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Sanctuary

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When I was a little girl I had a doll, her name was Susie, she was a 17” hard bodied ivory shaded vinyl doll with bright blue blinking eyes and blonde curly hair. She was given to me by my uncle for my first birthday and was my constant companion through most of my childhood. She was my first baby, I had a pram for her and she came everywhere with me. Everyone would comment about how well she had been looked after, so many other dolls of girls my age would have lost limbs, or had their eyes damaged after so many years of handling by clumsy toddlers but my Susie stayed perfect.

 

I gave her to a charity auction a few years ago, it turned out she was a rare doll, a limited edition and quite collectable for those who sought out these things. Hayley and I worked with a woman who was arranging the auction to raise money for a women’s shelter. Daniel and I were about to move into our house and while packing I found Susie, still looking like new, and decided to donate her. She’d been with me for almost 40 years, I was moving on with my life and I felt it was time Susie had a new purpose. I remember shedding a tear as I handed her over, it’s funny how we grow so attached to things. I hope she has a new owner who loves her as much a I did.

 

We made it to 36 weeks before the doctors decided it was time to deliver. Still a little early but they were confident baby had developed enough and it would be safer than to continue. It had been decided a caesarean was also the safest route. It wasn’t an emergency but the doctors were becoming more concerned that the pre-eclampsia effects were increasing and they wanted to deliver while I and baby were relatively healthy. I was being prepped Sam was pacing the room nervously.

 

“I’m going in with you.” he told me his arms folded.

 

“I was counting on it.” I grinned then winced as the nurse inserted the cannula into my arm.

 

He smiled nervously and moved to the other side of the bed taking hold of my hand. “It’s going to be ok right?”

 

It was the first time he’d sought reassurance from me, always having been the strong positive one. I squeezed his hand back and smiled “It’s going to wonderful!” I told him.

 

“Right Dad, well if you’re coming you need to come with me now to get gowned up.” the nurse told Sam and his eyes widened in alarm.


“Now?” as if the realisation just hit him that he was about to be a Dad.

 

The nurse chuckled and nodded. “Yes now!”

 

Sam looked down at me, still looking alarmed and I chuckled looking up at him “Now love! Off you go, see you soon” I was terrified but letting him know that wasn’t going to make it easier for him to leave.

 

He nodded and leaned down to kiss me. “I love you.” he told me and I reached out to touch his face. “I love you too… see you soon.”. He let go of my hand and followed the nurse out..

 

I let out a long controlled breath “OK Little Bean, just you and me now… let’s not have any drama OK?” I said quietly stroking my bump.

 

We hadn’t discussed names, we’d decided it would be a conversation to have once we had her in our arms. Partly, it felt right after the distress I had felt after the loss of my boy, who we had planned a name for, and partly it was Sam’s wish, he said he didn’t think it was right to name her until we saw her face.

 

The next hour was like a dream, I was taken to the operating theatre and as the nurses prepared me Sam entered the room all gowned, gloved and masked. He held my hand and I could see from his eyes that he was smiling. I was given the spinal blocker and the surgeon started talking us through the procedure. Sam sat quietly next to me, his hands firmly holding mine his eyes fixed on mine until we finally heard the words.

 

“Here she comes.”

 

I couldn’t feel a thing, Sam looked down I tried to raise my head to see as the baby was lifted briefly into view by the surgeon, then handed to a nurse who quickly took her away to the side of the room. The surgeon was still talking but all I and Sam wanted to hear was a sound from the baby.

 

I turned my head and could see the nurse clearing the baby’s airway and quite roughly rubbing her back.

 

“Is she OK?” I asked shakily. Sam’s grip on my hand tightened.

 

It felt like an age until there was finally a weak cry, then another and then it continued loud and clear and finally I could breathe again.

 

“She’s absolutely perfect.” the nurse said from the side of the room now finishing her job of cleaning her up.

 

I cried, relief and emotion overwhelming me and as I looked at Sam I could see the tears falling from his eyes as well. “She’s OK, she’s here!” he said bringing his forehead down to touch mine. “I love you so bloody much!”

 

The surgeons were still finishing their work but all interest in what was happening there was gone, all I wanted was to finally see my daughter. We had said we wanted to skin-to-skin contact as early as possible, the nurse finally brought her over, tucked her under the drape and lay her on me. Her tiny arms moved awkwardly and her head was small enough to fit in my small hands. She stopped crying and we could hear her little breaths and I could feel her warmth against me. Her head was turned to face Sam and he was transfixed, he reached out to touch her tiny hand and she gripped his little finger.

