Tag Archives: fear

After The War Part 3: A Rustling

Still life with fruit (with scorpion and frog) by Walter Crane This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
Still life with fruit (with scorpion and frog)
by Walter Crane
This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.

Based on the prompt on Today’s Author: “When the wind blew a certain way, it brought a scent that reminded him of his grandmother’s house.”

When the wind blew a certain way, it brought a scent that reminded her of her grandmother’s house. She had to stay on task but being back in this village so many years later, she could not help turn head. If she walked a little upwind, she was sure she would find the old houses in gardens with their tiny stalls lined up on dusty streets along the railroad.

The first time she spent the night at her grandmother’s house, she was woken up by the train passing by, shaking the whole house like a cradle. She was surprised to see her father still fast asleep.

While staring up at the ceiling, watching the shadow of the train pass by right through her room, she thought about her father’s childhood. He had mentioned a few times how he would run around bare foot, back in the days when he could not pronounce his “r”s. She imagined her own authoritative dad, had she known the word, she would have used charismatic, asking his “mothav” for “bvead” with “buttev” and “sugav”. She giggled.

Her silent laughter froze in mid-air. She sensed motion, the sound of rustling at the window by her bed, a presence. Her heart started thumping, filling the room louder than the train that had just passed. If only her father would wake up. He would know how to deal with it. He would take care of the “presence”.

Instead he inhaled loudly with a touch of snotty snore sitting on his nostrils. The rustling stopped. A second later, she heard it again, too close for her to lie still in her bed. It was touching her, brushing against her hair. She got up screaming. Her father woke up with an instinct to protect his offspring, turned the lights on and grabbed his daughter in a matter of seconds, throwing a threatening glare at the enemy.

In her father’s arms, she shut her eyes, trembling. When her father did not move, she opened her eyes to face the enemy… on the floor. Staring back at them, too afraid to move, except for its chin swelling regularly, was a frog. All this commotion, fear and anxiety was only for… a frog.

Her father let her go. Cranky that his sleep had been interrupted, he told her frogs were all over the place in this town. She could not be so jumpy, away from the protective high concrete walls of the big city. This was one of the safest places they could be, so she better go back to sleep.

After the speech, he caught the frog and set it free through the same window it had gotten in.

A soft touch on her shoulder brought her back to the present. It was time for lunch. She washed the soil off her hands and followed the rest of the volunteers into the food tent.

For lunch, they were serving a root dish she had only eaten at her grandmother’s house before. It was a dish specific to this area, a meal that required tradition in the execution.

Years ago, for dinner, her grandmother had cooked the root that only the locals knew where to find, how to cut and how to cook. The smell of the dish was still lingering in all the rooms long after they had sat in the common room, sharing fruits and eating the corn her grandmother had popped in her special pan.

When she went to bed, the root smell had mixed with popcorn, comforting her to sleep. She opened her eyes only slightly now when the train passed, and let it rock her to sleep with its regular “tuddum, tuddum” lullaby on the rails.

She still found rustling by the window somewhat distressing, but had gotten used to the animals she could not easily find in the city. If it was not a frog, it was a dog; if not, a cat, a sheep or once, even the neighbor’s donkey that had made its way out of the stall.

So when there was some rustling by the window, she did not make much of it. She closed her eyes and let her body waft into slumber in the arms of root and corn…

A hand suddenly grabbed her shoulder. For a split second she took it for her father’s but it was much harsher, and a lot less loving.

“Get down on the floor!” Her father woke up with fear in his eyes, staring beggingly at the man holding his daughter.

She heard thumping and her father painfully screaming, begging for his daughter to be left free while she was locked in an empty room.

Soon, her grandparents’ voices joined the choir of painful begging in between blunt thumps and fierce orders.

She hid under the bed. She expected her father to chase those men away any second, to open the door and hold her, to make everything right, turn everything back to the way they were a few hours ago, eating fruits and popcorn with her grandparents in a root smelling house, where the greatest disturbance was animals gone astray.

This was the last time she saw her father, her grandparents and the house itself. The same night, various other houses were attacked with most people either dragged away into anonymity or killed on the spot.

A greater part of the village was damaged first by the civil war and then by the bombings of origins too obscure and tangled to figure out.

She was dragged from one camp to another on trains and trucks until she was left at the porch of an old woman who took care of a small collection of orphans in her little home as if they were her own.

Now, a grown woman, she was back at this village of her childhood she could not recognize anymore, building a new town from scratch for the a little girl to live in safety with her family, in a house that would be smelling roots only her people could cook while the train scheduled to run again soon rocked their home in peace and only harmless animals slowly approached her window.

Word Count: 1030

3. Down’s Syndrome Tests: When “what if” comes very close to “most probably”: Amniocentesis

Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon by Robert Delaunay  This work is in the public domain in the European Union and non-EU countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years or less
Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon
by Robert Delaunay
This work is in the public domain in the European Union and non-EU countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years or less

On the day of the amnio, I got pretty selfish. Firstly, there was the fear of an amnio triggered miscarriage, something underlined, emphasized and highlighted everywhere I turned to for more information. On every page on the internet, whether scientific research or personal experience, the possibility of miscarriage differed from 1 in 200 to 1 in 1600. Moreover, the numbers apparently changed based on the hospital and doctor, a matter in which I did not have much of a choice.

