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Re: Yellow (M/L ADULT): Ch. 20 10/4/20

Posted: Sun Oct 04, 2020 12:19 am
by ChemChic
Hello! I'm alive, I swear! I've actually taken a bit of time for myself over the past week and spent the majority of it enjoying the crazy beautiful autumn scenery that exploded in Southern Vermont seemingly overnight. I cannot remember a fall this beautiful or vibrant and it's been glorious! Lots of hiking and long drives through sleepy mountain towns. I have a much later part of the story set in this area and I've been quite inspired in regards to that section, but I realized that getting all of that written wouldn't be of any value if I didn't get the next sequential chapter finished and posted!

jlwharton1 thank you as always for your feedback! I'm so glad I got the labor/birth correct. There were so many emotions I wanted to explore and I knew that in order to do it authentically, I had to get pretty detailed. I'm just glad I didn't screw up!

Time will start to move a bit faster after this chapter! Enjoy!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Max had been one hundred percent right; the second the hospital gown was pulled away from my chest and my gorgeous, pink, squalling baby boy was laid against my skin for the very first time, the past 23 hours melted away into the background. And the rest of the world seemed to follow. All there was in that moment was this perfect, tiny person and a love that felt too big to reside in my body.

While I hadn’t even willingly admitted it to myself, there was a pearl of fear which had resided in the back of my mind that when I saw Gabriel for the first time, I wouldn’t feel that connection. That it would be like meeting a stranger. Given the trauma of the past year and my age, this had been a very real possibility along with a much higher risk of postpartum depression. But what I experienced was precisely the opposite; it was like I knew every atom of his being. It was like coming home.

“Oh my god, Lillabet! You did it, he’s here! He’s perfect! You’re perfect!” An awestruck Max managed through a torrent of tears. He kissed my forehead and then my cheek and then my lips, his hand never leaving Gabriel’s impossibly small back. “My god, do I love you,” he murmured into the crook of my neck.

The enormity of his existence, of what we had endured for him to even be on this earth, was so all-encompassing that I couldn’t even bring myself to speak. All I could do was cry and cling to the two people responsible for making me a mother - the two most important people in the entire world to me; the two people without whom I would unequivocally cease to exist.

I only registered that something had to be done about the umbilical cord and afterbirth when Max let us go just long enough to cut the cord and firm hands began to press down rhythmically on my soft belly. My rational brain acknowledged the pain, but I was still so overcome by endorphins that it all seemed like nothing more than a minor inconvenience. I couldn’t stop looking at Gabriel, touching him. Counting his ten fragile fingers and toes, my hands memorizing even the most subtle details of his heartbreakingly beautiful face. He’d quieted, nestled under the receiving blanket and against the warmth of my bare chest. His eyes slowly blinked open revealing deep gray irises that I knew would transform into the same otherworldly shade of amber as his father’s in just a few month’s time. But on that day, in that moment, it was like looking into the most spectacular stormy sky and the awareness that stared back was startling.

“You know exactly who I am,” I whispered, astonished.

The bed shifted as Max sat down, his arms enveloping us and I was absolutely sure that Gabriel’s gaze moved deliberately from me to his father. “You know exactly who your daddy is, too.” I glanced up at Max in awe. “Max, I swear to god he knows.”

Max traced his finger down the side of Gabriel’s cheek as he blinked slowly up at his father. “I think you’re right, Lillabet,” he said, his tears starting anew. “I can’t believe he’s real. I can’t believe he’s ours.”

“He’s beautiful,” Dr. Greenberg said and we both looked up from Gabe, surprised. I’d forgotten that there was anyone else in the room! “We just need to borrow him for just a few moments, but I promise we’ll give him right back.”

Every maternal instinct inside of me screamed to not let him go, but my rational mind won out and I reluctantly held him out to Jennifer. “Go with him, Max,” I pleaded quietly, unable to take my eyes off of my son.
Max kissed my forehead and quickly rose to follow the nurse.

“Liz, we’re just going to finish getting you cleaned up and transferred into a fresh bed and then we’ll be moving the three of you into your postpartum room where your family can come visit,” Dr. Greenberg explained, pulling my attention back to her.

I nodded in agreement, but her words hardly registered. They could do whatever they wanted to me, I just wanted my baby.

After what was likely only minutes but may as well have been an eternity, I got to see Max holding our son for the very first time. My tears began again as I stared in quiet awe at the man I’ve loved my entire life so enraptured by this tiny person we managed to create out of the most tragic of circumstances.

