With Celeste's blood transfusion completed, the doctors having examined her and considered her safe to be moved, they rolled her on to the 15th floor. The plain looking hallways and rooms changing to noticably more luxorious ones with wood pannelling and real live plants and art on the walls. She was disappointed, having gotten her hopes up, when she found out that Evie wasn't in their room yet. Jess was with Evie - she knew that much, and surely there was little other to do than wait.
Her body really didn't feel like hers, with the sudden shrinkage of her stomach that had been replaced with whatever was going on there - she really hadn't dared to properly look even. She felt weak, craved sweets, which was very much unlike her, but all she'd had that day really was some soup and jello, that was not really helping. Those cravings were, however, nothing compared to the need she felt for Evie. And as Jess rolled her in with a nurse accompanying him, her eyes flooded with tears of joy. Every hour that she'd been apart had been an hour too long.
"We'll set her up in here, and we can keep the blanket on the incubator while she's in phototherapy so it doesn't bother you, but you can peek at her as much as you want, and insert your hands. Skin to skin contact in any form is very good for her. You can take her out for feeding, so every 3 hours or so, burp and cuddle, but the more she's in there the quicker she'll get rid of the jaundice," the young-looking nurse explained, clearly not lacking in experience. "I'll have the lactation specialist come and help you try to nurse her directly, proabably it'll be the most comfortable on your side right now. But, Jess, you'll have to lift the baby for her the first couple of days at least. Her suction may be a little weak in the beginning so I'll come the first few times and we'll weigh her before feeding and after to make sure how much she is getting to be sure she's getting enough. And right now she'll probably need feeding a little more often than that, so it's perfectly find if you don't nurse her every time, but we use either your own expressed milk or donor milk in between - you need your rest," the nurse added.
"Thank you," Jess replied. This all sounded like such an improvement from the courier job he'd been doing with tiny batches of breast milk.
"And Celeste, it's vital that you start to move around a little bit more, I know it probably doesn't feel particularly nice right now, but just a few small strolls across the room should do it, and tomorrow morning you can take a shower," the nurse instructed, adding, "the doctor will come by in the morning to check on you both and he'll give you the word, if it's okay to accept visitors tomorrow afternoon during visiting hours."
"Great," Celeste's raspy voice replied, nodding in 'thank you'.
That evening passed pretty much in awe of the creature - and Jess of Celeste as well. She'd never seen anyone so made for this - the love that radiated from her was incredible. They'd moved the incubator by her bed, and she laid there on her side, hand stretched out into it, gently stroking Evie. She cried a little, and Jess feeling like all he really could do, was hold her gently, kissing her shoulder. There they were - parents. All the responsibility, all the fear and all that love just rushing into them. It was almost too much to handle.
"I should try to shower," Celeste began after she'd fed Evie, who had even surprised the lactation specialist with her suction skills. "but I don't really want the nurse to help..," Celeste notes hesitantly. With the ICU nurses cleaning her and the catheter that now had been removed, she just wanted some of her dignity back. She'd somehow managed to stay out of hospitals almost her entire life - not so much as an IV - and now she had gotten the whole lot. Thinking about any of it still made her queasy.
"I could help, if you want. Evie just fell asleep anyways," Jess suggested.
"Are you sure you'd be up for that? It's' probably not pretty - bloody," she said, scrunching her nose at the very thought, unsure how she could handle it herself. Plus she wasn't too keen on the thought of looking or touching her wound. She worried how seeing her like this would change her in his eyes. She was fairly sure sexy wasn't even something to consider at this point, but she didn't want to be offputting either.
"I'm sure," Jess replied. He'd seen her give birth, surely this was no worse. He wanted to do whatever he could for her to feel better, also to feel good about herself, that being no less important. Her confidence had always been one of these things that he'd loved about her - and if that got her even the tiniest bit closer to that again - it was worth doing.
She moved slowly, sliding down from her bed. She'd tried walking across the room the night before a few times, still feeling rather weak, but today was a definite improvement.
"Can you get me my own nightgown from the bag, the pink one, and a nursing bra and some panties," she added gesturing towards the package of postpartum panties. They were hoping to have visitors that day and she just wanted to look more like herself, and get out of the wrap around hospital gown she'd been wearing.
Once inside the bathroom he helped her take off her hospital gown, her movement still being stiff and careful. She instructed him to tear her mesh panties off after which he turned on the water, feeling whether it was warm enough. She groaned a little as the water hit her wound, stinging a bit. As the pain subsided, she took her time, washing her hair for the first time in days.
"How bad does it look?" she asked as she emerged, as Jess gently patted her dry. It was not just the scar, but clearly her stomach looked squishier and with excess skin, a few stretch marks lingering on the sides. And he couldn't deny he hadn't noticed the swollenness of her labia. He'd heard men say, or write rather, that seeing their wives go through childbirth changed the way they saw them - and that was certainly true - but he'd never imagined something so incredible being this destructive. He couldn't help but to wonder if she would've wanted to do this knowing how bad it was going to be. But he wasn't going to ask it naturally. There was a reason why women did this and not men.
"Not too bad," he replied, as he used extra caution to dry around the scar with a sterile single use cloth they'd been given. He'd frankly feared worse himself when it came to the wound - it wasn't as large as he'd imagined, and as long as she was fine, he didn't really care how visible the scar would be later on. He helped her with a new pair of mesh underpants, the bra and the pink bamboo nightgown that she wrapped loosely around her body, her body language improving noticeably in the process.
