I woke up one morning feeling… not right. It honestly felt like I’d left something on, like the coffeemaker or the iron. Then I reminded myself that those two appliances had auto-off features. I got up and took a shower. It was early for me, only nine in the morning. I’d gone to bed a mere four hours before, about an hour before Eric. I didn’t feel like sleeping anymore, though.
I’d been able to tell with greater accuracy the times when Idony was awake or asleep inside my belly. At the moment I was washing my hair, she was awake, but not moving much. Dr. Ein had assured us that it was normal for her to not move as much anymore. Even her size was a rough guess. Idony now weighed anywhere from six to eight pounds. I myself had been an eight-pound baby, so Idony’s size wasn’t that surprising.
I dried my hair and started getting ready in front of the bathroom mirror, when I felt a big gush of water land on the floor at my feet. I looked down, wondering why I’d done that. I’d gone to the bathroom before my shower. Had I just peed myself without noticing?
Then it dawned on me. “My water broke,” I said aloud to nobody at all. Before I panicked I took a deep breath. I hadn’t felt a contraction, but after my water breaking it was imperative to go to the hospital. I cleaned myself and cleaned the floor as best I could. I got dressed slowly and grabbed my watch, the one I always forgot to wear. Like clockwork, the second I fastened the watch around my wrist, I got the first contraction.
I got my overnight bag, the one that had been ready for a while now with everything I would need in the hospital, plus something very important. Because we knew the baby could come at any moment, I’d left a note already written and ready to go in one of the outside pockets of my bag. Eric and I had made plans if I had to leave during the day to the hospital, so that he would know to come when he woke up. I was to leave the note under his charging cell phone, and then make sure whoever was with me sent him a text message at first dark. Glad and Diantha were in on the program, so I wouldn’t need to necessarily remind them to text him.
I bent over Eric and kissed his temple. “I love you. We’re having a baby today,” I said. Of course, he didn’t hear me, and I wasn’t in enough distress to wake him.
I made my way to Glad’s room first. She was the oldest, so I usually let her call the shots with Diantha. I knocked first, rather than just bursting in… because enemies don’t knock… and then I entered her room. She started sitting up in her bed. “’Sit time?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.
“Yes. I’m going to make us something to eat real quick because I don’t think they’ll let me eat anything in the hospital. We don’t have much time, but enough to have breakfast,” I said. I was not leaving my house without breakfast, and just as I thought that I had another contraction.
Okay. The contractions were nine minutes apart. I had time. As I made a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and corned beef hash from a can, I called Dr. Ein. I told her about my water breaking and the contractions about nine minutes apart. She said I had time and to go ahead and eat something and then head to the hospital. She foresaw a long labor.
“Are they painful?” she asked me about the contractions.
“Well, they’re no walk in the park, but I can handle it. They feel stronger than a menstrual cramp and radiate to my back,” I said. Still, I didn’t feel sick to my stomach from pain, so that was a plus.
Glad and Diantha made it just in time to eat. I had my final cup of coffee, ate what I could stand and then we were off to the hospital.
My contractions were approximately seven minutes apart when we got to the hospital. I checked in, already familiar with the process, and they took me to a room in the Labor & Delivery unit. This was familiar. I stripped, put on the requisite gown, and settled on the bed while two nurses worked over me, strapping two monitors to my belly and getting an IV started. The attending OB came to look at me and see how far along I was.
“Four centimeters. Do you want pain medicine?” he asked. He seemed busy but waited patiently for my answer. I was weighing the options. I wasn’t in a lot of pain but knew it was only a matter of time until I was… and then it might be too late to get pain relief.
“Yes,” I said sounding less than sure.
Amelia ran in the room. She’d gotten a text from Glad. “Did you just ask for pain meds?” she asked out of breath.
“Yes,” I said, again less than sure. I wondered what she’d have to say about it.
“Oh, okay!” she nodded and watched as the doctor left. “I called Claudine. She was working today but she’s on her way.”
Claudine was coming from Monroe, a whole hour and a half away. But at least I had Amelia, Glad and Diantha. None of us had ever had children before or witnessed a birth. I started to get nervous and scared.
Something was wrong. I woke up to Sookie’s feelings in a bit of upheaval. My phone was flashing like I’d missed a message, and right underneath it: the note. My daughter had chosen the autumnal equinox to be born. I got dressed quickly then realized that there was still some sunlight outside. I covered as much of me as possible and set off for the truck. The dark tint of the windows would help me during the last of the day, otherwise I would have flown. I did not want to give Sookie a fright with a burned face. She was already very nervous.
