All That Matters
S X Meagher
Two weeks later, Blair was still growing, still gaining weight and still ready to take the baby out by any means necessary. "When we met, all you talked about was operating on me," she complained when she and Kylie were lying in bed, watching the sun rise through some dark clouds. "Now I can't get you to take one little thing out. Easy as pie. Just one little incision …"
"I thought you didn't want me to touch you clinically," Kylie said. They were loosely wrapped in each other’s arms, legs interlaced.
"There's an exception to every rule. Just this once, I won't mind."
"Today's your official due date," Kylie said. "Maybe Mackenzie'll make a grand entrance on Christmas Eve."
"That due date stuff means nothing, and you know it. It's a crap shoot."
"Not when you're inseminated," Kylie said. "I mean, every baby is on his own schedule, but at least you really know when the sperm started swimming towards that lucky egg."
Blair put her hand on her belly, then knocked lightly. "Come on out, Mackenzie. Your room's all ready, your grandma's here, and your grandpa's coming this afternoon. Don’t be a divo."
"If demanding, temperamental women are divas, then men should be divos. Makes sense."
"Can't argue with ya," Kylie agreed. "What time are we seeing Monique today?"
"At 4:30, same as usual. Mom wants to come with us today. You don't mind, do you?"
"Heck, no. She'll see a lot worse when you actually deliver. If you want, you two can go alone, and I'll stay home and wrap your Christmas presents, then go to the airport and pick up your father."
Blair nudged her head against Kylie's chest. "I wanna be with you. Every single minute."
"Wanna go the airport?"
"Want your presents?"
"Then play along, sweetums. You go show Monique what's cookin', and I'll have your father here when you get back."
"That's the best present you could give me," Blair said. "Now let's take a little nap."
"We just woke up!"
"You just woke up. I was up for three hours, alphabetizing our CD's."
"Blair! You did that last week!"
"I know, but I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and decided that I should categorize all of the classical ones by the orchestra, rather than the composer."
"I’m filled with empathy for you, honey. Sorry I show that by sleeping through your nocturnal nesting frenzies."
"Try having a baby pressing against your diaphragm on one end and against your bladder on the other. Let's see how you sleep then, wise guy."
"I sleep best when you're pressing against me, so a nap sounds just perfect," Kylie said.
Kylie and Werner were making good time coming home from the airport, mostly because the doctor used her favorite shortcut, taking Lincoln Boulevard instead of the freeway. The freeway was unbearably crowded, but the surface streets weren't bad. Many of the stores on Lincoln had closed early because of Christmas Eve, and they were nearly home by 5:30.
Her pager chirped, and Kylie crossed her fingers, hoping it wasn't the hospital. "Darn it," she said, looking at the display. "I didn't get paged once this week. Why do they need to page me now?"
"Maybe it's a mistake," Werner offered. "Most of the calls I get on my cell phone are wrong numbers."
"Mmm … they don't make many mistakes," Kylie said. "I'd better pull over and call." She found an empty space on Montana and opened the windows. Pressing the speed dial, she waited for a moment, then said, "Hi, it's Doctor Mackenzie. Someone paged me."
"Kylie Mackenzie?" the woman asked.
"Yes." Kylie rolled her eyes, thinking that Werner's prediction might prove to be true. "Is this the surgical nurses station?"
"No. This is the obstetrics station. Blair Spencer asked us to page you."
"Blair's at the hospital? Why?" Her heart started to race, and she felt Werner's hand grip her arm.
"Uhm … she's having a baby, right? Am I talking to the right person?"
"Yes, damn it! Is she in labor?"
"Of course she is. Are you sure you're a doctor?"
"I'll be right there," Kylie said, hanging up while muttering a curse. She turned to Werner and said, "Either someone has screwed up royally, or Blair's in a labor room."
"Why wouldn't she call you herself?" he asked.
"That's why I'm so confused," Kylie said. "This doesn't make sense."
"I'm sure you don't want another false alarm," Werner said. "You're gonna get a reputation."
Kylie started to shoot him a look, but then her expression softened, and she tapped her forehead against the steering wheel. "Many, many people think they're in labor before they really are. I don't know what's going on in her uterus! If she says she's in labor, I take her to the hospital. I'm blameless!"
"You're a good partner," Werner said, patting her on the back. "Why don't you call her cell phone to make sure this isn't a false alarm?"
"Good idea." Kylie called the number, grumbling when it went to voice mail. "Hi. Call me if you get this message — if you're not in the hospital, that is. If you are in the hospital, I'll see you soon." She looked at Werner and said, "Let's go. We might be having a baby!"
"One benefit of being on staff here," Kylie said, winking at Werner. "I can park close." They got out and walked into the hospital, going directly to the obstetrics floor. Kylie was a complete unknown on this floor, and she didn't particularly like the feeling. She and Werner walked up to the nurses station, and she asked, "Has Blair Spencer been admitted?"
The woman at the desk gave her a thin smile. "You didn't have to hang up on me. I was just trying to make sure you were the right person."
Kylie held back the retort she really wanted to use; she took a breath and said, "I apologize. I'm on staff here, and I don't have any patients in the hospital right now. I assumed the page was a mistake."
"When your … friend is nine months pregnant?"
Leaning over the desk, Kylie fixed the woman with a steely stare and said, "Look. I'm sure you don't like working on Christmas Eve, but quit fucking with me. I apologized once, and that's all you're gonna get. Now, has my spouse been admitted or not?"
"Delivery room six," the woman sniffed, turning her back on the doctor.
Kylie went barreling down the hall, leaving Werner in her wake. She noticed his absence, then slowed down and said, "I'm sorry, but I'm really worried about her."
"Go ahead, Kylie. I'll be there … eventually."
She smiled at him and started to run, bursting into the room rather wild-eyed. "What are you doing here?" she asked her partner.
Blair looked up from the magazine she was reading. She was lying in bed, dressed in a blue hospital gown, an IV in her arm and the wires from a fetal heartbeat monitor sticking out from under the covers. "Oh, Mom and I were bored, so we thought we'd check in. She's in the next room. Thought she'd have an appendectomy."
Kylie didn't blink, and Blair could see that her partner wasn't processing information at her usual rate. Werner walked in, and Blair gave him a beaming smile. "Dad! Give me a hug!"
He went to her and wrapped her in his arms, holding on tight. "How's my girl?"
"Fine," she said. "I guess you'd both like some details?"
"That'd be good," Kylie said. "Real good."
"We went to the doctor, and my mucus plug came out while Monique was examining me." She looked at her father and saw that he had blanched noticeably. "Sorry, Dad, but this is kinda gross."
"Oh, I'm fine," he said, looking anything but.
"What happened then?" Kylie asked. "Losing your mucus plug isn't that big a deal. You can go for days without going into labor."
Blair shot her father a deadpan look and said, "Easy to say when you've never lost one." She turned back to her partner. "I know that's not a big deal, honey, but when I was leaving the office, I had to pee. I went back in and started to pee, but when I started thinking the toilet would overflow, I began to worry."
"Ooo … your water broke, huh?"
"Yeah. It took me a while to calm down and remind myself that I've only been peeing a couple of ounces at a time. This was more like a gallon!"
"That sounds a little high," Kylie said, giving her partner an indulgent smile, "but I can imagine it felt like a gallon."
"It felt like two," Blair said, sticking out her tongue. "I was under-exaggerating."
Eleanor walked into the room, carrying a cup of ice chips. "Werner!" she said. She shoved the cup in Kylie's direction and embraced her husband. "It feels like months since I've seen you."
"Longer," he replied, giving her a kiss and holding her in his arms for a long while.
"Have you told Kylie and your father about our adventure?" Eleanor asked her daughter.
"I was just at the point where my water broke," Blair said.
"Oh, the best part's coming," Eleanor said. She took Werner by the hand and led him over to a sofa, sitting right next to him while he put his arm around her shoulders to wait for the rest of the story.
