Big girls do it pregnant, p.9
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       Big Girls Do It Pregnant, p.9

         Part #10 of Big Girls Do It series by Jasinda Wilder
 
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  Chase nodded, his face buried in my shoulder. "I know. I just hate it." He pulled away and rubbed the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. "Thank god for Mom, huh? I'd be out of a job for sure if you were stuck alone in New York for all this."

  I laughed. "No shit."

  Chase glanced at his phone, then slammed his hand into the steering wheel. "Fuck. I have to go. My flight out is in less than three hours." Chase leaned in and kissed me, slowly and thoroughly. It was a farewell kiss, and I was crying by the end of it. "If you cry, I won't be able to leave."

  I sniffled and wiped my eyes, summoned the dregs of my courage and shoved the selfish sadness down, ran my hand through his soft black hair and kissed his cheekbone. "Go. I love you. Call me." I got out of Chase's rental car and backed away. "Go be a rock star, baby."

  He smiled sadly. "I'd rather be here being a husband and daddy."

  "Soon. Go." I waved at him, one hand on my belly.

  What I hadn't told him was that I had the same sense of foreboding, a feeling that my three or four days in the hospital would turn in to an emergency C-section and Chase would miss it, and I'd be alone in the O.R., trying not to cry.

  I rubbed my belly. "Stay in there for me, Sam. Okay?" I felt a flutter, and then a foot or elbow pushed against my hand, eliciting a laugh. "Be a good girl for me and stay in there until Daddy can be with us. Please?"

  Chapter 5: ANNA

  Our OB, Dr. Michaela Irving, paused for a terrifyingly long moment before delivering the news. "You're measuring a little over three weeks behind where you should be, Anna. Both twins are small, worrisomely so." She glanced at the papers in the file folder, more to gather her thoughts, I guessed, than for any actual information.

  I struggled with accepting her news. "What? I'm eating healthier than ever before in my entire life. I'm--I'm doing everything I can, I swear! I don't--I don't get it."

  Dr. Irving held up her hands to stop me. "Anna, it's got nothing to do with what you're doing or what you're eating. You're doing everything right. Sometimes these things just happen, especially with twins. I know I've explained the risks associated with having twins--well, this is one more that exists. You're thirty-one weeks tomorrow, and I'd like you to make it to thirty-four, if possible. We'll have to have you in to measure your progress at least once a week, but if I don't see sufficient progress, I'm going to schedule an induction. A lot of my colleagues will only do a C-section for twins, but I'd like you to try to deliver naturally if you can."

  "I'd like to deliver naturally, too," I said. "But whatever you think is safest for the babies."

  Dr. Irving stood. "Just stay positive and keep doing what you're doing. See Tasha on the way out and schedule an ultrasound for next week, 'kay?"

  I just nodded and squeezed Jeff's hand. He'd been silent for the entire ultrasound and Dr. Irving's prognosis. "I'm scared, Jeff."

  He didn't respond immediately. "It'll be okay. Just--we'll just take it one day at a time, one ultrasound at a time."

  The next week, Jeff had a gig DJing a blow-out Bat Mitzvah in Bloomfield Hills that was paying too much money to ignore, so I went to the ultrasound alone. I had progressed some, but Dr. Irving still seemed more worried than she was saying. She had me come in three days later, rather than the next week, which had me in a panic. At my thirty-third-week ultrasound, Dr. Irving again remained silent for several minutes.

  "You're still measuring far enough behind that I'm worried the babies aren't getting what they need. It's always a balancing act with twins, especially in situations like this. Obviously the farther along you're able to go, the better it is for the babies, but with twins, it always gets more complicated. With your measurements and the rate of progression I'm seeing, my feeling is that it would be best to induce you next week."

  I twisted the strap of my purse between my fingers. "Are they...will they both be viable?"

  "I believe so," she replied. "I'm the most worried about the boy, since he's measuring smaller than his sister. Their lungs both look good, though, so I'm very optimistic."

  I hated that phrase. Very optimistic. Like she was discussing the weather for an upcoming ball game or something, rather than the lives of my babies. I didn't express this, though. I just nodded and squeezed Jeff's hand so hard he frowned at me. He was, as he'd been through most of the appointments, silent, watchful, a solid presence beside me, calming me as much as possible.

