A/N: Hello! I’m back again! I’m also a little frustrated because my initial goal was to have Generation 5 completed by the time classes started up again and here I am with grad school having started on Monday and 3-4 more chapters left to write. Gah 😦 It can’t be helped though, so I’ll just need to do my best to keep up with this. If I can post an update every 3 weeks or so like I’ve been doing I’ll be ecstatic, but last time I was only able to post during Spring Break and I’m ALREADY drowning in homework so we’ll see
Anyway, the song for this chapter is “Capri” by Colbie Caillat, but because it’s short it admittedly isn’t as prominently featured as my previous song selections have been. I hope that’s okay.
As always, comments are highly welcomed and greatly appreciated, especially as I wrap up the generation since I’d really like to know what my readers are thinking going into the end. Don’t be a stranger…I’ve been told that I’m nice (づ｡◕‿‿◕｡)づ Hahaha XD In all seriousness though, I can’t tell you all enough how much I appreciate both your patience and readership ❤
Happy reading ^_^
I’m in a beautiful place. There are sprawling viridian hills speckled with tufts of fragrant wildflowers in white, pink, and blue. The sun is wonderfully warm and it caresses my face as I pause before a glimmering river. I’m happy, and Gabriel is happy, and our hands intertwine as they rest on my growing belly. It’s a beautiful life and I’m in a beautiful place.
Not where dreams seem to fade like treasured memories lost to time. Not where I spend hours crying into my husband’s chest—a man who has no comforting words because he will not lie. Not where life grabs us by the backs of our necks and shoves us roughly to the ground. Not where we’re kept down by that heavy, leaden anchor called, “Bitter Disappointment.”
Not here, in our reality.
“We’ll figure it out,” Gabriel whispered. “I promise.”
“You shouldn’t make promises that you can’t keep.”
“I don’t, Joanne. I don’t.”
* * * * *
Christmas was only a week away and yet instead of ringing in the season with tinsel, lights, and hot cocoa, we were sitting in a waiting room that felt devoid of joy.
No matter what efforts doctors took to ensure that their premises were as calmingly and as inoffensively decorated as possible, I always found them to feel foreboding and austere. The smiling people on the fronts of the stacks of magazines always seemed to be saying, “That thing you’re fearing you have? You have it” and the desperate effort to not accidentally make eye contact with the receptionist was enough to make a bead of sweat form on my brow. Even the various potted plants felt like verdant sentinels stationed in every corner of the unduly quiet room.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, wincing when the old armchair creaked. Gabriel looked over at me from his book. I lowered my gaze, pulling out my phone and glancing down at the dimly glowing screen. There were no calls or messages to answer, but I didn’t know what to say and even if I did the slightest noise felt intrusive in this place.
Closing his book and setting it down in his lap, Gabriel slipped his hand beneath my hair and began to rub my neck. I hesitated and then scooted nearer to him, leaning against his shoulder and closing my eyes when I felt his arm move to cradle my head and hold me close.
I jumped, causing the armchair to let out another squeak of protest. Gabriel let his hand fall. A young nurse holding a clipboard at her side looked in my direction and then smiled. I tried to return the greeting, but I knew it didn’t quite reach my eyes as I grabbed my husband’s hand and got to my feet. There was no way in hell I was going in there alone.
He stood up, squeezing my hand, and then we both followed the nurse down the hallway, my legs feeling like rubbery stilts.
After being weighed and measured, giving a urine sample, having my blood pressure taken, changing into a hospital gown, and being asked a hundred questions, I already felt like walking out and never returning.
Instead, I sat on the examination chair with my head in my hands and tried to focus on breathing. I’d never experienced a full blown panic attack before, but I felt like I was right on the cusp of having one now. My chest had never felt quite so tight.
There was a sharp rap on the door and then Dr. Rivera walked in. She was a tall, middle-aged woman with olive skin, heavy eyebrows, and graying hair that she’d pulled back in a chignon high on the back of her head. Her eyes reminded me of a cat’s—golden and focused as she looked in our direction. She introduced herself with a smile and then took a seat before her computer.
Like the nurse, Dr. Rivera asked a slew of questions as she looked through my information and added some of her own. Many of the questions overlapped, which had me wondering why I’d bothered to answer them for the nurse in the first place.
“When was the date of your last period?”
“October 15th,” I replied once again. “I sort of got it mid-November, but not really. It was barely anything and only lasted about two days…and then I haven’t gotten it this month at all.”
“Alright,” Dr. Rivera said, tapping away on her keyboard. “And have you taken a pregnancy test?”
My mouth went dry as my mind recalled the memory for the hundredth time. I nodded, averting my gaze. By now the image of that insidious result had been stamped to the very insides of my eyelids: Not Pregnant. I felt Gabriel’s hand running across my shoulder and to the back of my neck again.
“It was negative,” I heard him say, and I realized that the doctor must not have seen my nod and thus must have been looking at me expectantly.
“I see.” Dr. Rivera leaned forward to see her computer screen better as she rapidly scrolled down the page with the wheel of her mouse, seeming to be looking for something. Gabriel was rubbing small circles between my shoulder blades. I felt like I should tell him that I was fine and that he could stop, but I found the gesture to be too much of a comfort to actually voice the thought.
Dr. Rivera abruptly chuckled and my head snapped up to look at her incredulously. There was trying to remain positive, and there was flat-out insolence. I felt my husband tense up beside me. He, like me, seemed to feel that laughing was a response that resided firmly in the camp of “unacceptable.”