“7 pounds, 6 ounces and 20 inches long and an APGAR score of 10. He’s perfect, Lillabet. Absolutely perfect,” Max murmured, still fixated on Gabriel. I knew exactly how he felt.

He ran his index finger gently over his cheek and Gabriel turned his head towards the stimulation, his lips forming into a pucker as he sought out Max’s finger. “And hungry, too!” Max added with a surprised laugh.

“Liz, did you want to try to nurse him?” Jennifer asked, stepping up beside Max.

“Yes, absolutely,” I said, nodding eagerly. Jennifer helped me to get situated and then Max gingerly transferred Gabe into my arms before sitting back down beside us. She showed me a few tricks for positioning and helped me to get him to latch, warning me that there would be some initial discomfort.

She definitely wasn’t lying! But even through the pain, I was in complete awe; that my body was capable of bringing this entirely new person into the world and then providing exactly the nourishment he needed to grow and thrive. That he was born with the instinct and the drive to seek the resources that my body readily produced for him. That the endorphins that flooded my brain so greatly outweighed the soreness that after a few minutes it was barely a blip on my radar.

“Well, what do you say we get you guys moved so you can introduce your son to the rest of his family?” Jennifer suggested after Gabriel finished nursing.

“Do they even know he’s here?” I asked, startled back into a reality where there were important, well-loved people in my life other than Gabe and Max.

“I asked them to let everyone know,” Max said, smiling. “I thought about doing it myself, but I couldn’t leave you.”

I rolled my eyes good-naturedly and leaned up to kiss him gently. “Have I told you how much I love you today?”

“You gave birth to our son today, Lillabet. There isn’t a question in my mind,” he replied, kissing me again before leaning in to kiss Gabriel on the forehead. “And you did so damned good.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A few minutes after we were settled into the postpartum suite, there was a soft knock at the door.

“Come in!” I called. We were sitting side by side on the bed and Max was holding Gabe in one arm with the other wrapped firmly around my shoulders. I rested my head on his chest, gazing intently at our son, the exhaustion of the past day finally sinking in.

“Oh my god, Liz, I cannot believe he’s here!” Maria exclaimed, making a beeline for us with Isabel hot on her heels. “He’s absolutely gorgeous, can I hold him?” She was almost giddy with excitement.

“Of course you can,” I said, smiling. I leaned back so Max could use both arms to carefully transfer him to Maria.

“Just make sure to support his head,” Max explained, his hands gingerly sliding out from underneath Gabriel’s tiny body as he rested securely in Maria’s arms.

Maria made a small squeaking noise and the tears staining her cheeks triggered my own. Seeing my best friend holding my child was a unreal experience!

“He is absolutely beautiful,” Isabel said, leaning over Maria’s shoulder to stroke his cheek. “God, Max, he looks exactly like you!”

“Except the ears!” I teased and laughter filled the room. I hadn’t even realized that Alex, Michael, Amy, Jim, and Kyle had all filed in.

“Your parents will be here in just a minute, your mother mistakenly thought she had time for a last-minute trip to the gift shop,” Amy explained to Max.

“We tried to tell her,” Isabel said, taking Gabriel carefully from Maria. “Yes we did! We tried to tell that silly Nana of of yours but she just wouldn’t listen!” She cooed at Gabriel in a baby voice so high and sweet that I was shocked it had come from the Ice Queen herself!

By the time Gabriel had made the rounds to each of his eager family members and found his way back into my arms, there was a soft gasp in the doorway and the clatter of something soft falling to the ground. I looked up to find Diane, eyes wide with a hand to her mouth and tears coursing down her cheeks. A bewildered Phillip stood behind her.

She did realize that the outcome of this pregnancy would be a baby…right?

Max and I shared a concerned glance before he turned to her. “Mom?” He ventured.

“I don’t even know how this is possible, but it’s the same room. It’s the exact same room,” she murmured, making no sense.

“Honey, are you alright?” Phillip asked, placing his hands on her shoulders.

“Don’t you remember, Phillip? This was the same room Nancy was in after she had Liz.” She poked her head back out, checking the number “604. I remember it because I thought it was neat that the room number was the same as Nancy’s birthday. Max, this is where you met Liz for the very first time,” she said almost reverently.

Her revelation rendered me speechless. It was a small hospital, of course, but there had to be at least ten rooms on the floor and for whatever reason, we were assigned to that specific one. The room where our relationship began a little more than 17 years before. A room where some vestiges of my parents still existed.

