I could feel myself hovering on the edge of consciousness with my head swimming in a massive fog, but I tried to fight my way through it, rather than allow myself to slip back down into the depths of sleep, not yet knowing why I should but knowing that I must. Everything was a haze in my mind and I tried to piece together the little bits that were slowly coming back to me, but it wasn’t until I was finally able to open my eyes that the beeping noise I could hear made sense now seeing I was lying in a hospital room bed. Eric was asleep in a chair by my side with his head resting on the mattress, but I didn’t know why I was there. The last thing I could remember was being in the ER with the doctor doing an ultrasound and my hands automatically moved to my baby bump only to feel the deflated skin where it should have been instead.
A hoarse cry left my lips with the words, “No no no no no…” tumbling after them and tears streamed from my eyes down into the pillow underneath me while I pushed down on my empty belly only confirming my worst fears.
Eric jerked awake next to me, asking, “Sookie?” but I was too far gone to answer him and cried out in choking sobs, “I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault we lost our baby.”
My legs tried to pull up as I attempted to curl into a ball on my side facing away from him, but feeling the pain in my abdomen, I cried even harder now knowing why it was there. I couldn’t understand how Eric could even stand to be in the same room with me, much less why he was sliding into the bed behind me, but the only thing my mind could register was the pain knowing our baby was gone.
And it was all my fault.
If only I’d listened to Eric and not left without having someone with me. If only I’d noticed Bill following me all of those months ago. If only I’d realized the blond pregnant lady was really Debbie Pelt in disguise.
I was quickly descending into a darkness I never knew had existed within me when I heard Eric bark out, “Sookie!” and my eyes tried to focus through the blurry tears to see he’d moved me so that I was once again lying on my back, with him now hovering over the top of me, and his face was inches from mine. His eyes were red rimmed and bloodshot, only magnifying the tears that fell from them now, and I felt the stabbing pain rip through my chest knowing I’d made them that way. I tried to croak out another, “I’m sorry,” but his finger landed on my lips to silence them. I couldn’t blame him though.
How can someone adequately apologize for killing their baby.
I was so sure my mind was playing tricks on me; hearing only what I was desperate to hear and lulling me into a false sense of relief only so the rug would later be ripped out from underneath me, but his smile told me otherwise and my mouth formed the words before my head could fully comprehend any of it, asking, “She?”
The Bean was a she?
“She,” he smiled wider, “is beautiful and looks exactly like you.” More tears fell from his eyes, adding, “We have a daughter.”
I was afraid to believe what I was hearing and choked out, “But…how? It’s too soon.”
He moved one of his hands and cupped the air in between us, saying, “She would fit perfectly right here, but she’s strong. She’s a little fighter.” That same hand moved to cup the side of my face and his eyes looked down into mine as he said, “Just like her mother.”
A million questions fought their way to get out at once while my mind tried to wrap around the fact that I was a mother. I’d always known the end result would make me one, but I’d stupidly believed I would have more time to prepare for it however I doubted any amount of time could prepare anyone for the reality of becoming a parent until it actually happened.
Since my voice had gone silent from my brain being locked up, Eric leaned down and gently kissed my lips, but his tears were streaming down harder when he pulled back again whispering, “I love you so much. I thought I was going to lose you, but you fought your way back to me.” I didn’t know what he was talking about and my eyes must have said so because he continued, “You could have died. The doctor told me when they first took you into surgery they weren’t sure but had assumed the placenta had torn away from your uterine wall in the accident, but when they cut you open and could actually see, it turned out it had, but just barely. Any other time they could’ve waited and just monitored you and the baby so she’d have a chance to get bigger before trying to deliver her, but you developed something called Acquired Hemophilia A. It’s rare, but it sometimes happens in pregnant women and isn’t usually diagnosed until there’s some sort of trauma or the baby is born. Your blood wouldn’t clot, so you were literally bleeding to death, but they managed to figure it out quickly and got it under control.”
It was just one more thing for me to feel guilty about and seeing the lingering worry on his face I choked out another, “I’m sorry.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” he shushed. “The odds of it happening are like one in a million.”
The odds. Our entire relationship was one made up of impossible odds and yet we continued to beat the house every damn time.
Hopefully our luck would hold out and extend to include the Bean in our good fortune.
Thoughts of her had the most pressing of my questions come through with me asking, “Where is she? Can we go see her?”
