Once I calmed down what Sookie is saying makes sense. I know she’s already dealing with enough having postpartum depression. Throwing another baby into the mix would be a bad idea. I know it has nothing to do with me, at least not the way I took it initially. I haven’t contacted her all day even after the text to tell me when her appointment is. I would rather talk to her in person, but I don’t know what her mood is so I don’t want to just show up.
I’m getting ready to cook dinner when I decide to call her.
“Hey,” she says, sounding like her normal self.
“Hey, how are you feeling today?” I ask.
“Not too bad, but it seems I get my morning sickness in the afternoon,” she tells me.
“Sorry,” I sigh. “I’m also sorry about how I reacted yesterday. I know it wasn’t a personal attack against me. At the time I felt like it was.”
“It wasn’t. I was apologizing in case you missed it.”
“I did, but my brain was all over the place. I know your emotional health is important here and having another baby isn’t really what either one of us is ready for.”
“No, it’s not,” she agrees. “I wish that I could be foolishly optimistic for you and say that by the time the baby gets here I’ll feel differently, but I can’t do that. You can’t do that either. I’m sure it doesn’t seem fair to you that I feel this way when I don’t have to do it alone this time, but it’s not about you or me or even us. It’s about the kind of life I can give this baby and right now I’m not convinced I can give it everything it needs without feeling resentful later on.”
“I know, Sookie,” I tell her softly. It’s shitty for me, but it makes sense. “You know what else I know? This isn’t the last time we’ll have this choice and the next time it can be something we plan. We can do it when we’re ready.”
Sookie’s quiet for a minute and then I hear her sniffle.
“I think after this I’ll get an IUD. Then I won’t have to worry so much about birth control,” Sookie says in a creaky voice.
“Do you want me to come over?” I ask quietly. I want to hold her, but I don’t want to push myself on her if she wants to be alone.
“Yes… no… I don’t know,” she sighs.
I turn off the boiling water and grab my keys while I’m still on the phone with her.
“Well, I need to see you,” I say as I lock my door. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Okay. The front door is unlocked,” she says. “I already ordered Chinese if you’re hungry.”
“Okay.” I hang up and hop into my car to drive over.
When I get to Sookie’s I walk in and find Sookie in the kitchen. When I approach her I don’t say anything, I just wrap my arms around her. I need this, even if she doesn’t.
Sookie hugs me back and presses her face into my chest.
“I’m sorry,” she says softly. “Please don’t hate me for this.”
I hold her head to my chest and kiss the top of it.
“I don’t hate you, baby,” I whisper. “I could never hate you.”
“Even if I get… if I don’t have the baby?”
“You’re no good to a new baby if you aren’t healthy,” I remind her. “I’ll support you in whatever you decide. Yes, I want kids of my own one day, but right now you’re more important to me than forcing you to have my child.”
Sookie nods and I feel her shoulders shake a little before her tears soak the front of my shirt. I hold her tighter and sway us from side to side.
“We’ll get through this,” I whisper and kiss the crown of her head again.
She cries for a little while longer before finally pulling back to go to the sink to splash some water on her face. The doorbell rings and I assume it’s the Chinese she ordered so I leave her in the kitchen to get dinner.
Once I have it I’m walking back into the kitchen when I see Brie on her hands and knees out of the corner of my eye. I don’t draw attention to it, but it makes me smile.
“Did she start getting up on her hands and knees today?” I ask when I rejoin Sookie. I know Sookie doesn’t have to tell me when Brie does something new; I just like being in the loop.
“Yeah, and now she gets on her knees in the playpen. Annnd she calls me Ma,” Sookie smiles and gets out plates.
“I can’t wait to hear that,” I grin. “She’s getting so damn big.”
“Tell me about it.” Sookie gets out serving spoons and silverware. “I got fried rice, egg rolls, sweet ‘n sour chicken and beef with peapods.”
“Yum.” She knows I’ll eat just about anything put in front of me. I start thinking about it and instead of worrying for months over it I decide to ask Sookie, “Do you want her to call me Eric or dad?”
“Ummm… I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it,” Sookie replies. “I think it’s a little too soon for me to think about something like that.”
“Okay…” If Brie is saying Ma already, she’s going to start calling me something sooner rather than later.
“It’s just… she already lost one dad. I don’t want her to lose another if this doesn’t work out,” Sookie explains.
“She wouldn’t lose me. If I take that responsibility, I won’t just walk away from Brie if you and I went to shit,” I tell her.
“The problem with that is we’re a package deal, Eric.”
“And? If Rasul had manned up would you allow him to be a father without a relationship with you?”
“Yes, but he’s her biological father.”
I take a deep breath and start dishing up my food. After a few seconds I pause and look at Sookie.