“Wow,” Max said softly, shaking his head. “Life comes full circle.”

“Did you want to meet your grandson?” I managed through what had become an ever-present haze of tears.

“More than anything in the entire world.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was after 8 when everyone finally left for the evening. The whole day had been one of the single most surreal experiences of my life and for the first time since Gabriel was born, it was just the three of us alone in a quiet room.

I’d showered with Max’s help while they took Gabriel for a few routine tests and by the time I was in a long, button down night shirt and some hospital-issued undergarments, I felt infinitely more human. Once they’d brought Gabe back, I convinced Max to take five minutes to shower himself and he emerged in a pair of boxer pants and a faded t-shirt, looking refreshed.

“Better?” I asked groggily as I finished feeding Gabriel. I began to fumble with my buttons one-handed, but Max’s fingers deftly replaced mine and before I could even protest, I was dressed once more.

He kissed my forehead. “Much,” he replied. “May I?”

I slid Gabe into his arms and he settled into the glider next to the bed, tossing a burp rag over his shoulder before gently patting him on the back.

“You look like you’ve done this a million times before,” I said and I knew in that moment that watching the two of them together would never get old.

“I don’t feel like I have. I’m so afraid I’m going to break him. I’ve never held a a baby this tiny,” Max said, rocking gently.

“Well, you’re a natural, Max,” I replied, shifting onto my side as best as I could to watch them, exhaustion creeping into my bones.

“Why don’t you rest, Lillabet? I think Gabe and I can manage for a few hours, what do you think, Bug?” Gabriel responded with a wide yawn and my heart dissolved into a puddle. “I think that’s a yes!” Max grinned at me.

“Don’t hesitate to wake me if you need me,” I murmured, already beginning to drift.

“Sleep, Lillabet. We’ve got this. We love you so much.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I awoke a few hours later to the sounds of a fussy baby and Max trying valiantly to calm him. He was slowly pacing back and forth across the small room, bouncing lightly with each step and whispering softly into Gabe’s ear.

“Your mommy did an awful lot of work to bring you earth side, little man. Why don’t we try to let her sleep just a few more minutes, okay? Hanging out with your dad can’t be that bad! I thought we were buds,” he teased, kissing the side of Gabe’s head.

“I’m up, Max,” I said groggily, wincing as I pushed myself into a sitting position. I was extremely fortunate that I hadn’t torn and therefore didn’t require any sutures, but it didn’t mean that my body wasn’t impressively sore!

“I think he wants something that I can’t offer,” Max said sheepishly as I unbuttoned my top. I set up the pillows the way the lactation nurse suggested and Max helped me to situate Gabe. He latched on like a champ and while it was still rather uncomfortable, the pride in my body’s ability to care for my child still overshadowed my pain.

“Does it hurt?” Max asked when I grimaced.

“Yeah, but I’ll get used to it. It’s a good hurt, you know? I know that it’s for a good reason. It feels worth it,” I explained as Gabriel wrapped his tiny hand around my index finger.

“I know I keep saying this, but I am beyond proud of you, Liz,” Max said ardently. “I knew from the moment we found out you were pregnant that you were going to be an incredible mother, but you’ve absolutely blown me away.”

I gave Max a lopsided smile. “I’ll need you to remind me of that in a few weeks when I’m haggard from too little sleep, one nipple is cracked and bleeding, the other has a blocked duct, I haven’t showered in three days, and this little Bug won’t stop wailing!” I joked. Clearly I’d been reading way too many mommy blogs!

“I’ll remind you every second of every day if that’s what you need,” Max replied, smoothing my hair away from my face and kissing my forehead.

“How are you even real, Max?” I asked with a small shake of my head.

“What do you mean?” He looked genuinely confused.

“Max. Most 17 year old guys go running for the hills when they find out their girlfriend is pregnant and those who do stick around are - on a whole - less than helpful and supportive. I’m pretty sure you put 35 year old veteran dads to shame,” I said.

“I can’t imagine being anywhere but here. As hard as these past 10 months have been, getting to watch our son grow inside of you and seeing you bring him into the world is the single most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. Before you got pregnant, I was absolutely convinced that it was impossible to love or admire you any more than I already did. After 16 years together, I was pretty sure I had a complete understanding of the depth of my feelings for you. And then this little guy came along and showed me just how wrong I was. What you sacrificed for him, for us as a family is almost incomprehensible. He wouldn’t exist without you, Lillabet. Without your willingness to take on the extraordinary responsibility of becoming a mother at such a young age. How could I not be in absolute awe of you? I don’t even have words to describe the love I feel for you or for Gabriel and to think that it doesn’t feel this way for every new father is heartbreaking. I don’t care if we’re 17 or 47; age has no bearing on any of this. What you’ve done, the gift you’ve given me is nothing short of miraculous and I will spend the rest of my life trying to show you how grateful I am,” he said sincerely, wiping an errant tear from his cheek.

