It takes a moment for Tessa to fully open her eyes as she wakes up, slowly remembering where she is and what’s happened in the last twenty-four hours. She feels more rested now but still exhausted and heavy. Parts of her are so sore, and she knows she needs to shower. Then there’s the strangeness of being alone in her body for the first time in so many months - strange, but good, too. When she does take in her surroundings she sees the dimly lit hospital room, and some faint morning light coming through the windows.
She lifts her head just enough to see the rest of her family is still right there a few feet away from her. Morgan’s sitting in the armchair, reclined and eyes closed. But his arms are secure around their new daughter, his hands cradling her as she lies bundled up against his chest. He’s got his sweatshirt unzipped enough to tuck her close to him, letting her little head rest just under his chin. Tessa had watched him in a similar posture last night, holding their one-hour-old daughter right against his skin. The sight of him and his excited expression at having her in his arms for the first time is something she’ll never forget.
Tessa shifts, then, moving to sit up fully. She hates to interrupt their time together but she wants her baby in her arms now, too. Her daughter. Hers. Theirs . Their sweet little Eleanor Rose.
Morgan opens his eyes at the sound of her movements, and then his smile is so wide when he looks back at her. “Hey, good morning,” he says, just above a whisper.
“Morning to you too,” she answers. She swallows, trying to shake the sleep from her voice.
“The nurse was just here a few minutes ago,” he reports. “You want me to get her back?”
Tessa shakes her head easily. “Just need you two.” She lifts her arms out, awake enough to know that she needs to hold her baby before she does anything else. “And you’re too far away.” She waves her hands towards herself, gesturing.
Eleanor seems to wake also, hearing her mother’s voice. Her little features scrunch up in concern, before letting out a whimper. Still less than a day old and already not shy about making her presence known.
“Okay, pal,” Morgan tells her gently. “You’re awake now too, aren’t you?” He drops a kiss to the baby’s head and then stands, still smiling, closing the few steps between the chair and the bed. “You’re okay, Mom’s right here.” He passes her to Tessa in a move they’ve only had a few chances to practice so far, but already feels easier.
“Oh, hi there, little girl,” Tessa greets her, tired but so happy. She’s still so amazed at how it feels to hold the baby. Like everything in her settles, having her daughter in her arms. The baby weighs so little, but how this feels is...She can’t quite describe it. “I’m here, I’ve got you. I’m here forever and ever, I promise.” Her voice is soft, but so intent, the words coming almost before she knows what she’s saying. She lifts her closer and places gentle kisses on her cheeks and forehead, breathing in the wonderful scent of her. Eleanor’s little hands wave erratically, batting at Tessa’s face and neck. It’s enough to make Tessa laugh, and kiss her some more.
It’s not long before the baby’s whimpers start up again, this time more earnestly than before. Tessa opens up her nightgown and brings the baby close. Morgan reaches for one of the pillows and helps place it in just the right spot to support them, remembering the instructions they’d blearily received about this last night. Or maybe it was this morning? She’d tried feeding Eleanor then, doing her best to get it right. It had worked out, briefly, but hadn’t felt entirely comfortable yet. This time, though, Tessa can tell they’re starting to figure it out.
The baby latches on and Tessa grins, elated and relieved. When she turns to Morgan again he’s got the same expression on his face, too. He reaches out a hand and strokes a few fingers along the baby’s legs and feet. “What a champ,” he says, clear pride in his voice.
“Why, thank you,” Tessa answers, and they both laugh. She leans her head against his shoulder and for a few moments they just look at her, watching her every move, listening to every noise and murmur. After a little while she decides she’s finished nursing for now and Tessa pats her on her back, trying to remember the nurse’s instructions from only a few hours ago.
And then she’s cradled in one arm again, peaceful and warm. Morgan touches one of her hands with gentle fingers, and is rewarded by her curling her fingers around one of his. Tessa can only beam at them, gently rocking the baby. She lets her free arm drift towards Morgan where he’s nestled next to them on the bed, resting her hand on his knee.
“She’s ours, all ours,” Tessa says, like she’s wondering out loud.
“I know,” Morgan answers, just as amazed. “We get to bring her home. To her own room and everything.”
When Eleanor was just a few minutes old she’d opened her eyes, and then Morgan and Tessa both looked at each other, saying, “She looks just like you!” almost at the same time. And they were both right, of course. She has Morgan’s nose and eyes, and the shape of Tessa’s face. There’s a soft swath of light brown hair on her head and the roundest, pinkest cheeks.
Eleanor lets go of Morgan’s finger in favour of tucking her hands close under her chin, and Tessa rocks her a little more as she settles. Morgan exhales, running one hand over his face. His eyes are still trained on the baby, sleepy adoration on his expression, too.
Tessa looks over at him again, wondering now at how much rest he got, too. She squeezes his knee with her free hand. “Hey. Did you get any sleep?”
He blinks slowly, and then nods. “A couple hours.” When Tessa frowns at him, uncertain, he just smiles a little, looking almost sheepish. “I couldn’t help it, I wanted to keep looking at her.”
That much Tessa can understand. “Well,” she says, words failing her then. “She is pretty great to look at.”
By the time they’d gotten to the other side of midnight and both she and Eleanor had been well checked over to everyone’s satisfaction, and all the messages and calls had been made that they needed to make, Tessa only remembers the fatigue settling over her and having no choice but to give into it. She remembers falling asleep to a very similar picture than the one she woke up to - of Eleanor in her little bassinet, and Morgan next to her.
“She really, really is.” Morgan kisses her cheek again and she leans against his shoulder.
In her mind she knows there are things they should be doing right now. She needs to go shower and change for the day. They both need to check their messages and figure out when visiting hours will start, so her mother and sister can come. She needs to talk to her family. Morgan will need to set up video calls with his. And probably any moment now the nurse will be in to see how they’re doing. But right now she wants to just be here and soak in this moment, just her and her husband and daughter, loving each other.