“I’m sorry,” she said then, swiveling around to face us. “It’s just—this is a bit funny, considering. In a good way.”
Gabriel and I stared at her and although the mirror was angled such that I couldn’t see our reflections I was certain that our faces held identical expressions of un-amusement. Dr. Rivera’s golden eyes gleamed as an unabashed smile spread across her tanned face.
“Mrs. Winters….You are pregnant.”
Although Gabriel was usually quick to assist me if I was having trouble formulating a response, this time we were both caught in a net of silence, continuing to stare at Dr. Rivera as wave after wave of emotions battered us into a state of blind confusion. I hugged my stomach with trembling arms. What?
“As per protocol,” the doctor began to patiently explain, “we ran a pregnancy test on the urine sample you submitted upon your arrival and it says here on your file that it came out positive.”
“But…the test we took.…” I responded faintly.
“Although such instances are rare, Mrs. Winters, it is not impossible that it was a false negative.”
“Then how do you know this isn’t a false positive?” Gabriel asked with a raise of an eyebrow, his tone heavily guarded.
“Well,” Dr. Rivera began cautiously, “false positive tests are much rarer than false negatives, but let’s check things out to be sure, shall we?” She turned to look at me and I nodded in cautious assent as I leaned back in my seat and once again, dared to hope.
* * * * *
The first snow of winter had not yet started, but it was cold enough that our breaths hung in the air as we walked up the cobblestone pathway to our home. I could taste the salt on the wind that blew in from the ocean.
Gabriel unlocked the door and we both stepped inside, warmth from the heated interior enveloping us like a soft, fleece blanket.
She’s got a baby inside
The door shut behind us and then we were in each other’s arms, Gabriel kissing the top of my head, and then my nose, my cheeks, and finally my lips as his hands came to rest upon my stomach. Happy tears slid down my face.
I was nine weeks pregnant. Nine! The exhaustion, the nausea, the missed months, and the throwing up—it was all because I had been pregnant. A false negative….I’d thought that I’d cried out all my shock and joy back in Dr. Rivera’s office, but here I was breaking down again.
Nine weeks pregnant. We were having a baby…a baby! He or she was currently the size of a grape and forming tiny fingers and toes and their little heart was beating like a hummingbird’s wings—I knew because we’re heard it ourselves, so strong and so certain, and the doctor had said that everything looked completely normal and—
I let out another sob, digging my fingers into Gabriel’s shirt as he held me close. “I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a baby!”
“We’re going to have a baby,” he echoed, closing his eyes and pressing his forehead to mine.
“Are you happy?” I asked in a hushed voice.
“More than I can put into words,” he replied, and then cupped my face and kissed me as wintery light shone in through the window and our incandescent joy gleamed outward from our hearts.
* * * * *
The holidays passed in a flurry of exultant congratulations and embraces as Gabriel and I cautiously revealed to our families and our friends that I was pregnant. After trying and failing so many times, the knowledge that it had finally happened felt surreal even after we’d heard the staccato sounds of our baby’s heartbeat.
Moments of awareness would hit me at the most random times. I would be walking down the stairs and BAM: There’s a tiny being inside of you, Jo! I’d be eating a sandwich and BAM AGAIN: You’re not the only one you’re eating for! I would sneeze and then: Oh god you better not be getting sick because that wouldn’t be good for the BABY that you’re carrying!
And holds her belly tight, all through the night
Other less random reminders of my pregnancy were my continuing nausea and severe exhaustion. There were concerning, miserable days where I could barely keep anything down, and days where I was hardly awake for more than a few hours before I’d curl up in a ball and fall right back to sleep. On those days, when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I was too tired, too sick, or both, I would often wake up only to find myself nestled within Gabriel’s embrace, his warm body pressed to mine and one of his arms draped protectively across my stomach.
The first time I’d discovered this I’d started crying out of a mixture of hormones and overwhelming love and he’d woken up quite concerned that something terrible had happened. I’d kissed him hard though, tearfully assuring him that everything was perfect and always would be perfect so long as he was in my life. He’d murmured the same and then returned my fervent kisses until we were wholly lost to one another, and that….Oh, that had been perfect too.
Just so she knows, she’s sleeping so
Safely to keep her growing
To prepare for the both exhilarating and nerve-wracking reality that my husband and I were going to be parents, I went to the library and checked out dozens of books on pregnancy and child-rearing, frequently bringing up what I’d learned to Gabriel and sometimes simply handing a book over to him and requesting that he read it from cover to cover.
I honestly wasn’t sure if he would at first, but then I’d catch him sitting at the kitchen table, his hair wet from taking a shower after his early morning jog and one of the books opened before him as he drank his coffee and I’d realize: Of course he’d read them.
He would read them because Gabriel, like me, wanted nothing more than to be the best parent he could possibly be. He would read them because he would do whatever it took to ensure this hope.
He would read them because he loved me, and for all of this, I fell ever more deeply in love with him too.
* * * * *
And oh, when she’ll open her eyes
There will be no surprise
That she’ll grow to be so beautifully
Just like her mother, that’s carryin’
“Baby wants ice cream and spaghetti for dinner!” I announced happily, hopping in place. “Vanilla ice cream—with rainbow sprinkles, kiwi slices, and peanuts!”
Gabriel frowned as he looked over the decidedly sparse contents of our fridge. “So basically Baby wants me to run to the store?”