  On the way home, I turned to Jeff. "Can we swing by Kelly's house? I want to see Jamie." He just nodded, staring straight ahead. "Talk to me, Jeff. I can feel you stewing over there."

  He frowned at me. "I'm not stewing."

  "You've barely spoke three words to me all week," I said.

  "What do you want me to say?" He jabbed the radio off with an impatient stab of his thumb.

  "I don't know. Anything. I mean, I know you're a man of few words, but this is ridiculous."

  That got a chuckle from him, but he quickly sobered. "I'm worried, Anna. Is that what you want to hear? I'm scared for you, and for our babies. You're gonna deliver six weeks early? Isn't that, like, a fucking lot? And she's having you do a vaginal birth when just about every other doctor in the field recommends a C-section for twin births? What if she's wrong? What if something goes wrong?" He swung around a corner too fast, and hit the gas until we were going so fast I clutched the handle with white knuckles. "What if--what if...god, there's so much going through my mind I don't know where to even start, so I just--don't. I keep it in, because you're worried, too--you're scared, too, and you need me to be the strong one, the calm one."

  "Slow down, Jeff, you're scaring me." He took his foot off the accelerator and we slowed down enough that I could relax. "Like I said, you're stewing. We're both scared, Jeff. We've never done this before. Yeah, I need you to be my rock like you always are, but I also need you to talk to me. You do me no good if you're lost in your own head. You may as well not even be here if you're gonna do that."

  "I don't know how to deal with all this, Anna. It's so much. There's so many elements to this, so many factors, so many ways it could go wrong, and I'd--I'd lose you. Lose the babies. I can't--"

  I took his hand and kissed his palm. "That's not going to happen, honey. Nothing's going to go wrong. Dr. Irving knows what she's doing. I trust her. No one is going to lose anyone."

  He smiled at me, but it didn't entirely reach his eyes. "Just--I love you. And I'm worried. That's all."

  "It's going to be fine, baby."

  "Why are you the one comforting me here?" He laughed, tangling our fingers together and bringing my knuckle to his lips. "It's going to be fine."

  "It's going to be fine," I agreed. He pulled into Kelly Delany's driveway, and I stopped him before he shut the truck off. "Why don't you go out and have a drink or something? Relax. Have some alone time."

  He seemed baffled by the idea. "A drink? At two o'clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday?"

  "Or whatever. I'm not saying go get hammered. Just go and relax, and let me have some time with Jay."

  He nodded. "There's a shooting range not far from here. Maybe I'll got shoot some rounds."

  I kissed him and made my way to the front door, where Jamie was already waiting, waving at Jeff as he backed out.

  "Hey, hooker," I said, hugging her, our bellies bumping as we awkwardly tried to maneuver in for a proper embrace. "You look great!"

  Jamie snorted. "Shut up, you lying sack of shit. I look like fucking Shamu at this point. Except Shamu can jump through a hoop, and I can barely get my ass off the damn couch to take a piss."

  I laughed. "Well, I'm finally catching up to you in the whale department. We're about the same size now."

  She stood beside me, and we compared bellies. "Except you're almost two weeks farther along than I am. And you have twins."

  My smile faded a bit. "Yeah, well, that's why my doctor wants to induce me next week."

  Jamie frowned and took my hand in hers. "Really? Mine, too."

  "I
thought she said things were looking better?"

  Jamie shrugged. "Yeah, well, not anymore. After being basically chained to a hospital bed for three days, my protein count and blood pressure had leveled off a bit, but now they're back up and worse than ever. She's not sure I'll make it to next week. I'm supposed to go in tomorrow to get checked."

  "Sorry I couldn't come see you while you were in the hospital, hon. We had that gig in Jackson, and then I had an ultrasound that just took forever and I was so tired by the end--"

  Jamie clapped her hand over my mouth. "It's fine, Anna. You already explained. It really wasn't that bad. I had wifi and my iPad and my knitting. I just hate hospitals. You have to stay in bed and wait and wait and wait for absolutely nothing. And then they tell you, 'oh, we'll check on you in a couple hours,' but really they mean like, some time the next week they might remember to come back."

  I laughed. "Yeah, not looking forward to that."

  "So we'll be having our babies together, huh?" Jamie handed me a caffeine-free diet Coke--gross--and we sat on the couch together.

