Chapter 36 – Riley
This is it, Laura thought. That’s why she was enduring 16 hours of pain. To get to this point. Well, not just 16 hours of countless contractions, but also the days, weeks and months prior to that moment. Wishing and dreaming. Plaining and working on it. She had her heart broke into pieces. Then amended again. She met the love of her life. And her heart, was better than ever. So much better.
Life wasn’t getting any easier, that was true. But she was not expecting for easy, she wanted it to be fulfilling. That’s the whole reason of it, right? Of life.
So when the midwife told her that she could start to push at any moment, a little movie was playing in her head. There is no turning back. Life will change again, for good.
She didn’t hesitate. She contemplated. Just for a second. But it felt like a year. Life is going to change. Deep breaths and pushes. Again. And again.
“That’s it Cupcake, one more.” Said Carmilla by her side, never leaving her hand.
She looked at her left hand. She missed to see her rings in there. They were both hanging around her neck. But when she couldn’t see them, she would just take Carmilla’s hand and it would do the trick. Most of the times just look at Carmilla was enough.
She made a mental note to thank Carmilla later. She could recognize everything Carmilla was doing for her, but not respond the way she wanted. Her mind was focused in one thing only: to bring Riley to world safe and sound.
“Breathe and push.”
“Just one more.”
“Yeah, sweetheart, push.”
After the last push, Laura was leaning her back against the bed again.
“Baby you can do it, I have faith in you, okay? Come on, breathe with me.” Carmilla was brushing her hair, while Laura was mirroring Carmilla’s breathe movements.
“I can feel everything.” Laura said panting.
Carmilla kissed her hand. “It’s alright. Nora said Riley is doing just fine, okay? Dr. Collins is returning soon.”
“I think this position is not helping.” Laura looked to her legs and back to Carmilla, then to the midwife. “I want to turn to my side.”
“Okay Laura, let’s do the way you feel better.” Nora said helping Laura to turn to her side.
She put Carmilla to hold one of Laura’s legs, giving her support for the next contraction.
“Don’t forget to stop to push when you are crowning, sweetie.” Said the midwife.
“Okay.” Laura said with her trembling voice.
The next contraction came and Carmilla was holding Laura firmly. More pushes. More verbal encouragement.
And the minutes passed by, turning into hours. For Carmilla it was like days. For Laura, it was years. She could not talk anymore. Only moans and grunts were leaving her mouth.
“You are crowning, stop to push, Laura.” Said Dr. Collins. “His little head is here, let’s take it easy now.”
The next part was easier indeed. Gently, Doctor Collins was pulling Riley while instructing Laura to push in key moments. The room was silence in anticipation. Only Collins’ and Laura’s voice could be heard. Carmilla looked at everything apprehensive.
“Here he is.” Was the last thing he said before placing the tiny human, still quiet over Laura’s chest.
A nurse was brushing his back with a cloth, keeping him in place while Laura was moving her hands towards him. Carmilla was trembling, feeling the tears stinging her eyes.
“Hey.” Laura said to him, still a little afraid to touch the little bundle covered in white goo.
“Little guy.” Carmilla was finally meeting Laura’s hand over him.
His eyes were opening and for a short moment he was looking directly into Laura’s eyes. “Are you okay, Riley?” She said in a sweet voice, grabbing his little hand. “Yes, you are.”
Like in a cue he started to cry, making his brand new lungs to work for air. It started as a small whining, growing to a louder, but still restrained cry.
Carmilla chuckled. “He is perfect.”
“You’ll be alright, little one, hang in there.” Laura said before the nurse removed him to be cleaned and examined properly.
Dr. Collins placed a hand on Laura’s calf. “You did great Laura.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” She gave him a timid smile while Carmilla was kissing her temple.
“I love you.” Carmilla whispered in Laura’s ear. “You’re amazing.”
Laura held Carmilla’s hand again, pulling her for a hug.
“I love you too.” Laura took a long breath snuggling in Carmilla for a second. “Now go keep an eye on him. I’m fine.”
Carmilla was wiping her tears while retrieving from Laura. She gave a last look at her wife and straightened her back. They were fine. Her wife and son. But for some reason, the room was getting dark and silent.
Carmilla opened her eyes in a strange place, only finding a familiar face to easy a little the distress in her mind.
“Where the hell am I?”
“Hello new mom!” Said Lafontaine with a snarky smile. “Feeling better?”
“Where’s Laura? And Riley?” She was sitting up in a fast motion.
“Easy there, mama. You need to rest.” They held her shoulder to keep her in the bed.
“Rest? No, I need to see my family.”