“You know what? I might not be her biological father, but sure as hell love her a lot more than that prick. I want to be her father, Sookie. If we break up I still want to take her every other weekend and do all those father/daughter things she wouldn’t get otherwise. I love her, fuck, I love you,” I finish. I… didn’t know that was going to come out… I didn’t know I love her until the words came tumbling out.
“And I’m saying it’s too soon to be having this conversation, Eric. It’s been two months since you came back into my life. I don’t know where this is going yet and I have to make good decisions for her. Letting her call you dad if this isn’t going to last… I’m not okay with that,” Sookie tells me.
Of course all I hear is I’m a bad decision. First she wants to abort my child, now she won’t even allow me to love the one she has. I know logically she’s right and I’m reading way too much into it. It just feels like one blow after another and it hurts. Emotions are too high for me to reply so I finish getting my food and take a seat at the table.
I hear Sookie sigh at the counter. “Will you put away the leftovers when you’re done? I’m not hungry anymore. I’m just going to take Brie up and give her a bath.”
“Mmhmm,” I hum without looking at her.
“Thank you,” she mumbles and leaves the room.
I’ve lost my appetite as well. I get up and put the food away. I clean up the small mess that was made and I head up the stairs. Sookie is right. I just have this overwhelming need to take care of her, especially with the postpartum shit she’s been going through. When I find her and Brie in the bathroom I lean against the door jamb to watch for a moment.
“I’m sorry I wigged out down there. It was just a thought and when you said you need to wait I took that as you were rejecting me in general so I got defensive. I’ve been through a lot of emotions with you that I never expected to have. Ultimately I want what’s best for Brie and I know you’re being a good mother by taking time to see where our relationship goes.”
“It’s like I said, Eric; it’s not about you or me or us. It’s about her,” Sookie says without looking at me. “I know what you want but it doesn’t mean it’s what’s best. Maybe it will be at some point and when that time comes we’ll talk about it. Until then, Brie adores you and I think that should be enough.”
“It is, I promise,” I tell her and get down on the floor with her. “I also promise to stop getting ahead of myself.”
“Thank you. We have enough to deal with right now,” she says.
“Yes we do,” I agree.
“Remember how I said having Brie meant being less irresponsible and not living selfishly anymore?” Sookie asks.
“Yeah,” I nod. I know what she’s saying.
“I didn’t know the half of it. In her own way I know she loves me, but she takes more than she gives and that’s the way it should be,” Sookie says. “I would give my life for her, Eric. Right this second if I had to choose her or me, I’d give myself up. I have never loved anyone enough to do that until she came along. Just as much as she’s mine, I’m hers.”
I reach over and wrap my arm around her. “Thank you for even letting me be a part of her life. I don’t know that love yet. I hope to one day, but it seems I’m still a selfish ass,” I smile softly. “I meant what I said downstairs. I love you for the person you are. You’re a great mother and I’m so proud of you for taking your life back. I know you still have a lot of growing and learning before you can love me back, but I’ll be here when you’re ready.”
“Thank you,” she says.
“Ma!” Brie hollers and flings water at us.
I reach into the water and splash her back.
“She certainly doesn’t like being out of the loop,” I chuckle.
“Nope. Looks like I’m going to have my work cut out for me with teaching her manners and patience,” Sookie agrees.
“She’ll get it eventually. I have a feeling the timeout corner is going to be her home from about one and a half till she hits five or so,” I smile and flick water at her again.
“You’ll get used to hearing her full name in time,” Sookie chuckles.
“What’s her middle name?”
“Anna,” Sookie says. “So why not just name her Brianna, right?”
“Right,” I chuckle. “Brie fits her, though.”
“Brianna Stackhouse is a lot of name, and that’s not taking a middle name into consideration. Plus I figured I’d call her Brie most of the time anyway so why not just break the name up?” Sookie shrugs.
“It works. If she hates it later she can push them together,” I say.
“Oh come on, what kid doesn’t want to share their name with cheese?”
“Mom gently reminded me Brie smells like cum,” I chuckle.
“Ummm… how much time does your mom spend sniffing cum? There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.”
“Truthfully, I have no clue and I definitely don’t want to know.” I know Mom has dated since Dad died, but I walk away anytime she starts talking about them.
“You know she asked me if everything went back to normal after I gave birth, right?”
“I’m sorry,” I snort. “She let me know you have nice tits. She said she was pissed her tits never went back to normal.”
“I’ll see the tits and raise you your sister’s vaginal numbness,” she says.
“What the fu… what does that even mean? You aren’t numb anywhere are you?” I ask, looking down between her legs.
“No, no numbness,” Sookie replies. “And I’ll spare you the horror story she told me. I was just barely able to stop her from showing me her c-section scar.”
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry,” I laugh. “Maybe she’s a little worse than Thal.”
“I’ll save judgment until after Thalia has a baby.”