  We both burst out laughing when we approached the process of sitting down the same way: bracing one hand on the arm of the couch, leaning forward into a sitting position as we lowered ourselves to the cushions, easing down until our leg muscles couldn't support our weight any longer, and then falling the rest of the way.

  "I guess we will," I said, hand on my belly to feel a little foot kick-kicking away so hard it took my breath away. "Jeez, kid, take it easy," I said, looking down at my stomach.

  Jamie laid her hand where mine was, and I moved her palm over slightly so she could feel the kicking. "Damn, that kid can kick!"

  "I know!" I winced as the other baby started in on the other side of my belly.

  "Do you know which one that is?" Jamie asked.

  "I think Caleb is on the left, Niall on the right."

  "So that's Niall kicking you over here, then." She had her palm on the right side of my belly, where Niall was trying to punt her way out, it felt like.

  "Pretty sure that's where they were last ultrasound."

  Jamie laid her head back on the couch and looked at me sideways. "Are you ready, Anna?"

  I mirrored her pose. "Hell, no. I'm not ready for one baby, much less two. I never thought I'd be a mom, you know? Even after I started dating Jeff, I didn't really think it'd happen. Not that I didn't want it to, I just...I don't know. I never really let on to Jeff, but I was, and still am, scared I won't be a good mom."

  Jamie sighed, and it sounded like relief. "God, thank you. I thought that was just me. Sometimes, despite feeling her kick and, like, knowing there's a baby in there, I don't really feel like this is real. Am I really about to have an actual human being squirt out of my hoo-ha? For actual-factual real? A little human being that's going to be completely dependent on me? What if I fuck up?"

  I laughed. "I think there won't be a lot of actual squirting, Jay. I think it's going to be more screaming and trying to shit, from what I've seen on A Baby Story."

  "You watch that, too? I hate it, but I can't stop watching. I keep thinking it'll help me be ready for actually giving birth, but then all it does is freak me out even worse."

  I took a sip from the flat, watery-tasting caffeine-free Diet Coke and tried not to grimace at it...in vain. "We're not gonna be shitty moms, are we, Jay?"

  Jamie sighed, staring out the window at a robin hopping across the lawn. "I fucking hope not. I mean, there's no real manual for this shit, you know? All the self-help books and TV shows and What to Expect When You're Expecting...all that won't make a difference when it comes time to actually have the baby, to actually be a mother. Doesn't stop me from reading it all and watching it all, hoping it'll help or something. But I know, deep down, once the baby comes...everything is going to change. And all you can do is hope you're able to figure it out as it all happens."

  I groaned. "Damn Jay, that's pessimistic as all hell."

  "Well, do you have a better way of looking at it? 'Cause I'd love to hear it."

  I watched carbonation bubble up and stick to the sides of the glass rather than meet Jay's eyes. "Not really, I guess. I think I'm more hoping that, like, I'll just know what to do when the time comes, you know? I mean, is anyone ever really prepared to be a parent? No, but also yes. I mean, it's part of the human cycle, you know? It's programmed into us, into our genes or DNA or whatever, to reproduce and to take care of our offspring. Not everyone is the same, and some people are more suited to parenthood than others. I mean, look at my parents. They were shitty parents. But I'm determined to love my kids and take care of them the way I wish my parents had me."

  Jamie nodded. "Exactly my feelings. I may not get any 'Mom of the Year' awards, but at least I'll be better than my folks were."

  I watched as the corners of Jamie's eyes tightened, as if from pain. "Are you all right?"

  "Yeah, just a headache."

  "Jamie. Didn't your doctor tell you not to just ignore a headache? Especially at this stage?"

  "God, Anna. Yes, yes, you're right. But--"

  "But nothing." I levered myself to my feet. "Are you packed?"

  "Packed?" She gave me a panicked look. "Packed for what?"

  I called Jeff, ignoring Jamie's squawks of protest. "Hey, baby. You can come get us now."

  "'Us'? Referring to yourself in the plural, now, are we?"

  I snorted. "No, it's Jamie who does that. But Jamie's got another headache, and I'm making her go in to the hospital."

  "Oh," he said, and I heard the sounds of pistols in the background fading as he left the range. "I'll be there in ten."

