Three more contractions in the 7 minute drive laden with stop lights that I couldn’t completely ignore because of my passengers. Precious cargo…
Fifteen minutes waiting in the ER for a Labor and Delivery nurse to come to collect Sookie. Because we couldn’t possibly find the wing on our own…
Five minutes on elevators and winding through the halls while Sookie complained that the wheelchair was ‘a bit much’…
And the girls still seemed as calm as ever in my arms. If anything, they were over stimulated, but enthusiastic. The only reason for their mood was that they were blissfully ignorant to how much could go wrong.
I was directed to wait in ‘Triage 3’ while Nurse Eugenie helped Sookie to an outside restroom to change… I put the girls on the chair next to the bed and had to keep myself from pulling my hair out.
Sookie walked back on her own, smiling and holding her gown closed in the back as she explained to the nurse, “…He didn’t want to wait, but considering my track record, I just wanted to be mobile as long as I could.” As soon as Sookie stopped talking her teeth started to chatter.
Eugenie helped Sookie position on the bed and began strapping devices to her in a controlled rush. No doubt, she’d taken the exact steps hundreds of times.
Sookie explained each item, some of it was as much for me as Tina and Shelly… a pulse oximeter was clipped to Sookie’s finger. A blood pressure cuff was put around her arm. One long elastic band was used to hold a tocometer to her stomach. Another band was used to affix a transducer.
The nurse started the machine that was to take Sookie’s blood pressure and flipped a few switches on a cart full of equipment that included a flatscreen showing Sookie’s heart rate… as the blood pressure cuff inflated, a rhythmic sound suddenly filled the room making Sookie and the girls smile. I was the only one at a loss… Sookie had said that the tocometer would record the baby’s heart rate, not amplify it.
It was the most peculiar and incredible sound I’d ever heard… and if it wasn’t for my infatuation with Maggie’s heartbeat, I might not have had the patience to wait for Eugenie to evaluate the gauges and readouts.
Eugenie turned to Sookie with her hands on her hips. “Well, I’ll bet you a box of chocolates that you’re still in active labor. Shivering early isn’t uncommon. No contractions in 10 minutes, probably from moving around so much and everything else looks good… We’ll check to see how dilated you are then we’ll know where we are.” We. We because she was going to have another human emerge from her body in the next few hours. Sure. We.
Sookie rolled her eyes and laid her head back on a plastic coated pillow while Eugenie left the room to get something. “At least I didn’t wait too long. I’m pissed that I overreacted, but…” She reached over and grabbed my hand. “Sorry I worried you.”
“We were coming here anyway.”
“We could’ve gotten here without me giving you a panic attack.” She was shaking fiercely and her eyes were starting to well.
“Do you need anything?”
She found it in herself to smile. “I might ask for a massage once we get settled. My back is killing me… I’m ok right now though. Thanks.”
“Can anything be done to reduce the shaking?”
She shook her head. “Go limp. I tried to fight it when I was in labor with Tina. I was sore for days after…”
Sookie didn’t have the chance to finish before Pam walked in without bothering to knock first. I’d been too preoccupied to realize she was so close. Saying I was relieved to see her was an understatement… the panic she was feeling was only her immediate reaction to the news of Sookie’s labor… once she had facts, finite details I could base my panic on hers since she knew more about medicine.
Sookie blurted, “Oh, thank God! I would’ve had Eric hold my knees together if you weren’t here in time.” She might’ve asked.
Pam went directly to the monitors tracking Sookie’s condition. “Progress?”
Sookie shrugged. “We’ll find out in a minute. The nurse doesn’t think I’m in transition though. I’m too calm.”
“When did your waters break?”
Sookie shook her head. “It hasn’t yet.”
Pam raised her eyebrow in my direction. “How do you not smell that?” Industrial grade cleansers, blood and every imaginable bodily fluid, the traces of droves of Humans, fear…
“Smell what? We’re in a hospital. I’m intentionally not sampling the air.”
“Amniotic fluid… it’s… it smells like the beach at low tide. Salty, musky… even that about Sookie is different though. Less musk, more rain-like. ” As Pam described it, I realized that I’d been smelling it since we left Toys R Us. Shit. Again, because of our company, I hadn’t been paying attention. We were in a public place, in the company of Weres and rain was already in the forecast. Fuck. “Sookie, have you been to the bathroom recently?”
“Right before Eric called you and a few minutes ago when I got into this stunning gown. I had to give a urine sample. Are you sure it’s me? Someone else’s water could’ve broken in here. I mean if we were somewhere else I’d…” Pam began rifling through the drawers on the cart. “…but the odds of smelling broken water on the L&D wing are pretty high.” Pam hadn’t found what she’d been looking for.
“There doesn’t seem to be any pH strips to find out for sure. They might not be used anymore… We’ll see. It’s faint, but it’s recent… Have you stopped contracting?”
Sookie sighed and nodded. “And I need you to kick me in the head when this is all over. Poor Eric had a heart attack.”
Pam’s eyebrow went up again, but Sookie was the victim that time. “You’ve been having steady contractions for more than 12 hours and they’ve suddenly stopped? While you’re showing signs of being in transition? And you’ve at least sprung a small leak in your waters?”