“Calm down. Laura is fine, the baby is fine, and you need to rest. Perry is with them.”
“What happened? And why am I in here?” She looked at the IV bag connected to her arm and furrowed her eyes automatically.
“Well, you took good care of your wife but not so much of yourself. You were dehydrated and your glycemic levels dropped drastically. That’s why you are here.”
“I’m feeling better, now help me here.” She demanded to her friend, making her way out of the bed.
“The doctor said you should rest more.” Lafontaine protested, still trying to bring some sense to Carmilla. But it was useless.
“I’m fine.” She was taking the IV bag from the hook and Lafontaine helped her with the task. “Just lead me back to her room.”
“Okay, but if they ask, tell them I tried to tie you in the bed or something.”
“I don’t think that helps anything.” She sighed opening the door and walking down a long hall. “How long was I out?”
They looked at their watch. “For like… 2 hours.”
“Two hours? Fuck, fuck…” Carmilla was increasing her pace. “And how was the placenta delivery? Everything okay?”
“Yes, as I told you, everything is fine. Perry said like 5 minutes ago that Laura was breastfeeding him.”
“Damn! I can’t believe I missed that.”
“We are getting there, you don’t have to freak out.”
They turned a corner and Carmilla widened her eyes. “I know where I am, give me the bag.”
“You’re not going to run.” They held Carmilla by her shoulder.
“Come on, ginger snap!” Carmilla whined twisting her arms.
“You are going to faint again if you keep this attitude.” They said severely looking deep in Carmilla’s eyes. “Do you want miss any other moment of your new born?”
Carmilla rolled her eyes pouting. “No.”
“So, let’s take it easy, alright?” They released her.
Carmilla opened the door of Laura’s room and found her laid on the bed with their son in her arms. A nurse was assisting Laura while Perry was looking at the scene with heart eyes.
Lafontaine felt a little uncomfortable looking at their boss breast out in the open, turning their gaze and blushed cheeks to Perry.
Carmilla kept walking with the IV in hand. “Hey.” She said getting Laura’s attention.
“Heyyy.” Laura looked up to her. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah.” She nodded opening a goofy smile. “What about you two?”
“We are great!” She let out a pain complain after feeling a pinch in her nipple. “Kind of.”
The nurse looked at Carmilla and asked for her IV bag, hooking it next to Laura’s bed.
“He is so cute.” Carmilla said touching his face lightly.
Laura opened a large smile. “Yeah, he is.”
“Sweetie, we are going to get something to eat. If you need anything, just send us a text, okay?” Perry said with a polite smile pulling Lafontaine with her.
“You can stay if you want, Perry.”
“You need some privacy and we need to eat.” Perry looked pointedly to Lafontaine, who nodded. “And happy birthday, Carmilla.”
Perry hugged Carmilla briefly. “You got yourself quite a present, huh?”
Carmilla looked shyly to Perry. “Yeah, better impossible.” She exchanged a look with Laura.
“Tell my dad that Carmilla is fine, please.”
“Sure. See you soon!” Perry and Lafontaine waved their goodbyes and left the room. Right after the nurse did the same, before making sure Laura had anything she needed.
“So, how you doing? Does it hurt?” Carmilla asked with an apprehensive expression, approaching her bed again.
“I little.” Laura tilted her head to the side. “Sometimes a lot, but the nurse said it will get easier.”
Carmilla leaned more into the bed. Laura scooted to the side and patted the empty space so Carmilla could climb on the bed with her. Carmilla adjusted her IV and joined Laura. She kissed her wife left cheek before wrapping an arm around her.
“He is so small.”
“Yeah. But he is also kind of big. The doctor said he will probably be very tall.”
“Is he really fine? They did all the tests?”
“Yes, he is.” Laura reassured her. “He aced all of his tests. He is a very heath baby, don’t worry.”
Carmilla took a deep breath “Oh God, I’m so relieved.”
“Me too. He is so calm. I barely heard him crying.”
“That was basically the last thing I heard before I passed out.”
Laura looked sternly to Carmilla “You scared the shit out of me, Carmilla!”
“Language.” Carmilla said in a snarky tone.
Laura pouted. “I’m serious. Luckily Dr. Collins caught you before you hit the floor. You were so freaking pale.”
“I’m sorry.” Carmilla said sincerely.
Laura sighed, kissing Carmilla’s cheek. “I’m glad you are better now.”
Carmilla gave Laura a half smile and followed by a peck on her lips. They looked at each other a little longer before returning their attention to Riley, peacefully feeding on his mom breast.
“I can’t really see the color of his eyes, but I think he looks like you.” Carmilla commented.