“Yes, she does,” I confirmed shamelessly. “Baby also wants pickles, but don’t worry, I’ll go with you! You know, just in case Baby needs anything else.”
A smile spread across my husband’s face. “Okay,” he said, closing the refrigerator door and turning to me. “Before we go on this most important quest though, may I ask you something?”
“How do you know Baby is a girl when we agreed to keep it a surprise? You always say ‘she.’”
My face reddened in embarrassment. “I…I don’t. I just…feel like she is,” I answered, placing my hands over my small baby bump. “I keep dreaming of a girl—chubby-cheeked with big brown eyes and jet-black hair. She looks like you and she’s just…beautiful.”
Gabriel fell quiet, but the expression on his face was pensive, as if he were trying to picture her too. My heart warmed with the thought, providing me with the courage to admit, albeit in a very small voice, “I’ve even started calling her by name.”
His gaze went back to mine, looking surprised. “Oh? And what name is that?”
“Do you promise not to laugh?”
Gabriel stepped forward and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, taking my hand in his as he seriously said, “I would never laugh at our potential daughter’s name.”
Oh Capri, she’s beauty
Baby inside she’s loving
“Well,” I began tentatively, holding my belly, “I’ve um, I’ve been calling her…Capri.”
“Yes,” I confirmed, biting my lip. “Capri Anna.”
“Capri Anna,” he repeated quietly, testing the name out. “Capri Anna Winters.”
I nodded, finding the name even lovelier after hearing it spoken in Gabriel’s hushed, lilting tones. “Do you like it?”
He murmured the name once more, so softly that I could barely hear him, and then an odd expression took form on his face. It made my heart briefly sink, but then he slowly replied, “Yes, I do. It…actually reminds me a little of my mother’s name.”
Christiana….Capri Anna. The two names did bear a phonetic resemblance, but it hadn’t been on purpose. “I didn’t realize,” I confessed, my cheeks growing rosy, “but it makes me like the name even more.”
Oh, Capri, she’s beauty
There is an angel growin’ peacefully
“Me too,” he said, and then moved behind me to wrap his arms around my waist, his hands coming to rest on my swelling stomach. I leaned into his chest, placing my hands over his as he pressed a kiss to my neck. “And what if Baby is a boy?”
“Baby isn’t a boy,” I teased.
He chuckled lightly. “Alright, then humor me.”
I looked down at my little bump, thinking for a moment, but when it came to boy names my brain seemed to draw a blank. The bright-eyed baby girl had appeared in my dreams so many times that it was difficult to imagine Baby as anything but, though I knew I wouldn’t be upset if ‘she’ actually was a ‘he.’ Boy or girl, I already loved this baby with every particle of my existence.
“I honestly don’t know,” I finally admitted.
An idea popped into my head and I turned in my husband’s arms, looking up at him seriously as I said, “You should name him.”
“If we have a little boy, I want you to name him.”
Gabriel’s eyebrows knitted, causing him to appear both apprehensive and contemplative as he asked, “Is that really what you want?”
I smiled and nodded in affirmation. “That’s really what I want. It’s only fair, after all.”
“It’s fine either way,” he started with a slight shake of his head, “but…I mean….Well, do you…do you want me to at least run the name by you, or….?”
“No,” I answered, still smiling brightly. “I will love whatever name you choose. And besides…it’s a girl,” I finished cheekily.
“Mmm,” he hummed cryptically, and then directed his gaze out the frost-covered window, where sleet was steadily falling. It marked the slow coming of warmer weather, which I knew Gabriel would appreciate, but I also knew that he probably wasn’t thinking about that.
“Baby loves you, you know,” I told him quietly, wrapping my arms around his waist and leaning my head against his shoulder.
Gabriel glanced at me. “What makes you say that?”
“Whenever Baby hears your voice, I feel her move, or if she seems agitated, she calms. Like right now, with you so close to me, I know it doesn’t make much logical sense and it’s probably all in my head, but Baby seems…happy.”
I watched as Gabriel’s face softened, his lips parting slightly and a faint crease appearing between his brows. The sight filled me with renewed love and joy, but what really touched me were the five simple words that he spoke in response.
“Baby makes me happy too.”
* * * * *
Things will be hard at times
Snow fell softly outside the paneled window as the bite of sandwich I’d taken seemed to turn to sawdust on my tongue. I choked, coughing and then hastily taking a sip of my water. I felt as if I’d suddenly been caught in a whirlpool swirling down the drain.
“You’re what?” I asked, aghast.
I caught only a glimpse of the pained expression on Dad’s face before he looked down at his half-eaten soup and mumbled, “We made the decision before we knew.”
I bit my lip so hard that a coppery taste filled my mouth while the room continued to revolve. My nails dug into my thigh as I struggled to breathe. “But you can’t,” I insisted, hot tears burning my eyes. “The baby—me—you can’t. I need you.”
He adjusted his glasses with a slightly trembling hand. “Well we’d visit, of course. All the time.”
“Then why move at all!?” I snapped, my voice breaking, and then covered my mouth to try and suppress my cries because other patrons in the restaurant were casting curious glances our way. I bowed my head, allowing my long hair to fall across my cheeks and hide my face. My shoulders shook. Hidden Springs was five hours away—five. That was no fleeting trip.
How could he do this, and now of all times?
