It was about 3:00 on the second Friday of April when my back began to bother me. I tried rubbing it, George and Hannah both rubbed but nothing helped. We tried a hot water bottle in case it was a sprained muscle but by 5:00 it had gotten worse. Ned was home first at 5:30 but Dad walked in a few moments later. But not even Dad's magic touch stopped the expanding ache.
Ned was the first to voice what we'd all been thinking. "Could it be the precursor to labor pains?"
"I'll call Dr. Silverman." Dad said decisively and went to the phone. We all had the numbers memorized for both doctors and the hospital. He got right through and although we could only hear one side of the conversation, it sounded like the doctor wanted to wait and see if something else happened. >[? "You heard?" Dad came over and sat on the coffee table between the sofas. "He suggests a couple of aspirin if the pain is too bad but nothing stronger. He said to sit tight and call him if true labor starts."
George sighed and sank down beside me. "Not to wish you pain, sweetness, but I'd dearly love to have these babies out of both of us."
I clasped her hand to my lips and kissed it tenderly. "I know the feeling. I have the urge to tell them to just get on with it. Oh . . . that was different."
Ned was on my other side and he laid a gentle hand on the twins in time to feel a little ripple that ran from side to side. "It's like Nephrites' labor, side to side instead of down or up pains. I think we need to start timing the little contractions."
"I just hope it's not false labor or those Braxton-Hicks things Dr. Hansa talked about." I said with a smile. "It looks like I'm going to win the baby sweepstakes."
Just then George squeezed my hand really tight. "Oh, you're right, that feels very different."
Dad laid both his large hands over their twins and his eyes lit up. "I think one of them has turned head down. I'll call Dr. Silverman back."
"Wow, wouldn't you know that they would decide to come together?" Ned joked and kissed me softly. Another contraction hit right in the middle of it and I pulled away to grimace. "Let's get you up, Nancy. Walking really does help your body cope with the pain."
Dad was still on the phone when Ned pulled both of us to our feet. Hannah hovered near by and I hugged her while she patted my back and whispered 'I love you' to me. I was a very lucky girl to have such a wonderful family. Dad also called Dr. Hansa to put him on stand-by.
Then we walked; upstairs and down, through rooms we weren't really using yet, outside onto the patio until it began to sprinkle when we waddled back under the patio canopy. Luckily, we were still on the tiles when a sharp pain hit suddenly and my water broke to splash on the ground. Ned picked me up as if I weighed nothing and carried me inside. Dad dashed back to the phone and alerted the hospital that we were on the way.
Two minutes later, George's water broke and we knew it was time to head to town. Hannah had both our suitcases and Connie promised to call the grandparents-to-be. Ned drove carefully as if we were a load of eggs, which in a certain sense we were, eggs that were ready to hatch.
By the time we got to the hospital, the contractions were two minutes a part and I was having the urge to push. Dad was going to be black and blue because both of us were holding onto him like he was our only anchor in a sea of pain. Orderlies helped us out of the car at the emergency entrance and our husbands brought in our suitcases. They checked us in while Hannah stayed with us all the way into the private room for two that we'd reserved months ago.
I was doing all right but I was so worried about George that I was about to go out of my mind. She was panting with the pain but she refused to lie down when the nurse told her that she should. We couldn't really tell her that we'd experienced labor in a past life and moving really helped. I think it was the hospital mind-set. If you went to the hospital then you were sick. But we weren't sick, we were just pregnant and our bodies knew what they needed.
Dr. Hansa showed up a few minutes later and we laid down then so he could check to see how far we were dilated. He blinked once after he checked me then crossed to the next bed to see George. "Well, they are impatient. Nancy, you're dilated to ten centimeters and I think it's time to see who wins the bet on gender. Nurse, if you'd wheel Mrs. Nickerson into the delivery room, we'll see what emerges."
"I'm going with her, Dr. Hansa," Ned said flatly, already taking off his watch and wedding ring. "I need to be there for Nancy."
"Darn right, you are." I said through clenched teeth. "I need to tell you exactly what I think about you getting me pregnant. Oh-h-h, that hurts."