I tried to sit up, but Eric was in my way and he gently pushed me back down, saying, “The doctor needs to check on you first.”
“Can you go get them for me?” I asked, suddenly feeling rushed. I wanted to see her more than I’d ever wanted anything and didn’t want to wait, but knowing she was all alone, I added, “Why don’t you go sit with her while they’re doing that? I don’t want her to be alone.”
She wasn’t used to it. She was used to using my bladder as a punching bag and I felt the tears well up again knowing it was my fault she no longer could, but Eric’s next words distracted me as he said, “She’s not alone. Gran is with her.”
“What? Gran? How?”
Eric carefully maneuvered himself over the tubes and wires attached to me as he climbed off of the bed, answering, “Pam took care of it all. She called Jason on their way down here and had him go tell Gran what was going on before she saw it on the news. It was already too late for them to get a flight last night, but they flew in first thing this morning and my dad picked them up at the airport. They’ve been here for a couple of hours now.”
It felt surreal to find out so much had happened while I’d been out of it, but I was grateful that we had such a close knit family, which also included Pam as far as I was concerned, and even more tears managed to fall from my eyes knowing they were there. In the back of my mind I’d been worried, given Gran’s age, that she might not ever get to meet her great-grandbaby and while I would’ve rather had the Bean stay inside of me until she was supposed to come into this world, I couldn’t help but be a little happy that Gran got to meet her.
“She’s okay though?” I asked. “The Bean? She’s so small,” I added looking at what had until then been Eric’s massive size hands, but the thought of a baby fitting inside of one made them seem incredibly small now.
“One pound nine ounces,” Eric said as he took his phone out from his pocket and smiled down at it before turning it so I could see and the tears flooded down my cheeks again. It was a picture of Eric’s left hand gently cupping the side of what was surely the world’s smallest baby and he was right; she would easily fit inside of it. His Sookie tattoo would likely completely encircle her upper thigh, but when he flipped to the next picture showing me a close up shot of her face I smiled through the tears and found it within me to argue with him just a little, saying, “You’re wrong. She looks just like you.”
It only made sense the most beautiful man, five motherfucking times thank you very much, would make the most beautiful baby.
“Clearly you’re still loopy from the drugs,” he sniffled at my side. “Our daughter is the spitting image of her beautiful mother.”
It seemed more real now that I was staring down at her tiny little face, but my gooey insides churned when he said, “She’s got a few hurdles to overcome from being born so early. Her lungs weren’t fully developed yet, but they said she let out a wail when they first took her out of you. Brain bleeds are apparently common, but she seems okay for now and it’ll take some time for her lungs and intestinal tract to fully mature. If everything goes well, we should be able to take her home in a few months.”
A few months.
I knew Eric would be leaving in less than three weeks and would then be gone for six weeks after that, but even though I wanted to cry all over again at the thought of him leaving and having to worry about our little girl all alone from halfway around the world, I knew it would be hard enough on him and didn’t want to add to his misery. I took a few deep breaths and when I knew I could keep my voice in check, I said as casually as I could, “Good. At least you should be back from Greenland in time for us to come home.”
I assumed we were still somewhere near San Diego, but there was no way I was leaving our daughter there all by herself and figured I would stay at the hospital and just get a hotel room, if I had to, to sleep and shower every day.
“Sookie,” he huffed incredulously, so I turned to look at him as he finished, “I’m not going to Greenland.”
“But…” I interrupted. He’d signed a contract. It wasn’t like he was a bit player in the movie. He basically was the movie and appeared in practically every scene.
“But nothing,” he replied. “After Pam got off of the phone with Jason she called Madden and told him what was going on and once the baby was born, she got back on the phone and told him I would let him know when I was ready to resume filming.”
“Can you do that?” All I could imagine was some massive lawsuit looming over our heads in addition to everything we were already facing, but I was willing to go through it if it meant that he would be staying.
His eyes narrowed back at me before he smiled and said, “Pam can do that. As soon as Madden started huffing over the phone she threatened him and the studio heads with a publicity nightmare. Everything we’ve gone through over the last twenty-four hours has been blaring through the news nonstop. I had to tell the hospital staff to start turning away all of the deliveries sent by well wishers and had them send the flowers to the local nursing homes with all of the toys and stuffed animals going straight to the pediatric floor here at the hospital. The whole country is pulling for us, so it wouldn’t be in Madden’s or the studio’s best interests to try and force me into doing anything right now. I’ll go back to it later, when both of you are healthy and home. Nothing else matters to me.”
