Leap of Faith
Chapter 29: Labor of Love
Everything was ready, well everything except Sookie and me. There was no way to be ready for this. Everyone I talked to said being a first time parent was a little bit like trial by fire. The nursery was ready. We’d kept it the yellow and added zoo animal accents. Sookie had been thrown a couple of baby showers where she received unbelievable amounts of gifts, and I swear Soph and Thalia bought out an entire store with what they sent us. There were baby things stacked everywhere, and our room had been taken over by books about being pregnant and raising babies.
Sookie was off work and had been ordered to rest. It wasn’t mandatory bed rest, but she wasn’t supposed to work, and she needed to keep off her feet when she could. She spent a lot of time in the new recliner which we bought when we found out she would be off work with her feet up almost a month before her due date.
Early in her pregnancy we learned that we couldn’t agree on names for the baby, whether it was a boy or a girl. Sookie liked old fashioned names, like Gabriella or Spencer, while I liked more modern names Zoe or Brevyn. I liked that they were uncommon, like Sookie’s name, but she didn’t agree.
We spent evenings looking through the book of baby names. Sookie used a yellow highlighter to mark the names that she liked while I used an orange one. Eventually, we found a few names that were covered with both colors. It didn’t get any easier when we had the ultrasound and found out what we were having. I had a feeling we would be making the decision in the delivery room.
Sookie experienced what Pam called the regular pregnancy dramas. She had to buy new clothes and new bras, she eventually couldn’t tie her shoes or see her feet, she was exhausted but couldn’t sleep, her memory was shot, and she was constipated. Her breasts were humongous, which she hated and I was fully taking advantage of. ‘Morning sickness’ was a joke because she was sick all the time. She sucked on ginger candies, ate saltines and drank room temperature ginger-ale at all hours of the day. Throw in her pregnancy hormones, and it was a recipe for disaster, but we were taking it all in stride.
She had some real low points during her pregnancy, but from what I’d heard, it was to be expected. Around six months along she had a minor break down about not being able to eat sushi while we were in Shreveport getting supplies for the bar. We drove past her favorite Japanese restaurant, and I thought she was going to cry.
“What is it, Sookie?” I hadn’t even noticed that we’d driven past Shogun.
“Can we please stop so I can have some spicy tuna rolls?”
I realized where we were and that it wasn’t just an out of the blue question. “Sookie, you can’t have sushi. No raw fish.” She pouted. “You can have a California roll. That’s imitation crab. There’s nothing raw in those.”
“I don’t want a California roll.”
“Let’s stop and have teppanyaki. You love it when they cook at the table and they make that volcano with the rings of onion.”
“I want spicy tuna rolls.”
“I don’t want anything else. Just take me home.” She turned her head to look out the window, and I couldn’t see her face, but I heard sniffling. She didn’t say a word for the rest of the ride back to Bon Temps.
There were several other times throughout her pregnancy when I had walked in on complete train wrecks. In particular, rubbing lotion on her belly to prevent stretch marks seemed to set her off. She usually burst out crying, blaming me for ruining her bikini body and saying she would never be the same. I always ended up rubbing the lotion on for her and telling her that she was beautiful, and she always would be. I swore that I loved her exactly as she was, but promised that if she wanted any kind of surgery I would pay for it. That last bit had backfired on me a couple of times, but I never knew if it was a necessary statement on that particular day, so I threw it in there. I could usually cover my ass and backtrack if she flipped out over it.
Throughout her pregnancy, Sookie had been reading a series of novels about Dark Hunters that were sort of, but not really, vampires. I had flipped through one, and understood why she was generally horny after reading those books, so I didn’t complain at all. Actually, I’d never admit it to her, but I’d strategically placed them where she would find them throughout the day on more than one occasion. In the final months however, our sex life had slowed down. We did as much as we could, but there were times when she was just too uncomfortable and as she would say, absolutely not in the fucking mood.
We were less than a week away from her due date when I carried a plate into her in the living room. I brought her a glass of milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off. I had been dumbfounded over the outburst about bread crusts a month or so ago, but I went with the flow, and cut the crusts off every time now. She would most likely eat half of the sandwich and fall asleep before the milk was finished, but she didn’t seem to recognize the pattern and when I’d say, “You just want a half of whatever, right?” She’d tell me she was really hungry. We repeated the conversation several times a day with different meals.
“Oh thanks, Eric. I’m really hungry.”
I sat down with my own turkey sandwich. Sookie had sworn off cold cuts during pregnancy because of preservatives or something. Pam told her that she was being extreme, but Sookie didn’t mind giving them up. Coffee had been a major battle the first month or so, but then she just let it go and enjoyed hot water with lemon, which I thought was completely insane.
Indira had taken over as the bar manager two months ago, and things were going well. A former coworker of hers had moved up to Monroe and was now our assistant manager. Terry Bellefleur and I covered shifts for them to each have days off, and I spent most afternoons at the bar doing paperwork.
Since Terry was mostly a fill in bartender at Merlotte’s, he liked knowing that he’d work at least two days a week for me. I think Terry also liked working at the Dog House because we were both Veterans. Not that he didn’t like working for Sam, but Terry had a Patriotic streak a mile wide, and working at a place owned by another Vet was certainly positive in his eyes.