I took advantage of a red light to text Pam to come meet us at the hospital. This would be the second time my wife was in the hospital about to have my daughter, so when I arrived I tried to keep a level head as I told the guard at the front desk that my wife was in labor.
“What is her name?” the obnoxious little man asked.
“Sookie Northman,” I answered barely keeping my cool. I clamped my mouth shut while the man looked me over, and thanked the goddess that Sookie had the wherewithal to change her name to mine when she did.
“I will need to see ID,” he said.
I gave him my driver’s license with an exasperated sigh. “You’re wasting my time,” I said under my breath.
The man studied my ID thoroughly and raised an eyebrow, probably noting my date of birth. When he looked up again I didn’t hesitate and glamoured him into giving me the goddamn badge. I figured at some point I would be questioned about being a father, but tonight was not the right night. I skipped the elevator and ran up the stairs, clearing the four floors in mere seconds, then made my way through the corridor of Labor & Delivery following Sookie’s scent. The smell of blood was everywhere. My fangs were showing the moment I stepped into Sookie’s room.
“Eric…” she said in a breath. She was in pain and she was scared. Before I could get to her a nurse stopped me.
“Dad, you have to wear this. Go change,” the nurse barked the order and pointed at a bathroom inside the room. She had handed me blue pajamas and something to cover my shoes and hair. Everyone in the room was wearing something similar.
“Is it time?” I asked, never taking my eyes off my Sookie as I changed. She gave me a quick nod. She was so scared. I looked away, but only to center myself. She needed me to keep my cool and give her serenity. I infused the bond with as much calm as I was capable of, under the circumstances.
“There are too many people here,” a nurse announced. “Dad, you stay over there with Mom, everybody else out!”
Several shapes filed past me out the door, but I paid attention to none. I hoped two of those were Glad and Diantha. I took my place by Sookie’s bedside and she crushed my hand in hers, looking up and trembling.
“I’m scared,” she whispered a lone tear escaping down her cheek. I quickly wiped it away with my bare fingers.
“You’ll be fine,” I said and smiled, tucking a lock of her hair inside the cap. “I love you, darling.”
Dr. Ein was at the bottom of the bed, looking between Sookie’s legs. “Sookie, I need you to bear down and push until I tell you to stop. Eric, help her sit up a little and hold her back. Ready?”
We all nodded. I pushed Sookie’s body up slightly and noticed a small tube coming out of her back, presumably for medication. It hit me that none of this bothered me. I’d never witnessed the birth of my children before, so this was truly a first. I felt a terrible amount of guilt for what my first wife had gone through without me. Now that I could feel what Sookie was feeling I knew there was no way I would ever leave her to face this alone.
Sookie bore down and pushed, following the doctor’s instructions until she was told to stop. She took deep breaths, still trembling. She was still scared and now she was in a great amount of pain.
“Can’t you give her something for pain?” I asked.
“No, Eric, I told them to stop the pain medication because I couldn’t feel anything,” she said nearly breathless. I frowned.
The doctor and nurses settled Sookie into a rhythm of pushing and resting that lasted much longer than I thought she could handle. I felt her physical strength flagging, and I was sure her mental shields weren’t holding anymore.
“Just a few more, Sookie. You can do this,” Dr. Ein insisted. She had said the same thing for two hours. “One big push and the head will be out.” That was new.
“You can see it?” I asked skeptically.
“Yes!” the doctor beamed. “Do you want to see it?” she asked me.
“Sookie needs me right now. I will see it soon enough,” I said immediately, not giving in to my curiosity.
Sookie continued pushing, and the scent I would come to associate with our daughter became stronger. Finally Idony’s head emerged from the birth canal. One more push and her whole body was expelled into the waiting hands of the doctor. A nurse quickly clamped the umbilical cord and called me over to cut it.
Idony came out looking a little blue. The nurse clamped the umbilical cord and called Eric over to cut it. Everyone gasped when he used his teeth instead of the scissors and stole the blue baby from Dr. Ein’s hands. He brought her to me, massaging her back slightly. Idony took a breath, then another, then let out a tiny wail and I finally let out my own breath. The nurse placed a small blanket on me where Eric put Idony and wrapped her up, licking her head. I could hear the nurses’ thoughts about how disgusting, blah-di-blah. He was cleaning his baby, loving her the way he knew how. One of the nurses approached us to put some type of antibiotic thing on her eyes, but I stopped her. There was no better antibiotic than Daddy’s saliva.