The next few minutes are kind of a blur but I was just barely holding onto my control when Dr. Hansa told me to push. That's what I'd been waiting for so I grabbed hold of Ned's hand and pushed as hard as I could. Something the size of a bowling ball passed between my legs and I fell back with a sigh of relief.
"Congratulations, Ned and Nancy, you have a beautiful little boy." Dr. Hansa beamed at me over my sheet-covered knees and I heard his cry with joy. "Now, if you'll just do that again, we'll see if it's a matched set."
I laughed and cried at the same moment but Ned was too so that wasn't so bad. The urge to push was growing again and I rocked on the table to keep from doing it until the time was right. How I knew the time was right, I don't know now but at the moment I just knew. Ned was holding a blue wrapped bundle when the searing pain hit and I moaned out loud.
He hastily handed the baby back to the second nurse and held onto both my hands while speaking to me in the language of the parallel universe. I don't know what the nurses thought of it but I concentrated on his words and the love that shone through them while pushing again as hard as I could. And by the third push, our daughter finally came in to the world.
I fell back exhausted and Ned kissed me while mopping my forehead with a clean cloth. I was wrung out with absolutely no energy whatsoever when a nurse dashed in and whispered something in Dr. Hansa's ear. The shot of adrenaline was instantaneous. George was in trouble, I just knew it. He nodded and said that he'd be right there once I delivered the afterbirth.
"Dr. Hansa, go now," I begged him. "The nurse can take care of the afterbirth. Please!"
"Very well," he nodded and left to wash his hands.
Ned handed me our son and I pulled away the blanket so I could count his tiny fingers. His face was scrunched up and his little head was kind of misshapen but covered with a fine down that looked blond. When I looked up, Ned had a pink bundle in his arms and he was cooing to our daughter while tears ran down his cheeks. His green eyes came to mine and he leaned over to kiss me.
"Thank you, Nancy, thank you for these beautiful children." He kissed away the little tears that were leaking from my eyes. "Everything is going to be all right. George is going to be fine and so are the babies."
From his lips to every god I could think of, I prayed silently while the nurse cleaned me up and called for the orderly to wheel the delivery table back to our room. We passed in the hall, Ned and I going one way and Dad and George heading for the same room that I'd just left. Dad kissed me in passing while Ned kissed George. Now we had to wait.
********* Carson *********
My daughter was safe and I now had a grandson and a granddaughter but I couldn't relax because George was in pain and it was getting worse. She wasn't dilating the way that Nancy had and the contractions were almost on top of each other. She was holding onto my hand with a steel grip and I was murmuring every single hopeful thing I could think of.
But part of me was praying to the old gods who had gotten us into this and I hoped they were listening. Dr. Hansa had washed up again and he was now between George's legs checking her again. "Only six centimeters, that's not good enough. With your permission, I'm going to prep you for a caesarian section, Mrs. Drew."
George flinched at another contraction but nodded. "Will it be easier for the babies?"
"Yes, they're under stress right now over and above the pains that are stressing you. I will ask you to trust me in this and I promise that all three of you will be fine." His dark eyes gazed first into her eyes and then into mine.
"Do it." She relaxed the best she could and I kissed the hand I was holding.
Dr. Hansa gave the nurses two orders and then looked back at me. "I'm sorry, Carson, but we need to have a sterile room during the surgery. You can wait right outside those doors."
I nodded and leaned down to kiss George. She was trembling and I silently cursed my inability to help her. Pulling back, I stroked back her beautiful hair. "You'll be fine, my love. I'll be waiting for you once you've delivered. I love you."
"Love you too, Carson. Go kiss your grandchildren." She ordered with a faint smile. "It's not everyday you become a grandfather."
I chuckled the way that she wanted me to and stepped back while three nurses converged on her. Once outside the swinging doors, I leaned against the wall and prayed. I don't know how long I was there before I heard Robert's voice asking in a strained voice about his daughter.
To hell with our manly image, I reached out and hugged him. "Dr. Hansa is going to take the babies surgically. They're prepping her now."