Tears filled my eyes again with the relief sweeping through my body, but now that our daughter was here and we knew she was a she it didn’t feel right to keep calling her the Bean. We hadn’t decided on any names though, so after Eric got up and spoke to the nurse who’d just come into the room to check on me, asking if we could see the doctor, I asked, “Have you thought about any names for her? We can’t keep calling her the Bean.”
Eric’s expression instantly changed into a guilty one and he took a deep breath and said, “I kind of already named her.”
I was surprised, more than anything, since he hadn’t been dead set on any name in particular for a boy or girl (so long as we didn’t call them Eric Junior, Jack, or Pam), but seeing how worried he looked had me smiling encouragingly at him, asking, “And what did you name her?”
I was sure there were a lot of mothers who might not take too kindly to their husbands naming their children without any say so from them, but after everything I put Eric through in the last day I was determined not to give him grief over anything. It helped ease my mind somewhat that he seemed just as put off by the oddball names some celebrities named their kids, so I wasn’t worried our daughter would be saddled with a name like Kraken.
We might as well just name her Eric Junior.
“Lilly,” he said hesitantly. “Lilly Adele Northman.”
I had a feeling I knew why he’d chosen that name and was surprised it hadn’t occurred to me before then, but I wanted to hear it from him and smiled back asking, “Why Lilly?”
“From the book,” he admitted sheepishly. “When I woke up from the coma you had filled my room with lilies, but I couldn’t do that here in the ICU, so I thought if I named her Lilly…I don’t know…that you’d somehow know and come back to us.”
Oh…my Master Wooer was back.
Even though I’d expected an answer like the one he’d given me, tears streamed down my face as I started sobbing all over again, but Eric misconstrued my reaction and rushed out, “We can change it! We can name her whatever you want!”
I tried to form the words to tell him I loved her name, but what came out instead was, “I love you.”
His relief was evident and he gently wrapped me up in his embrace, saying, “I love you too.” When all I could do was continue to ruin his shirt, he asked, “You’re okay with her name?” and at my nod against his chest, he said, “Good, but I’ll admit I had an ulterior motive in naming her so quickly.” I pulled away wondering what it could be when he smiled and said, “You know Pam. If I didn’t jump on that quick we’d likely be taking home Pamela Ravenscroft Northman in a few months.”
He shivered dramatically like it would be the worst thing ever and it was enough to make me chuckle through my tears, but they didn’t truly stop until I heard someone clearing their voice and pulled away to see, I assumed, my doctor standing in the doorway. He came forward, watching me wipe away the tears, but seeing the smile on my face, he smiled in return and said, “Well, your tear ducts are in working order, so that’s one thing I can check off my list.”
He introduced himself as the surgeon who had operated on me the day before and then told me to call him Ben as he explained everything that had happened during the surgery while he checked my sutures. He told me I would have to stay in the hospital for at least a week so they could monitor my blood while they continued to give me the necessary medications, but said whatever it was they had pumped into my blood stream during the surgery had worked to help counteract the AHA I’d developed. If all went well, it could disappear entirely, but I’d have to follow up with my regular doctor for several months and if I were to become pregnant again, it would be something my OB/GYN would have to be on the lookout for, although I wouldn’t necessarily get it again. One baby was more than enough for me right now, so it wasn’t even something worth worrying about at the moment. I was just happy she was doing well and once he was done with his examination, he jotted some notes into my chart while the nurse removed everything from my body but the IV line I would have to take with me. My legs were still wobbly and the pain I felt where my incision was wasn’t too bad, so they both helped me into a wheelchair the nurse had brought into the room with her, but before he could leave I looked up at him and started crying all over again, saying, “Thank you for saving our baby.”
Never mind the fact he was quick enough to realize in time to save me that I had some rare blood disorder, my first priority was the wellbeing of our baby, but he took it in stride and smiled kindly at me while he joked, “Are you kidding? I’m like a Rock Star right now. My value has gone up exponentially all because I helped Eric Northman’s baby, so you’re lucky you got in on the ground floor because I think my rates are about to go up.”
