The Only Family I Need

Submitted into Contest #206 in response to: Write about someone facing their greatest fear.... view prompt


Drama Fiction Sad

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger Warning: This story mentions blood and the sensitive theme of multiple miscarriages and pregnancy loss.


Martha woke to pain resonating across her stomach. She had eaten hours earlier but now felt like she could throw up, nausea hitting her like a slap. She put a hand to her mouth to muffle a groan and eyed the door to the ensuite, her heart quickening.

Behind her, her husband Douglas was nestled to her back with his arm wrapped around her tummy.

Panic hit Martha—she didn't want Douglas to wake up. Her husband had been working overtime to prepare for a competition; she didn't want him to lose precious sleep. She tried to convince herself it was nothing—just a bug. 

Biting her index finger, Martha moved Douglas’s arm to sneak out of bed. Her pyjamas stuck to her sweaty skin felt damp and cold. When she stood, the world spun; she fumbled to hold on to the bedsheets and doubled over herself. 

The most painful jabs came in regular waves, maybe every two or three minutes, so she had the time to drag herself to the bathroom before it got painful again. Unable to stand up straight without dizzy spells, she supported her weight with one

arm, half crawling, half holding onto the furniture. She reached the door to the ensuite and grabbed the handle, then held on to it as she twisted it open and disappeared inside, locking the door. Having reached the toilet seat, she pulled down her underwear.

Bloodstains. No, ‘stains’ was an understatement. More bloodsoaked.

“Shit. I thought I had it three weeks ago?”

She sat on the toilet to examine the damage. Her underwear was already in the bin, but her pyjama bottoms, and even the top, also needed changing. The sweat was pumping out of her, and the pain fogged her mind. She had painful periods in the past, but never before did she experience such agony. 

A new throbbing wave washed through her, leaving her breathless. She hugged her core and rocked back and forth, muffling her groans as her teeth bit her bottom lip, her eyes squeezed shut. 

What was happening? She dared peek inside the toilet bowl and noticed how much blood was running into it. The pain was almost unbearable; she would've screamed if Douglas hadn’t been in the bedroom. 

Further pain caught her unprepared. She felt a gush of blood falling in the toilet; her hand reached for paper to wipe and stared in shock at the large blood clots she had just passed. Her heartbeat quickened. 

“Shit. This isn’t normal!” she mumbled. “I don’t think it’s my period.” 

She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth, trying to focus and make no noise. The last thing she needed was a worried husband panicking her further.


When the pain decreased, Martha allowed herself to think. This could be only one thing. Tears rolled from her eyes as the truth hit her like a brick. 

“I'm losing a baby, right?” she asked herself. In response, an even sharper pain ran through her core, and more blood fell into the toilet, along with something Martha didn’t want to identify. She didn’t want to look at it; it was too painful. Not physical pain — as soon as the something plopped in the toilet, her pain had subsided — but as she squeezed her eyes, pursed her lips and flushed the toilet, her soul felt empty. 

Almost hollow.

All Martha could do was cry, shower, change, and hope she had gotten up quickly enough to prevent blood from staining the bed sheets. Douglas didn't deserve this. She wasn't going to tell him. After all, she had read about it and knew that one in four pregnancies ended with a miscarriage.

“Next time, little one. Next time it’ll be okay.”

Next time wasn't okay. Nor many times after that. 

It didn't happen every month, but Martha lived in constant fear. She swore that some streaks of grey had appeared between the blackness of her long hair, and her skin had never been paler. Terrified that she could get iron deficiency with all the blood she

kept losing, she started taking over-the-counter iron supplements. This improved the black marks under her eyes but didn’t make her any less pale. 

She also started wearing pads, fearing that something would happen when she was out with Douglas or again while asleep. She lived with the dread of waking up nauseous, in pain and soaking a pad with blood. 

Yet, she kept trying. They had spoken about having a baby a couple of months before the first incident, and when the subject had come up, the joy in Douglas's gaze had been immense. 