  Jamie sat on the couch, glaring at me as I slid the phone into my purse again. "Anna, seriously--"

  "No, you seriously. Quit fighting me on this. You know you have to." I grabbed both of her hands and pulled her upright, then smacked her ass as she shuffled toward her bedroom. "Now go get your hospital bag and let's go."

  "Fine. Hooker."

  "Stubborn-ass ho."

  The fact that she didn't put up more of a fight told me what I needed to know. The increasing tension around her eyes and the way she clenched her jaw as she slid into the back seat gave me enough of a clue that I knew I was doing the right thing.

  When we were nearly to the hospital, I turned around to look at her. "Should you call Chase?"

  She shook her head. "Not yet. Not until I hear what the doctors have to say."

  After a couple hours' wait, and a battery of tests later, she was officially admitted to William Beaumont Hospital's Labor and Delivery unit. She called Chase.

  Samantha Delany was on her way.

  BRIDGE

  Chase was uneasy. He was backstage waiting for Six Foot Tall to go on. Device, David Draiman's new band, was on, finishing their last set, and they were killing. It was Draiman, though, so of course they killed. Disturbed was a huge influence on Chase's harder music, so the opportunity to play with David Draiman last minute in Chicago was a dream come true. He was geeked, nervous, a bit star-struck, and on top of it all, the down-deep fear that something was wrong was growing.

  He was edgy, bouncing on his toes, cracking his knuckles over and over again, checking his silenced phone in the back pocket of his signature leather pants. He knew he needed to get his shit together, but he just couldn't shake the jitters, the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He'd nearly called Jamie at least six times, but never had.

  Now, he didn't have time. Device had already done a three-song encore, and Six Foot Tall was set to go on within minutes of Device leaving the stage, which had been curtained off toward the back so the next band's equipment could be set up.

  "Thank you, Chicago! Good night!" David waved one last time to the screaming crowd, hometown for him, and left the stage, handing the mic to a stagehand and accepting a hand towel and a bottle of water, and was gone before Chase could open his mouth. Device had originally been slated to play a small acoustic set in a club as a soft launch for their n
ewest tour, but the gig had been cancelled at the last minute. Then the local band that was supposed to open for Six Foot Tall had cancelled, citing an OD'd lead singer, and Device had agreed to fill the slot. Of course, David Draiman was a huge draw, so they'd taken up nearly half of Six Foot Tall's original time. Chase didn't really care, and the fans loved it. They'd just have to go overtime, which shouldn't be a problem.

  The stage was cleared and reset, and Chase prepared to go on. He took a deep breath, let it out, shook his hand, then trotted out onstage. The crowd went wild as the spotlight hit him. Johnny Hawk hit the kick drum a few times, and Gage thumped his bass, setting up a rumbling line as the band got settled in.

  Blue stage lights bathed him, then turned purple. He felt the nerves leave him as Kyle fingered the opening chords to their latest hit, "Shadow Thrall." Performing was the only time he felt any kind of peace lately. When the chorus came with the shrieking guitar solo underlaid by the scudding bass line, Chase was crouching at the edge of the stage, howling the lyrics: "The shadows hold me in their thrall, I cannot deny their call, I'm falling, falling, and I cannot stop this fall..."

  Even then, though, the fear remained. It ate at him, dug under his skin and made his heart thump crazily, made his stomach roil and constrict. The next song fit his mood. It was their hardest metal piece to date, and it written entirely by Gage. The lyrics were dark, darker and harder than anything Chase had ever penned, but his fear gave him the edge needed to sell them.

  The lights dropped to black, and Gage took front and center stage, bathed in a single red stage light. He held his black bass guitar vertically against his body, his long, fine blond hair loose around his face, obscuring his features. The crowd was silent except for a few isolated whistles and shrieks, and Gage milked it, thumping the lowest string with his thumb in a reverberating tone that washed across the audience. When the tension was thick enough to cut, he began to slowly ramp up the speed of his hammering thumb until the waves of basso reverberation were crashing back on themselves, reaching a crescendo. When the peak hit and he couldn't tap any faster, his back arched and the bass resting on his chest, he slammed forward and let loose with a thundering series of chords, headbanging to the punishing rhythm. As the rhythm reached a crescendo, Johnny began pelting the snare drums in a stuttering march pattern. When their rhythms synched, Kyle wove a repeating series of riffs through the wall of sound created by Johnny and Gage.

 
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