My doctor confirms that I am indeed pregnant. Hormone levels suggest that I’m five weeks. It’s too soon to see anything on an ultrasound but I tell my doctor I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep the baby or not. I have a few weeks to think it over. At least I can wait until after Christmas. There’s a part of me that wants to keep the baby but it’s not enough.
All of me should want it.
Like I told Eric, Brie surprised me but I never once thought about giving her up. Once the shock wore off I got my shit together and started to make plans. I made lists and one by one I took care of the things on those lists. I’m sure I could do it again but it’s different this time. Before I didn’t have to worry about someone else’s input or what they wanted. This time parenting is a team sport.
All the same, I don’t make an immediate appointment for a D & C because I need to be sure about my decision since it’s literally life or death. I talk about it with Dr. Brigant to see if he has any insight, but he stays neutral on the topic. He plays both sides of the argument to give me the chance to see it from all angles, and it helps.
Christmas is just a week away and I am finally done with my shopping, thanks to Eric staying with Brie. It says a lot that he would rather stay with my baby than do his own Christmas shopping. I come in with a bunch of bags and drop them in the dining room where Brie won’t get them.
I don’t hear my daughter making noise so I go into the living room to find her sleeping on Eric’s chest. His hands are resting on her back and he’s asleep too. I smile at how cute they are and take their picture with my phone. I shrug out of my coat and go back to the car to get the rest of the things I bought.
Once it’s all on the table I decide to run upstairs and take a quick shower. I’m just wetting my hair when I feel pain in my lower abdomen. My hand goes right to it and I feel a spike of fear. Cramps and pregnancy don’t mix.
I’m afraid to look down, but I do.
Red streaks running down the inside of my thighs.
“No,” I whisper. My hand moves down and there’s more. A lot more. “No!” I yell.
It seems crazy since I was on the fence about all of this, but…
“Eric!” I scream. “Eric!”
I lean against the wall and cry. More cramps come and I just hear the words ‘be careful what you wish for’ over and over.
“Eric!” I scream again. I have no idea if he can hear me over the running water. “Eric!”
A few seconds later he bursts into the bathroom.
“What happened?!” he asks and rips the shower curtain open.
“I’m bleeding.” I hold up my bloody hand.
“No,” he whispers as he stares at my hand. “No…” He’s frozen in his spot.
“I have… I have to go… to the hospital,” I pause to sniffle.
“I’ll call your mom to come watch Brie,” he offers.
I nod and look down at the bottom of the tub. The water has gone from pink to red and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Hours later I wake up in a hospital bed after my doctor performed a D&C anyway to make sure I don’t develop sepsis. I’ve lost the baby and I don’t know how to feel about it. Eric is sitting beside my bed when I open my eyes and it’s obvious he’s not doing well with this. I may have had his support if I decided to terminate the pregnancy, but I know he’s been hoping I would change my mind.
“Hi,” I whisper. They sedated me for the procedure but I’ll get to go home tonight.
“Hi,” he whispers back and reaches up to hold my hand. “How are you feeling?”
“Sore.” I shift and everything from my bellybutton to my thighs hurts.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “Do you need anything?”
“A bathroom.” I’m in a curtained off area so I assume a nurse will have to show me the way.
“I’ll go get the nurse,” he tells me and stands up to go find the nurse.
“Thanks.” I close my eyes and wait for him to come back. I feel like I’ve been hit in the uterus with a wrecking ball that has spikes sticking out of it.
“She’s on her way,” I hear Eric say when he comes back. He leans over the side of the bed and kisses the tip of my nose.
“Mmkay. Has Mom called?” I’m sure she’s bugged him every fifteen minutes for an update.
“Yeah. She’s worried sick about you,” he tells me. “Brie is trying to crawl now.”
“How long have I been out?”
“I’ve been with you for the last two hours.”
The nurse comes and helps me out of bed to the bathroom down the hall. While I walk she starts talking about what to expect and all that. She instructs me not to flush the toilet so she can see for herself that I’m making urine. Seems gross but I’m sure she’s done worse in her career.
Afterward I’m given my clothes and Eric is given my aftercare instructions since my head is a little foggy. I get a prescription for some sort of antibiotics to make sure I don’t get an infection, and then I’m discharged from the hospital. I have to leave the hospital in a wheelchair, but Eric is downstairs to meet me. He helps me into the car and while I’m buckling in, he gets behind the wheel.
“Your mom offered to keep Brie overnight. I’ve already let them know I had a family emergency at work so I can stay with you tomorrow,” Eric explains.
“Okay.” I don’t even bother to argue with him because I know it’s pointless.
He stays quiet the whole ride home. When we get to the house he helps me out of the car and into the house.
“Do you need anything, or do you just want to sleep?” he asks.
“Some tea would be nice,” I say. I take off my coat and slip off my shoes. “Maybe I’ll warm up some of the pizza from last night.”