“I always wanted kids. A big family,” he had said, a dreamy gleam flicking through the green of his eyes. “They’ll be so spoiled! I'll take them everywhere they want and get them anything that they'd ever wish for. You'll be a great mummy, my love.” 

She couldn't do that to him. He’d question whether they had to stop if he learned about her struggles. She didn't want to stop. She was sure that if she tried again, ate healthier, exercised more carefully…if she took vitamins, made charts...

“I know what's happening,” she told herself one night. 

A few nights before, Martha took a first response and saw two bold lines appear on the stick. She cried that night; it was the first time she saw the lines. Until then, she'd only gotten sick and bled.

She had booked an appointment with her GP to confirm pregnancy. She allowed herself to start scrolling pregnancy websites, typed the start date of her last period and saw the due date of the 6th of September of the following year. She dreamed of buying a little onesie, with cat ears on a little white hat, and the embroidering 'Papa loves meow' on the chest, to announce the pregnancy to Douglas. She knew Doug’s heart would’ve melted—Douglas loved cats so much that his pet name, from age 13, had always been ‘Kitten’. He also loved puns, so ‘Papa loves meow’ sounded like a perfect announcement.

Right? Wrong. 

A few days later, she took a fresh pregnancy test to discover that the two lines had vanished. Then, sure enough, the cramps had started. And the blood. And now she sat again on the toilet, crying all her tears.

“It must be my job,” she told herself. “It's my fault. My love for flying is killing my babies!”

Her sobs echoed in the small ensuite as she banged her fists against the cold tiles of the shower's walls, gushes of water splashing against her naked skin and washing away the blood. Again. 

The websites where she read about ‘cosmic radiations’ that could cause women’s fertility issues felt a little fishy, but it was the only reason her fogged mind could come up with to justify it. 

Her tears mixed with the shower water. “Why am I so unlucky? Two years of failed attempts. I'm losing hope….” Her sobs resounded for a long time in the shower before she felt well enough to return to bed.


Another few months passed; again, Martha took a pregnancy test to find the two lines glaring at her, clear and bright. They were pretty dark this time because Martha had been afraid and delayed taking the test. But she was three days late, so the temptation had been too big. 

She still didn't say a word. She waited and waited, afraid to book with the doctor in case the lines disappeared again. She lived in terror for three weeks, asking to be put on standby at work, finding every excuse not to put a foot on a plane. 

Eventually, she went to the doctor, who confirmed the pregnancy and scheduled her following visits. The more days passed, the more she thought of breaking the news to Douglas. She even ordered the ‘Papa loves Meow’ onesie.

However, everything went downhill at dawn on her first scan day. Once more, Martha woke up in pain. As soon as she opened her eyes, she recognised it. 

“Shiiiiit,” she hissed. She had decided only a couple of weeks ago to stop wearing pads, and now she could feel she was wet between her legs. After touching the area, she looked at her hand and saw bright red staining her fingers.

“Damn it!” She stood from the bed, grabbed her phone, crawled to the ensuite, and locked the door, kneeling in the shower. She turned it on, not even bothered that she still wore clothes and they were now getting soaked. She would have to dump them to hide the blood. 

She would have to do something about the bedsheets; large bloody stains wouldn't go unnoticed tomorrow morning. Douglas would find out; she couldn't allow that. He couldn't know.

“I didn’t fly even once. Why? I didn’t fly even once….” She hugged her middle section and groaned, doubled down on herself and caught a glimpse of her body in the bathroom’s mirror—the sight frightened her. She was covered in blood and soaking wet, sitting on her knees in the shower, her fingers leaving bloody fingerprints

all over her face as she cried. 

With trembling hands, she grabbed her phone from the floor, where it slipped off when she locked herself in the bathroom. Her fingers felt numb as she shook her way into her contacts and called her best friend. When Sama’s tanned face and reassuring smile appeared on the screen, Martha felt relief washing through her. 

Relief that didn’t last long.