I managed to snort out a laugh through the tears and Eric smiled as he shook his hand one last time before he wheeled me towards the NICU, but we only got as far as the waiting room when I realized that when Eric had said ‘they’ were here, he didn’t mean just Gran and Jason. The room was filled with Pam, Amelia, Tray, Sam, Terry, Alcide, Holly, Lafayette, Jason, and Eric’s dad and while they all greeted me at once, it was Jason that pounced on me, saying, “Sook!” as he wrapped his arms around me. The tears in his eyes when he pulled away again only unleashed my own, but his snarl looked out of place and sadly the first thing that came to my mind was wondering if someone had stolen his Shitter idea, until he said, “That fucker is lucky he died in the fall or else I woulda taken my time killing him.”
Oh yeah. Bill.
Seeing the look in his eyes, I didn’t doubt him for one second, but we had bigger things to worry about now and feeling Eric tense up at my side had me reaching out and taking his hand as I answered, “He’s gone. That’s all that matters now.”
I hated that he got half of his demented wish to come true with me no longer being pregnant, but it only seemed fitting that our daughter was giving him one giant ‘fuck you’ by living in spite of it all. It made me wonder just how much she could understand while in utero because she might look like her father, but that attitude was all me.
“Fuck that,” Jason snarled as he stood up and started pacing the room. I hadn’t noticed until then just how truly angry he was. I’d seen him pissed off many times before then, but mostly it was when his favorite football team had lost or a bird had dared to shit on his precious truck after he’d just washed it.
He didn’t get the irony when I laughed every time since he used a cloth diaper to wax it.
Finally he stopped and faced Eric, asking, “What about that Debbie Pelt bitch? I never thought I’d hit a woman, but it sounds like a pretty fucking good idea right about now.”
“I’m in,” Pam chimed in, with Eric adding, “Me too,” and the rest of the crowd seemingly started to form their own lynch mob, so rather than letting them all get themselves worked up enough to go out and get arrested (because I wasn’t leaving the hospital so they’d all just have to sit in jail), I turned to Eric’s dad and changed the subject by asking, “Have you gotten a chance to see your granddaughter yet?”
His whole face lit up as he smiled back at me, saying, “I have. Prettiest little baby I’ve ever seen.”
Hearing him say that seemed to pull Pam back from her premeditation and she smiled wide, saying, “Just wait until you see the clothes I’m having made for her! Baby Pam will be the chicest baby on the planet.”
“Baby Pam?” I asked with a smile. Eric had been rightfully worried in naming the baby quick since we both knew how influential Pam could be and I hoped she was just kidding, but I wouldn’t put it past her to have had a whole new birth certificate done while a small part of me was left wondering if she had her own little sweatshop set up somewhere making tiny little haute couture.
To Pam, the word ‘pamper’ did not equate ‘diapers’.
Eric squeezed my hand drawing my eyes back up to him just as he said, “They don’t know her name yet. I wanted you to be the first one to know.”
“What’s her name?” all of them asked in chorus.
My movie star husband seemed to suddenly feel shy in the spotlight, so I tugged on his hand and smiled at him saying, “You tell them. You were the mastermind behind it.”
He smiled back at me before looking at the expectant faces in front of us, saying, “Lilly Adele Northman.”
Recognition appeared in two sets of eyes with the rest of them saying how much they liked it. It didn’t surprise me Eric’s dad would know the significance and I’d since explained it to Pam, after Eric had come home from the hospital, on why I had insisted on playing the whales songs and filled his room with lilies.
“I love it,” I heard in a voice rising above the rest and coming from the doorway. It was one I hadn’t heard in person since just after Christmas and I turned to see Gran standing there beaming. My waterworks started up all over again and she walked over shushing me and saying, “We’ll have none of that now. Are you feeling alright?” I nodded against her shoulder and inhaled her unique scent which always worked wonders on making me feel better, so in pure Gran no nonsense fashion, she added, “Good. Now you need to pull yourself together so you’re not dripping tears all over my great-grandbaby.”
“How is she Gran?” I asked, more anxious than ever to see her.
“Why she’s perfect, of course,” she chuckled back at me while wiping the tears from my eyes. “Now go on and get in there. Your baby girl needs to meet her momma.”