Blair continued, "I grabbed some paper towels and stuffed them into my underwear, then I went out and found a nurse. I told her what had happened, and she had me go back into an examining room. I'd been seventy percent effaced and two centimeters dilated when Monique examined me, and now I was three centimeters — and only about twenty minutes had passed."
"Damn!" Kylie sat down on the edge of her partner's bed, her eyes wide with amazement. "Where are you now?"
"The last time a complete stranger stuck her hand up me, I was four centimeters."
Her eyes closed, and she grabbed Kylie's hand and groaned softly, her whole body shaking with pain. Her face started to turn red, and Kylie stroked her arm and said, "Breathe, baby. Breathe through the pain."
One eye shot open and gave Kylie a murderous look. The doctor shut her mouth and grimaced in pain as Blair's grip nearly broke her hand. After what seemed like a very long time, the blonde collapsed onto her pillow, beads of sweat covering her face. "If you value your life, you'll find the guy with the epidural and drag his ass in here," she moaned.
Kylie hopped up and did as directed, determined to find the anesthesiologist or do it herself. Werner and Eleanor got up and tended to Blair, with Werner wiping her face with a cool cloth and Eleanor feeding her some ice chips. "I'd kill for a glass of water," Blair said. "Any chance of your sneaking me a bottle when no one's looking?"
"No, not me," Eleanor said. "The nurses were very clear that I should only give you a few ice chips at a time."
"Sadists," Blair decided. "They're all sadists."
Kylie came back a few minutes later, looking a little harried. "I hate not being able to tell people what to do!" She sat down on the bed and let out a frustrated breath. "The nurse said she'd page the anesthesiologist." She crossed her arms over her chest and pouted a little. "This sucks."
"Ooo, my girl's not top gun here, is she?" Blair soothed, giving her partner a tickle.
"No," Kylie said, her lower lip sticking out. "I don't like being a civilian."
The nurse came in and said to Eleanor and Werner, "I need to examine Blair again. It'll just take a moment."
Werner was out of the room before the nurse reached the bed, with Eleanor following behind after blowing her daughter a kiss. "Let's see how you're doing," the nurse said, pulling the sheet down.
"She needs an epidural," Kylie said, her voice low and firm.
"She'll have it as soon as she needs it," the woman said, giving Kylie a smile. "Are you Blair's partner?"
"Yeah. And she needs it now. There's no reason for her to be in pain."
"I know it's hard to watch her suffer, but it'll all be over soon." She started to perform a quick examination, but before she finished, another strong contraction hit Blair. She tried to pant her way through it, but wasn't able to. She held her breath for a few seconds, her face turning purple, then cried out loudly, her anguish hitting Kylie like a blow.
When the contraction was over, Kylie took the nurse by the arm and led her out of the room. She'd obviously moved away from the door because the only word Blair could hear was a loud, firm, "Now!" A few seconds later, Kylie came back in. She took out her phone and dialed a number, waiting just a moment before she said, "Where are you?" Blair watched her partner talk, amazed at how tense and irritable she was. "Where's the fucking anesthesiologist, Monique? You know that no one's gonna bring him in here if you don't okay it." Her lips were pursed while she listened to Monique's reply, then she said, "I know you're busy, but we've been friends for fifteen years. I thought you cared about me enough to go out of your way to make sure Blair gets the best care possible." She nodded, then said, "Fine. See you when you get here." She slapped her phone closed, then turned and walked out of the room, leaving three people staring at her in surprise.
Blair was in the middle of another contraction when Kylie walked back into the room, and Eleanor started to move away from the bed so the doctor could hold Blair's hand, but Kylie patted the older woman on the back and stood at the foot of the bed, rubbing Blair's feet while she watched her body contort with pain.
When the contraction passed, she moved up to the head of the bed, surprised to see Werner and Eleanor depart without a word. She sat on the edge of the bed and fed her partner some ice chips. "Guess I scared 'em off, huh?"
Blair looked up at her and shook her head. "They know you're worried about me."
Kylie nodded. "I am. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be."
"Just what I was thinking," Blair said, giving her partner a pointed look.
The doctor stroked her partner's face. "Oh, baby, I'm not minimizing what you're going through. I'm so frustrated! They're treating you like everyone else!"
"I am like everyone else, honey. It's all right." Blair held her partner's hand, then brought it to her mouth and kissed it. "They're treating me fine, Kylie. Don't be so stressed."
"But you shouldn't have to be in pain at this point. Monique should have her ass here so she can give some orders!"
"It's hard for you to give orders and have the nurses ignore 'em, isn't it?"
The doctor nodded, looking a little embarrassed. "Guess I didn't realize how much I enjoy being in charge. I think my favorite words are 'Yes, Doctor,' or 'Right away, Doctor.' It's driving me nuts to have the nurses pat me on the head and send me packing."
Monique walked in while Kylie was still talking, and she gave Blair a knowing smile. She approached Kylie from the back and put her hand on her shoulder. "Sorry I wasn't able to get away until now," she said.
Kylie stood up and gave her old friend a hug. "Sorry I was an asshole to you on the phone."
"Oh, I'm used to the fact that you're an asshole, Shakes. That's why I love you."
Gently jabbing her friend in the kidney, Kylie kissed Monique on the cheek and said, "Take a look at Blair right now, or I'm gonna have a tantrum."
The obstetrician still had her coat on, but she dutifully dropped her bag and her coat on a chair, then washed her hands and put on a pair of gloves. She examined Blair, with Kylie leaning over her shoulder like a vulture. "Wow, you're opening up awfully fast," she said. "You're almost six centimeters."
"Ten's the magic number, right?" Blair asked.
"Yep," Monique said. "Most babies need ten centimeters to make an exit." She covered Blair up and squeezed her knee. "Ready for a nice epidural?"
"Way past ready," the blonde said. "Hook me up."
"I'll send the anesthesiologist in as quickly as possible," Monique said. She picked up her things and looked at Kylie. "Come with me while I put my scrubs on. Maybe the nurses will treat you better if they see me talking to you. They all love me," she added with a superior grin.
"Funny," Kylie said. She’d assumed her friend was kidding, but Monique twitched her head in the direction of the door, and Kylie patted Blair on the leg and followed her out. Werner and Eleanor were just a few feet away from the door, and Kylie motioned to them. "Werner and Eleanor Schneidhorst, this is Monique Jackson, Blair's obstetrician." The threesome shook hands, and Kylie added, "I've already apologized for being a jerk, and Monique's forgiven me." She put her arm around her friend's shoulders and said, "She's used to me."
"I need to get changed. We'll be back in a few minutes," Monique said to the older couple.
"Keep Blair company for a few minutes, will you?"
"Sure, honey," Eleanor said. "Is everything all right?"
"Oh, yeah. Monique's gonna try to increase my status by letting the nurses know I'm a real doctor."
"You're not a real doctor," her friend teased. "You're a surgeon."
"Whatever." Kylie took her by the arm and led her down the hall. As soon as Werner and Eleanor went into Blair's room, she stopped and grabbed Monique's shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Monique made a face and said, "I think the baby's too big for a vaginal delivery. Sorry, buddy, but I think we should do a C-section."
"What?" Kylie's voice was a little loud, and Monique held a finger over her own lips to shush her. She quieted and asked, "How can that be? Today's just her due date."
"You know it's hard to tell exactly how big a baby will be. I knew it was large, but I couldn't tell how large until I got my hand in there. She's six centimeters, and the head is nowhere near crowning. I'll let you two make the call if you want to wait and see what develops, but I think we're wasting our time."
Kylie fixed her with a penetrating gaze and asked, "Are you sure? I don't want her to have to have major surgery if it isn't absolutely necessary."
"Neither do I, Kylie. And, no, I'm not absolutely sure. She's opening up faster than I want her to. That wouldn't be a problem with a small baby, but with a big baby …"
"What? You're worried that she might have some internal tearing?"
"It's a possibility," Monique said. "The baby might be able to make it out, but I think it's risky."