“Martha?” Sama’s sleepy voice asked from the speakers of her phone. Martha didn’t feel the strength to explain. She switched to the back camera and pointed it at the bathroom mirror. Her friend’s gasp resounded like a slap in the small room, where only the regular sound of the water dripping out of the shower filled the silence. “Oh no! Where’s Douglas?”

“I can't tell him!” She sobbed. “He’d think I'm not good enough for him…”

Sama's frown morphed into compassion in the snap of a finger. “Nope, Martha. I won’t allow you to keep hurting yourself.” Shaking like a leaf, she gave her best friend a severe frown and hung up the phone to dial Douglas’s number.

“Uh, I'm awake, I'm awake…” Douglas yawned. He fumbled on his phone, pushing on the screen in a failed attempt to snooze the offending sound. When he realised the phone kept ringing and wasn’t his alarm, he switched the light on, grabbed it, frowned at Sama’s ID on the screen and turned on the call. When Sama’s face appeared, he mirrored her frown. 

“Sama? What’s up? It’s three in the morning!” He eyed his alarm on Martha’s bedside table. “Where’s Martha?” he added when he saw her spot in bed empty, not expecting Sama to have a clue. 

“That’s why I called you; sorry to wake you up, but—” Sama mumbled. He flashed his eyebrows, pulled the blankets to get up, and noticed the stains.

“I’ll call you later.” He hung up, dropped his phone, dashed out of bed, and darted his gaze around until he saw the light switched on in the ensuite. 

He banged his fist on the door. “Martha! Are you okay?”

“Uh,” she said from inside. “Go back to sleep.”

His heart pumped in his throat. “Why is there blood on the bed sheets?” 

“I'm goo—” As she said that, her words turned into groans and the next thing Douglas heard, she was screaming.

“Martha!” He crashed his shoulder against the door and moved the handle, trying to get in. “Fuck, it's locked! Martha, hold on!” He ran a hand through his hair and thought of knocking the door down, but then he remembered that they had recently changed the locks.

“I’ll get a coin!” Oblivious to Martha’s pleas, he ran to the bed and rummaged into his pockets until his hand emerged holding a 20-pence coin. He smiled at it as if he had just found the treasure at the rainbow’s end. A few rushed steps back, and he burst inside the bathroom.

Only to freeze on the spot and look at Martha, eyes wide. His hand ran to his mouth, his body dashing towards his wife inside the shower. His arms wrapped around her shoulders, oblivious to the water from the shower soaking his hair and clothes and the blood staining his pyjamas and skin.  

“What's happening, my love?” he whispered. “Where's all this blood coming from?”

“You shouldn’t have seen this,” she sobbed against his chest. “Every other time…”

Her comment made Douglas gasp. “Has this happened before?” he asked. 

Martha screamed again and curled herself in his hold. “I'm sorry, Daah—Douglas. I didn't want you to find out.”

“Why? How many times did you go through this?”

“Two years…” Martha groaned and let out a low growl, panting and wiping the water off her forehead. “Almost every fucking month.” 

Douglas took in the clots running down the ceramic tiles of the shower, the blood, and Martha’s screams; his eyes widened. He leaned in, covering his screaming wife and wrapping her into a hug. “Why didn't you tell me? Hadn't we decided we were going to tell each other everything?”

“Why should I have told you?” she shouted. Then her glare turned into a pleading look. She paused a long time, her eyes shut and her whole frame shaking. “I'm sorry. I was hoping that, eventually, one would stick. I didn't want to worry you…” But as he heard her saying that, he saw her gaze dart everywhere to avoid his. 

“Something tells me you’re lying, Freckles. What are you hiding from me? I thought you didn't love me anymore; it broke my heart. Please talk to me.”

Martha winced at the pet name but didn’t have the strength to complain. She held onto him for dear life, uttered a louder groan as ‘something’ sploshed into the toilet, and finally relaxed in his hold. 