“Okay, I’m pretty sure the hospital needs to hire you to talk to all the new dads!” A voice came from the door. It was Seurena. “You practically have me in tears!” She quipped and we both laughed. “I just wanted to stop in and see how you guys were doing before going off shift.”

“We’re good,” I said, shifting Gabe to my other breast. “He’s nursed a few times, we’ve changed him a few times, and I was even able to get in a few hours of sleep!”

“Well, everyone here has been very impressed by how well you’re doing, but seeing the two of you together, I can fully understand why. Mothers with supportive partners have much better outcomes than those with partners who are less engaged. Believe it or not, single mothers often do better than those with an uninterested or dismissive partner. Your support system can really make all the difference,” Seurena said with a soft smile.

“I’m pretty sure I have the most amazing support system there is!” I replied, beaming up at Max.

“Did your families have a good visit? Your parents must all be so excited!” She commented as she made a few notes on the computer.

The high I had been riding just moments before disappeared and I felt myself plummeting back towards the earth. There had been so much activity followed by contented exhaustion that I hadn’t allowed myself to think too much about my parents and their absence. But that small, ever-present emptiness began to expand at an alarming rate, threatening to swallow me whole.

“My parents are dead,” I mumbled quietly, unable to look at her.

“Lillabet,” Max whispered soothingly, but I shook my head. I needed her to know so that she - or anyone else - wouldn’t ask again.

“They were murdered in January, right around the time I got pregnant. They’ll never meet Gabriel,” I said, choking on my last words.

“Oh my god, Liz! I’m so sorry, I had no idea!” She exclaimed, stricken.

The guilt over causing someone else’s discomfort immediately began to bubble in my stomach but I swallowed it down. Hard. This wasn’t about anyone else or their discomfort, it was about mine. It had to be about mine.

“It’s been a very difficult year, but Gabriel was the gift I didn’t know I needed. That all of us needed,” I said resolutely, drawing strength from a reserve I didn’t even realize I had. “And without Max, I never would’ve survived any of it.”

“You are far more capable than you give yourself credit for,” Max said, squeezing my shoulder.

“He’s right, Liz,” Seurena agreed. “Gabriel may be the first baby I’ve had the privilege of helping to deliver, but Dr. Greenberg has been doing this for a decade and I can tell you under no uncertain terms that she is beyond impressed with you. With both of you.”

“That’s very kind of you to say,” I replied, blushing at the compliment. “But I think she’s overstating things just a bit.”

Seurena just smiled. “Well, all I know is that I’m really glad I had the opportunity to meet all three of you and that I got to be a part of such a special day.”

“We appreciate everything,” Max said, taking Gabriel from me so that I could button my top once more.

“I don’t know how much the opinion of a single, childless medical student matters, but for what it is worth, I think you two are going to be incredible parents. I’ll let you guys get some rest.” And with that, she closed the door leaving the three of us alone once more.

“It does feel pretty good to hear that other people besides our family think that we’re capable of doing this,” Max said, settling back in the rocker with Gabe.

“I know. It’s not that I don’t believe your parents or Amy or Jim, but they kind of have to rally around us and cheer us on. I suppose it’s just a much more objective assessment,” I agreed.

“‘Objective assessment?’” Max teased. “You are such a scientist!”

I rolled my eyes, laughing. “Maybe someday! Though, I really wouldn’t mind going to medical school,” I said thoughtfully. “I love research and the idea of being the part of some major biomedical discovery, but the more I think about it, the more I think I’d like to be on the frontlines; to actually see my work making a difference.”

All of our lives, I wanted to be a scientist and Max wanted to be a doctor. I loved the idea of spending my days in a research lab at a major university - preferably Harvard! - and working towards a profound discovery that would cause a paradigm shift in the way that doctors practice medicine. Max was drawn to the idea of being able to help people; to heal people. That someone could come to him broken and that he would be able to fix them. And while I saw the appeal, I didn’t have the same motivations. But when my parents were murdered, I began to think about what goes into saving a life. There was no hope for them that day, but for others there is. And if I could potentially spare another 16 year old girl from suffering my tragedy, that would mean something.