"So's a C-section!" Kylie said, looking terrified.
"Shakes, you're a surgeon. You know the risks of a C-section aren't that great, given Blair's health."
"I know, I know," she said, grumbling. She looked up quickly and said, "She wants to nurse him. Will she be lucid enough to do that tonight?"
"Yeah, yeah. I think we can get by with just an epidural if we crank it up. We shouldn't have to give her general anesthesia."
"Okay." Kylie hugged her again and said, "I'll tell her. Call the surgeon." When she pulled away she said, "This guy had better be great, 'cause I'm gonna watch."
"Kylie, stay at Blair's head and keep out of the way. No one likes to work with a family member watching. Behave!"
"Can't promise that," Kylie said as she walked away. "If the surgeon screws up, I'm taking over."
She had to walk up and down the hall for a few minutes, but by the time she entered the room, Kylie thought she looked calm and collected. Her belief was shattered when Blair took one look at her and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Nothing's wrong," Kylie said, emphasizing the word wrong, "but our little guy isn't so little." She stroked Blair's belly and said, "You were right, honey; he is a very big baby, and Monique thinks there's a good chance you won't be able to deliver vaginally."
"Oh, fuck," Blair said. She let her head drop back onto the remarkably uncomfortable pillows and said, "C-section, huh?"
"Yeah, that's what Monique thinks we should do." Kylie sat on the bed and chafed her partner's hand. "If we want to, she said we can wait and see, but she doesn't think the odds are good."
"What do you think, honey?"
"I think Monique's the expert. If she thinks this is the safest way, then I believe her."
"Do I havta be knocked out?"
"No. She wants to do an epidural and crank it up really high. You won't feel pain, but you'll feel some sensation. It's hard to describe, but I promise it won't hurt. Your recovery won't be as easy as it would be if you delivered vaginally."
"True, but I won't have stitches in my —" She looked at her father and said, "I won't say it, Dad; you don't have to put your fingers in your ears."
"That's true," Kylie said, laughing at the look on Werner's face. "Let's face it; either way sucks, but you could have a lot of tearing with a big baby."
"You know, there isn't a woman in the world who wants to think of tearing in that particular place."
"There isn't a man who wants to, either," Werner volunteered.
Monique came back in, attired in her green scrubs. "What's the verdict?"
"I never thought I'd say this with Kylie anywhere near me, but go ahead and cut me open."
"I think it's best, Blair, and believe me, I wouldn't advise it if I didn't think it was necessary."
"I know that, Monique. I'm not happy about it, but we might as well do it now while I still have some energy." She grimaced, another contraction hitting her. It wasn't as bad as the previous one, but Kylie still reached out and grabbed her hand, letting Blair squeeze as hard as she wanted to.
When the contraction passed, Monique said, "I think we should get moving."
A doctor poked his head in while she was talking and asked, "Is now a good time?"
"Oh, sure. Come in, Jake. Blair, Kylie, this is Doctor Marston. He's got a nice, numbing epidural for you."
He shook hands with Blair and Kylie, then said hello to Blair's parents. "Does everyone want to stay? These can be a little tricky."
"Another word no one wants to hear from a doctor," Blair said. "Mom, Dad, why don't you go get a snack? I don't want you to hear me cursing if this doesn't go well."
"We've been hearing your curse since you were fifteen," Eleanor said. But she kissed her daughter on the cheek and said, "We'll be down in the cafeteria. I love you, honey."
Werner kissed his daughter and gave her a hug, then the older couple departed, leaving Blair with three doctors. "Let's do it," she said.
Doctor Marston said, "Let me ask a nurse to assist me, and we'll be set."
"I'll do it," Kylie said, drawing a scowl from Monique and a startled look from Doctor Marston.
"I'm a surgeon," she explained to the man, "I really do know how to hold a prep tray."
"She was a resident long enough," Monique jibed. "If there's one thing she knows, it's how to hand an instrument to a doctor."
"Kylie," Blair said in a very calm voice. "You're my partner. Now come over here and hold my hand. Doctor Marston doesn't want you breathing down his neck."
"All right," she said, "I just wanted to get going. You know, we might not see him for an hour if we let him out of here." She looked at the man and said, "No offense. I just know that you can get sidetracked."
"Especially on Christmas Eve when I'm the only anesthesiologist on the floor."
Kylie gave Monique a look, and her friend stood next to Doctor Marston. "I know how to hold a tray, too," she said, giving him a thin smile. "If Kylie gets her way, I'll be down in the cafeteria, flipping burgers."
"Blair doesn't eat burgers," Kylie sniffed. "Too greasy. A vegetable salad would be nice, though."
All of this semi-good-natured banter took Blair's mind off the procedure, and she hardly noticed when the doctor gave her a local anesthetic. "Is that it?" she asked. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, bent over as much as she could so her back was exposed.
"No, that was just to numb you up a bit," Doctor Marston said. He waited a few moments, then took an ice chip and put in on the spot. "Feel that?"
"Okay, we're ready to go." He marked the spot and advised, "Don't move. I know it might be hard, especially if a contraction starts, but it's very important that you not move."
"Got it," Blair said, bracing herself for the worst. She held onto Kylie's arms, closed her eyes and tried to not even breathe.
The pain was bad, but she knew it would only last a moment. She was pleased when the doctor patted her back and said, "All finished. I added a little morphine to get you through the C-section, so you'll feel a little fuzzy. I've taped the catheter down, so you can lie on your side or your back. Your choice."
"Then —" She grasped her belly as a terrific contraction began, squeezing the air from her lungs. This was, by far, the worst one, and she let out a howl that made Kylie's skin crawl.
The brunette held onto her, barely noticing that Blair's fingernails were digging into her arm. "You're doing fine, sweetheart."
Suddenly, Blair let go, her voice full of surprise. "It's gone," she said. "It's kinda gone."
"Kinda?" Kylie asked.
"Yeah." Blair looked at her for a moment, struggling to explain the feeling. "It's still there, but it's dull … really dull."
Kylie let out a sigh, happy that her lover was getting some relief. She tenderly wiped her brow and neck, puzzled when Blair started to shake.
"I'm so cold," she said. "Especially my feet."
"Damn it," Kylie said. "We don't have your suitcase or your pillows or anything!"
"I know," Blair said. "All those nights of packing and repacking it — all wasted."
Kylie went down to her lover's feet and held them in her hands, then tucked them into her armpits to warm them faster. "Hey, where's Marston?"
"He left during the contraction," Monique said. "We're pretty busy tonight."
Kylie forced herself to widen her focus and ask Monique, "Are your kids home?"
She checked her watch. "Yeah. There's no school this week, so A.J. and Keith are both with Keith's nanny until Anthony gets home."
"Who's cooking Christmas Eve dinner? Your sister?"
"Yeah. My guys know to leave without me if I'm not home when they're hungry."
"Do you have any other patients in the hospital?"
"Unh-uh. I can finally focus all of my attention on you two."
"Why don't you go home," Kylie said, surprising both Monique and Blair.
"Yeah," Kylie said. "I don't mean to diminish your role, but what do you do during a C-section?"
"Well, I used to perform the surgery, but since I've given that up, I stand around and assist if the surgeon needs me, and then I read the Apgar score and make sure everything's all right with the baby."
"But there's a pediatrician on call if there's a problem, right?"
"Of course. Alice Lipskind is on call tonight. She's one of the best."
"Then go home. It's Christmas Eve, Monique. Spend it with your family."
The obstetrician walked over the Kylie and put her arm around her. "I don't say this very often, but you're part of my family, too, Kylie."
Kylie gave her a watery smile and nodded. "I know." She looked at Blair and asked, "Would you feel better if Monique stayed?" She lowered her voice and said, "She won't have much to do."
Blair smiled at her partner and then held her hand out. Monique took it and gave her a squeeze. "Please go home, Monique. We'll be just fine. The only thing I'm worried about is Kylie giving the surgeon a hip check and taking over."
"I could tackle her if I'm there," Monique reminded Blair.