“Since 7ish, so 16 hours. Yeah…”
“What is your nurse’s name?”
“Eugenie…” Pam was gone before Sookie was uttering the last syllable. Sookie squeezed my hand and tugged my arm, looking more upset than she had all evening. “Eric? Is she panicking? If she’s freaking out…”
“She’s furious.” I hadn’t even needed to look for Pam’s emotions. She was pushing them to me.
“She’s… Oh hell…”
After a moment, Tina giggled, “She’s witha nurse… What’s ‘resting phase’?” Good question.
Sookie’s eyes widened so quickly, panic was the only option for me.
“It’s right before pushing… like a short break…” She let go of my hand to cover her face. “I’ve never had one before because of the induction drugs.”
Sookie started freeing herself from the monitors and left the bed making the girls laugh and remind her that the gown wasn’t fastened. She combined holding it closed with bracing her back as she paced the confines of the tiny room.
After a few laps, Sookie began mumbling that Pam had to be wrong, that Pam was going from textbooks, the resting phase was just as possible that labor had stalled when she got off of her feet…
A minute or two later, after more quiet ranting, Sookie paused to look at me. “See. There. Another one… Eric, call Pam back before she hurts someone. I was just stalled.”
“Either way, your nurse needs to be aware of possibilities. Your water breaking changes things.”
She grimaced as she went back to pacing. “Okay… can you make her calm down or something though? I don’t want her to get kicked out of the hospital.”
I did my best to sooth Pam’s nerves since mine were a lost cause while I watched Sookie rock. “Is there any way for me to convince you to get back in bed?”
“I’m afraid it’ll stop again. Just until Pam’s…”
Another interruption… that time in the form of Lafayette. He winked at me as the door swung shut behind him. “I saw your girlfriend at the nurses’ station… way to wait until the last minute, Baby.”
Sookie shook her head. “It’s not last minute. Pam’s just worried that it could’ve been because I stopped having contractions for a while. They’re back now that I’m on my feet again.”
“I was neck and neck with Calvin and Sam on the highway until Sam got pulled over. They won’t be long… How far are you dilated?”
“Dunno. I haven’t been checked yet.”
“Then get on the bed long enough for me to do it. I’ll run out and tell Pam to chill when I have a number.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes and growled on her way back to the bed while Lafayette took a latex glove from a dispenser on the wall.
If I’d have known… “You can do that?”
He leaned to peak around me at the girls. “When Miss Shell over there was scaring us, Sookie had a sympathetic nurse. Since she’s all the way in the sticks, I got a lesson to save us a trip or two to Minden.”
He sat on the side of the bed and lifted the sheet… his hand was only under it for a few seconds before Sookie shouted, “NO!”
Lafayette snorted and got up, snapping the glove from his hand and making a bee line for the door. “Ima get Pamzilla now.”
She repeated, “NO!” and reached under the sheet… She got another laughed reminder from the girls about the open gown when she struggled to leave the bed. Her pacing was more erratic than before.
“Sookie, I need to hear words.”
“I don’t feel like… Oh God… ” I had to dart over to catch her when her knees buckled, barley getting my arms around her shoulders in time to keep her from hitting the floor. She groaned and hissed, gripping my arms with more strength than I was using to keep her upright.
“Talk to me. Explain.”
She heaved out a long breath before she started, “I don’t feel like I should be this far along.”
“How far along are you?”
She whimpered, “Crowning.”
“The baby is about to arrive and you decided the best course of action was to leave the bed?” Nevermind the question of how the fuck she was able to leave the bed at all, let alone stomp around like she had.
“But… life would be easier for you if I’d come to the hospital earlier. An epidural would’ve taken away my legs.”
“Are you in enough pain that you’d have asked for one?”
She shook her head even though another contraction was starting.
“Then you’d be unruly and restless in any case, yes?”
Breathing deep as she was, she still giggled slightly. “Smart ass.”
“I guess that makes us even?” Completely.
“Am I going to have to hold you down to keep you in the bed?”
“You’re flirting with me NOW?” When she started laughing, I did too.
I took a step, slowly persuading her towards the bed. “Now who’s the smart ass?”
“I don’t want to get back in the bed yet.”
“I’ll repeat my earlier question… Do you intend to walk around until Maggie falls out? I’m sure that method would be common if it were possible or safe.”
“I’m afraid it’ll stop again.”
“Knowing that you really were in the resting phase and not just ‘stalled’, why would you worry about that?”
“I just don’t want to… I’m happy like this.” As her next contraction started, her grip on my arms tightened.
“Can I make an offer?”
She had to struggle to reply, “You… can… give it… a shot.”
“If I’m assuming correctly, you could deliver within the next hour, yes?”
She breathed, “Yeah.”
“That will give you several hours before dawn to be monitored. If you and Maggie are healthy, then I’ll take you home with me, to recover in the comfort of your own home.”
She loosened her hands slightly and cleared her throat as her contraction waned. “What’s your price?”
“When Pam barges back into the room, you’ll go to the bed without argument until you deliver…” I whispered the rest, “…and when we get home, you take a little of my blood.”
“Why the blood?”
“Not enough to heal you completely, but enough that you can get around without hurting yourself.”
“Why not just do a complete healing then?”
“Because if your body doesn’t remember that you had a baby, then it isn’t likely to produce milk either.”