“You’re supposed to be relaxing, Sookie. I’ll get it.”
“Okay. Then I’ll be on the couch.” I shuffle into the living room and make myself comfy on the sofa.
I turn on the TV and curl up on my side while I channel surf until I find Citizen Kane on TCM. I’m not sure why some consider this a Christmas movie, but it’s relatively quiet. If I fall asleep I won’t care.
When Eric comes in he’s got my phone and the tea I wanted.
“Thank you,” I smile a little. A picture of Brie from the night we put up the Christmas tree is my display picture. “Are you mad?” I ask quietly.
“No, why would you think I’m mad?” he questions.
“Because I know deep down you wanted me to keep it.” I blink back tears.
“I’m hurting, but I’m not mad. There’s nothing we can do about it,” he shrugs.
“Okay,” I nod.
“I cried a little…when you were still under sedation,” he admits. “I know you didn’t really want the baby, but this isn’t the way it was supposed to happen.”
“Maybe it is.” I wipe tears off my cheeks. “I know better than to think this is a punishment for the way I was thinking. It probably would have happened no matter what I wanted.”
“Yeah,” he sighs and takes my hand. He threads his fingers through mine and brings it up to kiss the back.
“It still hurts though.”
“I know.” He leans over and kisses my forehead.
“Will you sit here with me for a while?”
“I don’t want to be anywhere else right now.”
I move so Eric can sit and then I rest my head on his lap. I try not to cry and fail miserably. He strokes my hair and rubs my back, but he doesn’t try to soothe me, and I’m okay with that. I just need to have my night to be sad. Tomorrow is a new day. I can start moving on then.
“This smells fantastic, Nina. Thank you,” I smile when she produces a casserole dish the next afternoon.
“You’re welcome, honey. Eric said you like chicken enchiladas so I thought I’d try this out,” she says.
It’s a glorious combination of mac ‘n cheese, shredded chicken and salsa verde.
“Well anytime you want to bring me food, you’re welcome to do it,” I say. Eric told her about the miscarriage this morning.
“Thanks, Mom,” Eric says from across the room. He’s been unusually quiet.
“You’re welcome. I brought you some rice pudding too,” she says. “I may or may not have spiked it a little.”
“I don’t need spiked pudding,” he chuckles.
“I do.” I hold my hand out.
“Have at it, honey,” Nina gives me the container.
“I’ll watch the kid. We’ll watch Mommy dance around on the furniture,” Eric winks.
“I’m not going to dance on the furniture,” I roll my eyes. “Nina, would you like something to drink?”
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” she answers.
“Tea it is,” I nod and head to the kitchen to put away the food and put on water for tea. I’m shocked Eric let me off the couch.
Nina follows and says a little loudly, “Sookie, you should be resting and letting lazy bones do this.”
“I told her,” Eric says.
“Uh huh,” Nina winks at me. She’s messing with Eric at the wrong time though.
I’m not getting involved. I start filling the tea kettle.
“Mom, please not now,” Eric sighs.
“Oh lighten up. It’s not like somebody d–” Nina catches herself but we all know what she was going to say. “Sookie, I’m sor–”
“Please don’t,” I cut her off. “Excuse me.” I walk out of the room and go toward the stairs.
Eric follows me toward the stairs.
“Sorry about her,” he says sadly when he catches up to me.
“She’s got really bad timing.” I sit on the edge of the bed.
He kneels in front of me and rests his arms next to my hips.
“I’ll tell her to leave,” he whispers and tilts his head to kiss my chin.
I nod but I keep quiet. I don’t think Nina meant to offend me by what she was doing, but there’s a time and a place for her brand of humor. This isn’t it.
Eric stands up and goes downstairs to talk to his mom. I can hear them talking but I can’t make out what they’re saying. Their voices raise a bit but I just get up to close the door. Whatever they’re talking about isn’t my business. I go back to bed and lie down on my side. I’m still sore but it’s not as bad as it was last night.
The front door closes downstairs and I hear footsteps coming up the steps. The bedroom door creaks open and Eric sets down a mug of tea on the nightstand for me.
“Thanks,” I say quietly.
“You’re welcome,” he whispers back. Eric lies down behind me and rests his head on the pillow. I feel him kiss the back of my head.
“Everything okay with your mom?”
“It will be.”
“I know she didn’t mean anything by it, just so we’re clear.”
“That was her argument, but I’ve been telling her for years she needs to be more sensitive to people,” he explains.
“She is who she is,” I sigh. “I doubt she’s going to change.”
“I know. We needed a break though.”
I turn over and say, “It’s not too late to get silly on pudding.”
“I’ll grab pudding and a spoon,” he smiles for the first time in twenty-four hours.
“I’ll be here.” I stroke his scruffy cheek and give him a kiss before he gets up.
I know it’s not going to get better overnight, but it will get better.