"I'm sure one of the nurses will do it if I ask nicely," Blair said. She let her head drop back onto the pillow and said, "At this point, I'm starting not to care what happens. I feel very, very good."
"The epidural is obviously working," Monique said. She leaned over, kissed Blair on the forehead and said, "Thanks for letting me take off. This is the first Christmas that Keith's really aware of. He'd hate it if his mommy weren't there."
"Go. Have fun. Drink some water for me," Blair said. "I miss water."
"I will," Monique said. "I'm sure Kylie will call when the baby's all settled, but I'll congratulate you now. What names do you have picked out?"
"Just one. Mackenzie Simon."
"Nice name," Monique said, giving her friend a gentle punch in the arm. "But shouldn't you have played it safe and picked one for a girl? I know! How about Mackenzie Monique?"
"Get going, wise guy," Kylie said. "I know you know what sex the baby is, and I don't want you to taunt us if we're wrong."
"Me? Taunt you?" Monique asked, looking as innocent as she was able.
"Scram, Jackson, and give all of the men in your life a kiss for me."
Monique hugged Kylie and whispered, "I love you. Take care of Blair and that sweet little baby boy … or girl." She pulled away and giggled, sparing one last wave as she left the room.
Blair was vaguely interested in the flurry of activity going on around her, but in the main, she was largely unconcerned. The epidural was working, and she felt a little distanced from the concerns of the world — almost like she was observing rather than participating. But she was awake, and she was very glad for that. The thought of seeing her baby as soon as possible was incredibly important to her, and she was trying to ignore all of the details that the people around her were so concerned with.
They were in a brightly lit operating room, and she was actually grateful for the light — given that it provided some warmth. After the epidural had really kicked in, she'd begun to shiver, and nothing Kylie did helped. A pair of blankets didn't make any difference, but the hot light helped a little. Kylie was right by her side, explaining in a soothing voice exactly what the nurses and the anesthesiologist were doing. She didn't pay a lot of attention to what her lover was saying, but hearing her soft, calm voice helped a lot. Someone was putting some sort of vinyl boots on her feet and pumping them up, but she was more interested in watching the IV bag that hung right in her field of vision. She didn't know what was in the bag, but it was somehow reassuring to have some life-giving fluid dripping into her veins.
She looked up at Kylie and asked in mid-sentence, "Do you love me?"
The doctor leaned over and gazed at her for a second. "More than I ever have," she said, her eyes starting to fill with tears.
"Don't cry, baby. We'll be fine."
"I know you will," Kylie said, "but it kills me to see you on the operating table. You look so small and pale."
"You look cute in your scrubs," she said in a bit of a non-sequitur. "Promise you won't try and help?"
"I promise. I might watch, but I won't say a word."
"Don't do anything, either, okay? It's not your words that'll get you into trouble. It's your scalpel."
"I'm not gloved up, honey. Even I wouldn't operate on you without gloves. I won't offer a critique, and I won't move a muscle. I'll be right here, talking to you the whole time."
"Remember, you promised."
"I'll remember, honey."
Kylie saw the surgeon scrubbing up, and she said, "Be right back. I wanna say hello to the doc."
"Be nice," Blair said.
Kylie met him at the door and said, "Hi, I'm Kylie Mackenzie —"
"Doctor Mackenzie," the young man said, "you probably don't remember me, but I assisted you on a couple of procedures during my residency. Steve Haddad."
"Oh, yeah, I do remember you," she said. "That was about four or five years ago, wasn't it?"
"Yeah. Four years. You've got a good memory."
"Well, Steve, you're about to do a C-section on my partner, Blair. I'll do my best to keep my mouth shut, but feel free to tell your nurse to stick a wad of cotton in my mouth if I can't control myself."
"Don't worry about it. I've done more C-sections than I can count. I'm sure everything will go fine. Monique told me she was leaving, so why don't you scrub up — just in case."
"Just in case of what?" she asked, looking at him with surprise.
"Doctor Mackenzie, nothing is gonna go wrong, but it's always nice to have two doctors in the room. I'm sure I won't need help. It's just insurance."
"Okay," she said, "but you have to tell Blair that this was your idea." She went into the scrub room and got ready, seeing that Steve was talking to Blair.
When she came back out, Kylie walked up to Blair and said to Steve, "Would you mind if I explained what was going on to Blair? I think she'd like it if I was talking to her the whole time."
"No, not at all. Whatever makes you both comfortable is fine with me."
"Okay, let's go get that baby," she said.
Blair made some polite sign of acknowledgment, then she tried to relax and concentrate on Kylie's voice. They washed Blair's belly with Betadine, and Kylie stood up to look at the outline of the baby one last time. She was sure she could see his knees sticking out, and she wished she'd been able to get Blair to allow her to take a picture of her belly in the last week. But the only way she would have been able to get one was when Blair was asleep, and she felt that would be an invasion of her privacy.
Steve made the first incision, and to her amazement, Kylie felt her knees get a little weak. That hadn't happened to her since she'd had to open a cadaver for the first time, and she immediately sat down on the stool by Blair's head. She did her best to control her voice and quietly said, "He's starting to work now, honey. In just a few minutes, he'll be ready to lift the baby out."
"I feel a tugging," Blair said. "I don't like tugging."
"That's normal. Perfectly normal. You still have some sensation, but you won't feel pain."
"Absolutely. If you feel any pain at all, nice Doctor Marston will add something more to the epidural. Don't worry a bit. Just think about holding our baby in a few minutes."
"A few minutes? Really?"
"Yeah. It won't take long."
"Doctor Mackenzie?" Kylie's head snapped up when Steve called her name.
"Would you like to help deliver your baby? The head and shoulders are out now."
Blair squeezed her hand and said, "Bring him to me, sweetheart."
Kylie wished she'd never met Steve before in her life. She was sure she would faint or vomit, but she couldn't refuse Blair's tender request. She managed to stand and shuffle over to slip in next to Steve, but as soon as she saw the baby, her anxiety left her completely. She was mesmerized by the sight of their child and couldn't wait to get her hands on him. She heard Steve say, "Just reach into the incision a little bit and grasp under the baby’s arms. I'll take care of the umbilical cord."
She nodded, then put her hands around their child, amazed at the feel of the robust body. She gently lifted, blinking in surprise when he popped out like a shot, covered with blood and a small amount of vernix, but the most beautiful little boy that she'd ever seen in her life. Steve took him from her when it became clear that she was transfixed and wasn't going to hand him over.
The nurse's voice snapped her back to attention. "Would you like to cut the umbilical cord?"
Kylie managed to nod, then took the instrument in her shaking hand and snipped. Her brain managed to make her say, "We want to bank the cord. We signed some forms about it — can you make sure …"
"Of course. It'll all be taken care of."
"Don't you want to tell Blair that you have a son?" Steve asked gently.
She looked at him and nodded, then managed to make her way back to her partner and put her mouth right next to Blair's ear. "Mackenzie's here," she said. "He's here, baby." She was crying so hard that her tears were falling onto Blair's face.
"How does he look?" Blair asked, sounding calm and tired and a little distant.
"He's beautiful. Just beautiful. Lots of black hair and a big pair of shoulders. Those must be from all that swimming you two have been doing."
"Can I see him?"
Just then the baby started to cry, letting out a wail that matched Blair's earlier ones. "He has a nice big voice, just like his mommy," Kylie said, still struggling with her emotions.
The nurse brought him to Blair, letting her get a good look at him. He had a healthy pink glow to his cheeks, and he looked adorable in the little red Christmas cap they'd put on his head to keep him warm. He was still crying, and his entire face scrunched up with his displeasure.
"Hi, Mackenzie," Blair said softly. "I'm your mommy."
Now Kylie really lost it, crying more than Mackenzie was.
The nurse said, "We have to take him for a few minutes, but we'll bring him back as soon as we can."
"Okay," Blair said. "S'fine."