“Shit. Good point.”
“To clarify… oh shit…” She tried her hardest, but that contraction was too painful for her to talk through and, exactly as I’d thought, I was powerless to help. By the time it had passed, she was panting. “To clarify, Pam barks, I go to bed, deliver the baby, Maggie and I are healthy, we go home before dawn, and you die for the day while I bask in freedom and soft sheets.”
She’d finished just in time for me to say, “That’s my offer,” as Pam and Lafayette returned with a doctor and two nurses.
Pam gasped dramatically. “Get. In. Bed!”
Sookie took her first step towards the bed as she said, “Eric was just helping me…” We had to wait for another contraction to pass before I could let go to turn her around and as I helped her lift her legs to the bed, she was smiling. “Deal.”
Since the girls had seen so few contractions, they seemed to take everything in stride. Concerned, but far from panicked.
It only took the random doctor snatched from the corridor a moment to confirm that Lafayette had been right about Maggie’s insistence.
Sookie was in the middle of another contraction when the doctor asked us all to leave in the interest of available room. She puffed and panted, holding her finger in the air while the nurses adjusted the bed for delivery. Shelly was at ease enough to jokingly call it a ‘Tran-former bed’.
“If they leave, I leave with them. Figure out how to do it with spectators or wheel me out to the hallway.”
The doctor argued, “Mrs. Merlotte… if you try to leave, you will deliver in the hallway.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “I just gave you that as an option. Are you the token retard your med school HAD to accept?”
“There’s no need to be rude…”
“That wasn’t rude. If I was being rude, I’d have told you with a face like yours, you should’ve been a proctologist…” Even the nurses snickered and Sookie began taking deeper breaths and gritting her teeth as another contraction came. “Figure. It. Out. Assface.”
Sookie growled, forcing herself to keep talking in spite of the pain. “Lafayette’s on 1st. Eric is shortstop with the girls on third. Dr. Assface is catching and Pam is the ump because she’s got the video camera…” Reasonable enough.
The doctor shook his head and sighed, realizing he wasn’t going to win… Pam and Lafayette shouted, “PLAY BALL!”
As Sookie pushed, lifting her back from the bed by borrowing a hand from me and Lafayette, the girls counted to ten for her… She barely had the chance to gasp for air between attempts before the doctor urged her to push again…
On Sookie’s fourth push, the doctor stopped everything as the girls reached 7…
Sookie fell back to the bed, panting, grinning at the girls, thinking something that made them giggle.
Somehow, the sudden stillness in the room was more needling than the anticipation of Sookie’s pushing. The doctor finally said, “Let’s see what one more gives us. Whenever you’re ready.”
After taking a few more breaths, Sookie sat up as she pushed and between the chanted 8 and 9, I watched Sookie deflate. Her stomach quaked and shrunk, virtually disappearing before Sookie crashed back to the bed with a euphoric smile on her face.
The tiny room was suddenly rank with the smells of amniotic fluid (I could finally put a name to it) and the overpowering sweetness of Sookie’s blood… and the girls nearly fell from the chair they’d been standing on, trying to sneak a look at their little sister.
“Um.” Pam, not one to EVER be at a loss for words, had actually said ‘um’ as though it was it was a complete thought. Since she was pathologically and precociously verbose, the way she leaned over the doctor’s shoulder as he worked and squinted, was even more troubling… She repeated, “Um… Sookie?”
Sookie lifted her head, curiously raising an eyebrow. “Are you about to tell me you’re straight after witnessing that?”
Pam shook her head. “I’m uh… uh…”
The doctor interrupted, “I’m trying to get him to you. He just doesn’t want to cooperate with being suctioned.”
“HE!?” Pam was the only one of us who didn’t ask.
The doctor looked up from what he was doing. “You were expecting another girl?”
“Yeah. I had two ultrasounds…”
“Then this little guy was being shy.”
Sookie stared at the doctor for a moment, before she started giggling. “Oh I get it… Good one, Pam.”
Pam looked surprised. “Good one?”
“You got the doctor to say that. Ha ha. Payback’s a bitch. I shouldn’t have teased you about…”
I wasn’t interested in waiting for the ensuing debate over pranking each other. I reached over to move the drape covering Sookie’s legs so that I could see for myself. “Sookie…”
“Are you still going to name him Maggie?”
She studied my face for a moment before she whined, “But everything I bought is pink.”
“Then we’ll need to go shopping.”
“I need to pick a new name.”
“You’ll think of something.”
She closed her eyes to take a deep breath, while her grin came back. “A boy?”
“Confirmed. There’s no mistaking it.”
The doctor stood up, finally placing the baby on Sookie’s chest. “A big one. Over 8 pounds.” Stunning was the only word that came to mind.
Stunning fit both of them.
He was beautiful in his own right, closely resembling Shelly’s newborn photos. Tight little fists and a serious expression…
But Sookie… bright eyed as ever, smiling and chatting in seemingly full health after having done something so extraordinary… something that withered or ended some women, drained or scarred them… Yet Sookie was carrying on as though she hadn’t just been in crippling pain.
Sookie had me put the girls on the bed so they could have the honor of cutting their brother’s umbilical cord… it slipped away from the blade of the scissors three times before they let me help them. Who knew they were so sturdy?
