“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Miracuuuuuuuul, happy birthday to you!”
Henri was holding our daughter and when we finished singing, he bent in to blow out the candles. Miracle giggled as she was set carefully on the floor for this strange occurrence. Henri put an arm around me and I rubbed my belly a bit sadly as I watched my daughter get surrounded by sparkles for the first time.
“There she is!” I squealed, clapping my hands. “There’s daddy’s little girl!”
Miracle giggled again, stickin’ her fingers in her mouth as she beamed up at us. She was wearin’ the shirt that proclaimed just what I said, a birthday gift Henri wanted badly for her. He bent down and picked her back up, kissing her forehead. “Daddy’s little girl,” he said.
It was just us, because of my stupid abilities and the fact this pregnancy really took it outta me. I was only four months in but had already stopped working. Well, on cases. We had bought supplies and were going to start transforming Extra Room #2 into Nursery #2. We had the room, so we decided to go ahead and give each kid their own space.
After we had some cake, Henri, Miracle and I sat down to watch the movie that her Aunt Kaylee had given her, something with a lot of bright colors and fun music. Just as Prince Bumblewuzz was about to break into song and dance about the evil King Wizzlebark, our phone rang. I knew it was Mom and I knew why he was calling—he had been waiting all day for this. So was I. I took the phone into the bedroom, pushing the button and then breaking into tears as soon as he said hello.
“My baby is growing up!” I wailed and then kept going with hiccupping sobs.
“I know, sweetie,” Mom said soothingly. “I know.”
I watched as the result blossomed up on the pregnancy test. It was another negative, like the last one. I picked up the stick and tossed it in the garbage then began gently glidin’ my hands over my swelling belly. I was four and a half months in and I was pregnant, no matter what Professor Redding (that snitch) or these tests said. I thought about going to a regular doctor but if my suspicions were right, then that would be bad. Whatever that grey blurry mass was, either they’d see that or else a ghost baby.
“Baby,” I said one day while Miracle was sitting on me with her hands on my tummy. “You’re gonna be a big sis. Can you say ‘baby’?”
“Ebba oob meme,” she answered, soundin’ as grave as if she had given some big speech. “Dada,” she added with a big smile. So far it was the only word she knew how to say but I was hopin’ to get her onto ‘mama’ before long.
“Can you say ‘mama’?” I asked.
Miracle gave me a look then began sliding backwards off of me. “Nenn ahwob nnnn.” She landed on the floor and began crawling away. I reached over and grabbed her, swingin’ her up in the air. She began squealing and laughing, kicking her legs. “DADA! DADA! Naaaawwwooo!” Her voice raised to a high pitched squeal and she laughed even harder. Then the look on her face was priceless when Daddy swooped out of the other room and grabbed her, raisin’ her even higher in the air.
“You need to see a doctor.” Mal gave me a look and I glared right back. “Serenity, even if it is a–” here he dropped his voice low, “–ghost baby…” He paused and frowned. “I imagine that your tests should come up as positive.”
“We don’t know for sure,” I said as he put a stethoscope up against my bare belly again. “How many ghost babies have you dealt with? Maybe this is perfectly normal.”
“If you’re showing all the signs of pregnancy, then why isn’t your hCG level showing it?”
“Some tests come up as positive,” I said stubbornly.
Mal straightened up and rubbed his forehead, just under his cap. “Serenity. Please see a doctor. There could be other reasons the tests are sometimes coming up as positive. Tumors–cancerous tumors…”
“I’m pregnant!” I snapped at my brother.
“You could have a tumor,” he said, foldin’ his arms. “I hope, hope, hope, hope that it is a pregnancy. I do. But… you need to be realistic. Symptoms of pregnancy are symptoms of other issues, and you could very well have a tumor.”
“Or I could be carrying a ghost baby–“
“Or you could have a tumor, or something else,” he interrupted and then held up a hand when I opened my mouth to complain some more. “You should get it checked out, by someone other than a student.”
I clenched my teeth and almost said I did get checked out, but then I’d have to tell him what Professor Redding (that snitch) found and then Mal would be even more adamant about me gettin’ examined for something dangerous. So I opted to stay silent. He did not understand, I knew I was pregnant. I knew it, I had no doubt in my mind about it. I was gonna have a baby even if some of those tests said I wasn’t.
I wasn’t gaining as much weight as I had with Miracle, I wasn’t showin’ much of the same symptoms, and the tests were still coming up negative more often than not–but the moment the baby moved, I knew I was pregnant. No tumor moved like that. There were a couple times before it that I wasn’t a hundred percent sure if the baby was moving but one day the baby moved for sure, and I was so excited. I told Henri right away–which meant wakin’ him up–and he was ecstatic.