“Leave them,” I said to her. I felt Dr. Ein still working between my legs, but I was past paying attention to her. I watched as Idony’s small cries quieted under her father’s care, tears streaming from my eyes.
Finally one of the nurses caught on that there was no separating Eric from his baby. “Dad, why don’t you bring the baby over here so you can finish cleaning her? Then we can weigh her and get her dressed.”
I watched as best I could. Dr. Ein was sewing up the tiny incision she’d had to make on me. She had already taken care of everything else. I was happy that she had been able to make it to the birth, and I told her so.
“Are you kidding?” she winked. “I wouldn’t have missed this birth for the world! How often do I get to see Dad go all vampire on an umbilical cord?” she laughed. I heard Eric chuckling from the other side of the room. I could only imagine his thick fingers making heads and tails of a tiny diaper.
“Eight pounds, two ounces, twenty-one inches!” Eric announced. He was proud as a peacock. “And gray eyes?”
“They will change to blue in a month or so,” commented Dr. Ein. She took over the task of cleaning me, instead of letting a nurse do it, which was above and beyond her job description. Again, I was grateful, and loved her even more than I already had.
Eric brought Idony back to me, and the nice nurse followed. “Let’s see if she will eat,” she said, helping me lift my gown enough to reveal a breast. Eric settled my now clean and pink baby in my arms and I took a moment to just look at her.
“How do you love someone so much you’ve just met?” I asked, voicing the question that has been on every mother’s lips since forever. Her head was covered by a tiny pink hat, and she was bundled up in a clean blanket. All I could see were her big rosy cheeks, cute button nose, and tiny rosebud lips. Her eyelashes were very light as were her eyebrows. She opened her eyes looking up, and when I caressed her cheek she opened her mouth.
“Look at that, Mom. She’s ready to latch on,” the nurse said, helping me bring her to my breast.
I felt Eric’s pride peak when Idony started eating her first meal. I could imagine his thoughts: healthy girl, strong like her father, ready for the world and only a few minutes old. I smiled up at Eric, who was watching both of us with undisguised love.
One month later, 2:34 a.m.
Idony awoke at her usual time. Sookie had been sleeping but she started turning. I stopped her with a gentle hand on her shoulder. The nights were mine.
“Sleep, my love,” I said, and went to get my daughter from the small crib in our bedroom. I had become an expert at working the tiny buttons of her pajamas. I changed her diaper and took her with me to warm up some breast milk in the kitchen. I sat on the couch in the den. Idony was wide awake and watching my every move.
My beautiful baby girl began drinking her milk. When she was halfway done, Sookie joined us and sat next to me, cuddling against my free side.
“What are you doing up?” I asked her in a gentle tone.
“I couldn’t fall asleep again,” she said, yawning widely. She watched as I continued feeding our baby. “I would have never thought I’d have my very own family.”
“I never thought I would have one either,” I conceded. I was beyond lucky, beyond blessed. Idony’s eyes started closing as she finished her milk.
I sat her up, holding her sleeping body with one hand while burping her with the other. “You’re really good at this,” Sookie whispered and smiled, running her fingers over Idony’s soft blond hair. She barely had any.
Idony burped a nice loud one, making Sookie giggle and me grin. “Excuse you, miss!” Sookie said and took the bottle to the kitchen.
I held Sookie in my arms and hummed her song, the song about a woman with eyes like the sea and flaxen hair. I loved to see her happy, to feel her happiness inside me. I was happy as well. For the first time in more than a thousand years I had a home. I had built it, and I had filled it, but Sookie had warmed it and now Idony had blessed it.
We were at peace. We were one.
“I have something to tell you,” I said. I knew Sookie wasn’t asleep yet.
“What’s that, honey?”
“Don’t you want to know what the Ancient Pythoness whispered in my ear that night?” I asked, looking down. Sookie moved from her spot and looked up.
“What did she say?”
“She said we would be blessed a few more times. She said I would always have my family nearby and that I would never be alone again.”
Sookie moved closer to me and put her hand on my cheek. “You love being a father,” she said. It wasn’t a question.
“I love being your husband and the father of your children. I love you Sookie.” I kissed my wife, savoring her lips and the way she made me feel. I pulled away but only to look at her. “I waited my whole life for you.”
“That’s a long time,” she murmured.
“Every single second was worth it to have you here with me.”