“Your mother and I have—have been discussing this for—for a long time now and when we made the decision we didn’t know—didn’t know you were pregnant. After we found out we nearly changed our minds, but…Jo, we’ve wanted to live there for so long and the—the timing is…is about as right as it’ll ever be, but…but if you—if you really—”
“Don’t,” I interjected miserably. “Please don’t do that. I’m sorry. Um—hormones, you know?” I asked with a weak laugh, hating how uneasy and worried he sounded right now and willing to say anything to take that away. “I…I know you’ve always wanted to live someplace quieter. I know that and I realize that…that the fame you’ve attracted here must…must make a move feel long…long overdue.”
My throat closed up again, more tears escaping my eyes. I reached up to wipe them with the backs of my hands.
“We really would visit,” he whispered, “and we would still be here for—for at least another year. I just—wanted you to know now and not…not have it…sprung up…on you.”
I briefly glanced at him and then winced upon seeing the concerned expression on his face. Oh, I was making him worry and I hated myself so much for it. I took a breath, trying desperately to steady myself. “Why so—why so long?” I asked casually, though my voice wavered and I could not quite meet his eyes.
Dad cleared his throat and then drew in a lungful of air before explaining, “Well, Tobias would be okay because he’ll be starting college come August, but Thomas will be entering eighth grade and I’d hate to—to all of a sudden enroll him in a new middle school. It makes more sense for him if we wait. Plus, we haven’t even found a place yet, so this gives us ample time to look and possibly have a house built if there aren’t any properties we like.”
“I see, so…so you might be around for the baby’s first birthday,” I remarked hopefully.
“Er, well, it—it might be a little—little before then because Tobias and Thomas will be done that June, but—but maybe we’ll be there for July,” he added hastily, seeing the expression on my face. “It all depends. I don’t want to make any promises either way, but we’d keep you updated and of course even if we’d moved by then we’d for sure make the trip for that.”
“Right,” I mumbled, and then turned my gaze back outside the window, not feeling particularly hungry anymore. Baby shifted, as if she too felt uncomfortable and upset. I placed my hand reassuringly on my bump, trying not to think about the fact that Baby’s grandparents might not be around as much as I’d originally hoped. I suddenly wanted nothing more than to return home and cry my heart out in my husband’s arms, but Ryan was in town so I doubted that he’d be home anytime soon. He was going to ask him to be our baby’s godfather and then I was sure that they would celebrate, especially since they’d both be dads soon.
I hesitated and then forced myself to look at my father, a lump rising in my throat as soon as my eyes reached his familiar, comforting face.
“I will still always be there for you whenever you need it. That will never change. You know that, right?”
But I’ve learned to try
Just listening, patiently
“Yes,” I answered softly, “and—and even though I know you prefer to—to deal with things on your own, or—or with Mom, I’m…I’m always here for you too—whenever you need it.”
“I know, Jo. I know.”
* * * * *
Despite the fact that I understood and the fact that I wouldn’t have to worry about it for quite some time, my parents’ announcement that they were planning to move to Hidden Springs stuck with me like a burr to a dog.
Even after sharing my thoughts and feelings with Gabriel, the sadness that seemed to be leaking into my heart did not let up. My family meant the world to me, and as such I couldn’t imagine a day where I wouldn’t be able to take a quick trip across town to visit them, or an evening where we couldn’t spontaneously meet up for ice cream, or a holiday where we had to work out complicated travel plans just to be together. The awareness that this would become my reality made me feel miserable, which then stressed me out too because I knew the mood that I was slipping into was in no way good for the baby. So I tried not to think about it, but like a boomerang it would always come back.
The fact of the matter was that I had always regretted the fact that I hadn’t known my grandparents better and the last thing I wanted was for any child of mine to grow up feeling the same. In the end I knew it wouldn’t harm them, but still that heaviness weighed upon my chest. Even with frequent visits, I would miss them so much.
“Hmm?” I asked absently, turning my head away from the television set we’d bought for our bedroom since the couch had been too uncomfortable to sit on as of late.
Gabriel ran his hand across my ever growing belly before he remarked, “You know that we could move there too, right?”
I let out a breath, feeling my heart clench. The thought had admittedly occurred to me more than once, but it seemed like such a brash decision. Although I’d technically been born in Neverglade, Starlight Shores was the only home I knew and I liked it very much. The palm trees made me think of a tropical paradise and the ocean was only ever a few steps away. There was always something going on too, whether it be a festival, a concert, or even a magic show. It was a lively city bustling with both established and aspiring entertainers and as such I felt like we fit in well here.
Without my family though, would I feel so favorable toward it? What made it feel like home was the fact that they were here. Without them, what did we have? Gabriel’s grandmother lived in Bridgeport and so did all our friends, and soon my family would be in Hidden Springs, including the twins, who though they had not yet decided where they would settle after graduating, had at least declined my father’s offer of the house because they would rather spend their summers with them.
Of course, the fact that the twins weren’t going to take the house and Tobias was actually looking forward to living in Hidden Springs (more natural wildlife), meant that if I so accepted, that massive house on the edge of Starlight Shores could be entirely ours to raise our family in. It was a tempting offer, and certainly needed because we currently lived in a one-bedroom split-level which was not easily altered, but could I bring myself to do it? Could I live there without seeing my family members gathered around the fireplace in the evening, or without hearing their voices no matter where I was?
I honestly wasn’t sure, and that made all of this all the more complicated.
“I do know,” I finally responded. “It’s just—a big decision, isn’t it? I mean, would you actually be okay with leaving Starlight Shores?”
Gabriel shrugged. “I’ve never held any particular attachment to this place. It was just the closest city to Bridgeport that I could be in and still feel far away.”