“Really? Well, his eyes are kind of grey and brownish... it will probably change, I think. He is still very bloated, his features will change a little too.”
“And he has a lot of hair.” She chuckled, brushing her fingertips in his little thin strands.
“Yeah. I think he is blond, but there is also this reddish tone. That’s will probably change too. I was very blond when I was born, but my hair was getting dark with time.” She shrugged. “Maybe it will happen with him too, who knows?”
“Well, I was always a brunet, so…” Carmilla shrugged too. “But yeah, I get what you mean, hair color can change naturally.”
Riley released Laura’s nipple, moving his little arms in the direction of his face. Laura looked at Carmilla staring at him with a smile she never saw before.
“Can you hold him? I need to adjust my bra.”
Carmilla looked a little in panic. “Sure.” Despite the word sure, she didn’t sound sure at all.
“Come here, you can do it. He is so light.” Laura raised him from her chest and handed him to Carmilla. “Just don’t forget to support his head.”
Carmilla nodded placing her hands around him, making sure to sustain his head. She was feeling happy and scared at the same time. Again.
Slowly she brought Riley to her embrace. A warmth sensation was taking her whole heart at once. The feeling was so overwhelmed that tears were rolling down her face. How could she love that tiny human so much in so short time?
“Are you okay?” Laura asked worried.
Carmilla nodded. “This is the best birthday that I ever had.”
“Hey! Happy birthday kid!” Mr. Hollis said as soon as he saw Carmilla in the room, giving her a tight hug.
“Thanks, John.” Carmilla said after he released her.
“I’m sorry for your party, but I think this was so much better, right?” He nudged her.
“You have no idea.” Carmilla exchange a look with Laura and back to her father-in-law.
“Have you met your grandson?”
“Only through the glass of the nursery.” He approached Laura in the bed, who was carrying the baby in her arms.
“What a small little thing you are.” He chuckled.
“Want to hold him, dad?”
“Of course!” He approached more to Laura and took Riley into his arms. “Hello, little pumpkin! Lord, you look a lot like Laura!”
“Do you think?” Laura asked with a suspicious brow.
“Yeah, kiddo. I was looking at your baby pictures these days, he look exactly like you.” He said still examining the baby little face under his face.
“I told you.” Carmilla smirked to Laura patting her leg.
“I can’t see it.” Laura shrugged.
“He is just like you.” He chuckled again. “Have you decided on his name? I mean, his full name?”
“We were just talking about it.” Laura looked at Carmilla and back to her dad. “We are naming him Riley Patrick Karnstein-Hollis.”
“Riley Patrick, huh?” He raised the boy above his head. “Yeah, that suits you, little pumpkin.”
“Patrick was the name of Carmilla’s father.” Laura explained.
“It’s a perfect choice, girls.” He looked at the baby again. “Welcome to the family, Riley Patrick Karnstein-Hollis.” He chuckled. “What a big name, you will get a hard time to learn that, won’t you? Yes you will.” He said in a baby voice, making Laura and Carmilla laugh at him too.
After Mr. Hollis visit, Perry and Lafontaine returned to the room. Everybody carried Riley for a while until the nurse got him back to the nursery. Carmilla decided to take a shower while Laura was saying goodbye to her friends. When Carmilla returned from their private bathroom, Laura was pouting on the bed.
“What’s wrong?” Carmilla asked her.
“I miss him.”
Carmilla gave her a sympathetic smile nodding. “Me too.”
“I know I need to sleep, I’m really, really tired but I… I just miss him.” She touched her smaller belly now, looking down. “I had no idea I would feel that.”
“He’ll be here soon, okay? We really need to rest.” She kissed Laura’s temple and gave her a reassurance hug.
“Okay.” Laura nodded and Carmilla laid on the large armchair by Laura’s bed.
Carmilla started to feel that too, when she closed her eyes. The sort of emptiness that wasn’t there in the morning, or in the day before. Or ever.
“Goodnight, Cupcake.” She extended her hand to Laura’s bed. Laura took her hand and squeezed it.
Everything felt better in the next morning. Laura fed Riley again and Carmilla snuggled with him over the armchair while Laura was taking a nap. She’d spent two whole hours just watching him grab her fingers between his little hands, occasionally kissing his forehead and brushing his fluffy hair.
She got impressed about how much attention he gave to her every time she talked to him.
“I think you recognize my voice, huh, tiny Laura?”
“Are you bullying our son?” Laura rolled in bed looking at Carmilla with a wrinkled face.
Carmilla giggled. “He is the spitting image of you, sweetheart.” Carmilla smirked to her. “And I’m sure he won’t mind me calling him little you.”