Steve had already begun the somewhat time-consuming job of suturing Blair, and by the time he had finished placing the last staple, the baby was back. Kylie stripped off her gown, and then her bloody gloves and held him, rocking him in her arms while Blair gazed at her, a happy, but slightly vacant look in her eyes.
"Congratulations," Steve said. He'd taken off his gown and gloves as well, and he shook Kylie's hand. "I'm very happy for you both."
"Thanks for letting me help," Kylie said. "I'll never forget that moment."
"My pleasure, Doctor Mackenzie. I'm very glad I was here today."
Even though she hadn't had general anesthesia, Blair had to spend some time in the recovery room. The nurse put the baby in a tiny, rolling cart even though she’d had to pry him from Kylie's arms to do it. Kylie wasn't able to accompany Blair to recovery, so she took the baby back to the labor room where Mackenzie got to meet his grandparents. Werner and Eleanor were both in tears, and the couple spent a long time tentatively inspecting little Mackenzie.
After an hour, Blair was wheeled back into the labor room. She was greeted enthusiastically by all, but she still looked out of it and didn't respond in kind. She closed her eyes and dozed off and on for a little while with Kylie, Eleanor and Werner taking turns holding and cooing to the baby.
Monique surprised the group by showing up shortly after 10:00 p.m. Kylie got up and threw her arms around her, picking the slightly smaller woman up off her feet. "He's here! My big boy is here!"
"I hated to leave, Kylie, but Keith's little heart would have been broken if I hadn't been there for Christmas Eve."
"Hey, I wanted you to go. Now you can check my boy out and earn your fee."
Monique took the baby in her arms and smiled so widely Kylie could almost see her molars. "Mind if I take a closer look?"
"Be my guest. Blair's pretty out of it, so I guess I'm in charge."
Monique put the baby in his bassinet and took off his blanket and his diaper. "How were his scores?" she asked.
"Good. Very good for a C-section. I've been reading his chart while Eleanor and Werner hold him."
"He looks just great, Kylie. I'm amazed at how big he is, though. What is he — about nine pounds?"
"Just under. Eight pounds, ten ounces. Twenty inches long."
"Boy, that's a big baby for Blair to carry. She never could have delivered vaginally." She looked at Kylie and said, "I'm sorry I didn't have a better idea how big he was. I could have prepared Blair better for a C-section."
"Don't worry about it," Kylie said. "It was nice that she didn't have to worry about it. Everything worked out just fine."
Monique wrapped the baby back up and handed him to Kylie. He started to cry, and she jiggled him in her arms, trying to sooth him. Monique was reading Blair's chart, nodding to herself as she did so, and the new mother started to stir. "Damn," she grumbled, "I feel like someone cut a baby right out of me."
"How ya doin?" Monique asked. "There's a little guy here who sounds like he's hungry. Are you up to giving him a little snack?"
"I have a feeling that's gonna involve some massive pain, but I might as well get used to it, huh?"
"It shouldn't be so bad," Monique said. She showed Blair the button attached to her IV. "You have a little morphine in here, and you can control how much of it is added to your drip. So don't be shy. If you're in pain, you can get rid of it."
"Okay," Blair said. "I'm not shy."
"Let me call the lactation nurse. She'll help you get comfortable."
Eleanor walked over to the bed and said, "I think we'll leave you three alone now. You don't want us here while you're trying to feed the baby for the first time."
"You can stay, Mom. You'll see this a lot."
"I know, honey, and I want to see you feed your child, but not tonight. Tonight you and Kylie should be alone with him."
"All right," Blair said. "Give me a kiss."
Eleanor kissed her and gave her a gentle hug. "I'm so proud of you, sweetheart. And I'm so excited about little Mackenzie. He's such a beautiful boy."
"Thanks, Mom," Blair said, now looking and sounding a little more like herself.
Werner started to cry again and wasn't able to say much more than "I love you" to his daughter. The couple left after talking to Kylie for a few minutes.
Monique came back in with a cheery-looking nurse. "Blair, Kylie, this is Ellen. She's going to help you feed Mackenzie."
"Where's this Christmas baby who wants a dinner?" Ellen asked.
"Maybe we should have named him Nick," Blair said. Kylie smiled at her, seeing more and more of her normal personality emerging.
"Don't remind me of Nick," Kylie said. "I have about thirty people I have to call tonight, and I haven't even started."
Monique said, "Let me call our mutual friends, buddy. That'll knock a couple off your list."
"Thanks. That'll help."
"You can make some calls while I talk to the nurse," Blair said.
"Are you nuts? I don't know a lot about this; I have a lot to learn."
Monique patted Kylie on the back. "I'm gonna take off. I'll make some calls on the way home. I'm sure this'll be a nice Christmas gift to everyone who loves you, Shakes. It sure was for me."
Kylie hugged her again and kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks for everything, Nique. And give my love to the boys."
"Will do. I'll check in with you tomorrow. Try to get some rest, you two. I know it won't be easy, but you'll be happier tomorrow if you can."
"We'll try," Kylie said. "See you tomorrow."
Ellen was busily getting things in order, and when the room was quiet, she helped Blair get into a good position. Propping pillows up created a decent platform to rest Mackenzie on, and Kylie promised to go home before the next feeding and get the nursing pillow they'd bought. "Now, the most important thing is to relax. He wants to eat, and you want to feed him, but sometimes one or both of you gets frustrated." She pulled Blair's gown aside and said, "Your nipples are a very nice size; he shouldn't have any trouble latching on."
She picked Mackenzie up and put her little finger into his mouth, smiling when he immediately started sucking. "He knows what to do. That's half the battle." Ellen guided the baby into position and said, "He needs to get your entire nipple into his mouth. Even the areola has to get in there for the tip of the nipple to touch the roof of his mouth. It's going to feel very strange at first, but just relax, and things will work out."
"Does he have an off switch?" Blair asked, her head starting to throb from the incessant crying.
"Once he latches onto your nipple, he'll be a happy little boy," Ellen said. "Guaranteed."
Ellen put the baby in a football-style hold, keeping him away from Blair's incision. "Now grasp your breast and tickle his lower lip with your nipple," she said.
Blair tried to get Mackenzie to open his mouth, but he was so busy screaming that he didn't get the idea. Kylie was dancing around behind the nurse, acting like she wanted to step in and help, but there wasn't a thing she could do. This was between Mackenzie and Blair, and they would have to learn to bond — on their own.
Ellen repositioned Mackenzie a few times, and he finally opened his mouth, but when he latched on, Blair's eyes popped open, and she gasped, "Jesus! Is it supposed to hurt this much?"
"No, no, it shouldn't be painful if he's latched on properly." She took her finger and broke the suction, then Blair tried again. It took many attempts, and Kylie was about to jump out of her skin, but the baby finally found his way. Blair wasn't in pain, but it wasn't the most pleasant experience of her life, either. Having the baby so intimately attached to her, however, made up for the discomfort.
He started to suckle, but it was clear he wasn't swallowing. "Why isn't he swallowing?" Kylie asked.
"It'll take the colostrum a few seconds to let down. He has to suckle for a little while to make it start to flow."
The blonde looked up at Kylie and said, "You have no idea how weird this feels." She glanced at her IV and said, "Can you bump me up a little bit, honey? I'm starting to feel pretty bad. Sitting up like this sucks."
Kylie adjusted the drip and sat on the edge of the bed, watching her partner feed their child. Mackenzie started to swallow, and Kylie could see his entire jaw working to satisfy his hunger. She had an absolutely love-sick expression on her face, and Ellen started to walk away. "I'll come back in a few minutes and help you switch to the other breast. Enjoy," she said, smiling at the new family.
"My God," Kylie said when the nurse had left. "I've never been so awestruck. This is such a miracle."
"I'm still getting used to this," Blair admitted. "This is a lot to process in one day."
"I know, honey," Kylie said. "You just take your time. You've been through an awful lot today. Most people don't start nursing a baby after major abdominal surgery. They tend to lie in bed and moan."
