Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the FANTASY and/or SCI FI Genre (10/16/14)
TITLE: One Act of Defiance
By Rachel Malcolm
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Fenia leans against the pillows, her eyes shut, head drooping to the side. We both rest in the tiny reprieve between contractions.
I hold the wave conducer several inches above her abdomen and wait for the three-dimensional image of the fetus to light up the space in front of me. The baby’s heartbeat is strong, but he still sits in breech position. A knot of fear pulls in my stomach.
Fenia gasps as another contraction rolls over her.
“Up on your hands and knees,” I say as I help her into position. This is my very first breech delivery, and I feel totally unprepared. Yes, I’ve read the manuals, and I attended a breech once with my mother, but there are so many things that could go wrong.
I think back to my mother’s words. “Let gravity do the work, Naya,” she had said. She believed in complete hands off for breech births unless the baby gets stuck.
Checking the baby again after the next contraction, I know I’m being anxious. It’s almost laughable that I have a state-of-the-art transducer. It is the only technology in my midwifery bag besides the hated tracer implanter. I don’t even carry painkillers besides the single dose of Levicane I carry in case I must perform a caesarean section. Please, God, please don’t make me use that. Not ever.
My jaw clenches as I think of the upper citizens. They don’t even know what labour feels like. Their babies are born via laser surgery. The incision is healed, and the scar laser removed before they even leave the hospital.
Not us. I seethe bitterly. Most sub citizens are born, live and, die without ever receiving any medical care besides that from the lay midwives.
I use a damp cloth to cool Fenia’s sweat-covered brow. I should tell her how good she’s doing. My mother would have.
Fenia’s breath catches in her throat. It’s time. Her neck veins stand out as she strains. I sit back on my heels and hope this “hands off” thing actually works.
I hold my breath every time Fenia does. The baby’s legs are born. It goes against every instinct to just sit and wait, but the baby’s own weight hanging is supposed to help the head flex.
I watch the second meter on the semi-dome. Now that the baby’s umbilicus is born we are on a deadline. It’s taking too long.
My hands tremble as I feel for the arm. Where is it? Panic makes me forget everything until my finger finally hooks the arm, and I sweep it down over the baby’s face. With the next contraction, the baby slides into my hands.
Helping Fenia lay down on the bed, I then place her little boy on her abdomen. If there is any time I actually enjoy my work it is now—in those moments of wonder when I feel like I did something good in this world.
Now for the worst part of my job. I pull the implanter out of its case and plug in a sterile tracer. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were only a tracer, but the tiny implant also has the ability to kill. One in 20 babies die within twelve hours of being implanted. We are told it’s population control, but we all know it’s to make us feel powerless.
I key in the information when I feel Fenia’s hand on my arm. Her touch is cool, and I look up to meet her eyes. They plead with me. I know what she’s asking.
Bile burns my throat as I think back to the day my mother died. I hear the shot and the thud of her body as she crumpled to the ground. My mother was killed for not implanting a tracer.
I look down at the baby, and I know he should have the chance to live free. I’ve just fought for his life. Now I must risk my own for him.
I place the implanter back in its case. I didn’t know Fenia was part of the movement, but why would I? Now I’m a part of the movement too. One act of defiance will lead to others. There is no turning back.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come, I pray as I cut the umbilical cord.
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