I was suddenly overcome with fear and anxiety over the concept. It was one thing to become a mother to a perfectly healthy baby, but ours wasn’t and she would need the best care possible. I was such a fuck up I couldn’t even keep her inside of me long enough for her to be ready to be born and in my fear, I whispered so only Gran could hear, “What if I do something else wrong? I’ve already messed up which is why she’s here to begin with. I’m scared I won’t be good enough for her. ”
“Baby girl, you did nothing wrong,” she whispered back at me. “Every new parent is afraid of messing up, but children are resilient. Your baby girl has a few extra hurdles to overcome, but she’s got some strong Stackhouse genes her and it won’t do anyone any good to focus on what you can’t change. There’s an old saying that goes, ‘God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.’ Look around you Sookie. Everyone in the room is here with you, for you, and will do anything you need, but even without any of them you have Eric. That man loves you both, so when you need to let him be your strength, give you comfort, and light your way and, when he needs it, you do all of those things for him.”
She sounded so confident I only hoped it would somehow rub off on me. I was still scared of doing something else wrong and while I was nowhere near as saintly as Mother Theresa, a quote from her popped into my mind.
‘I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.’
I had a sudden urge to stand up and shout ‘Can I get a witness?’, but rather than do that I steeled myself and tried to muster up some of the confidence everyone else seemed to have in me, finally asking Eric if he would take me to go see her. We left them all in the waiting room as he wheeled me to the NICU where he helped me scrub my hands, careful of the PICC line inserted in my arm, all the way up to my elbows at the sink and then brought me into the darkened room. Amongst the nurses were several other sets of parents spread out at various incubators, all with worry etched onto their faces, but they each managed to give me a soft smile and my tears tried to fight their way free again when I realized then that I’d become a member of a very special group. Whatever the reasons behind it all, none of us got to experience the happiness that came with giving birth to a healthy baby, but seeing the underlying determination on their faces made my own resolve solidify. I would do whatever I had to, to see our baby through this, but the battle with my tears was lost as soon as Eric pulled me up alongside one incubator in particular however I managed to keep the sobs inside of me not wanting to startle her with my cries.
She looked so tiny lying in the middle of a nest made up of blankets and my heart ached seeing how vulnerable she was with the guilt over my failure of keeping her safely inside of me quickly eating away at me.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, both to her and her father. I’d give anything to be able to change it all; anything to balloon up like one of Eric’s beloved whales if it would mean she would still be safe and sound inside of me where she belonged instead of lying there covered in wires with tubes giving her what my body had been in order for her to grow.
Even knowing how much Eric loved me, I couldn’t understand how he didn’t hate me right now seeing what I’d done to our daughter, but his hand was suddenly on my cheek pulling my face to meet his as he knelt down beside me. Wiping away my tears, he said firmly, “Stop it. It’s not your fault. It’s that asshole’s fault and no one else’s. Neither one of us could have known just how psycho either one of them were, but it’s done now. We need to concentrate on getting you and our daughter healthy, so no more guilt. Okay?”
That was easier said than done, but I was still awestruck by Eric’s demeanor. My panicked husband of the day before had changed into a calm steadfast father, literally, overnight.
Thank God one of us had their shit together.
Hopefully the day would come when our roles were reversed and I could calm him down when Lilly was going out on her first date, but thinking about it drew my eyes back to her and I pushed away every feeling but the love I had for both of them as I softly laughed, asking, “Have you already called the contractors for our poor Rapunzel? They could film it and call it, ‘The Eric Northman Compound: Tower Edition.'”
He laughed softly at my side and agreed, “Yep. A moat too, so the next time we’re in Louisiana we need to scout out a few alligator farms.”
We watched as her little arms and legs flailed around, seemingly in protest to her father’s renovation plans, before settling back down again and my breath hitched in my throat seeing it, but unable to feel it. The guilt was still there, but I kept it to myself and thankfully Eric spoke up, saying softly and without remorse, “I’m warning you now, I’m going to be next to impossible; overbearing and completely insufferable when it comes to either one of you.”
I couldn’t really blame him after everything that had happened and after living through the last day or so, it seemed my inner feminist had packed her shit up and gone home. Maybe with some time and space from the horrors we’d faced we would feel differently in the future, but for right now I needed a next to impossible overbearing completely insufferable Eric at my side. I wasn’t strong enough to do this on my own and I was grateful I didn’t have to. I knew it was only because he loved us that he felt that way and I loved him even more because of it, so I took his hand in my own and simply said, “Sounds good to me.”
“Can I get that in writing?” he chuckled next to me.
“Got a pen?” I asked while staring down at our little girl and feeling every bit as fragile as she looked.
How could I argue over giving ourselves over to the one person who loved us more than anything when I’d already given myself to Eric long before the ink would ever have the chance to dry.