"That sounds good right about now," Blair admitted. "But someone's very hungry."
"It's so amazing," Kylie said. "A few hours ago, he was floating in amniotic fluid. Now he knows that he's supposed to latch onto your breast and suck for all he's worth. How in the hell does he know that?"
"Instinct, I guess. The whole thing would have stopped with Adam and Eve if Cain and Able didn't know how to suck."
"Mmm … good point," Kylie said. "Mackenzie sure has a good instinct."
"I think he takes after you," Blair said, giving her partner a loving smile. "You know how you like to get as much of my breast into your mouth as you can? He's the same way. Like mother like son."
"Yeah, but I never get a meal while I do it."
"Don't count on one, either," Blair said, giving her a smirk. "The thought of having sex again is about as appealing as a root canal."
"You'll get the urge again," Kylie said. "And we'll both be so tired for a while that neither of us will want to make love. Don't worry about it, honey. Things will all work out."
Blair wiggled her finger, urging Kylie to come close. "Am I the worst mother in the world?" she asked quietly. "He seems like a stranger who's eating my breast."
Kylie smiled at her, giving her one of her high-wattage grins. "He is a stranger, honey. The reality of Mackenzie is a lot different from the little guy we dreamed about. But don't worry. You'll fall in love with him in a few days. I'm sure of it."
"Promise?" she asked, her voice a little tremulous.
"Cross my heart," Kylie said. "You're gonna love him with all your heart."
"That can't happen," Blair said. "'Cause you've got all my heart. You're gonna have to give some of it to Mackenzie."
"I'll be happy to share," Kylie said. "Your heart's big enough to keep us both feeling very, very well loved."
Every time Blair woke during that long first night, Kylie was sitting in a chair, one hand on the bassinet that held Mackenzie, the other resting somewhere on her body. There was something so comforting about having her lover so close — even though she was clearly asleep at several points — that Blair was able to reassure herself that the pain was temporary — and that soon they’d all be home.
When Mackenzie’s crying woke her sometime during the night, she reached out and automatically felt Kylie’s hand grasp her own. She opened her eyes and saw the sweetest smile that she’d ever seen on Kylie’s face. She was holding little Mackenzie like a football in one arm, his tiny body wrapped snugly, and with her other hand, she stroked Blair, gently trying to rouse her. “Our guy’s hungry,” Kylie said. “He says you’re the only one who can help.”
“He’s lying,” Blair mumbled. “There are dozens of women around here who could do it. Bitches.”
“Nice to know you haven’t lost your sense of humor,” Kylie teased. She gave Blair an empathetic look and said, “I know it’s uncomfortable, honey, I really do.”
“You know, I hate the word uncomfortable. You guys use it for everything from a rash to third-degree burns. You really ought to come up with a list of words to use to show you have some idea of how this really feels.”
“Uhm … agonizing?” Kylie said, trying to make her partner smile.
“That was labor,” Blair said. She pushed the button on the bed, getting into a more upright position. “Keep trying.”
Kylie pulled her gown aside, then helped her get the baby into position. He didn’t get the idea right away, and Kylie had to force his mouth open several times until he was properly latched on. After the second time, she silently prayed that Blair would curb her colorful cursing before Mackenzie learned to vocalize. She was very glad they had a private room as well, knowing that many new mothers might not appreciate Blair’s frank critique of how it felt to have the baby latch on improperly. Finally, he managed to open his mouth wide enough, and the nipple was seated correctly. Kylie relaxed and sank back into her chair, very content to watch her child nurse.
Blair was obviously very tired, but she relaxed as well, and soon she started to stroke his dark head, singing softly while he suckled. Kylie watched the pair, and felt that her heart might actually burst with love. She started to cry for the umpteenth time that night, but this time, she didn’t care. Only Blair saw her, and she had no secrets from this woman. They’d gone through an experience that had revealed depths and layers of fear and pain and joy, and Kylie was determined to never hide any part of her self from her partner again.
At 8:00 a.m. they were up feeding the baby again. Both women looked much the worse for wear, but they were in relatively good spirits. It was Christmas morning, and they’d both received a wonderful present — who was eating like he’d been hungry for nine months.
Blair was ready to switch him to her other breast, and Kylie jumped up to help. She gently removed the baby, cooed to him while she turned him, then helped him to latch on again. He did well this time, and Blair only flinched a little when he started to suck. Kylie covered her up, smoothing her gown in place, then sat down and tickled Mackenzie’s feet through the thin blanket.
At the sound of sniffling, both women looked up to find Sadie standing in the doorway, crying her eyes out.
Kylie blinked, trying to get her mind to work. She knew it was early, far too early, for visitors, but the woman standing in the doorway was undoubtedly Sadie, dressed in a sedate, blue suit with a green and red print scarf around her neck.
“I’m sorry I’m here so early,” she said, “but I haven’t slept a wink all night!
“But Sadie,” Kylie said, stunned, “visiting hours don’t start for … hours!”
“I know, I know,” she said, edging closer to the bed, “but I had to see him! If you look like you know where you’re going, most of the nurses don’t get in your way.”
“Most?” Kylie asked, already afraid for her reputation.
“Oh, one of them tried to stop me, so I waited in the stairwell until she left her station.”
Kylie sighed, hoping no one would associate her with Sadie. She snuck a look at Blair, who looked strangely pleased to see her mother-in-law. “Come meet your grandson,” she said, smiling at the older woman.
Sadie practically leapt for the child, and when she reached the side of the bed, she immediately put her hands on him, touching him everywhere through the thin blanket. “He’s so beautiful,” she cried, tears streaming down her face. “Oh, Blair, I’m so happy!”
“So am I,” Blair said, a little of the sparkle coming back into her eyes. “My mom and dad were with us when he was born,” she said, “but other than them, you’re the first person to meet him.” Her smile grew and she added, “That’s how it should be. Grandparents come first.”
Sadie was still crying, and it took her a moment to get her thoughts together. “How are you feeling, honey? Your mother told me you had to have a cesarean.”
“I don’t think anyone feels great after delivery,” she said. “One thing or another’s gonna hurt.”
“I’ll come over and help you with anything. Anything at all,” she emphasized. “I can do laundry or cook or have my girl come over and clean.” She shot a look at Kylie and said, “My cleaning days are over.”
“I’d love to have you come over and make dinner for us,” Blair said. “You know I think you’re the best cook around.”
“Your mother said they’re leaving in just a few days,” Sadie said. “I’ll wait until they leave. I know they’ll want to have some time alone with you.”
Blair nodded, then gestured to Kylie. “I think he’s finished, honey. Will you help me?”
Kylie took the groggy baby from Blair’s breast and wiped his mouth. Sadie was fidgeting, and the doctor took pity on her and said, “Let me get something for your shoulder, and you can burp him, Sadie.”
“I can?” She looked like she’d faint with pleasure, and both women were touched by her excitement. Kylie put a diaper over her shoulder, and Sadie tentatively took the child into her arms. By the time she had him positioned, she was crying so hard that Kylie was afraid she’d have to put her into a chair, but she eventually quieted down and started kissing Mackenzie’s dark head of hair. “He looks so much like David did when he was a baby,” she said.
Blair was prepared for the comment, especially since the baby’s skin was a nice olive tone, and he had a full head of black hair. And though she was prepared, she cried along with her mother-in-law, thinking of the things she’d lost to gain Kylie and Mackenzie. She wouldn’t trade for the world, but a loss was a loss, and a part of her still mourned David’s loss.
Sadie reached out and touched her daughter-in-law. “David forbade me to see the baby,” she said. “He made me promise not to see you, either.” She sniffed a few times, then said, “He’s like his father. As hard headed as Mt. Rushmore. But if he thinks he can tell me what to do … he hasn’t learned much.”
“I’m glad you’re here, Sadie,” Blair said. She took her mother-in-law’s hand and squeezed it. “I’m very glad.”