The girls settled on their knees next to Sookie to coo over ‘Baby No Name’ until the neonatologist arrived to take him to the nursery.
Pam followed, taking the girls to watch him get his first bath and Lafayette went along to give news to Norris and Merlotte on his way.
The nurses annoyed Sookie by fussing over details. Each request was met with a roll of Sookie’s eyes, but in order to get what she wanted from me, she had to do as she was told. It didn’t keep her from sticking her tongue out at me though.
Her blood pressure was fine. Her body didn’t seem to be damaged by the delivery in any disconcerting way. No fever. No confusion. No requests for pain killers.
The only mention Sookie made was that sitting up was much easier when she was being ‘forced’ to use the restroom.
She wasn’t exaggerating either. Not only had sitting up been effortless, but her waddle was missing.
While Baby No Name was in the nursery Sookie was moved to a comparatively sprawling room. She debated against the move since she wasn’t planning to stay at the hospital, but since there was still the possibility of problems, I won her half hearted debate, but she insisted on walking instead of surfing the hallway on a rolling bed when she felt fine.
When Eugenie left to retrieve paperwork, Sookie snuck into the private bathroom to wash the ‘yuck’ away from her legs and when the nurse returned with a stack of forms for Sookie to complete and the promised box of chocolates, Sookie was waiting for the motor to lower the bed to lay flat.
Eugenie furrowed her brow. “You should sit up. It’ll help your circulation.”
“I’m impatient…” She moved to lay on her stomach, stretching out. When she was upright, there was still swelling, but as it was she was so tiny she nearly disappeared into the mattress. She mumbled into the bed, “Do you know how long it’s been since I could do this?”
Eugenie gave a chuckle in my direction. “Is there any way to control her?”
Sookie’s head shot up from the mattress. “Ooh. Those will be awesome now that I can lay down for them.”
I nodded instead of letting myself think about how much more miserable I’d be during them. “We could have a threesome as soon as we get home.”
Sookie cackled into the mattress when she saw the mortified look on Eugenie’s face.
The nurse tried to shake off her embarrassment by getting back to business. “Paperwork… admissions, neonatal testing, circumcision…”
Sookie held her hand out, having no intentions of leaving her comfortable position. “Don’t believe in it and we’re going to need discharge paperwork too. We need to leave here no later than 4:30. You should tell the nursery to do all the screening they can before then and to fax the results to my pediatrician.”
“You… I… Hospital policy… I…”
Sookie didn’t look up from the form she was looking at. “Verbs are a particular favorite of mine. Would you like to use one?” It was nice to see the sass wasn’t just for my benefit.
“You don’t want to have the baby circumcised?”
“No. Next question.”
“But it’s cleaner and…”
“Private decision. My son. My son’s foreskin. My call. All done. Moving on.”
The nurse gaped for a moment before changing the subject as ordered. “Why are you leaving?”
“Because I want to recover at home. I have no love for long hospital stays after the miserable labors and deliveries I’ve already had. Other than being taken by surprise by how fast things went, I had a dream delivery. Eric’s taking me home so I can have a dream recovery to go with it… barring something unforeseen that can’t be tended to with a follow-up with the pediatrician or OB, of course. Keep in mind that I have a nurse at home who knows what a resting phase is even though she only did one OB rotation and it was 10 years ago. Next.” The woman looked like she’d been hit when Sookie mentioned what she missed.
“Why didn’t you deliver at home then?”
“I was too chicken to plan it without drugs. You live, you learn. Next.”
“The hospital prefers to keep mothers for 24 hours. The lactation consultant won’t be in before…”
“The hospital might prefer to keep mothers for 24 hours, but I can manage without someone telling me when to pee. And I can’t believe that you just said ‘lactation consultant’ with a straight face.” I put my fist over my mouth to hide that I was so close to laughing. I was starting to wonder if her mood was a side effect of her hormones or if her air of authority was part of the ‘go-getter’ description Norris had given me.
“Why are lactation consultants funny to you?”
“Not them. You. You’re a little bold to think I’m automatically planning to breastfeed. Some moms don’t or can’t for whatever reason… And you’re overlooking my older two children who obviously didn’t starve to death. I know how to breastfeed. I know how to use my pump. I’m solid. If I have problems this time, then I’ll call my OB. Was there anything else or do you want to follow me around and second guess all of my parenting choices?”
“Uh… no… I guess that’s it…”
“Good…” Sookie held the pile of forms out to Eugenie after tearing one into bits and setting it on top. I assumed it was the one regarding circumcision. “Where did you stick my purse when you moved my stuff?”
Eugenie bit her lip for a moment before she turned to open a small cabinet and set Sookie’s purse on the bed next to her. “Can I get you anything? Hungry? Thirsty?”
Sookie pulled her phone out and went to work on whatever task had come to mind. “Lemme guess, liquid diet for a while to make sure I won’t be sick.”
“I can bring you some ginger ale.”
“I’m good thanks. I’ll eat when I get home.”
“You should take it easy though. If you get sick, you could aspirate.”
“No gag reflex.” She didn’t look up. It was probably better that way given that I was too busy thinking about the possibilities to control my expression right away.
“I was really popular in high school.”