“Hidden Springs is closer to Bridgeport,” I mumbled. “Straight up into the northern mountains.”
“That’s true—a fair bit closer actually, but I no longer feel the need to be all that far away.”
“It almost sounds like you’re trying to convince me that we should move there.”
“Close….” he acceded, his hand sliding over mine, “I’m trying to convince you to consider the option, especially if that’s what will make you happy.”
“But will it make you happy?” I asked in concern.
Gabriel startled me by grasping my hips and pulling me down on the bed. He moved on top of me, being careful to place most of his weight on my legs as he looked down at me and asked, “Will you be with me?”
“Then there’s your answer.”
I chewed on my lower lip. Could it really be that simple? Could I make an entirely new place feel like home when I’d never known any other? Could I even live in such a quiet place? I was used to a lively city. What would it be like living in a small, lakeside town in the middle of the mountains? Would it feel claustrophobic, or would it feel freeing? Then again, what would a continued life be like in Starlight Shores without my family near?
“What do you think, Baby?” Gabriel abruptly asked, scooting down to my stomach and laying his ear upon it.
He looked back up at me. “Baby says whatever makes us happy will make him or her happy. What a cop out. Definitely our child.”
I giggled softly. “What did I do to deserve such a perfect man as you?” Gabriel made a slight face and I reached down to run my hand through his hair. “I love you so much,” I murmured softly.
“I love you too,” he said, and then scooted up to kiss me. My heart skipped a beat as I kissed him back, and then I laughed because the baby gave a rather strong kick. Gabriel smiled, for he’d felt it as well.
“Baby feels left out,” I noted.
“Ah, well, we certainly can’t have that.”
* * * * *
Oh Capri, she’s beauty
Winter gave way to spring, at first hesitantly as the snow slowly melted and then rapidly once the temperature spiked, bringing with it an efflorescent transformation. Sprinklings of wildflowers popped up wherever they could, and then Easter brought out bright pastels and the ever strengthening light of the sun.
The passage of time also brought along the marked expansion of my waistline, a phenomenon which engendered some difficulties of its own….
There was a loud crash and a vicious curse, followed by hurried footsteps on the stairs as my husband rushed down to me, which made me feel a little bad considering why I’d called him.
“What happened?” he asked in a rush, his normally tanned face pale.
I flushed in embarrassment. “I err…seem to be in a losing battle against gravity. I’m having difficulties getting up.”
Gabriel crooked one of his eyebrows high.
“I’m serious!” I wailed, wiggling in place on the sofa. “I’ve been trying to get up for like the past fifteen minutes, but I’m stuck and I have to pee SO badly and OH MY GOD DON’T LAUGH AT ME.”
“I’m not,” he said with a cough that sounded suspiciously like a chuckle. “I mean this is clearly an emergency situation. Would you like me to call the fire department?”
“What!? No, you ass!”
Gabriel laughed and then walked over to me, holding his hands out. I took them gratefully and he helped lift me out of the demonic pit of doom that was our new sofa. Evidently its enticing comfort disguised the true evil that lay within its plush cushions.
“Thank you,” I breathed in relief, hurrying over to the stairs and cursing the fact that there wasn’t a bathroom on this floor. “What were you doing anyway?” I asked halfway up. “I heard a crash.”
“At first? Reading. But after you nearly gave me a heart attack? Learning how to use a book as a projectile missile. On that note, you might be short one vase now.”
“GABRIEL! Those vases were handmade in Portugal!”
“But I just saved your life….”
I fought back the smile that tried to make its way to my lips. “When I’m done peeing, I’m going to slowly make my way back down the stairs, waddle over to you, and then hit you upside the head.”
“Ah,” he said and then, just as I’d reached the top of the stairs: “I’ll forge myself some protective headgear while I wait!”
* * * * *
In all seriousness, Gabriel wasn’t an ass. On the contrary, he was my saving grace; taking late night trips to the store whenever I had an insatiable craving (clementines were my current kick); massaging my back whenever I felt like my spine was going to give way; and putting up with my intense emotional swings, the worst of which was probably when I saw a commercial for the SimSPCA in which there were all these little starving kittens and hurt puppies and why weren’t we helping them?! Why was the world so awful!? I wanted to save all the animals, but there were so many and not enough people were helping and I didn’t know what to do! My house wasn’t big enough to save them all and it made me so SAD that I couldn’t cuddle them close and promise everything was going to be okay because I wasn’t sure that it would be and oh my god I needed to—
“Joanne….You’re not writing about that commercial in your journal, are you?”
“No,” I answered quaveringly, and then promptly burst into tears once more.
* * * * *
Baby inside, she’s loving
It was a warm afternoon in the height of spring and the air was thick with the scent of blossoming flowers as Gabriel and I took a much needed stroll. Our pace was unhurried and our hands were interlocked with one another’s as we talked about our last concert and how well our new single had been received by the crowd. It was a bit bittersweet because although I knew I was alright for now, soon Convergence would need to go on a necessary hiatus. On the bright side, if we could manage it, we could use the off-time to continue work on our second album.
“Though we’ll probably want to use any extra time we have to sleep,” I realized with a laugh.
Gabriel smiled in agreement. “Yeah, probably.”
A soft breeze blew a strand of hair into my face. I reached up with my free hand to move it, and then halted in my steps as I’d suddenly felt my abdomen tighten uncomfortably.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled, holding my belly. “Just felt…weird for a second there.”
“Weird?” Gabriel inquired, his brows furrowing. “Should we head back?”