Sadie looked at Blair, then turned to gaze at Kylie for a moment. “I hate that David’s caused you both so much trouble. You know I don’t approve of homosexuality, but you’re the right people to raise this baby. David’s proven he’s not mature enough to be married, much less have a child. He’s got a lot of growing up to do to get to that point, and it’s not fair to the baby to make him into an experiment.”
Kylie cleared her throat and said, “Thank you. It feels wonderful to have your support.”
“You have it,” she said decisively. “And if David tries to get in the way, I’ll do anything in my power to set him straight. He should learn how to be a man, then how to be a husband, then how to be a father.” She raised and lowered her shoulders dramatically, gesturing defeat. “I don’t think he’s gonna get to step three.” She pulled Mackenzie down so his face was inches from hers. “I think you’re going to be my only grandchild, sweet boy, and you’re all I’ll ever need.”
Blair stayed in the hospital for two days, and even though she was happy to be going home, she knew that she wouldn't have a call button next to her pillow. Her parents were planning on leaving the next day, and Blair was already worried about how she and Kylie would cope. Kylie's mom wasn't expected for two days, and that seemed like a long time to Blair.
The dogs were wild to see Blair again, and as soon as she got into the house, she had Kylie help her sit down so they could express their affection. Werner was carrying the baby, and the dogs frantic cries woke him up. He started to fuss, then to cry, completely puzzling the terriers. Werner lowered the baby carrier enough to let Nicky and Nora take a look and a sniff.
Kylie and Blair had bought a CD of a baby crying, and they'd been playing it for a few minutes a few times a day in the weeks leading up to the birth. They'd also put some baby powder on the mattress of the crib, trying to make the room smell like it would when Mackenzie got home.
But having the real thing in the house was very different from hearing a CD. The dogs looked afraid at first, backing up against Blair as they tentatively sniffed. They slowly got more interested, soothed by Kylie stroking their backs and speaking softly. "This is Mackenzie, guys. He's gonna be making a lot of noise for … ever," she said, trying to be realistic. "He's gonna upset a lot of our routines, but we'll all get used to him in time."
"It's okay, babies," Blair said, also petting the pups. “His voice is kinda grating, but yours can be, too. One day you'll like him."
They looked at her with suspicion, then Werner lifted the carrier and took the baby into his room, Eleanor at his side. "I guess I'd better go feed him," Blair said. "He's a little overdue for lunch."
"He can cry for a minute," Kylie said. "Let's go get you into some comfortable clothes. I bought you a couple of big, flannel nightshirts. They'll keep you warm and won't touch anything that's sore."
"Have I told you I love you today?" the blonde asked. "'Cause I sure do."
"I know it even when you don't tell me," Kylie said. "That's the fun part of being in a relationship."
At 3:00 a.m., Kylie got up the instant Mackenzie started to cry. She held him in her arms and jiggled him a little, trying to get him to calm down before she handed him to Blair. The dogs hopped off the bed and left the room, deciding their sleep was more important than this troublesome new member of the family.
Knowing that only a meal would calm him, Kylie walked to the bed and sat on the edge, gently stroking her partner's frowning face. "I don't like to get up in the middle of the night. I wouldn't like it if I had to answer the door to accept a gift at this hour. Imagine how much less I like it when I'm greeted by a screaming baby who wants to gnaw on my tender nipples."
"I'm sorry, baby. I wish I could help, but my nipples aren't as effective as yours."
"Oh, I'm just whining," Blair said. "I'm sure I wouldn't feel this way if this incision didn't hurt so damned much. It's hard to find a comfortable way to hold him, and my neck and arms are almost as sore as my nipples."
"Does the nursing pillow help?"
"A little. Will you give it to me?"
Kylie lay the baby on the bed, then helped Blair sit up. She got the pillow in place and unbuttoned Blair's nightshirt. When she handed Mackenzie over, he started to suck lustily, his cries dying out as soon as the milk hit his palate. "Our boy has a good appetite," Kylie said, gazing at her partner with loving eyes. She sat back down on the bed, stroking Mackenzie's back while he fed. "I love to watch you nurse," she said, her voice low and reverent. "It's so incredibly beautiful."
Blair smiled back at her, but Kylie could see the wistfulness in her eyes.
"You'll get used to this," Kylie said. "I promise that you will. You had major surgery just three days ago, honey. No one feels well after that."
"But you seem so close to him already," Blair said. "You're really bonded, aren't you?"
"Yeah," Kylie said softly. "He feels like he's a part of me. You're the only person I feel closer to, and I've only known him for three days. It amazes me."
"You don't think I'm a bad mom?" Blair asked, on her verge of tears.
"Absolutely not! It's different for me. I feel fine, and I'm not flooded with hormones, honey. I also don't have to get used to another human using me as a food-delivery system. This is a lot of change for all of us, but most of all for you. I still guarantee you'll fall in love with our little guy, and I guarantee it'll be soon. You're not feeling depressed over this, are you?"
"No, not really. I'm a little down over it, but I feel really happy when I see you with him or when my parents hold him. I love all of you, and I see how much you love him. So I get it … but I get it through you. It makes me cry every time I see my father hold him. He gets tears in his eyes every single time, honey, and I haven't seen him cry since my grandmother died. It's so touching." She started to cry just thinking about it, and Kylie swiped the tears away with her finger.
"You'll feel exactly like that. As soon as your body starts to adjust, your emotions will adjust too. It's a big secret, and women won't even admit this, but it takes a while for most of them to fall in love with their babies."
"Do you know that? Or are you just telling me that?"
Kylie smiled at her, cupping her cheek with her hand and looking deeply into her eyes. "I know that. I'm not making things up to make you feel better … although I would," she admitted.
"I know that," Blair said. "I've always gotta check before I believe you."
"Well, I'm telling the truth. It takes most women a while to get comfortable being pregnant, too, but you were crazy about the baby from the minute you found out. Everyone is different, honey. But you'll get there. I promise."
"Okay. I'll believe you," Blair said, smiling a little. "But right now, I'm about as happy as the dogs are."
"Those little brats have nothing to complain about," Kylie teased. "They don't have to feed him or change his diaper or anything! They're just pissed because they have to share us."
"We need to spend extra time with them, so they don't feel left out," Blair said.
"I'll carry the baby around, and you can spend time smothering the dogs with affection. And when my mom gets here, she can watch the baby, and I'll watch you. How does that sound?"
"Divine. I love being watched by you."
"And there's no one I'd rather watch, so we're in good shape."
After a tear-filled goodbye, and enough pictures to fill Werner's new digital camera, Kylie drove Eleanor and Werner to the airport, leaving Blair and Mackenzie alone. There had been a short argument about the plans, but Blair refused all of Kylie's suggestions about having friends drop by during her absence. The blonde knew a thinly disguised babysitter when she saw one, and she wasn't about to admit that she was slightly terrified to be alone with her own baby.
She and Mackenzie waved goodbye from the driveway and then went back into the house. "Well, Bruin, it's just you and me now." They'd taken to calling the sturdy baby Bruin after the UCLA mascot. Kylie assured Blair that the dark hair on his forehead and back would fall off in a very short time, but the blonde had her doubts.
They went into the den, and she put him in the wheeled bassinet that Kylie had adjusted so that Blair didn't have to bend to put him down. Her incision was very tender, and it had begun to itch, but Kylie was watching it like a twenty-four hour intensive care nurse, so Blair was confident it would heal nicely.
As always, it took her a few moments to lower herself into a seat. She'd never realized how vital a person's abdominal muscles were during the sitting and standing processes, but she swore she'd never take them for granted again.
She'd nursed Mackenzie not long before her parents left, so he was full and content. Usually, he slept right after a meal, but he seemed quite alert today, probably because of the excitement of having the Schneidhorsts depart. "What's up, little guy?" she asked. She pulled the bassinet close and looked at him, and for the first time, he seemed to look back at her. There was a moment, just an instant, of true connection, person to person, and she blinked in surprise. Now he was looking around the room with his usual "where am I, who am I" expression, but she was intrigued and wanted to see if she could get him to look at her again.