 

“Hello my Princess” he said so softly, I could tell, he was already in love.

 

I couldn’t see much from this position but I could see her eyes were closed, there was some hair on her head which I could feel as I gently cradled her. She was so tiny and fragile I was afraid to hold her too firmly. The nurse gently reassured us we were doing fine.

 

“Ten fingers and ten toes, a fine set of lungs by the sound of it. 8lbs 5ozs. She’s beautiful.” she told us and Sam nodded and looked back up at me.

 

“She’s perfect, well done my love.”

 

I smiled up at him “You made her too remember.”

 

He smiled and lay his head on my shoulder, watching her closely, gently placing his hand on her back. “I’m going to be here for you always…” he promised “… both of you.”

 

As I was taken from the theatre she was taken from us, for a few checks and with the promise they’d have her back with us within minutes.

 

Once back in my room I was finally alone with Sam for a few minutes. He looked so emotional, it was a wonder to see on his expressive face, joy, pride, relief, and the weight of fatherhood. He sat on the edge of my bed and hugged me, his face buried in my neck.

 

“I didn’t think it was possible, to love you more, to be happier, to feel this… incredible.” he murmured into my neck “I didn’t know… I had it within me… I’m not sure I really do, I feel like I’m going to burst.”

 

I held him, my body was weary and the painkillers were wearing off. I was as overcome as he was but I couldn’t find words. I buried my face in his soft hair and found myself sobbing, the relief that she was alive, and well after the fear I had held since the day I took the pregnancy test that I would lose her, like my boy, finally found release and I sobbed hard holding Sam tight and listening to his gentle “Hush, my love. It’s OK.”

 

After a few minutes she was wheeled into the room in a bassinet with a smiling nurse pushing her. “She is a little fighter, good strong heartbeat, breathing is fine, everything looks great, we thought she might need the incubator for a week or so but she’s fine. So she can stay here with you. We’ll keep a close eye, sometimes in babies born at 36 weeks, the issues don’t show up right away.”

 

I wiped my tears and looked down at the bassinet, then up to Sam. “Your turn to hold her.” I smiled and he blinked at me and beamed taking in a deep breath.

 

The nurse picked up the swaddled bundle and walked her round to him. “Here you go Daddy.” she handed him the baby and he blinked down at her with tears in his eyes and such a look of love and pride I could never describe.

 

More tears ran down my cheek as I watched him fall in love completely with his daughter, our daughter and I beamed as he gently swayed when she made a sound, “It’s good to finally meet you Little Bean.” he said gently. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” he stroked her little face with this finger and looked over at me as I watched them. He moved over the sit beside me and I could finally see her face, pink and wrinkled and absolutely perfect. As we both watched her, her eyes flickered open for just a second and we both gasped at the brightness of the blue we saw beneath those eyelids.

 

“Just like my dream.” Sam told me and I rested my head on his shoulder, completely happy.

 

 


The next few days in the hospital were filled with visits from Chrissie, Sam’s brother, Hayley who visited daily and Cait popped in on the 3rd day. In between visits we were learning to feed and bathe and dress the baby, who we still hadn’t named. I’d tried to breast feed but my milk didn’t come enough due to the early delivery and we had to move onto formula. I was disappointed, it was an experience I had looked forward to but of all the things that could go wrong, I took it and reminded myself that now there was no reason Sam couldn’t take his share of feeds.

 

I was healing well although it would be a while before I was fully mobile again. Sam was with me almost all day every day until the night shift nurses kicked him out. He would sit and watch over both me and the baby as we slept and even snuck in a feed or two while I continued to sleep. He was completely besotted and at times when I was weary and in pain and not feeling completely myself I had to admit to feeling a little jealous. It usually passed quickly when he would come and sit and cuddle me gently and remind me how much he loved me.

 

 

I just had to get use to sharing his love now, as he would to sharing mine.

After 4 days we were allowed home, I couldn’t wait, the nurses were wonderful but I wanted to start our life as a family. Hayley was still staying with us and she’d come to take all the balloons and gifts from my room into her car to take home ahead of us.

 

“Just as well this hasn’t got out to his fans yet.” she commented. “We’d need a lorry!” we chuckled and I held the baby to my shoulder to burp her. Firmly patting her back as I smiled up at Hayley “I’m so glad you’re here.” I told her. “I have a feeling I’m going to need you.”

