Little Hands Waving by Eule Grey

Holding herself together. Being enough. Keeping her womb comfy.

The last street before the IVF clinic. One foot and then the next. Walk steadily, with a light step. Careful. Avoid any cracks in the pavement which could cause a stumble.

Breathe, breathe.

Don’t stare at number thirty-three. She can do it; she can do it. So sweet, though. Christmas teddy bears with hats and umbrellas. Kiddie windmills in the front garden. Glittery handprints glued to windows. A job for Mum when Christmas is over?

Should she knock on the door and say to use nail varnish remover to clear away the glue, like when her nieces painted Mum’s mirror? Her sister said it’d never work, but it did.

Nail varnish.

Shit! Last thing the doctor said was, “Remove nail polish. Embryos don’t like it.”

Stupid bloody nails. Red, Blue, Green. A turquoise little toe.

Breathe, breathe. Don’t get excited or upset. It could cause cramping, and then she’ll never be able to relax. It’s fine, all fine. She can pop into the chemist on the corner and buy nail varnish remover. The doctors will never know or have time to think she’s an unviable potential parent.

A chance in a lifetime, gone. All because she painted her toenails.

Breathe, breathe. Keep walking. Go into the chemist and buy nail polish remover. Don’t stare at teddy bears or snow fairies.

Holding herself together. Being enough. Keeping her womb comfy.


The nurse speaks too loudly. Almost, but not quite, entering the cocoon in which Marie has woven and encased herself. “Did you remove the nail varnish? Embryos don’t like it.”

“Yes. Yes, I did. Right before coming in. Had to pop in the chemist.” Marie’s voice sounds perfectly normal. Not like a woman waiting to be a parent. For two embryos and a new world to shoot into the soft flesh of her uterus.

If she laughs, it might never stop.

Worse—if she cries, if she cries, if she cries, it would interfere with the precious embryos and maybe convince them not to cling on. What kid wants a mum who bawled before the gubbins exited petri big bang?

Hurry up.

Get me preggers.

Get me preggers.

“Not long now,” the nurse ignores and assures. “Stop clenching. Don’t grind your teeth. Unscrew your toes. Remember to breathe.”

“Hah hah,” says Marie, preventing hysteria and a consequent crack of her perfect mother-to-be armour. Holding herself together. Being enough. Keeping her womb comfy.

Gill alternately folds her arms and rocks on her heels like police in a thirties film.

“Breathe,” Marie tells her. “Neigh. Juggle. Remember to unclench.”

Gill’s dangerous eyes. Sympathy, not mirth.

Marie hurtles down, down into the abyss. Twenty percent chance, five grand a go, not very likely, all a waste of time, and she could’ve mended the roof instead with the money.

The doctor carries the bomb. “Okay, Marie. Sharp scratch. Just relax now.”

She’s devoured the books so many times she knows the phraseology by heart, as if research could make any difference to her odds. Hours obsessing over booklets, yet she knows nothing. Those indolent hours on the sofa seem long ago, and anyway, statistics, fees, and alien words like ‘intracytoplasmic’ are as unlikely now as back then.

All she’s to do now is relax.

“Breathe properly. You’re hyperventilating. And grinding your teeth,” the nurse accuses.



Think. Imagine. A beach she’s visited many times with Gill and Mum, sisters, and little nieces. A magical place of rest and picnics, of restaurants and a bustling market. The sand, warm underfoot, the sea, azure blue. Floating birds and hazy timelines.

In—out—in—out. Back with the waves and birds, many miles from the sterile IVF clinic.

“Right now, Marie.”

She waits. Receives a flickering letter she didn’t expect yet can, nevertheless, rely on unconditionally. A genetic message sent by Grandmother’s mother and the ones before her.

You know what to do. Hold on.

“Now, Marie.”

The embryo journeys forth.

Rolling waves and seagulls. Caring women with strong hands spill, spill into her womb.

She catches it.

Holds it.

Gentles the blastocyst with golden sand warmed by generational sunbeams. Mum and Grandmother and the ones before her.


You know what to do. Hold on.

Later, the doctors would say, no, she couldn’t possibly have felt the impact of an infinitesimally small embryo, dive-bombing the lining of her womb.

She feels it land.

“That’s it. All done. Just draw your legs up and wait for ten minutes.”

She wraps the embryo in safety and images of the beach for more than ten minutes. In a suspended, forever time, she bargains with Grandmother’s mother, the ones before her, the particles of the universe, and each grain of sand on the beach.

“All right?” Gill asks. “You’re a bit pale.”

Marie doesn’t let go. Holding herself together. Being enough. Keeping her womb comfy.


For nine months, she doesn’t breathe or feel. Quite soon, there are appointments at the hospital in waiting rooms full of pregnant ladies. Like herself, but not. Never quite the same.

“How many weeks are you?” they ask with jealous, competitive eyes. They sit comfortably with their mums and aunties, while she, miles and an ocean away from kin. “You’re huge! Are you sure you’re not farther in?”

The months go past. Holding herself together. Being enough. Keeping her womb comfy. Wakes to the sounds of the beach and sleeps with the echoes of women’s voices. If she lets go a tiny bit, it’ll all fall through.

She feels it land.

It grows and becomes.

Tiny knees pressing out a shape.

Little hands waving.

Mum, Mum! I’m coming.

She doesn’t let go.


People in white appear and disappear from between her legs. “Forceps! Don’t stop pushing. You’re not pushing. Keep going. Push!”

“Baby’s gone back.”

She can’t let go. Holding herself together. Being enough. Keeping her womb comfy.

Nine months of living without emotions, an epidural, and no pain. Not even labour permeates the strength of Grandmother’s mother and the ones before her.

“Stop straining. If the needle comes loose, I’ll have to fit another one,” the midwife chastises.

“No need to shout,” Gill mutters, hair in sweaty spikes. Face, a mess. “She’s doing her best.”

“Push, Marie. Push!”

She tries to speak, but she can’t say the right words or any words, and then shouts incoherent phrases from a language she no longer remembers.

Holding herself together. Being enough. Keeping her womb comfy. Crashing waves on the beach, the beach, motherhood, and the sun.

She feels him land.

She doesn’t let him go.

She doesn’t



“Okay, Marie. We’ve got him out. Breathe. You can breathe now.”

“Hello, muffin,” Gill says. “Our muffin! You did it, Marie. He’s here, he’s here, he’s here.”

Finally, she can let go.

Eule Grey has settled, for now, in the north UK. She’s worked in education, justice, youth work, and even tried her hand at butter-spreading in a sandwich factory. Sadly, she wasn’t much good at any of them!

She writes novels, novellas, poetry, and a messy combination of all three. Nothing about Eule is tidy, but she rocks a boogie on a Saturday night!

For now, Eule is she/her or they/them. Eule has not yet arrived at a pronoun that feels right.

Twitter: @EuleGrey

Website: Eule Grey, author

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