“I knew it, I knew it,” I said over and over as he put his ear against my belly. “I’m pregnant, I have to be, no way a tumor or blurry grey mass would feel like that!”
But as the days progressed I wasn’t completely sure anymore. The baby had moved for sure, the once, but other than that there wasn’t much movement. No where near the amount Miracle had, but that really didn’t mean anythin’. It really scared me and I wanted to get checked out but there was no where to go, unless I went to the Reddings which I didn’t want to do. I knew if I saw Professor Redding it would be hard not to get mad at him, to demand to know why he sent that letter. I figured he had a good reason–or rather, I hoped he had a good reason.
Mal must’ve talked to Kaylee because one day when she showed up she began chatterin’ away about some articles she read about women thinking they were pregnant but really had a tumor of some sort. She kept giving me looks and feeling all worried and I just sighed in response, promising her I was fine.
“I even felt the baby move a couple times,” I said, takin’ her hands and putting them against my stomach. The baby was still and Kaylee gave me a rather sad look. “Sis, I’m fine. It’s a baby. I know it is. The women you read about didn’t have a ghost mate. I do, and the baby in here is probably that.”
I sounded more confident then I felt. Not even Henri realized how scared I was, least I hoped he didn’t. I was genuinely worried they were all right–but I had faith that I was pregnant, and I held onto that as tightly as I could. I kept tellin’ myself that I had felt the baby kick and that tumors did not kick. Once in a while the baby would move and I would get all happy and reassured, but the moving didn’t last long and I’d go back to being worried.
I loved how our second nursery came out, there was somethin’ just sweet and calming about it. Miracle liked gettin’ in there and one time tried to get into the crib when it was her nap time. She put up a fit when I took her to her own crib and Henri suggested we let her stay in the new room just once and I rolled my eyes.
“First off, we can’t give her everything she wants,” I said and Henri’s lips puckered. I adored my daughter more than I thought possible but she was a bit spoiled thanks to her dad who I knew was thinkin’ of an excuse to give her just what she wanted. “Second, this is the baby’s room. If we let her sleep in it now she will think it is hers, and it will be even worse when the baby comes. Do you want her to think something is hers then have to take it away?”
He shook his head. “No,” he admitted. Miracle could throw a royal temper when that happened. She cried for half an hour straight last time we had to take a toy away from her, and not just crying but beating her little fists and feet against the floor. “No, you’re right.” He kissed Miracle’s forehead and put her in her own crib.
“Dadaaaaa!” she wailed, realizin’ he was siding with me. “Daaaaadaaaaa!”
“Dormez bien, mon petite fillette,” he said, kissing her again then leaving the room with me. We shut the door and listened to her cry and sniffle for about one minute and fourteen seconds then she quieted down. “I’m sorry,” he said as we moved away from her room. “I need to stop giving her stuff…”
“Yes, but you won’t, will you?” I asked with a smile. “You’ll go right on spoiling her.”
Henri laughed and kissed me just under the ear. “Yep, like I want to spoil you, mon amour. My two favorite gals in the world.”
“Maybe three soon,” I pointed out and he bent down and kissed my belly.
“Three beautiful girls in my life,” he murmured then grinned at me. “Or two beautiful girls and one handsome boy…. A son!” His eyes gleamed and he looked even happier. “Maybe we have a son in there. A little boy, and a little girl…”
“Only a couple months until we find out.” I eased myself onto the couch and rubbed at a sore spot on my hip. Just under three months, unless I went into labor early. And if it went over the three month month, and four month mark… then I’d just gave to go see a doctor. But that wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t.
I grew bigger and bigger with each passing week, occasionally feelin’ the baby move. I had most the same symptoms I had with Miracle though I felt even more exhausted and couldn’t deal with the emotions as well. So we didn’t have much company as my possible due date came closer and closer and closer. Henri was real edgy and kept saying I should see a doctor just to make sure everything was going well, which put me on edge. We snapped at each other more often than not as my ninth month began. Mal did his best when he came by but he too still begged me to see a doctor.
“You should be feeling a lot more movement than this,” he said to me every single time.
“I do feel movement,” I reminded him. Just not much, I added silently. By this point everyone in my family thought I was just being stubborn and maybe I was. Maybe I just needed to swallow my anger and go see Professor Redding again. But nothing bad was happening, all my aches and pains were normal, everything seemed fine. Other than the fact I was several, several pounds lighter than I was at this point then when I was with Miracle, and the extra exhaustion, things were fine.
