The night before the baby came they had a fight. Mika was bitter. She wanted out. She wanted a drink, a fag, a night out on her own. She resented the growing bulge of her tummy, the headaches and morning sickness. She wished babies could be grown in test tubes. She loved the unborn baby all right, but she wasnʼt comfortable carrying it around with her. She couldnʼt work properly. She couldnʼt see people, she could only wear baggy, loose trousers and had to stay clear of her lovely tight tops.
Dan had come in that night looking to pick a fight. He frowned when Mika poured herself a tiny shot of vodka. “Just donʼt drink anymore, will you?” he shouted. She told him to mind his own bottle and leave her alone. She didnʼt want a fight. She was tired of fighting. But he kept telling her to stop, explaining how alcohol damages the brain in the unborn baby, how it rots the cells and makes them come out with rabbit lips or wolf jaws. She screamed at him to shut up. He didnʼt. She was so loud that the boys next door came in to check if everything was all right. Dan told them to bugger off and slapped the door in their face. She screamed hard to get back their attention, but the boys didnʼt return. They were afraid of Dan. She wasnʼt. She would show him.
He kept on talking about deformed babies. He kept his voice low, but harsh “It should really come out ugly as a monster - you could maybe take him down to Zippos Circus, for their show.” She threw the plastic glass at him, but he was already upon her, twisting her hand, bending her down into the sofa. She tried to pull away from his grip but only managed to get her hand locked at her back. She pinched his tigh and managed to free the hand then went to the door to open it and call the others. But Dan came behind, catching her again, by the elbow... she struggled out, lost her balance and fell down the stairs. By the time she reached the ground floor all her body was in pain. She screamed from the depths of her lungs and cursed him. “You fucking idiot, you tried to kill me.”
The ambulance was there in less than twenty minutes. The nurse asked how many drinks sheʼd had and asked her GPʼs name. Mika felt she would die anyway and there was no point in even trying to think of an answer. She didnʼt die - she gave birth instead, on the ambulance stretcher as they were hauling her inside A&E with sirens still ringing in her ears.
Mika gave birth at 28 weeks, before even planning to visit a midwife. The neonatal team surrounded her in a panicky frenzy, asking questions, finding answers all by themselves. She watched them move with cotton eyes and when they showed her the baby she could not even stretch her arms and hold it. She named her daughter Corinne. Dan liked Corinne - his motherʼs name. They quickly took her away and put her under some lamps, in a a sort of tube. To keep baby warm, they told Mika. To keep her safe.
Mika spent the rest of the night waiting for something big to happen. She slept a bit under the drugs they gave her but mostly, she kept watch over the curtains surrounding her from three sides. The next day, after a wobbly trip down the corridors a nurse told her everything is fine with her, she didnʼt tear, she didnʼt loose too much blood and she could go home if she wanted. She was released and the doctors told her she could visit in the afternoon. She was sent back home as if nothing had happened. Empty handed, two stones lighter. The jeans she wore suddenly too big.
At home all was quiet. Her brother Dody and the other flat mates were at work and Dan wasnʼt around. She went to the kitchen and made herself a strong coffee. She was wasted and bruised and couldnʼt think of anything worth doing that would make her feel better. She was annoyed that Dan hadnʼt come with her in the ambulance and hadnʼt shown up at the hospital. She would have asked him to hold her hand, like at the movies - maybe even come into the delivery room with her. But he hadnʼt shown up.
She shrugged and went upstairs to look for a cardigan. The house was quieter than usual and her roomʼs door was ajar. She went in hoping to find Dan slouched on the bed, still sleeping off last nightʼs booze, but the room was empty, blankets tightly folded and pillows in the right place. All the clutter and piles of stuff were gone. It felt airy and light.... a bit cold. By the time she reached the window to check if it was open sheʼd understood. Danʼs stuff was gone. All his scrunched up t-shirts and trousers and bags and trainers, his lifting weights and magazines.... all gone.
Mika went back downstairs. Where was he? She didnʼt want to worry too much, so she put on the telly and watched aimlessly the small, bright screen. At some point she fell asleep, but woke up when she heard steps on the driveway and the front door opening. It was Dody, looking pale and exhausted as he was bending to unlace his boots. “Where is Dan? Why didnʼt he come to the hospital?”, asked Mika.
“Back to where he came from, girl. Me and the boys, we kicked him out last night. I donʼt want fights and cops nosing around, I donʼt want trouble.” “What about me, Dody? What about the baby? Whoʼs taking care of us?” “Donʼt fool yourself Mika. Heʼs no man for you. He kicked you down the stairs, he beat you up.... look at you” “So what, you fool? He was drunk. I was drunk... what do you want? Call him back! Now!” Anger made her shiver. She was cold, she was sick. She had to sit back down on the armchair. They sent him back to his home, to Poland? And how could he leave, just like that, without even saying good by?
Around 6 oʼclock, Dody gave her a ride to the hospital - in his work van, full of paints and tools and old newspapers. They moved slowly through the evening rush hour and Mika tried to ask more questions, to make Dody speak. She needed to know what had happened to Dan, where he had gone, but Dody was not interested in talking. He drove on quietly and in front of the hospital he stopped and didnʼt go inside to see the baby with her.
Sheʼd almost forgotten how tiny Corinne was and when the nurse took her in, Mika was surprised. The whole room was white and clean and the baby tub with itʼs oxygen machine looked out of place. The baby inside was smaller than a girlʼs doll. Baby Corinne didnʼt look real. Her feet and arms were bluish chalk sticks and her torso was half covered in an oversized nappy. Mika could not make herself look at the little baby head. Her eyes were still fused shut. A nurse showed Mika how to put her hands in and stroke the baby through the plastic guards. She took courage and touched Corinne, keeping her eyes focused on the tiny arm in front of her. The skin felt soft and warm, a bit like Danʼs skin on the side of his neck. She missed him and she didnʼt know what to do. Her fingertips touched the feeding tube by mistake and she took out her hand in panic.
She spent less than an hour with Corinne. The nurses did not leave the room and she was grateful to them for being there. One nurse tried to show her how to hold the baby, but Mika froze on the spot, horrified at the thought of handling Corinneʼs extra fine limbs. She couldnʼt do it. She watched the nurse removing the feed tube then changing the nappy but she couldnʼt move. A few minutes later Corinne was quietly asleep and Mika sighed with relief. She went out on the corridor dialling Dodyʼs number and before she knew it, she was running to the parking lot, hoping that the nurses wonʼt see her. Dody was still waiting there,
half asleep in the yellow van. He took her home without asking questions and this time Mika also, kept quiet as a mouse.
In her room she tried to call Dan. She tried his mobile, his best friend始s mobile, the old number she had for his mum始s in Poland. No one answered. She gave up, annoyed and trying to convince herself he was a jerk who didn始t care about her or the baby. It was all wrong. She missed him more than the baby she would soon have to bring home with her. She was just a girlfriend, not a mother yet.