tears of relief down my face, soaking into the useless mask. A tissue is passed to me as I stutter, ‘Sorry, we lost one,’ as if I carelessly left it behind on the train. ‘All good here,’ the technician murmurs. ‘See, the head is growing nicely. It’s what we’d expect at this stage.’ She pauses and turns to me, a smile in her eyes. ‘Baby is doing well, Mum.’

They print out far more scan images than I remember getting previously. Some have “HELLO DADDY” typed across them. I gently put them into my folder containing my medical notes and say thank you over and again.

The hope grows as I leave the unit; it makes my body feel the lightest it has in weeks. The sun shines a little brighter as I exit the hospital and hurry towards the car park. I can see my partner standing over my son, who is squatting over his travel potty, a fierce look of determination on his face. He sees me and a smile breaks across his face. ‘Mummy!’ he cries. ‘Look, I use potty!’

My partner notices me and the red blotches on my face. ‘Are you…?’

‘It’s all fine,’ I say. I hand him a little piece of hope in the form of a black and white image.

Below us, I hear my son say ‘I done now, Mummy.’