As if all this was not confusing enough, the procedure itself was described as being very painful to a tiny pinch on the tummy. I am pretty scared of pain and needles so the idea of having a huge needle piercing into my belly and fooling around in me, especially so close to the fetus was not a comforting idea.

Still, the morning of the amnio, husband and I were the people we usually are in nerve wrecking foreign situations: funny. This helped to deal with the anxiety of the inescapable and tasteless procedure I was to go through.

In the procedure room, the nice nurse did an ultrasound to see where the fetus was… This was the second time we were seeing it, a sneak peek into my womb, the tiny thing’s dwelling. At first it was asleep; in contrast to the last time, it was completely motionless with only the red and blue interchanging colors showing the heart beat. While the nurse poked around to determine the best spot to insert the needle, as far away for from the fetus as possible, it woke up and started moving around. That was a heart melting, lactation stimulating, hormone invigorating moment. The thing I haven’t yet met in person was reacting to physical contact like an ordinary human being.

Then she left to fetch the doctor who was busy with another patient. When they came back and had a look again, the fetus had moved. Something I found surprising, since both hubby and I like to remain stationary most of the time. It also made the fetus more human than ever, with all these attributes coming together to make up the first aspects of a personality.

Finally, the dreaded moment arrived and the needle was prepared for insertion in latex wrapped hands. I started singing a tune I heard a few minutes before I entered the room to calm my nerves. The husband was playing with my hair like I had asked him to the night before to help me relax.

And pinch! That was it, like having an ordinary blood test… But when the needle went through my womb into the amniotic fluid sac, then I felt a bit of a cramp, as the doctor had warned me. I thought it would affect my lower abdominal like menstrual pain but I felt it more in my vagina, which was unexpected.

Then, I looked at the ultrasound screen and saw my fetus, just below the needle moving around. Once inside, the doctor withdrew the needle and what was left was the tiny soft tube to extract the fluid. This was done because as I could see on the screen, the thing in my womb, the fetus seemed to be reaching out to the foreign object in its surroundings, and a sharp needle could have caused problems. For the first time in its lifetime, it was encountering something so strange. And as the doctor said, “babies are curious whether they are in the womb or out in the world”.

In a matter of seconds, enough fluid was collected and the tube was taken out of me. What I felt was definitely not pain but more of a new strange sensation. That was it. All in all, the procedure was fast, the nurse and doctor were nice and comforting, and it was painless.

Once I got home to rest for the day, much more relieved than I had been for the last few days, with no major cramps, discharge or fever indicating miscarriage or infection, I thought about the fetus movements I saw on the screen. Then I thought about how long it usually takes for a baby to actually realize what is going on around it, much less react to stimulants with conscious movements such as reaching out for an object. Thus, I decided what I saw on the screen just below the needle, was nothing but normal motions the fetus was going through on a regular day and any other meaning I wanted to attribute to it was the motherly affection I couldn’t retain easily with my hormones.

Now is that “fun” part where we wait for the test results… One more month, and I will find out whether I will become a mother or not. The emotional and intellectual debate we are having in us will have to continue for yet another month. I have to say, I can now understand much better anyone who might choose to carry on with their pregnancy in spite of a genetical problem a test shows. Yet, for us the choice is the opposite.

By the way, on the ultrasound, there was nothing protruding from the baby’s torso… Can it be a girl?

2. Down’s Syndrome Tests: When “what if” comes very close to “most probably”: Brooding and Dilemmas

Panic Attack or Anxiety PTSD by George Grie This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.
Panic Attack or Anxiety PTSD
by George Grie
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

Normally, when it comes to such matters, I consider myself to be logical and ready to act based on scientific facts and numbers, but I still couldn’t help crying for a while before going back to work that day after the clinic. What if the fetus really does have down’s syndrome? How about the 1 in 400 risk of a miscarriage after an amnio? What if I lose the baby – I mean fetus – and a month later, the results are of a perfectly healthy baby? How does one cope with that?

At home that evening, I was surprised and also pleased to see the husband, for the first time in his life, doing research into the ethical side of the whole matter. The “what if” he had been asking himself for the last few hours was what would happen once we got the results of a defected chromosome fetus. We have seen the baby – ugh, fetus – on the ultrasound, we have lived with it for 4 months and we have been making future plans for 3 people and despite all our efforts to prevent it, we have established a bond with the tiny fragile life in me.

One month later, once we got the “positive” results as in positive for defected chromosome, after 5 months of living together, we were supposed to end the life that depended so much on us to survive. At this point, we realized, that was exactly why we had to choose to interfere in the pregnancy. There was no way of knowing how severely our child would be affected and there was a chance it might depend on us for the rest of its life. Even if we were ready to give up on the future life we had pictured for ourselves, what would happen to the child once we were gone? How would he/she live on? Who would be there to help? What kind of a life would await him/her without us around?