She hugged him tight, deep sobs shaking her frame. He tried to look in the bowl, but she held him stronger.

“Please, don’t. I'm so sorry, Kitten. When we discussed starting a family, I saw how delighted you were. And I tried! I don't know what's wrong. I thought it was my job, and I was ready to give up on it to give you the family you crave and deser—”

He stopped her by lifting her chin to look her in the eye. “You wanted to do what?”

“Quit my job.” She saw he was trying to speak and put a pale finger on his tanned lips. “I know. I haven't flown once this time. It must be something different.”

He stiffened and looked down, his Adam's apple bobbing. “D-do you think's -my fault? Because I'm—”

“I don’t think so,” she cut him off. “It's not your fault, not for the reason you think. There are thousands of male athletes who are fathers.” She felt him relax in her hold. “Silly Kitten,” she whispered. “You know I would still love you anyway.”

He sighed and kissed her forehead. “Me too, Martha. So why was it so scary to tell me about it?”

She blushed. “I…was afraid.” She bit her bottom lip. “T-that I wouldn't be good enough for you.”

His hold on her shuddering form grew tighter. “It's me who doesn't deserve you, my love.” His lips pushing against her forehead muffled his words. “You’re so cold, you poor thing!”

He looked her in the eye and smiled. “Now let's remove these clothes, shall we, and get you changed. I’ll take care of what’s in the toilet, don’t worry. Do you want to go to the hospital now?” He saw her shaking her head and dropped a kiss on her forehead. “We'll go in the morning, then. We must get you checked out.”

Once they put fresh pyjamas on, their hair towel dried, and their bedsheets changed, Douglas picked Martha up bridal style and placed her into bed, tucking her in and kissing her. Then, he crawled back into bed, hugging her tight from behind and kissing her still damp hair. 

“We'll find a way. We’ll go to a doctor and get checked up. You can take a career break but don't give up on your job. It's your dream! And as you said, it happened even without you flying this time.”

She grabbed his hands and held them tight. “Thank you, Kitten. I love you so much!” Her hold on his hands grew tighter when he kissed her. 

“I love you too, Freckles. Never think again that you're not good enough for me.”

“What if...there's no solution?” she asked after a long pause. “If we can't have kids?” 

He hugged her again tighter. “There are other options, depending on what's wrong. Worst case scenario, we can adopt.”

Martha gasped and got out of his hold to look at him wide-eyed. “Are you sure?”

He smiled a smile that reached his eyes and made them sparkle in ways that released a kaleidoscope of butterflies in her belly. “Positive. Whatever happens, I'll give my family all I’ve got, whether it comes from us or not. And if it will be only us, my love, that's also okay.” He chuckled, lost in his thoughts. “We could...have two or three cats if everything else fails. We could call them—”

But he didn't finish his sentence because she was asleep, and her breath gently tickled his neck. 

“I'm so lucky to have you, Martha. My love, my family, my world.” He felt her cuddling more tightly on his chest and sighed. As long as they were together, he had everything that he needed. 

Because all he needed was her.

July 15, 2023 01:27

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Michał Przywara
01:23 Jul 19, 2023

Definitely a horror situation! That opening is intense. Normally describing a move-by-move account of what a character is doing is a little risky in a written story, but here it works because she's in crisis and each bit ups the tension. Of course the other horror in this story, the non-physical one, is that she kept this to herself. Her fear is understandable, if not justified. She's paralyzed in a way, wondering how it's her fault, what she could change. It *being* her fault is in a way comforting, because that means she has some measure ...


10:55 Jul 20, 2023

Thank you so much! This story comes from a partially autobiographic experience, so it's really dear to me. I'm glad her fear, dilemma and reasons have shone through! It *is* a truly horrific situation to be in, and my heart goes to all the girls who face similar situations on a monthly basis. It did happen to me (not as many times as to Martha, but it did), and it's one of the most heartbreaking things in the world. As soon as I read "greatest fear", I knew I had to write this. Thank you so much for your kind comment!


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