I couldn’t help it. I finally laughed. “Sookie, behave.”
“What? You know it’s true. All the ‘blow jobs’ I’ve given you, I haven’t gagged once.”
Since Eugenie didn’t know that ‘blow job’ was our inside joke, our excuse to have a private conversation in my office while we were at Fangtasia, she practically ran from the room with her face glowing.
I glared at Sookie, not that she noticed since she’d turned her attention back to her phone. “That wasn’t nice. You embarrassed that woman.”
“You started it by mentioning threesomes. Besides, she seemed to need some encouragement. She was thinking of excuses for me to stay here.”
“Did you have to be so graphic?”
“You’re not allowed to fuss about it until you stop picturing it.”
“You saw that?”
She started giggling, “Didn’t have to… Busted.” Fuck.
Changing the subject… “What are you doing?”
“I texted everyone relevant that I had the baby and now I’m searching for a name for the little man.”
“I think I might just call him Maggie. I’m used to it.”
“I found a list of cruel baby names. I’m submitting ‘Sookie’ to see how many votes it gets.”
“So is Uranium. I wouldn’t name a baby that either.”
“Fair enough… I’m still calling him Maggie.”
She started giggling again. “I think that might be considered child abuse.”
“You haven’t settled on anything and I refuse to call him Baby No Name.”
“Shorten it. Call him Nome.”
“You’ve clearly lost your mind. I’ll have Pam make a list.”
She laughed, “Don’t you dare. She’d pick Fendi or McQueen.”
“Or Foghorn, or Daffy…”
She dropped her head to the mattress to laugh again. “We’ve gotta stop… the poor baby doesn’t have a name and we’re making jokes.”
“You’ve earned the right to laugh. You did save his foreskin.”
Her whole body shook while she laughed and called me a bastard for ruining her concentration.
She was leaving the bathroom when everyone returned from the nursery…
Pam was snarling at Merlotte in spite of her excitement while Lafayette and Calvin jokingly called the baby Moose because he weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces… more than a pound over his sisters’ birth weights. Sookie credited eggnog waffles for his mass.
Since the staff was being hostile about visitors being on the floor so late, everyone was coming by to say their goodbyes. Lafayette and Calvin hugged and kissed Sookie on their way out, leaving Pam and the girls to moan over not wanting to leave even though we’d be seeing them in just a few hours. It was cute that Tina and Shelly were reluctant to leave their brother.
Instead of following suit, Merlotte took Maggie from his bassinet and sat on the sofa.
I don’t know why I would’ve thought he’d catch on and leave like everyone else, but it was still galling that he was so oblivious.
Sookie tried to be a good sport. She explained that she was going home in a few hours… She offered to meet him at Fangtasia on Tuesday night for a visit. She agreed to letting him host a baby shower Thursday night.
She was far more charitable than Merlotte had the right to expect.
After giving him an extra half an hour to visit with Maggie, she left the bed and calmly took the baby from him, told him she’d see him Tuesday and let him know as soon as she decided on a name… she used being tired as an excuse to ask him to leave.
He didn’t seem like he wanted to disappear, but he left without incident. Sullen, but compliant.
Sookie put the baby in the middle of the bed and laid down with him, propping herself up on her elbows and unswaddling him enough to play with his hands while she asked him what name he wanted, running through name after name…
She wasn’t allowed to play for long before Eugenie returned. Sookie needed to be poked and prodded again, blood work needed to be done, and Eugenie had brought a registrar along so that Sookie could take care of the birth certificate.
While Sookie made no secret of how annoyed she was at the interruption, Maggie was handed to me…
The last time I’d held a newborn, it was my own child and somehow the experience wasn’t any less powerful.
Feeling his heartbeat through the blanket, the rush of air circulating through his lungs as he slept, entirely defenseless and so untainted…
I was dangerously close to being defeated by the concentration of perfection and possibility in my hands when I heard the registrar reading the completed forms.
“Magnusson Stackhouse Merlotte…”
I interrupted, “Sookie, I was joking…”
She giggled, “It’s a good, strong name. He’ll beat our asses if we try to call him Maggie around his friends, but I’ve been calling him Maggie for 5 months. He’s already used to it.”
“Used to it?”
“Out of all the names I asked him about, telling him to pick one or he was going to be called Maggie was the only time he reacted…”
I understood, at least partially, what kind of ‘reaction’ Sookie meant, but the nurse argued that it was only a coincidence…
Sookie told her to shut up and do her job so that she could be released.
After nursing the baby and dozing off, the next three hours were only really marked by nurses who’d come to check on Sookie or Maggie and then tell her to try to rest even though they’d woken her.
By the time Sookie was discharged just after 5am, I wasn’t confused about why hospital stays irked her…
Pam met us in the garage at home, complaining that we took our time and grappling for Maggie’s carseat.
The girls hadn’t held out… too much excitement in one day… They’d fallen asleep on the way home from the hospital and hadn’t budged when Pam put them to bed.
On our way upstairs, Pam joked that she missed Sookie’s waddle, but once Maggie was out of his pink carseat, Sookie might as well not exist. Pam was oblivious as Sookie made a bee line for her bathroom so that she could feel like herself again.
As soon as Sookie was gone, Pam sat on her bed and I was the recipient of one of her best ‘fuck you’ looks.