Standing perfectly still, I waited another moment to see if it would happen again, but besides some vague stirrings from the baby, everything felt normal. “No, I…I think I’m fine.”
We continued walking, this time Gabriel with his arm around my waist, but a few minutes later it happened again. I froze, feeling my heart rate increase and my throat tighten as fear began a hostile takeover of my mind. “It’s too early,” I whimpered.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he hastened to reassure me, seeming to be thinking quickly. “The books….The books mentioned the possibility of something like this, right? I forgot what the hell they called it…started with a ‘B,’…maybe?”
“Braxton Hicks contractions,” I answered in a whisper. “I suppose this could be that.”
“Hey,” Gabriel continued softly, noting the tears already falling down my face and cupping my cheek. “It’ll be alright. We’ll…we’ll head back and call Dr. Rivera, okay?”
I sniffled and then nodded tightly as my husband pressed his lips to my forehead. “It’ll be alright,” he repeated, but I couldn’t help but notice that the words seemed intended to comfort me as much as himself.
Back at the house we called Dr. Rivera and she agreed that it was most likely Braxton Hicks contractions, but if they grew stronger and closer together I should head to the hospital immediately. The terse warning had me feeling rather like panicking, but Dr. Rivera had also recommended drinking some fluids and trying my best to relax, so I struggled to take her advice as I sipped at water and finally settled on nestling in Gabriel’s arms on the couch, taking deep breaths and occasionally sniffling.
I did feel a few more contractions, but they didn’t seem to be getting any worse, or any more frequent. Then again, they didn’t seem to be letting up either.
“You’re not ready, Baby,” I whispered, placing one hand on my stomach as I clasped the other to my chest. “Relax…relax, please.”
Gabriel placed one of his hands on my stomach too, the other resting on my hand as he quietly echoed, “Relax.”
Another contraction hit and I winced in fear, trying to decide whether it’d been stronger, or comparable to the ones previous. I was fairly certain it was the latter, but still I could feel my anxiety crawling across my every nerve ending. I needed to calm down.
“Painted…wide,” I began to sing shakily, “with the moon, in your eyes.”
Gabriel took in a breath, recognizing the tranquil song—“Pi” by Big Deal. He held me a little closer and then to my relief, quietly continued: “Safe from harm…in the clouds, in your arms.”
“No fog….No fate, no words conceal.”
“You’re magic and you’re…real.”
There was another tightening, but it was subtle. Gabriel squeezed my hand and then we sang together, a little stronger, “Holy wounds and holy ones….We can let it slide. Meet me under cartoon skies, and we’ll float for a while.”
“You heal me with a smile,” I sang.
“Send shivers down my spine.”
“Is it true? Could you be…mine?”
I leaned my head back against Gabriel’s chest, breathing slowly and deeply, and then we finished, “Lights out….I finally see you clear. So cool, so calm…so near. No fate, no words conceal. You’re magic and you’re real.”
Gradually, so gradually, the contractions subsided. Gabriel and I laid down, both of us with a hand on my rounded belly as we silently prayed that everything would be alright now. I didn’t think sleep would have been a possibility, but the last memory I had before drifting off was my husband pressing a soft kiss to my shoulder, and then my eyelids fluttered shut.
* * * * *
Unfortunately, that day wasn’t the only instance that I experienced contractions, but the doctor assured me that it was normal and that I may get them every now and then as I drew closer to my due date. They were a little scary, but knowing that it didn’t mean the baby was coming early helped me to stay more relaxed when it happened.
It made me feel silly that I’d gotten so worried in the first place, but I honestly hadn’t been able to help it. I loved this baby so very, very much, and even the idea of losing him or her made me feel as if I’d lost the ability to breathe.
Thus, I found myself trying to be as careful as possible: exercising lightly, drinking plenty of water, and trying to get as much rest as I could even though every sleeping position was steadily becoming horribly uncomfortable. Convergence also officially went on hiatus, which admittedly made me feel as if a void had opened in my heart even though I knew that it was for the best.
The weeks did pass more calmly though….until one early morning before the sun had even risen when Ryan woke us up with a frenzy of phone calls to let us know that his girlfriend Shanta had gone into labor.
I had to hand it to Gabriel, because while I was still processing this information he was already on the phone calling his friend back even though it was 4:05 AM.
After my brain got over its initial annoyance that I was awake, I began to feel excited and we went downstairs to have breakfast as we exchanged texts with Ryan who kept us updated on the situation.
Basically nothing whatsoever happened for the majority of the day, until around 6:00 PM when I was snoozing on the couch and Ryan blew up both our cells with one text repeated about a hundred times: “IT’S A GIRL.”
We congratulated them both on video chat later that night and already made plans to visit them as soon as they’d settled. Of course, pictures were an immediate necessity, so we spent the rest of that evening looking at the adorable photos that Ryan sent of his beautiful baby girl: Audrey McCloud-Fitch. She had dark skin like Ryan, Shanta’s button-nose, and the biggest and brightest eyes that I had ever seen on an infant.
She was incredibly precious and her arrival made us happier than ever that soon enough, we’d be announcing the birth of our little one too.
* * * * *
July announced its arrival through soaring thermometers, afternoon thunderstorms, and the constant whir of air-conditioners struggling to fight off the oppressive heat. Although I hated to admit it, I was also steadily growing more miserable. My hips hurt, my back constantly seemed to ache, my struggles with the sofa became worse than ever, obtaining sleep became some sort of Sisyphean task, I got heartburn for the first time in my life, and those previously only uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions began to grow downright painful. I also constantly seemed to need to pee. It was like my bladder had lost its ability to retain even an ounce of fluid, which meant that I spent most of my time upstairs switching up what I was doing every fifteen minutes because I could never get comfortable.