I ended feeling close to what Dawkins meant when he said it would be immoral to bring a child under such conditions when one has a choice.

Thus, we made up our minds to go for the amniocentesis the next day.

1.Down’s Syndrome Tests: When “what if” comes very close to “most probably”

Arlésiennes (Mistral) by Paul Gauguin  This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
Arlésiennes (Mistral)
by Paul Gauguin
This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.

On Tuesday September 23, on my birthday, I got a call from my obstetrician’s clinic. They had received my trisomy 21 results, the test showing the probability of me carrying a baby with down’s syndrome. I was expecting the results any second but I was not expecting a call… And definitely not an emergency appointment during a week when my own obstetrician was away on vacation and I would have to see another doctor.

Based on the manner the appointment was scheduled and the mere fact that I had gotten a call from the clinic, I could have worried myself to tears for the next two days but husband and I decided to see it as a standard procedure where they would be calling anyone whose results were ready in order to avoid any possible complaints from patients although I knew the likelihood to encounter otherwise was high.

And yes, on Thursday I did find out that the results were not so bright. The trisomy test gives you a certain percentage as to the possibility of your fetus having down’s syndrome. And this possibility rises with age, and of course your body’s age. I was 33 when I got pregnant and turned 34 this week. Normally, I try to eat well, though not a crazy sports fan exercise whenever I can, I don’t smoke and in fiercest weeks, I used to drink a glass of wine per day. So I was surprised that my blood test proved my body to be that of a 36 year old woman and that my possibility of carrying a fetus with down’s syndrome had risen from 1 in 500 before the trisomy tests to 1 in 200 afterwards. The threshold being 1 in 300, I was offered an amniocentesis.

While all this information was being poured on us, both the husband and I were trying to take notes on our notebooks like good little students but I was jotting numbers in a meaningless order because no matter how much I had prepared myself for the worst, I still hoped to hear “your numbers are just fine, and you do not have much reason to worry about anything”.

Waiting for that very sentence, staring blankly at the ob, trying to digest the info, relying heavily on husband’s skills with numbers and probability theory, I watched as the nice ob I was seeing for the first time in my life arrange an amniocentesis for the next day at the hospital giving us the option to not go if we chose to have the baby no matter what the chromosomes may show. Before doing so, she also added that couples who chose to have a baby with down’s syndrome after getting the amniocentesis results had a better chance of staying together in the future than those who refused the amnio only to have a down’s syndrome kid while expecting a perfectly normal one.

Numbers and words floating in our heads, we left the clinic and came the time to brood and fight with dilemmas…

One Step

Two Women by Egon Schiele The author died in 1918, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 90 years or less.
Two Women by Egon Schiele
The author died in 1918, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 90 years or less.

Tipsy Lit: Prompted: Risky Business   ·

For this week’s prompt, the theme is taking a big risk….

Adrenaline tickling my body, I crossed from one landing to the other. My ecstatic screams subsided only when I reached the other side.

It was Jeima’s turn. Others were teasing her. She had let her turn pass a few times, and watched many of us walk on the thin rail to the other roof, probably telling herself it was not a big deal, that it was one straight step she had to take after another. Had she not, so many times before, practised walking on a straight line on the pavement, pretending to be walking up in the air, with everyone watching and marveling at her courage from below, their eyes reduced to thin lines with the sun shining just above her?

Sometimes we played the acrobat game together, imagining we were world famous artists, walking on ropes above all city chaos, defying gravity, smiling and shining with the confidence we gathered from the inaudible applause below our feet shaking buildings with its intensity. Brunette Rebellion, the name we had chosen for ourselves, rebelled against gravity and fear!

I saw her, with her arms already lifted, balancing her weight, although she had not yet taken a step towards the edge of the roof. She seemed tense, much more different from her jolly, mocking self in our games.

I looked all the way down, focusing on the half of my foot resting emptily on the nothingness between the roof top and the grey pavement 7 floors below.

I imagined the one slight moment when I would push my foot forward and place it on the emptiness. It was as if I could keep walking to the other side where Jeima was still waltzing one foot forward one foot backward, trying to find the courage for the big adventure. It was as if all would unravel like in cartoons, where the character does not fall until it notices it has exhausted the cliff and is standing over a huge gap.

I wondered what difference it would make, my landing on the pavement and never getting up. I wondered what would change for the tiny people rushing in between tall chaotic buildings…

I wondered how my parents would feel and what would change for my friends, whether they would ever come back to this rooftop and carry on with their daring games.

A dress with dark hair rustling and dancing against gravity passed through the corner of my eye, followed by a thump.

And I received the answers to my questions.

People on the streets without a second to waste would quickly gather and stand still around my body. My parents would lose all motion in their body, maybe to go back to a time when they could hold me from climbing up to the roof top.

My friends would never visit the rooftop again, and the fun teasing would be diminished to an unbreakable silence.

I know all this, because it all happened when Jeima stepped quietly away from the cliff.

Word Count: 502

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