“Hey,” he says after another minute, fresh excitement in his voice. He wraps one arm around Tessa’s shoulders and kisses her cheek. “Happy birthday.”
She looks at him and just for a second she has to remember who he’s talking to. And then she realizes the date. “Oh. Yeah,” she says as it dawns on her. Then she just sighs, feeling only happiness. “Best birthday, ever.”
“Yeah?” He leans in and kisses her lips gently, then once more when she leans in again.
Tessa nods. “Yeah.” And she means it.
When they’d first learned of the pregnancy it had distantly occurred to Tessa that this baby could end up sharing her birthday, but not given it serious consideration. Her due date had actually been a full week after her own birthday. Then when she’d gone into labour yesterday she’d fleetingly reconsidered those assumptions.
Yesterday had been such a long day for them, starting when Tessa’s contractions did a few hours before dawn. By the afternoon they’d headed to the hospital once her water had broken, and everything seemed to pick up speed after that. It feels like a blur, now. For a little while she’d managed on her own, pacing and moving around. But as things progressed she mostly remembers holding onto Morgan, walking with him, feeling grateful for his steady presence. And then it had been time to push, with her gripping onto him all the while as she got through each new surge.
And then, the baby was there. A couple of hours before midnight, wailing and furious. Born May 16th, 7lbs 9oz. And all other thoughts about birthdays had left her thoughts.
Tessa muses again, looking down at Eleanor’s sleeping face. “You think she’ll mind? Having birthdays one day apart?”
Morgan takes in a breath and sighs a little, like he’s thinking about it. “Nah,” he says. “We’ll make sure it’s the best celebration. Two days. Two parties. You can’t get mad at two parties,” he decides, shaking his head.
She just laughs again, softly at first and then more deeply. And then she tries to hold it in, not wanting to disturb Eleanor. She puts one hand over her mouth, shaking her head, too. “I don’t know why I’m laughing. This is all very wonderful and also very, very bizarre.” A couple of days ago the baby was still inside her. Her deepest thoughts had been about how to get a comfortable sleeping position, or what to order for dinner that wouldn’t give her heartburn.
“You’re telling me,” he says. “I was sure I still had another week to read the car-seat instructions,” he admits, and then they’re both shaking with silent laughter.
The laughter has prompted tears, which Tessa brushes away with her fingers. She lets out a long breath, then, bringing both arms back around Eleanor. Her laughter gives way to a different wave of emotion, so strong it’s enough to take her breath away. Dimly she knows there are so many hormones flowing through her right now, but that doesn’t make her feelings any less real.
“Oh, I just want so much for her, you know? So, so much.” Her daughter is less than a day old and already she can’t imagine a world without her. A life without her. Today she’s so tiny in Tessa’s arms and how long will she stay that way? She wonders so many things about who she’ll be, what she’ll discover, what she’ll dream about. What things will make her laugh, or cry. Who she’ll become as she grows up, and what she’ll need from her parents, or from the rest of her huge supportive family. What she’ll learn and do in this big, big world.
Tessa lifts her sleeping daughter higher, pressing the gentlest kiss to her forehead and holding her so close. She inhales slowly, then out and in again once more, breathing in the scent of her daughter as though trying to commit it to memory. She feels Morgan’s arms fold around her, too, one at her shoulders and the other just around Eleanor, aligning gently with hers. He rests his head against Tessa’s.
“Me too,” is Morgan’s response, his voice tinted with the same emotions she recognizes in herself. “I want her to have everything she needs, ever.” He swallows suddenly, blinking at tears too. “We’ll make sure she does.” She’s not sure she’s seen him react like this to anything before, which seems fitting just then. Because they’ve never been here before, either.
“We will,” she agrees, swallowing too. She straightens a little, rocking Eleanor again. Looking down at her, so peaceful in sleep, Tessa thinks maybe they’re right. They will get there, together. They’ll take it one day at a time and figure it out.
She feels Morgan’s kiss at her cheek, and so she turns to kiss his lips instead. This time it’s a grateful, urgent kiss. Like the one he’d given her last night, when she’d held Eleanor like this in her arms for the very first time.
“I love you,” he says first, before the same words even have a chance to leave her lips. He cradles her chin in one hand, resting his forehead against hers.
“I love you too,” she gets out, her voice still thick with emotion. “Forever, I promise.”
“We already promised each other that,” he tells her softly, shaking his head a little.
“Well I’m promising it again,” she says, insistent. “Just in case.”
“Then I promise too. Forever, all three of us.” He runs one hand along Eleanor’s side, half-supporting Tessa’s arms.
It’s then that Tessa knows she needs to let her daughter go, even if just for a few minutes. “Here, I think her Daddy needs her back,” she says, lightly nudging Morgan. She knows he can’t help the way his expression lights up at that prospect, and it’s an easy motion to place the baby into his waiting arms. She murmurs again, reaching out with one hand, but still sleeps.
“And her mom?”
Tessa smiles easily, brushing one hand along his forehead and cheek. “Her mom is going to get cleaned up, and be right back.” Then she’ll see the nurse, and start checking in with everyone, and the day will begin.
“Good. We’ll be right here,” Morgan answers. He stands, making sure Tessa’s able to do the same. She gingerly swings her legs around the side of the bed and then finds her feet, getting herself upright with more ease than she’d expected. For good measure she leans up and kisses her husband once more, and then he’s taking back his same place in the armchair just where he was before.
She shuffles towards the bathroom and spares another glance back towards her family. But instead of the same picture as before she sees Morgan just watching her, looking over at her too. She smiles back, her cheeks warm and her heart more full than she ever imagined.