He nodded and cleared his throat, "How . . . how is Nancy?"
I managed a smile. "George is now the grandmother of a boy and a girl. Nancy is fine."
"Good, that's good." He peeked in through the round holes. "Dear god, she looks so small."
"I know," my voice was just a whisper and I joined him in watching Dr. Hansa and the surgical team.
We stood arm in arm for what seemed an eternity but was probably only half-an-hour. I was praying so hard that the first cry caught me by surprise. Opening my eyes, I saw the nurse holding up a small baby boy and I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. Not two minutes later another nurse held my daughter and Robert and I were both crying. I could see George's face and it was so calm that I feared for a moment that she'd gone.
But my heartfelt prayer was heard and I saw a wash of gold sweep over her body from head to toe and I felt finally at peace. Robert's hand clutched mine and he shook his head as if clearing it. "Carson, what was that?"
Smiling through my tears, I answered. "That was a blessing and the answer to a lot of prayers. Now, you're a grandfather too, Robert."
He wiped his eyes with his handkerchief, a smile breaking out on his face. "Thank God, Carson. If I smoked, I'd be breaking out a cigar about now. I must go and tell Gloria."
"Tell them I'll be there in a moment." I couldn't take my eyes off of the bassinet where the two small bundles waited for us to hold them. It was all I could do not to barge in there and bring them out of the sterile environment. Luckily, the nurse pushed it out the double doors and asked me if I wanted them in Nancy and George's room. I looked down at their tiny little faces and nodded. "Welcome to the world, little ones."
She smiled at me and then wheeled them down the hall while I turned back to watch my wife. The sterile tent of cloth had been taken away and now a sheet covered her body. The mound was gone and she was the lithe woman that she'd been eight and a half months ago. Dr. Hansa came out after removing his surgical mask and shook my hand.
"She's going to be fine, Carson. The anesthetic is already wearing off and the incision site is smaller than I was afraid it was going to be. Somehow the muscles . . ." he struggled with his words, "the muscles moved aside. It sounds fanciful, I know but perhaps it was the result of your son's movement. She'll be waking up shortly in the recovery room. Why don't you join her so she'll see a familiar face."
"Thank you, Dr. Hansa," I shook his hand but couldn't say anymore. He understood and patted my shoulder before heading down to the private room where we would join them soon. The orderly wheeled her into the next room and I moved down to that door and inside. The smell of antiseptic and blood clung to her and I leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"You did well, sweetheart. We're parents, angel. You've got a daughter and a son just waiting to meet you, too." I scattered kisses all over her beautiful face, removing the ugly mop-cap that had covered her shiny black hair. A muscle in her face trembled then finally her dazed eyes opened. "Hi, my beautiful George, you're a mother of a son and a daughter."
She sighed and smiled back before closing her eyes. I went back to telling her how beautiful she was and how much I loved her while the nurses got her ready to go back to the room she would share with Nancy. I could hardly wait to get everyone home. It would have been so much easier if we could have just had them at home but then we might have lost George. Dr. Hansa had utilized the very best of modern medicine to bring George through her pregnancy safely.
He would remain in our prayers for years to come.
********* Ned *********
When the babies arrived without George, we feared the worst but Dr. Hansa appeared almost immediately to give us the good news that George was fine and would be in shortly. Nancy finally relaxed a little but I could tell that she wouldn't be completely fine until George arrived so she could see for herself. I know how much I wanted this whole ordeal to be over. I liked having babies at home, the way that my prior selves had had them. But I was also grateful for the doctor's skill that had kept George alive and the babies healthy.
My mom was just beside herself with joy. She currently had our daughter in her arms, cooing down into the little scrunched up face. Nancy had our son in her arms with Hannah at her side and the nurse was helping her to nurse for the first time. She actually did pretty well but then the nurse couldn't have known that she'd done this before. I watched her with scratchy eyes and wished we were alone with our babies.
Gloria and Robert each had one of their grandchildren in their arms, rocking them gently while the babies fussed a little. Dad had his arm around my shoulder, unabashedly wiping his eyes. "You do good work, Ned. They're beautiful, just beautiful."