One other problem everyone seemed to have was the fact when my stomach was pressed against there wasn’t much give. It was like something big and hard in there. A grey blurry mass. Professor Redding’s words rarely left my mind. Trust your own instincts, you know there’s a new life inside your womb, whether it’s a regular life or a ghost, it’s there, there’s a baby in there.
Henri took charge of teaching Miracle what she needed. She was slowly picking up words but didn’t like to move around a lot. She was active enough sitting still but rather slow when she crawled. I noticed sometimes her eyes wouldn’t focus on certain things so I made a note to get her eyes checked when I could. So for now we mostly encouraged her verbal skills. Two weeks before I was sure I was due, she picked up a new word which neither of us was pleased about. ‘No’. She used it all the time. When she didn’t want to do something, when Henri put her down, when we tried to keep her out of the baby’s nursery.
“No! No! No!” she cried out about fifty zillion times a day. She never really felt angry or anythin’ but almost like an injustice had been done.
“I thought the terrible twos didn’t start until the baby was two!” Henri said after wrestling her into her crib. She was still shrieking over the baby monitor, saying ‘no’ and ‘dada’ repeatedly. There was a soft sound that I knew meant she had yet again threw a pillow or stuffed animal out. Sure enough her wails grew louder.
“If this last until she’s three, and this baby is like her, then we’ll have two at once with this sort of temper!” I covered my ears, my heart aching at the sound of my daughter cryin’ but she needed her nap.
Henri rubbed his forehead and looked towards her door. “How did your parents do it?”
“I really don’t know.”
Five days after Miracle’s ‘no’ stage began, I woke up shortly after finally gettin’ to sleep with a pain gripping my lower body. I groaned a bit and then tried to adjust a pillow between my knees, figurin’ this was just false labor pains. But soon the gripping got worse, ebbing in and out that soon I realized was gettin’ to be a fairly regular thing. I reached down and grabbed my belly, feeling shifting feelings inside, then a very sharp pain. I yelped loudly which woke Henri up.
“Waaa? Miracle?” He blinked sleepily in the darkness. “Sen?”
“Henri, either an alien is about to bust outta my guts singing or I was right about being pregnant cause I feel like I am gonna be ripped apaaAAAAAAAAHHH!” I then bit down hard, feeling dizzy. Must not wake Miracle, must not wake Miracle. I felt a scream about to rip out of my mouth as pain ripped in my guts. “Call–Mal–Call–Mal!” I panted.
Henri scrambled for the phone and dropped it three times before getting it dialed. His voice seemed distant as he babbled to my brother. I rocked a bit then stood up slowly. My body shook with pain and the pains mostly felt familiar. There was somethin’ off though. There was something big shifting inside causing ripples of pain everywhere.
“Should you be standing? You shouldn’t be standing! We need to get you to the hospital! Mal is on his way! What do we do about Miracle? What do you need?” Henri shot the questions off rapidly, floating back and forth with me until I gave in and got back onto the bed.
“I can’t go to the hospital,” I groaned, slidin’ my hands down to cradle my aching bulge. “Mal said he got me some pain medicine but that’s all, I can’t do much.” I thought of how painful it was with Miracle in a sterile hospital environment and medication. Givin’ birth in my own house with just my pre-med brother and ghost husband as helpers suddenly seemed very, very, very stupid. “I should have asked Professor Redding, I should have asked Professor Redding, ohhhhh!” I jerked forward as the ripples intensified. It felt like my womb was ready to shatter into a million pieces. “We are never having sex again!” I snarled when I felt Henri’s hand on my arm.
He shrank back to the corner of the room, eyes huge. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! This is all my fault! I’m so sorry, Sen.”
I closed my eyes and focusing on breathing to try to think of something other than the hellish pain inside me. It was going to shatter like glass, and I was going to die. It wasn’t a baby, this wasn’t labor pains, this was something else. Something bad. Someone was crying and I realized it was me. Henri was rubbing my arm, whisperin’ reassuring words into my ears.
“It’ll be okay, darling, it will be okay. Your brother will be here and everything will be fine. Soon we’ll have another daughter or a son, we’ll have two kids and our lives will be centered around feeding them and cleaning their poop.”
I forced a laugh. “Oh, that’s something to think about right now.” Then the pain ebbed away and the ripples slowly stopped. There was still an occasional twinge but the horror had stopped, for the moment. I was able to sit up and get comfortable on the bed while Henri made sure Miracle was still asleep and then he brought in ice chips. I ate a few and then closed my eyes. “Sing to me?” I asked. Henri held my hand against his mouth and began singing ‘La Mer’. I listened to his voice as the ripples began again. I couldn’t help but cry out, and grabbed a pillow to bury my face into. Henri broke off his song and began floating back and forth by my side.