“Go ahead. Get it off your chest.”
“What the fuck were you waiting for?”
“Sookie didn’t know she was so far along until just before I called you. I’d been paying close attention, but her heart rate was barely increasing. He was moving. She hadn’t broken a sweat…”
“Do you want to know how many things can go wrong…”
“I know what can go wrong, Pam. And Sookie’s had two other children. She was gauging this labor against the other two. She was happy, excited… If I’d called you and told you that she was having contractions mild enough that she wasn’t showing any reaction, would you really have insisted that she go to the hospital just so she could be…”
“Are you sure she wasn’t lying so that she wouldn’t have to go right away? She’s made no secret of how much she hated laboring before.”
“I’m sure… what was the monitor… the transducer? She let me feel the contractions… She didn’t hesitate to answer any questions… She was just as shocked to hear that she was crowning as the rest of us… You said it yourself, Sookie’s made no secrets of how miserable she was when she had Tina and Shelly…”
“Does he have a name yet?”
“Maggie… She took advantage of pain medications and medical paralysis via epidural… she couldn’t get comfortable. She couldn’t nap. She painted her other labors as torture. She didn’t falter until we left Toys R Us when she started shivering. She was making jokes after Lafayette discovered how much she’d progressed. And for the record, even if she hadn’t had the change in her condition, leaving Toys R Us and going to the hospital was already our plan.”
She rolled her eyes at me. “And her water breaking, did she think she was just urinating on herself?”
“She didn’t know. You made her so self conscious about it that she checked her clothing before we left the hospital. The only thing she can figure is that it happened while she was using the toilet. The nurse even said that it’s happened before.”
“The nurse that couldn’t…”
“We know, Pam. Calm down. What’s done is done. Sookie is healthy. Maggie is healthy. Sookie couldn’t be more excited that she didn’t suffer through this delivery. Stop.”
“Stop calling him Maggie. It’s mean.”
“He likes it.”
She gave him a puzzled look, then me. “Likes it?”
“I teased Sookie that I was going to call him Maggie because I was used to it…”
“Wait. You knew that she was going to name a girl Maggie ahead of time?”
“Sookie doesn’t tell anyone before the birth. I found out accidently. Moving on, he reacts to Maggie because she’s been talking to him. Officially, it’s Magnusson.”
“Magnusson Stackhouse Merlotte, like the girls.”
“What’s wrong with middle names?”
“You ask as though I’ve ever had one. Sookie’s family uses the mother’s maiden name as a middle name… It makes the family tree easy to follow.”
She cringed. “So we’re really calling the only male child Maggie?”
“For a while… All babies have nicknames.”
“Some stick. You don’t want him…”
“Pam. Magnusson is not an epicene name. Even if you don’t like the name, it’s not your decision.”
“You like it?”
“What about Merlotte? He called him Junior in the nursery.”
“Then he told her that he didn’t care about the name while he wore out his welcome.”
“Is there something new about that?”
“He’s pissed that he’s finally fathered a boy and you’re going to get to raise him.”
“I could write a book on all the things that are wrong with that statement. Tell me he didn’t say that where the girls could hear him.”
“Why wouldn’t he? His feelings are the only ones that matter. Yes, he was thinking about all of his little bastards too.”
“I still don’t understand what gives a ‘man child’ higher esteem than a daughter. Children are children. He’s lucky they’re all alive and healthy.”
“What does he care? He isn’t doing anything for any of them, but that’s your fault.” Because I was supervising how he ignored his other children? Seriously?
“He’s less than amused that I’ll be in company at the baby shower Thursday night.”
“There’s a baby shower? I offered…”
“Sookie said it isn’t like the baby shower you wanted to host. Because Merlotte’s is the only restaurant for miles, they know nearly everyone in town. When she was pregnant with Tina, she had several offers. So no one would feel slighted, Sookie opted to reinvent the baby shower. Merlotte’s was closed for the private party. Everyone brought food instead of gifts unless they’re hand made. The party goers got to meet the baby instead of trying to visit them at home. They wrote messages on squares of fabric to be made into a quilt. It equalizes the diversity and allows for men and children who are normally excluded.”
“She doesn’t even have a crib…”
“She doesn’t use one until the baby is crawling. Her children sleep with her.”
Pam huffed, “She’s taking the fun out of this for me. All of the Auntie things I was looking forward to are new traditions… She’s so old fashioned when it comes to babies…”
“It doesn’t mean you can’t buy things for Maggie. Sookie just didn’t want her less fortunate friends to be self conscious about not affording the price of a gift. Spoiling is to be done privately.”
Pam’s eyes lit up. “Well that changes things.”
“I’m happy that you’re happy. It’s my highest priority right now.”
Pam narrowed her eyes. “You’re lucky I’m holding a baby… I called Paulette. She’ll be here at 8. She’s excited to meet the baby, so Sookie being home from the hospital early and needing help with the girls was called the ‘perfect excuse’…”
“I assumed as much… I’m taking the week off…” I was hoping to sneak that tidbit into conversation. I failed.
“You bastard! I want to be able to come help! If you’re here…”
“Maggie will be up at night too. You can come over after the bar is closed. If we leave it to Darius all week, the place will be falling apart by the time we go back.”