"I've got to say that it will be a while before we do this again, if ever." I admitted in a low voice.
Nancy heard me though and she chuckled. "That's what you say now, sweetie but I'll bet by the time they're two, you're going to be thinking about another child." I went to her side and leaned over to kiss her. She smiled through the kiss and when we parted, she ran a gentle hand over the downy hair of our son. "I'll be ready by then, I expect."
Just then the door swung open and Carson came in followed by the moving bed that held a groggy George. The orderlies transferred her to the other bed and then left us alone. Gloria rushed to her side and kissed her before putting the baby she was holding into her arms. It was undoubtedly the first time she had seen him and her hands shook while she peeled away the blanket for a better look.
Robert handed Carson the other child and he looked into a pair of dark eyes just like George's. I think there were tears in everyone's eyes at that moment. I know how much I wished that we weren't in this sterile hospital room but home where we could enjoy our new children. But that wouldn't be for a week or more while Nancy and George got their strength back.
"Well, Ned and Nancy, what are the names of our new grandchildren?" Dad asked me.
I sniffed and blew my nose before replying. "William after my grandfather and Peter after Nancy's."
Mom got even more teary but her smile was radiant. "And for your daughter?"
Nancy answered. "Amanda Barbara, Amanda means beloved and Barbara was my mom's name."
"That's absolutely perfect, sweetheart." Dad beamed at them both.
Robert spoke up next. "Have you picked names yet, Carson?"
Carson nodded and stroked back George's hair again in a soothing gesture. "Our daughter is Victoria, after my mother and Gloria after George's."
George's voice was stronger now. "Our son is Elijah for Carson's father and Robert for mine."
It looked like sobbing was about to break out but everybody blew their noses and spoke in whispers about all the things we would need to do once the babies were home. George kept falling asleep on us and finally the nurse suggested that we leave for now and come back in the morning. Nancy looked like a nap was in order so I kissed her goodbye and then kissed each of our babies who were nestled in the rolling bassinet.
What a wrench it was to leave them there instead of taking them with us, I thought while Carson said goodnight to both of our wives and all four of the babies. We grouped together outside the hospital to plan who was going to be there tomorrow. Gloria and Robert would come at ten, the beginning of visitor's hours. Hannah would come with their lunches at noon. She didn't think much of hospital cooking.
I'd be able to get off at 2 so that's when I'd come over while Carson would hopefully get out of court by 4 so he could join us. With that settled, they drove off while Hannah got us both into the car and told us in no uncertain terms that she was driving us home where we were going to eat something before going to bed. That sounded like heaven to me.
Leaning against Carson, I almost fell asleep. It was over and we now had a family of our own. His lips grazed my temple and we held hands all the way home. Connie was all ears when we got there but more importantly, she had dinner ready to be dished up. I was suddenly starving and Carson was too. For a few moments, we practically inhaled the pot roast and fresh, hot rolls. Hannah told Connie all about the births and what they were and their names.
By the time we were finished eating, there wasn't a scrap left on the table. Hannah was already planning the menus with her for the next few days and she shooed us off to bed, telling us that she'd answer the phone for the evening and give out the glad news while we got a good night's rest. We both kissed her cheek before heading upstairs to our big bed.
We showered together but never even got hard. Having babies is seriously tiring and I knew it from both sides, as mother and now as father. I kept smiling for no apparent reason and found that Carson was doing the same. Sliding into the center of our four-poster bed, I drew him into my arms for a joyful kiss.
We slowly feasted on each other before settling in to sleep. Soon we'd be four again but with another four to take care of. "Carson, do you think we'll be good fathers?"
He chuckled against my hair. "We've got the experience, Ned - no matter that some of it was centuries ago. We'll do a great job, my love. We've got the best helpmeets in the world. We'll make a mistake or ten but so long as we love them and make sure that they know it, we'll be just fine."
"Love you, Car," I yawned against his throat.
"I love you too, Ned. Sleep tight and dream of me." He said quietly.
"I always do," I whispered and fell fast asleep.
The end of part 10