 

As keen as I was to begin our family life, I was also nervous. Having Hayley there was a comfort, she wasn’t a mother but I at least could count on her to kick me up the backside if I wasn’t doing something right. Sam still had filming to complete, he’d managed a few days more off but would have to go back soon which he wasn’t too happy about.

 

“Well, as if I’d be anywhere else.” she told me. “Speaking of which, when you’re home, we need to talk about me moving up here.”

 

I opened my mouth in shock “What?”

 

“Well, what’s to keep me in Warrington, you’re up here, the charity is up here and that’s my full time job now. So I’m gonna start looking for a place.”

 

 

Best news ever!

“Oh my God, that’ll be amazing!” I said trying not to be too loud with the baby in my arms. I beamed at my best friend.

 

 

It would be so good to have her close again.

“What will be amazing?” Sam asked as he walked in the room with the car seat we were taking the baby home in.

 

“Hayley’s moving up here.” I blurted out excitedly and Sam smiled broadly.

 

“That’s great news!” he moved over and gave Hayley a hug “I’m really glad.”

 

She blushed and hit him playfully “Glad to get me out of your house” she teased and we chuckled. “Well I’m gonna get these things in the car and head over there. I’ll see you all at home soon then.” She picked up the final teddy bear and shuffled out of the room followed by a bunch of balloons.

 

Sam came over to us and kissed me, then the baby’s head. I was still trying to coax a burp out of her. “Are you ready to go home?” he asked me and I nodded.

 

Once finally burped, we secured her in the car seat, the nurse overseeing everything. I was given clean dressings and reminded of when the health visitor would come to see me and then I was following Sam who carried the car seat, down the hall.

 

“Slow down Daddy long legs, I’m wounded here.” I had to remind him as I struggled to walk without pain.

 

He stopped to let me catch up then put his free arm around me. “I’m sorry love, I’m just excited to get home. You set the pace.” he kissed my head and we walked together at a much more gentle pace to the car. He wanted to drive us home himself reminding me that even Prince William did that when his children were born. I loved how proud he was.

 

Car seat was fixed in and I sat in the back with her. Sam climbed into the drivers seat and I saw him smiling as he looked through the rear view mirror before starting the engine and pulling away.

 

We pulled into our driveway shortly after and I chuckled “I’ve never seen you drive so carefully.” as he opened the door to help me out of the car.

 

“Most precious cargo in the world.” he reminded me and as I stood he wrapped his arms around me and kissed me hard. “Welcome home Mummy Bear!”

 

I snuggled into him for a moment. I did feel fragile since the birth and his embrace never failed to make me feel safe and protected. He held me close, one hand on my head and the other on my back and kissed the top of my head. “You OK Angie?” he asked quietly.

 

I nodded against him “I am, I’m just enjoying the cuddle.” I told him and he stroked my hair and kissed my head again.

 

“Anytime, anywhere.”

 

I savoured the closeness for a few more seconds before lifting my head and he met me with a kiss. “I bloody love you Sam Heughan.” I told him matter of factly and to my amusement he actually blushed.

 

“Come on let’s get inside.” he changed the subject and moved around to the other side of the car and started unclipping the car seat. The baby had slept soundly all the way home, she had a full belly from her feed. She was still fast asleep and looked so peaceful as Sam carried her into the house.

 

Hayley had brought all the balloons and gifts into hallway and we were met with a wall of pink as we went through the door. “I guess the bachelor pad is well and truly gone now” he joked as he carried the car seat through into the living room.

 

“Oh my love, the next 18 years of your life will be pink…” I teased. “.. and purple, that’s my favourite.”

 

We transferred the baby from the carseat to the Moses Basket we had set up in the Living room and Hayley went to make Tea. Sam and I stood over the basket looking at the sleeping baby.

 

“She’s so beautiful.” Sam sighed.

 

I smiled and leaned into him. “I think so too, I checked while in the hospital and Gealic for Beauty is ‘Alanna’ and it also means precious in old German and child in Irish Gaelic, what do you think? I think it suits her?

 

Sam tilted his head as he looked at her, trying out the name “Alanna”, he said softly, her little eyes opened and she wriggled and waved her arms. We both smiled and nodded, she’d answered to her name.

 

“It’s perfect” he told me. “Alanna Heughan, welcome home.”