It all put me in a very touchy mood and though I admittedly wasn’t a stranger to extreme emotions, it got to the point where I felt genuinely sorry for my husband and even took to suggesting that he go visit Ryan or Sammy and Dante or his grandmother or anything really to get out of the house because I knew it had to be awful to be stuck in my company.
“It’s not awful being with you,” Gabriel said after I’d expressed these concerns to him one evening, massaging my swollen feet.
“Now I know you’re lying,” I lamented, and then winced when the baby punched me in the rib—or at least, that’s how it felt.
“Are you okay?”
“No! I’m not okay! Nothing’s okay! I’m the most uncomfortable I’ve been in my entire life and I literally just came back from peeing and now I have to pee again and I’m the size of a small seafaring vessel and I’m trying not to let this get to me because I know it’s only because I’m pregnant and that’s wonderful and I’m really looking forward to meeting our baby, but also I feel like a fat ugly fuck and that really isn’t helping my mood in the slightest!” I cried out somewhat hysterically.
Just like your mother
Gabriel frowned slightly as he rubbed small, firm circles on the soles of my feet. He seemed to be debating his next words, but also seemed to be realizing that no matter what he said, it would probably come back to bite him in the ass.
“I’m sorry,” I groaned. “You probably want to say that soon enough, I won’t have to worry about this and that I’m actually the most beautiful you’ve ever seen me or something like that and you’ll mean it too, but I’ll still throw it back in your face, won’t I?”
“I hope not,” he began with a slight raise of his eyebrow, “because you really are the most beautiful, most adorable, most sexy that I have ever seen you and every morning when I wake up, the first thought that crosses my mind is that I’m so damn blessed to have you in my life. Joanne….You may feel like being with you is a chore right now, but honestly…with you is exactly where I want to be.”
Even if I hadn’t been a bundle of hormones and emotions I was certain that those words would have made me cry, and so it was that my eyes shone with tears now.
“Hey now….Come here.”
“No, I’ll crush you!”
“Jo,” my husband chided, and I sniffled and sat up as he scooted closer to me and pulled me onto his lap. I pressed my forehead against his and he held me closely, one arm around my waist and the other on my stomach. It was probably all in my head, but again, having him so near seemed to calm the baby down, or at any rate, I was no longer being kicked in the spleen.
We were quiet for a while, and as Baby relaxed I slowly felt myself do the same until I murmured, “Gabriel?”
“Yeah?” he asked, looking up at me.
“That’s the first thought that crosses my mind too.”
* * * * *
Glass exploded on the surface of the kitchen floor, rivulets of water spreading rapidly across the polished wood. I stood doubled-over, my breaths coming out in shallow gasps and my knuckles turning white from my tight grip on the chair. The urge to panic swelled like a balloon.
That was no Braxton Hicks contraction.
The pain slowly ebbed, transforming instead into a rolling tightness that spread from my lower back and around to my abdomen.
I shakily walked over to the kitchen counter where I’d left my cellphone, my hands trembling badly as I picked it up, dialed ‘2,’ and then held it to my ear. It rang three times, and then the sound of Gabriel’s voice sent a flood of endorphins coursing through my system, making it easier to think.
“Hey,” I breathed. “Are you—are you nearly home?”
“No, not really, there was a car accident on Palm Park. Why? What happened?”
“Well uh…don’t cause another car crash, but I—I think the baby might be coming.”
Gabriel arrived at the house so quickly that I was about 99% certain he had committed some severe traffic violations. Together, we called the hospital and Dr. Rivera, who reminded us that we should come in when the contractions got to be less than 5 minutes apart. She also recommended that since they were still about 15-20 minutes apart, I should try to take a nap, a suggestion that I was positive was impossible to enact, so we decided to watch a movie instead.
It was all so very weird. I kept thinking of all the television shows and movies I’d watched where the woman goes into labor, immediately rushes to the hospital, and then five minutes later has a baby in her arms, but instead the reality was Gabriel and I sitting on the sofa, munching on snacks, and watching Tangled.
It was almost a normal evening, except every so often I’d be seized with a contraction and trying desperately to breathe as I squeezed Gabriel’s hand. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it and we took a slow walk up and down the block before returning to the house because even at night the temperature was stiflingly warm.
So back to the couch it was, where I curled up in a ball with my head in Gabriel’s lap and the last thing I remembered seeing before miraculously drifting off to sleep was a thousand paper lanterns floating into an inky-blue sky.
I wasn’t sure how long I slept, but it was ultimately Gabriel who gently woke me up because lo and behold, my water had broken. My first reaction was to apologize for messing up the couch, but my second was to laugh as my husband pointed out that it was a well-warranted revenge. That was about the last laugh I had for a while though because from there my contractions began to get so bad that I couldn’t help but start crying.
I felt sort of pathetic for it, like I should be more “stoic” or something, but the fact of the matter was that it hurt so badly I couldn’t even utter a sound during them, and so in the end I decided that I didn’t care because I felt like I was being stomped all over by a crack-addled llama and as far as I was concerned, anyone who didn’t cry in a situation like that was not a person that I wanted to trust.
