At the baby shower, I watch the mother-to-be warmly welcome each guest. Soon exhausted, she accepts a chair and sits regally. Beatific. Drawn and tired, but plump with life too. Women paw at her belly and coo over her. She doesn’t seem to mind. I smile at her, at how beautiful she looks. She returns it, encouragingly.
Flutter, flutter, flutter. I can hear my hope’s wings beating. A little silver moth with metallic wings sits in my rib cage. Lately, my husband and I make love with intent.
The other women laugh and sip champagne. They offer each other nappy-changing advice as they childishly lick icing off cupcakes. Presents pile up in the corner, all bows and ribbons.
My sister refused to come. She doesn’t believe in a celebration before the baby is born. ‘What if it dies first?’ She has two of her own. Did she carry the fear to term? I try not to worry.
When it’s my turn to guess the size of the mother-to-be’s girth for the measuring game. I tentatively reach out a hand, but she laughs, takes it and presses it firmly over her belly.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ she jokes. ‘Can you feel her?’
The mother is so poised. I gaze back at her as I smooth my palms over her belly, my eyes wide. An unnatural warmth, like the energy given off by machinery. A sort of hum, a tautness, a pulsing.
I am unsteady. I can almost feel another heart beating alongside my own. My breasts seem to swell, and the back of my neck grows clammy. The twist of a frustrated scream spirals up from my toes and curls around my soul like smoke. The ache of want is unbearable.
Hope, at times a consolation, at times just cruel, is overwhelming. The moth’s wings are frantic. Flutter, flutter, flutter.
I pull away from the mother-to-be and step back. Another woman jostles into my place.
Retreat. Just for a moment. I go to the bathroom and breathe scented soaps and freshly laundered towels. I splash cold water on my face and gather myself; prepare for the kindly-meant but needling questions about when I’ll be starting my own family. They rattle my confidence. They know so much, but they don’t know this?
Maybe this month, maybe this month. Be positive. Flutter, flutter, flutter.
But when I pull down my pants and sit on the toilet, I see the familiar smear of sticky red-brown blood. My period. That earthy smell of promise which is no promise at all.
Hope is a celebration for a baby that hasn’t yet been born.
The moth folds its wings closed.
Words by Tina Morganella
Tina Morganella is a freelance writer and copy editor with an MPhil in creative writing. Tina is most interested in fiction and travel literature and has most recently been published in Rush (US), and STORGY Magazine (UK). She also has nonfiction articles published in the Australian press (The Big Issue, The Australian, The Adelaide Advertiser). You can read some of her work at www.tinamorganella.com
Artwork by Joel Tuckwell