“And why aren’t we taking turns?”
“Because I say so.” Because I wanted to stay home.
“Because you’re hogging him.” And?
“Would you like to start a club for whiners? Merlotte would join.”
“Asshole. That was low and you know it.”
“Leave the bar to Darius on Thursday so you can go to the shower with us. Stay here so you can have the early evenings if you like…”
“Yes, really. Brat.”
Sookie breathed a huge sigh of relief when she opened the bathroom door after her shower. “Ok. I feel much better… Are y’all fighting?” Bickering. A fight would’ve required Pam putting Maggie down.
“Pam was just expressing her disapproval of delaying our trip to the hospital.”
Sookie cringed, “Don’t be mad at him. I’m the one that didn’t know… I was begging for a C-section by the time I was at 6 centimeters with the girls. Even in transition I wasn’t hurting as much as the other times.”
“Do you ignore all the literature on labor and delivery… how they’re all different?”
Sookie huffed and sat down next to Pam. “One and two were identical for me. I didn’t know better. Are you going to waste a lot of time being pissed that Eric got me to the hospital in time to deliver a perfectly healthy baby with no complications?”
“You’re very lucky.”
Sookie laid her head on Pam’s shoulder, tugging Maggie’s little cap into place. “Tell me about it.” I watched Pam melt. If I’d have known Pam would concede because of babies, I’d have gotten one for her back when 3rd world coutries were practically giving them away.
“Since you aren’t planning to have more, I suppose I’ll let it go.”
“Thank you. I don’t want you to be crazy pissed at us. I think Maggie might’ve been letting his sisters have their fun before he scared us.”
“That wouldn’t be a very masculine trait. Men are too impatient to be so considerate.”
“Every man is different. Maggie hasn’t had the chance to have his father rub off on him yet and you’re the one with a bug up your butt right now. Eric’s the only one with a legitimate gripe and…”
“How does Eric have a gripe?”
“As worried as he was, he watched me like a hawk. I talked him into waiting longer than he wanted to… You know, since you’re slamming all men for being impatient.”
“Fine… I’m going to go home to get a few things. I’ll be back. Take care of my baby.” Hers?
Sookie raised an eyebrow. “Yes ma’am.”
As soon as Pam was gone, Sookie laughed, “I’m surprised she didn’t put us in a corner. She’s bad.”
“She knows everything. I’ve gotten used to it.”
“It’s sweet that she cares enough to bitch. Don’t overlook that.”
“I don’t.” It was the only reason Pam hadn’t been knocked on her ass more often.
“Do you want to lodge your complaints?”
“No. Everyone is healthy and you were comfortable. That’s all I cared about.”
She grinned. “Speaking of sweet… I scared the shit out of you.”
“I’d have been worried regardless.”
“You’d have been less worried if I let you take me to the hospital right away… My big concern was that when they started so early, I didn’t want you to freak out getting a voicemail that I’d gone to the hospital. I’d have gone if they started getting bad before you got up though.” I would have… I’d have been more rattled if I woke to that message. I’d have paced like a caged animal, picturing nightmarish scenarios until the sun set and I’d have been a complete prick from watching her suffer. Waiting ‘too long’ was the least cruel of all the options.
“Instead I woke to ‘Happy Standard Time’. That was far more pleasant.”
She giggled, “Good… The girls are really excited to have extra time at night. If they had their way, you’d babysit and Pam and I would take care of Fangtasia… Since we didn’t get the chance to talk about it earlier, you need to know that they didn’t have as much fun when I took them to Sea World this summer. You made their year.”
“I’ll have to think of a way to top it then… In the meantime… We have a debt to settle.”
“Oh… right… blood… Are you sure?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? You could still develop a condition because of the delivery… a fever… you won’t have a call button.”
“I’ll have Paulette though. If you aren’t talking about a full healing, you…” She started to giggle, “I’m breastfeeding. How sensitive are your nipples?”
I chuckled, “I’ll risk it. I’d rather suffer that than rise to find out that you hemorrhaged.”
“I doubt that will be an issue.”
She shrugged. “If you say so. Don’t blame me if you get weepy though… Can I ask you a question first?”
“Why now? Why not suggest it before I had Maggie to make me stronger so you wouldn’t have to worry as much? Or to heal that giant bruise from when I fell?” Why couldn’t it have been a normal question about the effects of drinking Vampire blood?
“You didn’t fall, you were yanked by your idiot brother. The pregnancy is why. Hadley had blood frequently during her pregnancy. Even though Hunter was early, he was strong… I think he damaged her internally because the blood was affecting him, making him stronger.”
“But now that Maggie’s here and we’re both fine, you don’t mind giving me your blood?”
She carefully set Maggie on a pillow and walked over to me. “Even though the other Erics wrote that once Sookie had their blood they were goners…”
“Too late for that…” Fuck. My only excuse was that it had been a long night.
“What?” She was going to make me say it again.
“It’s too late to keep me from getting attached to you.”
“Attached? Define attached.”
“You’re the first human I’ve enjoyed the company of in… ever. I’m already attached to you.”
“You’re attached like, I’d-hate-for-anything to-happen-to-my-friend-Sookie attached or attached like hoping-to-end-up-like-the-journals attached?”