“Wow, this is new,” Max said, glancing at me over Gabriel’s head. “I think that’s wonderful. You’d be an amazing doctor, Liz.”

“We’ll see! First we both have to survive four years of undergrad with a baby!” I replied.

“I believe in us, Lillabet. We’re more than capable.”

I yawned. “I’m pretty sure all I’m capable of right now is sleeping. Are you okay for a little while? You must be exhausted, too!”

“I’m absolutely fine, I promise. I don’t think I could sleep right now if I tried, I like looking at him too much!”

“He’s pretty spectacular,” I agreed, yawning once more. “I love you, Max.”

“And we love you. We’ll be here when you wake up.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“…And - you won’t even believe this part, but I promise it’s true - and then your Grandpa Jeff stood in front of the restaurant all day in a cow costume, udders and all! But it worked! He sold every one of those burger patties that day!”

Max’s softly animated voice greeted me as I resurfaced from a surprisingly restful sleep. Though only half awake, the memory of the day my father accidentally ordered three times the number of hamburger patties than we could actually fit in the Crashdown’s deep freezer came immediately to my mind. But instead of getting upset or accepting the financial loss, he ran down the street to the costume shop that supplied Roswell with all of our Crash Festival and Halloween ensemble needs, rented a cow costume, made some punny sign about cows and alien abductions, and offered 15% off to anyone who bought a burger basket. I’d been about 14 and was at the peak age of being embarrassed by my parents and I’d begged my mom to let me trade shifts that day, but she said it was an excellent lesson in business and made me work anyways. I’d called Max to come and hang out for moral support and he thought it was just about the best thing he’d ever seen. As mortified as I’d been that day, I was so glad to have that memory three years later.

“Your mom was pretty embarrassed, but deep down I think that she was impressed with your grandpa. I know I was! And your Grandma Nancy made cow jokes for weeks afterwards,” Max added. “I know that you won’t get to meet them, Bug, but Mommy and I will tell you stories about them everyday and show you all of the pictures we have until you’re positively sick of seeing them. It won’t be exactly the same, but they’ll always be a part of you.”

I opened my eyes just enough to see Max cradling Gabriel out in front of him so that he could look down at his face.

“You know, this is apparently the very same room where your mommy and I met for the first time, just over 17 years ago. I don’t remember that day, but I’ve heard the story so many times that sometimes I feel like I do. In some ways, your life began right here, all those years ago. Maybe it’s crazy, but I know that I loved your mother from that very moment. That our lives became intertwined when your Nana brought me into this room to meet her. I think it’s because your mommy is such a special person. You can’t help but love her, you can’t help but love every single thing about her, even when she gets on your nerves!” Max chuckled and I cracked a small smile.

“And I’m sure there will be some point in your life when both of us do; we’re your parents, it’s practically our job! But it’s impossible to stay mad at her for long, I promise. There is no one in the whole universe who will ever love you like she does. I love you every bit as much, but she’ll always love you a little differently; you two shared almost 10 months together that no one else experienced. I don’t know if you’ll ever fully understand the gravity of your existence and I know that your mother doesn’t want you to ever think that your life is tied to your grandparents’ deaths, but it goes far deeper than that for me. Your mom thinks that she survived that loss because of me, but I know that the only reason she not only survived but has grown so much stronger is because of you. You gave her such an incredible purpose and something so wondrous and beautiful to focus on in the midst of such a monumental tragedy. She got up every day for you, she started eating again for you, she started living again for you. I was just there to support her along the way. You brought her back to me, Bug, whether she realizes it or not. I am so grateful that you are here and I am so, so honored to be your Daddy.” I could hear the raw emotion in his voice and it took everything I had to remain quiet. This was clearly a private moment between father and son.

“I know I might be a bit younger than the other dads, but I will do everything in my power to be the absolute best father I can possibly be for you. I know I’m going to mess up along the way - probably more times than either of us will be able to count - but I will work to be better every single day. We’re going to figure this whole thing out together, Bug. And I’m going to love every single minute of it.” Max leaned down to kiss Gabriel’s forehead before gently bringing him up to cradle his tiny body against his shoulder.

If we had only known how precious those minutes would be.

Re: Yellow (M/L ADULT): Ch. 20 10/4/20

Posted: Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:27 am
by keepsmiling7
Such a proud moment.......sweet and tender.
Of course Liz misses her own parents at this time.
The memories and stories shared at this time will never be forgotten.