Having them help out had made a huge difference. Things had been such a whirlwind, moving back to Bon Temps and in with Sookie, then the bar opened, and we were pregnant. I was really enjoying being home with Sookie in the evenings, even if she was exhausted. I wanted to be a hands-on father, unlike my own, and was looking forward to having us being together as a family.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and I had finished everything I needed to at the bar first thing in the morning and was going to spend the afternoon with Sookie. I planned to rub her feet and let her watch as many chick flicks as she wanted. I had arranged with Tara to bring over fresh baked cookies from Mrs. Fortenberry and was already planning on running to the Dairy Queen to get her ice cream for dinner.
I was amazed by my wife every day and wanted her to know how much I loved and appreciated her. I had no idea going into this what kind of roller coaster being pregnant would be, for both of us, but we were on the downhill run and I couldn’t have been more excited and nervous and terrified all at the same time.
Sookie set her plate aside after finishing half of her sandwich. She arched her back and rubbed her hands over her sore muscles, then pulled herself forward in the chair before she tried to stand. She exhaled and grinned at me, knowing that I was poised and ready to help her if she fell, but I also knew she wouldn’t accept my help. She pushed off the arms of the chair and stood.
“Oh, my,” she gasped.
“What?” I said quickly.
“Um. I think I peed my pants.” She started to cry and I felt awful for her.
“It’s okay, bird. You just go change, and I’ll take care of it.”
“It’s not okay, Eric. I’m a grown woman and I just wet my pants.”
I sighed. “You really don’t have any control over it at this point. It’ll be better soon.”
“Oh, shut up. You have no idea what I’m going through.”
She was pouting, and I knew she wasn’t really mad at me. She took a step towards our bedroom, and suddenly the floor below her was wet.
“Shit, Sookie. I don’t think you peed your pants.”
We took my car to St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe because I couldn’t get in and out of the Vette anymore. We needed to buy another car, because you obviously couldn’t put a car seat in a Corvette, but Eric had been putting it off. He was keeping the Vette, but he still couldn’t bring himself to get anything else. Sometimes I felt like I was married to a child instead of getting ready to be a mother.
We went through triage in the Emergency Room, which even though my obstetrician had explained to me, seemed completely insane. They checked my vital signs and signed me into the E.R. before taking me to the labor and delivery unit. An O.B. nurse named Becki continued to interview me and then eventually, after what seemed like forever, she checked to see how far I was dilated.
“Oh, four and a half,” Becki said excitedly. “Looks like you’re delivering tonight.”
I was nervous, and this whole having a baby thing was new to me, but I could have told her that. My contractions had started in the car and were coming about four minutes apart before she got down to looking at my lady bits. Eric was rather pale, with sort of a shell shocked expression on his face.
“Eric, you okay?”
“What? Yeah. I’m fine.”
I wanted to laugh, he was anything but fine.
Becki talked to me about my birth plan, which was very simple, hook my ass up to every drug you have. She told me that since it was the weekend, the on call doctor from my obstetrician’s office was on the way. My regular doctor was a female, Dr. Ludwig, but Becki told us that Dr. Lee was on call. I had seen him for a couple of my monthly appointments, and I liked him just fine.
A few minutes later Becki came back and told us that Dr. Lee had asked her to call the anesthesiologist in so that we could get going with the epidural when I needed it. Pam highly recommended the epidural and told me whatever I did, not to look at the needle, just let the doctors do their thing.
Eric had been a little hesitant about my plan to be shot full of pain killers and nerve blocking agents, but after I explained that until he could physically experience pregnancy, labor and child birth, his concerns were considered, but mine won out.
Everything moved quickly once Dr. Lee arrived. He took a look and feel for himself, which made Eric all kinds of squirmy, and made me giggle, because I knew Eric was just freaked out by everyone getting between my legs. Dr. Lee said I was progressing nicely, and he’d be back to check on me later.
The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself as Dr. Dupont. He was close to Eric’s and my age, with a kind smile. He talked to us about risks involved with the procedure, but all I really heard was a lot of blah blah blah. I was distracted by the needle sitting on the surgical tray. I shouldn’t have looked. It was huge, and I’d heard that it hurt like hell, but I already hurt like hell every time I had a contraction. I had a fetal heart monitor strapped around my gigantic belly and an I.V. attached to my arm, so I couldn’t really move around when the pain hit, and really, I just wanted it to stop.
I signed the waiver and hugged my pillow while I leaned forward and Dr. Dupont lined that syringe up with my spine, and let me tell you, that was some amazing stuff. I moved back onto the bed so I was lying down and within no time, I couldn’t feel my body from my waist down. I took a deep breath and realized that I wasn’t feeling contractions any more. Becki and Dr. Dupont told me to relax and get some rest, and then left Eric and I to be alone for awhile.
Eric paced around the room and I took a nap. He was still pacing when I woke up about an hour later. We sat together talking about nothing at all. I think we were both still in awe that this was really happening. Eric looked a little pale, and I was worried about him freaking out, but he kept reassuring me that he was fine.