“Do I have to pick one?”
“You really are serious.”
“How long have I been attached to you? I’d say… for about a month. You’d only been here for a few nights before I realized you and the girls were the first thing I thought of when I rose.”
“When did you think you were going to say something about it?”
“I don’t know. Your pending divorce has been a bit of a complication.”
“Not my fat ass?”
“You weren’t fat. You were pregnant. No. That wasn’t a complication, just an extra thing to consider.”
“An extra thing to consider in regards to what?”
“The timing of when I’d say something to you about you being Mine in a larger sense. To be honest, I was waiting for you to recover from having the baby until I said something. I didn’t want to add to your…”
“You were hiding something from me.”
“I prefer to think I was keeping it to myself. I’ve been concerned that you could forgive Merlotte and reconcile, in which case, my feelings wouldn’t matter.”
“So you figured that I’d be hormonal enough to do that postpartum?”
“It was a concern. Stranger things have happened… You’re getting loud. If you’re going to yell at me for having feelings for you then maybe we should go downstairs.”
She scowled and stomped out of her room. Not a sign that the rest of the conversation was going to go smoothly.
She yanked the refrigerator open to pull out a drink and slammed it again…
“Are you sure you aren’t just enjoying the company?”
“Why can’t it be both? I wouldn’t be attached to you if I didn’t like talking to you.”
“So the protection thing is just bullshit… an excuse to hang out.”
“No. I’m very serious about protecting you. It’s a collateral perk that I very much enjoy the job.”
“You pity me…”
“I hate that you’ve suffered. That isn’t the same thing.”
She shook her head. “You’re just hung up on the damn journals. I’m different from those Sookie’s. My life is a clusterfuck…”
“I’m aware of the differences. It doesn’t change how I feel about you though.”
“I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want you to be overwhelmed… I’m not making any demands…”
“You’re timing is for shit!”
She growled taking the step she needed to be toe to toe with me. “You’re welcome.”
“Would you like to forget I said anything? At this point, I’m…”
“You should’ve said something sooner.”
“What good would that have done? As upset as you are, it wouldn’t have been good for you or Maggie.”
She sighed, “Give me your blood so I can get some rest.”
“Am I going to feel like killing something when your feelings come to me?”
“You’re going to feel my knee in your nuts if you don’t hurry. The sun’s coming up.”
I growled and bit into my wrist, letting her put it to her mouth on her own…
Enjoying the sensation of her suckling so much that I almost didn’t tell her, “That’s enough.”
She thumbed a droplet away from the corner of her mouth. “How long does it take to work?”
“You should already be able to feel a difference.”
“I do… I’m talking about sensing my emotions.”
“Not long. I’m not feeling your rage yet.”
“You’re not going to feel rage. Frustration, yes…”
“What are you frustrated about?”
“Because I’ve been looking at apartments for a couple of weeks now. I thought I was getting too attached to you because you’ve been so… blasé.” If she had any way of knowing how hard it had been to pull off blasé…
“You’ve been yelling at me because… Define attached.”
“I don’t have to. I’ve already told you I love you…” All the time. I’d thought it was just an overzealous approval…
“I thought that was…” I should’ve let her knee me in my balls. I was out of my element.
She stretched up to kiss my cheek. “Yeah. We’re officially idiots. At least you slipped. God only knows how long we’d have been pussyfooting around one another. Go to bed. We’ll talk tomorrow night.”
I watched her go upstairs, then stared at the empty staircase until Pam came in.
“Cutting it a little close, don’t you think?”
I shook my head as I led the way downstairs. “Too distracted to worry.”
“I told Sookie that I have feelings for her.”
I think I was still waiting for her response when I collided with the floor at the bottom of the stairs. “You’re timing is for shit! Don’t even come to me whining about being rejected.”
“You just pushed me down the stairs?”
“Don’t act like it hurt half as bad as watching Sookie pack will be! Stupid… Sonofa…”
I felt broken ribs knitting back together as I pushed myself off the floor. “You need to calm down.”
“Calm down? You… How am I supposed to calm down? You just risked your chance at being happy because of verbal diarrhea!” It was right then that I decided that I was fed up with her criticism. I wasn’t going to correct her. Hearing her yell how wrong she was… hilarious. Fucking with her was the only option.
“That’s absolutely disgusting… Is this ‘tough love’?”
“No. This is me venting. Tough love won’t do you any good. You basically mind-raped a woman who’s 6 hours postpartum and in the middle of a divorce. Way to go!”
“I changed my mind. Go home.”
“Too late. You’re stuck with me now.”
I kicked my shoes off and tossed myself on my bed. “Then shut up.”
“No. What on earth possessed you to tell her tonight? Why didn’t you say something to her weeks ago? Why couldn’t you hold it for another month? God, you’re such an idiot!”
“What are you afraid of? It’s not like she can go anywhere.”
She slapped me hard enough to make me bite my lip. “You son of a bitch! This isn’t some random woman! You can’t trap her and expect her to love you back! What the fuck!?”
When I saw that waning look in her eyes, I put my hands behind my head. “I didn’t have to trap her. It just worked out that way.”
She lifted her hand to slap me again, but died before she could deliver the blow.
I died chuckling at Pam and looking forward, more than ever, to rising…