She picked him up and put him on her lap. Kylie had come to the rescue in this department, too, having purchased a footstool that let Blair elevate her knees enough to provide a nice angle. When he was fussy, the baby liked to lie across Blair's legs, and having her knees elevated made her feel like he couldn't roll off — even though he didn't have the ability to roll.
"What's going on in that little head?" she asked. He looked everywhere but at her, so she decided to spend a little time investigating him. Kylie had gone over him with a magnifying glass, but Blair had spent most of her quality time with the infant nursing, rather than exploring. There had always been someone around, and she felt a little silly looking at her son like he was a science experiment. But in a way, he was, so she took her time to check out her little creation.
She removed the thin, snug blanket they'd wrapped him in. He loved to be wrapped in his little cocoon, and they’d both learned it felt more like the womb to have his arms and legs close to his body. But he also responded when they rubbed him, and she decided a little massage was in order. They hadn't given him a full bath, partially because his umbilical cord hadn't fallen off yet. When he'd come home, he still had a little vernix in his skin folds, and Kylie had rubbed this into his skin. She’d read some research that maintained a baby's skin wouldn't peel off as easily if he was allowed to retain the skin's natural moisturizer. Though because Mackenzie was fully developed, most of it had come off in the womb. Privately, Blair thought that her lover was being a little silly to think that rubbing in something that looked like mashed cottage cheese would help his skin, but when Kylie had a scientifically-based idea, she was hard to dissuade.
Blair ran her fingertips up and down his legs, and they stretched out and shook for a second. His skin was unbelievably soft and smooth, and she found that stroking his little legs was very calming. She left his diaper on, having nearly broken her stitches laughing when her father got a very unwelcome sprinkling while changing his diaper for the first time.
Even though he was diapered, there was still a lot of skin to caress, and she let herself indulge in it. After rubbing him all over his chest and arms, she turned him over and touched his furry little back. "Who's my cubby bear?" she asked. "I guess we should have made sure the sperm donor was a human, huh? I wonder if the census has a box for half-ursine/half-human? Bi-racial is common, but bi-species might be a new one, Bruin."
The skin on his back was still as soft as the front, even with the furry covering. Actually, the downy hair made it a little softer, and she found that she really liked stroking his back with the flat of her hand. Mackenzie liked it, too, and he kept sticking out his arms and legs and shivering, a sign of pleasure she'd learned to distinguish from his "I'm cold" shivering.
She put him on his back again and played with his hands and feet, pleased that they were pink and healthy looking. At first they'd been a dull, grayish blue because his circulatory system wasn't in full swing, but now he looked healthy and vigorous from head to toe.
Though she hadn't been happy about having the caesarian, Mackenzie’d benefited by having a nicely shaped head. She'd been worried about having his head squished in the birth canal, but he’d come out looking about like he looked now. She was also pleased that she didn't have any stitches in her private parts, especially after having heard of women who'd had stitches in places that no one in her right mind would want. Of course, having a several-inch-long incision across the top of your pubic bone was no day at the beach either, but she thought that being able to sit down comfortably was a pretty good trade-off.
She tried to make eye contact with Mackenzie again, even though she knew he could only see rough shapes at this point. "Mackenzie, Mackenzie, look at me, sweet boy. I'm your mommy. Yes, that's right. I'm the one who's gonna pay your therapy bills."
His head shifted around, and she felt like he might actually be trying to track her voice, so she kept talking. "Here I am, sweetheart. That's a good boy, look up at me." He followed orders and seemed to gaze at her mouth, then locked onto her eyes for another second. She felt her heart start to pound, and before she was aware of it, tears were rolling down her cheeks. "I'm your mommy, Mackenzie. I'm your mommy." She was filled with such joy, such love, that she felt a little lightheaded. She'd never experienced such an overpowering depth of feeling, and she had to have her baby close to her. She picked him up and cuddled him, ignoring the pain when his foot pressed against her incision.
Blair kissed his cheeks, his forehead, his soft little chin. She nibbled on his ears and kissed the back of his neck, rubbing her nose between his shoulder blades. She couldn't get enough of his scent or the incredible softness of his skin. "You're my baby," she said again and again, filled to overflowing with joy. "You're my baby."
Kylie came home nearly an hour later, surprised to find Blair nursing again. "Hi, honey," the doctor said. "He's ahead of schedule today."
Blair looked at her and smiled one the most pleasure-filled smiles Kylie had ever seen. "No, he's not. I just couldn't wait."
With a small frown counterbalanced by a puzzled smile, Kylie sat next to her and put her hand on her thigh. "What does that mean?"
"I'm falling in love," the blonde said, with a fresh round of tears to underscore her words.
Kylie gazed at her for a second, and for the first time, felt a twinge of jealousy. Normally she would have ignored it, but today she said, "I knew it would happen, but I didn't realize I'd be jealous when it did."
"Yeah." She leaned over and kissed her partner, lingering for a moment to show how much she loved the mere taste of her lips. "I wish I could feel what it's like to have that hormonal bond. It must be awesome."
Blair nodded, then leaned her head on her lover's shoulder. "It is awesome, honey. Today was the first time I've really felt it, and I was minutes from eating the poor thing alive. I couldn't get enough of him."
Kylie slipped an arm around her partner, but didn't pull her close, always being careful of her incision. "I'm so glad you're starting to feel it, baby. It'll get stronger and stronger."
"Uhm … I think it's plenty right now," Blair said. "I don't think I want it to be any stronger. Any more might stop my heart."
"Sorry, buddy. This is another one of those all-in kinda things. You're not gonna be able to hold back."
The blonde let her head roll around while making a gurgling sound. "Whatever happened to having a nice, safe compartment to keep love in, huh? You know, control is underrated."
Kylie leaned in close and started to kiss Blair's neck, placing gentle, soft caresses all up and down it. She continued to move around, finally stopping by Blair's ear. "No chance. Mackenzie and I both love you with every bit of our hearts and souls. You've gotta do the same."
Blair sighed, playfully dramatizing the sound. "You two are so demanding. Love me, love me, love me! He wants to attach himself to my breast and … wait a minute … that's what you wanna do, too. You two are in some kinda conspiracy!"
"It's true," Kylie said, nuzzling against Blair's neck just like Mackenzie was nuzzling against her breast. "We've conspired to smother you with love, and there's nothing you can do about it."
Blair turned her head and kissed her partner, sucking the doctor's lower lip into her mouth and nibbling. She turned up the intensity until Kylie was moaning softly. "Then I guess I'd better enjoy it," she whispered into the pink ear her mouth rubbed against. "Thank God I enjoy it enough for all three of us."
"No, I do," Kylie whispered back, taking a healthy bit of Blair's skin into her mouth.
Blair leaned back and looked at the desire-filled face gazing at her. "I love you, Kylie, and I love our baby, too."
Kylie gave her a blazingly brilliant smile and said, "I told you your heart was big enough to love both of us."
"It is," Blair agreed, smiling back at Kylie. "Now that you've shown me how to love, it's the easiest thing in the world. Of course, it might help that I have the most wonderful lover in the entire universe."
"You know, cosmologists have discovered what might be an infinite supply of universes," Kylie said. "That used to be a great compliment, but now …"
Blair didn't say a word. She wrapped her free hand around Kylie's neck and pulled her close for a blisteringly hot kiss.
The doctor uncrossed her eyes and looked at her lover with a glazed expression. "On second thought, that's good enough for me. But I think you're the most wonderful lover in the entire universe."
"No, you are," Blair said, smiling.
"No, you are," Kylie insisted.
"You are," Blair said, more emphatically this time.
Nicky and Nora, who had been sitting on the floor, looked at each other and rolled their big, brown eyes. They'd heard this argument many times before, and it had gotten old. The pair walked out the back door and lay by the pool, glad to feel the sun on their russet-colored coats. The dogs stretched out on the concrete, warming their bellies, while they dreamed up plans to teach the new puppy how to bark properly.
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