“I’m so going to tell him in the future how you loved to embarrassing him since the day he was born.”
“Technically he was born yesterday, and I barely talked to him yesterday, I just said over and over how cute he was. That’s not embarrassing, that’s just a fact.”
“Oh, shut up and bring him here, it’s my turn to hold him.”
Carmilla stood up and approached the bed. “You basically held him for 9 months and I can’t even have him for just 2 hours? You’re selfish, Cupcake.” She made a faux disapproving face to Laura.
Laura was pouting and Carmilla smirked again. “I’m kidding, you don’t need to be this grumpy. He needs to be fed, right?”
Laura nodded, slightly smiling and Carmilla handed Riley to her.
“So, can we leave the hospital today?” Carmilla leaned on the bed watching Laura feeding Riley.
“Only if he poops.”
“Yeah, that’s what the pediatrician said.”
“What about you, how are you feeling?”
“I’m fine. Sored and tired, but I’m good to go too.” She was startled by a tiny pinch in her nipple. She bit her lower lip frowning. “I’m glad you don’t have teeth yet.”
Carmilla giggled. “Getting used to this?”
Laura sighed. “Not yet, but I’ll eventually.”
Later the doctor released Laura and Riley. Carmilla took the baby carrier to the room and bucked up Riley. Mr. Hollis helped carrying the rest of the things to his car. The short trip from the room to the car made the mothers’ hearts to accelerate. John was pushing Laura in the hospital wheelchair while Carmilla was taking Riley.
She attached his carrier to the car seat and took on the driver’s seat, while Laura was fastening her own seat belt. They looked at each other and to the tiny human in the back seat. The smile on their faces could not be any bigger.
The sun was setting when they finally tucked Riley in his crib. They could not stop staring at him, peaceful sleeping.
“I can’t believe he is so quiet.” Carmilla said with her right arm wrapped around Laura’s waist.
“Why you can’t believe?” Laura asked raising her head from Carmilla’s shoulder.
“You went through a lot during pregnancy, he moved like crazy and well…” She shrugged. “I think your genetics doesn’t help either.”
“Can you stop saying I’m a noisy person?” Laura slapped lightly Carmilla’s arm over her.
Carmilla chuckled. “I think I exerted some sort of influence on him, that’s the only explanation.”
“Or it’s just his personality. If you had such influence on him he who would be brooding since the moment he’d opened his eyes.” Laura stuck out her tongue to Carmilla. Riley started to whine.
“He is awaking, damn, we are terrible parents.” Carmilla ran her free hand into her hair.
Laura clucked her tongue. “No, I think he is just rolling his eyes for you.”
“If he could do that would not be for me.”
Laura wrinkled her nose and frowned. “Oh God, are you feeling this smell?”
“Yeah, he pooped. ”
Laura took him from the crib smelling his dippers. “He definitely pooped.” She placed him over the change table. “Okay, let’s do this. Help me here.”
Carmilla took the wipes, the baby powder and a new dipper while Laura was undressing him. “Don’t forget the powder.”
“Got everything.” Carmilla said placing the things next to his feet.
Laura was twitching her face with a disgusted frown, handing the dirty dipper to Carmilla. “What is this, explosive diarrhea? Give me the wipes.”
Carmilla chuckled tossing the dipper in the trash and handing Laura a wipe.
“He is moving quite a lot now that is he is naked.” She was struggling to clean him properly.
“Let me hold him.” Carmilla said turning around Laura and holding Riley upper body in place. “Better?”
“Kind of. Urgh, I need more wipes.” Laura sighed. “When the nurse did it, it looked so much easier. I have zero experience in deal with penises.” She looked pointedly to Carmilla.
“Don’t look at me, I barely looked at one once.”
She wiped him a little more. “Alright, I think everything is clean.” She turned her head to Carmilla again, hearing her making funny noises with her mouth. “What are you doing?”
“Distracting him. He was about to cry.”
Laura laughed. “You are distracting me, honey. I think I need a third hand in here.”
“What you need?”
“Hold him here and I get it for you.”
“Right.” Laura held his legs with one hand and his chest with the other.
Carmilla went to the other side of Laura and opened the powder giving it to Laura. A little after Laura started to spread the powder a stream of pee flew directly to Carmilla’s shirt.
“Damn, he peed on me!” Carmilla gave a step back making her classical broody face while Laura was laughing.
“I forgot that was a possibility.” Laura said lifting Riley’s legs and cleaning the pee under him.
“We are clearing doing it wrong, I’ll google how to change a diaper.” Carmilla grabbed her phone.
