It’s a hot summer night.
We are lying in bed reading with the doona pushed to our feet, my T-shirt rucked under my big, swollen breasts, when pain shoots through my abdomen. I move aside the book that I’d propped on my belly, look down at the bump and see my bare skin ripple.
‘Have a look at this,’ I say.
‘The baby’s really peddling.’
Mark puts down his book and turns to look at me.
I pat the top of my bump.
‘Let me feel,’ he says. He presses his hand down firmly. ‘I think I can feel a foot.’
I look down. Extra chins bunch under my jawline. ‘I’m so fat,’ I say. ‘How can you feel anything?’
He reaches across and takes my hand and moves it up my belly to where his hand had been. Laying his palm on the back of my wrist, he presses down on my fingertips and kneads gently. ‘Can you feel it?’
‘I think I’ve lost it.’
He moves my hand aside and runs his splayed fingers under my sternum. I feel the baby wriggle and squirm under the weight of his probing hand.
‘I’ve caught you,’ he says. He keeps one hand on the spot and guides my hand with the other. ‘See? Can you feel the heel?’
He presses my fingertips firmly down and around a small hard nub.
I feel the nub kick; the nub becomes a foot.
‘Can we feel its hands?’ I ask. I’m excited to think that we can feel distinct parts.
Mark shakes his head. ‘No.’
I believe him when he says that. As well as being my husband and the father of this baby, he is training to become an obstetrician.
‘See if you can hear its heartbeat,’ I say.
I reach out and take his temples in the palms of my hands and lower his head on the top of my belly. He curls up and pretends to snore. I poke the back of his neck.
‘Do it properly.’
He cups his hand against my belly and listens with his improvised stethoscope.
‘Your tummy’s gurgling,’ he says.
I feel the baby kick again as Mark falls silent.
‘Can you hear its heartbeat?’ I ask.
‘Yours is louder.’
He moves his hand; he listens again.
‘I can hear it!’
He sits up and turns to look at me. He has a big grin on his face.
‘It’s soft but it’s definitely there. It’s going tett tett tett tett.’ He makes a series of short staccato sounds with his tongue.
I feel a thrill of joy as I realise we will soon see our baby.
I smile back at Mark.
‘I can’t wait.’
By Suvi Mahonen