It was almost a relief once the contractions got to be less than 5 minutes apart, only because informing my family, grabbing my stuff, and heading into the hustle and bustle of the hospital were at least small distractions from my overwhelming discomfort. Plus, it reminded me that soon, Gabriel and I would be holding our baby in our arms, and that thought soothed me more than any other could.
* * * * *
I fell back against the pillows of my hospital bed, gasping and covered in sweat because I’d been pushing for like thirty fucking minutes now and how was this even possible and fuck, focus, focus, focus!
“You’re doing so well, Joanne! I think we’re just about there. On your next contraction I want you to push real hard, okay?”
I’VE BEEN PUSHING REAL HARD, I wanted to scream, but Gabriel expressed the thought for me by muttering under his breath, “What the fuck do you think she’s been doing?” and that somehow made me laugh and then another contraction hit me and I was shouting instead and pushing, pushing, pushing FUCK someone get this baby out now!
“Next time, Joanne. Next time! We’re nearly there!”
Oh my god. My breaths came out in ragged pants and I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I was so incredibly exhausted and my body was trembling and I felt like I was going to start crying again. “I can’t do it,” I cried miserably. “I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough—I’m not—I’m not.”
“You’ve always been strong enough,” Gabriel countered, and then my worst contraction yet slammed into me like a speeding truck and no one had to tell me to push because my body seemed to be doing that for me and fuck the crack-addled llama had brought all its mother fuckin’ friends and I was screaming and everyone was talking all at once and JFDSKFHDFKJSHLDKFS.
“I can see the head! Keep pushing, Joanne, keep pushing! Breathe! Breathe…just one more!”
The room erupted into wild cheers—all the nurses and Dr. Rivera especially as she joyfully announced, “It’s a boy!”
A boy. A boy! I laughed again, how I had no idea because I felt like I was falling asleep on the spot and there was a bit more of a bustle and Gabriel’s fingers were digging into my shoulder and then—finally, our son began to cry. I tried desperately to see him as they wrapped him in a blanket and then the nurse lowered the smallest little bundle onto my chest as she said, “There you go, mama! You did such a good job.”
There are some moments in life that cannot be explained even by the most prolific writer. Moments that can only be understood by experiencing them. Moments like the one in which I first gazed down at our beautiful son’s face. He had the smallest nose and wow, he looked so much like Gabriel and his eyes were all scrunched up in distress and oh, “It’s okay, baby,” I murmured, cradling him closely and kissing his forehead as tears fell freely from my eyes. “It’s okay. Momma’s right here. She’s right here and she loves you so very, very much.”
Oh how I loved him—it overflowed from me like water over the edges of a crystalline glass—shimmering and ebullient.
“It’s okay, love,” I continued soothingly. “It’s okay.” I gingerly smoothed the sparse hairs on his head as he quieted and looked up at me with the brightest blue eyes. I wondered what color they would change into as he grew.
“So what’s his name?” I whispered.
I looked up at Gabriel when he didn’t answer, and just like that I knew exactly what my stepmother had meant on my wedding day when she said there would be times when I’d wonder how my body could possibly ever contain the overwhelming love I had for the person at my side.
“What?” he mumbled, hastily wiping his eyes on the sleeve of his t-shirt. Our baby turned his head toward the sound of his voice and Gabriel took in a sharp breath of air.
“His name,” I repeated in a daze, for I had never once seen my husband cry. “We have a little boy.”
He cleared his throat and then quietly answered, “Milo.”
Gabriel nodded, reaching out to gingerly run his thumb over our son’s chubby cheek. “Milo, after—after my grandfather,” he managed to say as our baby’s eyes fell contentedly shut, “and James, after your father. Milo James.”
Milo James. Fresh tears welled up in my eyes. “It’s perfect,” I expressed with a tearful laugh.
We looked at one another and then Gabriel sat down beside me, kissing me hard, and then our perfect son, and in that brief window of time I learned that those formless abstractions called ‘love’ and ‘happiness’ had the ability to stretch on limitlessly.
Welcome to the family, Milo James Winters.
A/N: GAHHHH I AM SO HAPPY! Milo….MILO!!!! BABYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! *runs around crazily*
*takes deep breaths* Why am I writing this? OH RIGHT, to tell you all that Generation 5’s naming theme is songs! Thus, Milo is named for his great-grandfather and grandfather yes, but also for the song “Interlude (Milo)” by Modest Mouse. It’s not too much of a song I suppose, but it features the sound of the bassist’s son cooing and it’s freaking adorable. Plus I thought it was fitting for Joanne and Gabriel who would probably totally make a song like that, so “Milo” it is! “Capri,” of course, would have been named for the song in this chapter.
Also, fun fact, Gabriel’s name also came from a song: “Gabriel” by Lamb. The song’s lyrics even went so far as to inspire the entire nature of the relationship between Joanne and Gabriel as they read, “I can fly/ But I want his wings/ I can shine even in the darkness/ But I crave the light that he brings/ Revel in the songs that he sings/ My angel, Gabriel.”
Now excuse me while I go cry because I’ve waited for this moment for so long and now I have ALL THE FEELS. Hope you all enjoyed and hope that the next time you see me won’t be Thanksgiving break *frets*
OH, lastly, I put all of my efforts into getting this chapter posted and as such I’m behind on reading! So if you’ve been like, “Hmm, why hasn’t Lily read and commented on my chapter….She usually does :/” that is why! I still love all of you and your wonderful stories and will be catching up in due time! Thanks for bearing with me—it really does mean the world ❤