The words echoed through your barely functioning consciousness as nothing but pain completely encompassed you. The shouts from the midwives, the flickering of the table lanterns, your husband Armin gripping your hand like his life depended on it all became an incomprehensible blur. The only thing you were aware of was your agony-not the little life stirring inside you, not the desperate cries of your beloved. Just the pain, and you wanted it to end.
As every muscle clenched, you pushed.
This happened before. Yes, you lay here in this same room, under these exact circumstances. Only those efforts were completely gone to waste. Your pounding heart twisted as those memories surfaced in your clouded mind:
Just as you endured now, you pushed and screamed with Armin kissing and tightening his grasp around your hand. Your head spun. Everything inside you seemed to splinter as you fell into a terrifying blackness.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” the voice of the midwives were so distant.
“Your baby didn’t make it.”
“She needs rest.”
“Come, let’s leave them be.”
Armin wanted children just as much as you did. After spending so many years in battle with the Titans, he longed for a quiet life with his wife, raising children he could love and protect. The loss of this little newborn, this new life, this little body escaping its growth far too early, tore harshly at his heart. To think that his offspring never received the chance to see the peaceful world he took part in creating was an idea he could barely wrap his mind around. His future suddenly became dark, a feeling he hoped he could avoid for so long.
You sunk into total despondency. Nine months of nurturing this little one, of Armin kissing the swell in your tummy and speaking softly to her, of feeling her little kicks of excitement, you felt as though you lost a part of you. Even with your husband at your side, you were stuck, unable to move forward. Your body still functioned as a new mother with no one to care for. The soreness in your muscles lasted so long, making your sadness even greater. All that suffering and for what?
With a strangled cry, you pushed again, digging your nails into Armin’s palm.
“Stay with me, [Name],” he whispered.
It took long years, filled with tears, long nights and nearly ending your life, before you finally took towards step into healing. Armin was with you all the way to hold you close, nurse you back to health and pull the knife from your hands and jostle some sense back into you. You laced fingers with him and let him guide you from the darkness. You knew he would remain at your side with his tender love and support.
Beads of sweat rolled down your temple. Tears burned your eyes. It seemed as though this anguish would last forever. Instead, you tried your best to focus on the warmth of Armin’s hand. He was there. He wouldn’t leave. Tremors overtaking your stressed body, you strained your neck to gaze into his sky-blue eyes. Though full of worry, he granted you a weak smile.
“You’re doing well, [Name],” he murmured. “Almost there. Stay with me.”
Biting your lip to the point of bleeding, you sobbed loudly, pushing with every ounce of strength you possessed. Everything blurred. Your head spun. Your hearing became muffled, but your body for just a moment became light.
Then, the shrill cry of a baby broke the strange limbo in which you hovered.
After blinking away the droplets clouding your vision, one of the midwives held a tiny bundle in her arms, cleaning away the blood and excess fluid. Then, she took the nearest blanket and wrapped it carefully before approaching the side of your bed. A bright smile shown on her face.
“Congratulations,” she said softly. “It’s a little girl!”
As Armin gently pulled you up, allowing the nurse to rest the fragile body in your arms. Her face contorted into a grimace as the light of her new world stung her tiny eyes. Quiet squeaks and whimpers broke from her parted lips. Involuntarily, she squirmed in the confinement of her mother’s arms.
The sea of emotion drowned your heart. You wanted to cry, dance with joy, scream, shout, anything at all. Instead, you bent down and kissed the girl’s silky forehead. Arms encircled your shoulders, and your husband rested his chin on the crook of your neck, white fingers tracing the face of his newborn daughter. No words needed to be spoken. As exhausted as you were, you managed to keep awake and savor this moment.
You were ready to try again.