I wasn’t in pain, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable either, and the fact that I couldn’t move my legs was starting to freak me out. Becki came back into the room and checked to see how things were progressing. She seemed kind of surprised as she told us that I was dilated to ten, and she was going to get the doctor because it was time to start pushing.
She called for the doctor and began setting up some things on the other side of the room. Dr. Lee joined us and took a look at everything for himself. Becki finished what she was doing and came to stand on my side. Dr. Lee asked Eric to stand my other side near my hip, which made me happy, because I really didn’t want him to see what was going to happen down below.
Becki offered to tilt a mirror that hung on the ceiling so I could see what was happening, and I said something like, “Oh, hell no.”
Eric smiled and held my hand. When I had another contraction, Dr. Lee told me to push and we got down to business. I pushed and squeezed Eric’s hand while he and the nurse held my legs and Dr. Lee directed traffic, or whatever between my legs. I still couldn’t feel anything from the waist down really, so it was all pretty strange.
Becki watched the monitor and would say, “Here comes another contraction.”
Then I would push really hard and feel exhausted and fall back on the bed. The epidural wasn’t wearing off per say, but I was really beginning to feel the pressure and the stretching that my body was enduring.
Eric didn’t look good at all, and he had gotten quiet. Between contractions I asked if he was okay.
“I’m good. What about you?” He wiped some sweat from my brow with a cool damp cloth.
“You’re not good. You look sick. Do you need to sit down or something?”
“I’m fine, Sookie.” He laughed. “You’re hooked up to an I.V., you have a tube coming out of your back, and you’re numb from the waist down. You’re sweating like crazy and you can’t catch your breath. I’m fine but you’re scaring the hell out of me.”
Another contraction began before I could say anything. When I caught my breath before the next one started, I said, “Seriously, if you pass out I’m kicking your ass.”
“I’m not passing out,” he laughed and shook his head, flexing his fingers while I wasn’t clamping my hand down on them. He used his other hand to tuck some hair behind my ear and leaned down to kiss my cheek, “I just hate seeing you like this. I want to be able to make it better, and I don’t know what to do.”
“I’m fine, Eric. We may never have sex again, but I’m fine.”
I tried to smile at him, but got hit with a contraction. Dr. Lee started talking about seeing a head, and I thought maybe I was going to be the one passing out.
After the next push, Dr. Lee sounded excited as he said, “Just a little harder, that’s the nose pushing through.”
I looked at Eric and started to cry.
“What? Shit. Are you okay?” He was squeezing my hand and looking at Becki, who was patting my arm and telling me everything was fine. She was clearly on the same page with me, but it wasn’t fine.
My voice was rising as I started to panic, “That can’t be just a nose. It hurts so much. Jesus, there are still shoulders to come out!”
“It’s okay, Sookie. Just breathe.” He was trying to sound calm, but I could tell he wasn’t.
Dr. Lee chuckled from down below and another contraction came. He murmured words of encouragement, but I really had no idea what he was saying. I focused on Eric and his lips, watching them move as he told me over and over to push and breathe and that it would be okay. I couldn’t look at his eyes because he looked as terrified as I felt, and I couldn’t look at the nurse because, well, I just didn’t know her, so I stared at Eric.
After another push, the Dr. Lee said, “Okay, Sookie. This is it. One more push should do it.”
I watched the monitor and felt the tightening of my stomach and pushed for all I was worth. The pressure on my pelvis changed, and then suddenly disappeared.
“Perfect!” Dr. Lee called out. “It’s a girl!”
Becki wrapped her in a receiving blanket and wiped off a little of the white goop that was covering her before bringing her up by my chest. Eric was glassy eyed, looking at our daughter like he’d never seen anything so beautiful. I held her in my arms, deliriously happy and overwhelmed at the same time.
Eric kissed my forehead, “She’s beautiful and perfect, Sookie.”
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. “She looks like a Gabrielle. What do you think?”
“She does. Gabi it is.” He squeezed my hand and drew my eyes up to his. “I love you, Sookie. This, what you just did, was absolutely amazing.”
There was a lump in my throat, and all I could do was nod my head as tears spilled out of my eyes. Becki used our camera and took a picture of us holding Gabi, then asked quietly if she could take her to the other side of the room to be weighed and to run some routine tests. I nodded, and both Eric and I kissed her on the head before letting her go.
Eric was moving between standing by my side grinning and taking pictures of our daughter as Becki measured her and did basic tests.
Doctor Lee checked my vitals and made some adjustments on the computer that was right next to me. He smiled and patted my hand.
“Alright, Sookie, that was the easy part. Now that you’re tired out we get to do it all over again. Ready to deliver her sister?”
BWAHAHAHAHA! Yes, I’m well aware that I just dropped an massive cliffie. It is part of my evil plan for total domination. Just kidding.
Thanks so much for reading! I felt like Eric needed a little girl to twist him around her finger, and then I figured, what would make him seriously flip his shit? TWO!
And, according to Google, there really is a Shogun in Shreveport.