Just when I thought my womb was going to shatter, the pain subsided and the ripples stopped. Henri began singin’ again and this time I demanded he keep it up when the pain came back, so it gave me something to concentrate on. But he had to stop as the doorbell rang. He floated very quickly out and came back in with Mal, who was in his pajamas and carrying a large bag.
“I thought doctors didn’t make house calls anymore,” I gasped out, digging my feet into the mattress.
“I’m making a special case for a special girl,” he answered, comin’ over and leaning in. I thought he was going to check something but instead he hugged. “Okay, tell me what’s going on. I’m going to check your blood pressure and heart rate before I give you the medicine.” And he began doing that as I told him, and then when I told him the feeling of something inside wanting to shatter he gave me a dark look.
I glowered. “Don’t you dare look at me like that, Shepherd Malcolm Danevbie, unless you want my fist down your throat.”
“Now, I need to look at–look at–oh… Watcher.” Suddenly he went very green as he stared at the general area of my loins. “Uh. Um. Oh Watcher.”
“You’re going to be birthing babies, for Watcher’s sake you have to be able to look at that!” I gasped, lifting my hips slightly as the shattering began again.
“But–but–you’re my sister!”
“I’m sure it doesn’t look very different from anyone else now damnitall, Shepherd, I need you to birth my baby!”
Mal gave a helpless look to Henri then slowly put gloves on. “Can you get the, um, er, flashlight? Hold it–uhh–j-just aim. Okay. Um. Serenity, uhhh… oh… I d-don’t think I can do this.”
I gave a wail. “Mal you have to, you’re the only one who can, please–please!”
“Okay, yes, I am, I will! Okay, wow… oh wow uhhh you’re pretty dilated I think you’ll be, um… g-g-going to be, uh… having the b-baby soon… you are dilated.”
“No tumor, huh?” I couldn’t help but say.
“Watcher, Serenity! It’s what I thought, okay? It’s not like anything else in any book anywhere and your shattering pain proves it!” Mal’s head bobbed up over the hem of my nightie stretched across my knees. “If you can have a ghost baby I think this is what it is, so I have no idea what the hell to do, so bear with me! Henri, there’s a bottle in my bag, third pocket…”
I was given some pain medicine which really didn’t do much as the pain didn’t stop but instead got worse. “Make it stop, please, oh Henri, oh Mom–Mom–“
“Something’s wrong,” Mal said. “I am going to, um yeah. Check just… hold on… Oh. There’s something in–oh… I think I am going to throw up.”
“DON’T YOU DARE!” I screeched. “DON’T YOU DARE OR ELSE!”
“GRIM REAPER!” Henri suddenly shouted. “Let me check, I can go through things!” And then I saw his hands plunge into my belly–and then he looked shocked. “There’s something here,” he said, extremely confused. His arms moved. “I can’t get my hands through. Reaper’s Cloak, what is this? It’s… cracking…”
The shattering pain, cracking, my body was splitting in half. That’s what it was and then suddenly it eased up just a bit. Henri lifted his hand and was holding something. It was a smooth piece of… somethin’. It was a ghostly grey, see-through. “What the heck is this?” he asked, staring at it.
“Please g-get this baby out before I die,” I wheezed, as the splitting, piercing, horrid pain began again. “Oh make it stop, make it stop!”
Henri dropped the thing and his hands went in again. “It’s all over the place, it’s smooth and curved and–Watcher! Serenity! I think it’s an eggshell!”
Even though there was disbelief in his voice, it clicked inside me and I knew that he was right. The grey mass. There was a grey mass–some sort of shell. If Henri couldn’t get through then a ghost baby couldn’t accidentally float out of the womb before it was time. Henri’s face changed as he realized this as well and then he began yanking the smooth pieces out of me until he could put his arms in deeper. “I can feel it, there’s the baby! The umbilical cord feels the same. I got’m, I got–I got–“
And then he was pulling somethin’ bigger than a piece of ghostly shell out of me. The pain was almost too much and it took all my effort to hold on. Henri was talking then Mal was talking, then suddenly it felt like my insides were caving in on itself. I screamed for help as something came out. It had to be my insides, I had to die–but Mal was sayin’ something about the grey shell things and that it must have collapsed when its job was done which was just stupid, and then I heard a little snuffly sound.
I turned my head. Henri had taken off his shirt and was wrappin’ it around the thing in his arms which was a ghost like him. “It’s a boy,” Henri said, slowly looking up at me. “A ghost boy. Serenity…”
He said something else, and the baby boy gave another snuffly sound, and then it was too much. At least this time I got to see my baby, I thought as the blackness came in, this time from pain and not the emotions. A son.