“No! No Google, there’s got to be another way.” Laura protested.
“Or another person.” Carmilla raised her brow making a call.
“Who are you calling?”
Carmilla ignored Laura pleads. “Hey, we need your help with something.”
“Yeah you got it right, it’s the diaper. He peed on me and Laura is still struggling to put the clean one.” She smiled looking up to Laura. “Okay, thank you, we’ll wait for you.”
“Who is coming?”
“Well, who else knows how to change a dipper?” Laura made an inquisitive look and Carmilla rolled her eyes. “How can you be so oblivious, Cupcake? It’s your father.” She looked down to her stained shirt.
“My father?! I don’t even know if he changed my dippers, and it was ages ago, I’m sure he forgot all about it.”
“I really need a shower.” Carmilla said pulling down the hem of her shirt.
“Carmilla Karnstein, you can’t just call my father like that without asking me first.” Laura looked at Carmilla reprehensive.
Carmilla tilted her head to the side. “You said I could not google it, so what’s the big deal? Your father is so nice about these things, he was really excited to come here.”
“We were supposed to take care of our son by ourselves. This will create a very bad precedent with dad, he’ll come here every day to make sure we are doing things right.”
Carmilla opened one of drawers of the changing table. “Relax Cupcake, you know your father have changed, give him some credit, okay?” Carmilla approached Laura covering Riley with a towel.
“Wow, I don’t need to be wet too.” She dodged from Carmilla. “Okay, I’ll let my guard down, or whatever. But if dad gets too over us, you’ll be the one to tell him to back off.”
“Deal.” Carmilla wrapped Riley and pull him to her arms. “Don’t you want to sit a little while we wait for him? You can’t be on your feet for too long.”
“Yeah, that would be good.” Laura stretched her back and shoulders, giving a kiss in her son’s and wife’s cheeks, before sitting down on the armchair.
Carmilla placed a kiss on Riley’s head. “God, you pissed on me and I can’t even be mad at you, little guy.”
Laura giggled looking at her little happy family. All the pain worth it. Even the one she was still feeling. All worth it.
Mr. Hollis didn’t take long to get in the house and to teach the girls how to change a dipper. They just needed to pay attention to some simple things that could make a big difference in the final result. They learned to put the new dipper under the dirty one, in case he would do something in the middle of the changing. And to place some towel or cloth to avoid the occasional pee that only boys could project like that. Not even Mr. Hollis knew that, but Carmilla google it anyway.
There would be more dippers to be changed over the years, surely they would be experts in no time.
At night, they placed Riley in a smaller crib by their bed. It would be so much easier to keep an eye at him during the night. It was Jennifer, the pregnant friend Laura made at parent class, who suggested that. But for many nights Riley slept in the bed with both of them. Laura pumped some milk to keep it in the fridge so Carmilla could feed him occasionally, and she could sleep during more hours in the night.
The house was getting a mess, but in a lazy Monday, two weeks after the birth, Carmilla woke up early and took care of everything, while Laura was snuggling with him in bed. Later she was waked up on the couch by a couple of kisses from Laura.
“Hey.” Laura said when Carmilla opened her eyes.
“Did I sleep?” Carmilla looked confused to her surroundings.
“Yep.” Laura nodded giving her a smile. “Something came in the mail.”
“How is Riley?”
“Sleeping.” Laura sat on the couch and opened an envelop showing Carmilla a pair of pictures.
Carmilla smiled looking at the pictures. “Let’s hang them now, what do you think?”
Laura nodded giving her another peck and standing up. “Yeah, let’s go!”
She extended her hand to Carmilla and both headed upstairs, entering the nursery. Above the crib where Riley was sleeping, four other pictures were telling a story that hadn’t end yet. Laura took the frame and placed it over the changing table, attaching one of the pictures in the remaining space. Carmilla attached the second, giving the frame back to Laura. She leaned her body over the crib hanging the frame back to its place, with the fifth and sixth photos completing a phase of their journey. The photo number 5 pictured Laura and Carmilla holding hands in front of the lake in their wedding day. And photo number 6 pictured little Riley between their arms.
“You know, that moment I decided to take you to the lake, I even didn’t know that you were pregnant or had any idea what was ahead of us. All I wanted was to make you smile again.”
“And you did.” Laura looked at Carmilla giving her a very known smile. “In that same moment I felt for the first time some sort of hope about my future. I could not understand exactly why, but I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore.” She took Carmilla’s hand and squeezed it. “Now everything makes sense.” She looked down to their baby. “Everything is just perfect in the less perfect way.”