She moisturized her face and combed her hair, while he went to answer his phone that was buzzing in the room. When he returned to check up on her, he found her staring at herself in the mirror, tears trailing down her cheeks.
"You okay?" he asked, gently wrapping his arms around her.
"I hoped it wouldn't come to this, I wanted to do everything naturally - and I just feel like I've failed," she sobbed, wrapping her arms around him in return.
"You didn't, you were incredible. I am so proud of you for being so brave," he assured. "And you are more gorgeous to me than ever. You're the mother of my child. It's thanks to you that we have her," he exhaled, wiping away her tears. He couldn't believe that a year ago he had never even really thought that he wanted a child, let along this soon. But in a whirlwind of changes that the year had brought - this was the most miraculous one - he had a daughter and it was all thanks to her.
"I can't tell you enough how much I love you, Jess," she whimpered. "Thank you for being with her when I couldn't," she sniffled. Surely it was her hormones, but clearly also just the emotions of the past few days catching up with her.
"And I'll always be there, for the both of you," he assured, his forehead resting on hers, his nose gently brushing hers, his thumb wiping away her tears. This was the 'sickness and health' part of their vows. There was nowhere he'd rather be than right there.
Starting from noon that day their room had begun to fill with flowers, balloons and fruit baskets from their friends and even people they really hadn't expected to care. Besides the obvious - there were even gifts from Mitchum, Honor and Josh, the guys (and Jenn) at Truncheon, Adrian, Finn, the Dynasty Makers, April and Lorelai. The doctor had given an all-clear for visitors, and that afternoon Liz and Luke stopped by for a quick visit. They only really got to see Evie in the incubator, but still - Jess could see how happy her mother was for him, for them. It was an interesting sensation, having seen that type of happiness for him shine from her that entire year, having not really seen that from her ever, except in relation to his career.
It was a few hours later when Rory and Logan stopped by, and while Celeste was already a little tired, she knew that they were as low maintenance as any guests could be when it came to it. She was just breastfeeding her as they entered, keeping their voices down.
"Aw..," Rory reacted with endearment. It was one thing to see a video, another to see, and smell, a newborn baby. She'd almost entirely dismissed the idea of ever really considering doing this again - with the struggles of getting back their intimacy and feeling not at all in her element as a stay-at-home mom. But with moments like this, there was just something in her that wasn't quite ready to rule it out either. But knowing how much Logan wanted more of this - she hadn't really dared to say it out loud to him so he wouldn't get his hopes up too much.
"She's pretty good already, just needs a bit more phototherapy," Celeste explained in a low voice.
"And I thought Finny was tiny - she's even smaller," Rory exclaimed, never having seen a baby this small.
"You look really happy, both of you," Logan added.
"Definitely happy," Jess exhaled smilingly. While he had by now showered, changed his clothes, eaten several warm meals and gathered himself mentally - sleep was still rather lacking, him wanting Celeste to sleep, he'd taken one of the night feedings upon himself.
"Oh, Rory, I was wondering if you can do me a favor," Celeste began, just as Jess helped her move Evie to the other breast.
"Sure, anything," Rory replied.
"Can you go buy Evie some clothes for me? Everything I have is in newborn size, but she'll be drowning in those," Celeste asked.
"Of course! I actually already brought a few items, but I'll gladly go get more," she replied, pulling out a cutest little silk-knit outfit, knowing how much Celeste loved these styles.
"Oh god, thank you, you're so wonderful," Celeste replied, getting a little teary eyed.
"Yeah, she'd been a little emotional," Jess commented, seeing how Celeste herself could see it too.
"Don't worry about it, I was the same. I remember Logan bringing me a new set of clothes to go home in, because the jeans I packed into my hospital bag wouldn't fit. I wept for like an hour about that," Rory replied laughingly.
"I don't even want to think about that," she said, attempting to chuckle, but barely did, as it hurt.
"Maternity leggings are the way to go, I'll just skip you the trouble and tell you now," Rory added.
"So she's Evie Mariano, right? No middle name?" Logan asked, adding, "not that she needs one, just wondering."
"We haven't really thought about that actually," Jess noted. 'Evie' had been so clear, the discussion had pretty much stopped there.
"I think she's good with just 'Evie'," Celeste replied. There was just something down to Earth about sticking with the one name - just like Jess and Celeste themselves had. Odette had had 3 middle names, and there was just that certain class thing that it carried. She wasn't going to say out loud what her thoughts on this were - knowing Rory and Finny had more than one name. But there was no need for it - it was their child, and their convictions - everybody had a right to their own.
"Evie Mariano it is," Jess repeated. He felt glad that deciding things with Celeste was always this easy - there were hardly any arguments about things like this - what to buy, when do do something and how to do them.
"How long do they think you'll have to stay here?" Rory inquired.
"Until the end of the week for sure," she replied, frankly being scared as hell to go back home, especially being left along with Evie when Jess went back to work.
"April said that she can probably change her shifts around to help you if you need her," Rory added, having spoken to her last night.
"Oh wow, that's so kind of her. I'll call her later," Celeste replied.
"And I think I can come hang out at your place some days when I'm home with Finny anyways - help out however I can," Rory suggested.
"Thanks, I appreciate it," she said. "I think she's done," Celeste said to Jess, so he'd come and take the baby.
Jess placed a burp cloth onto his shoulder and put the baby on top, covering her back with a flannel blanket they used. Her thermoregulation was still not perfect, but she was improving.
"You look really good with her," Rory noted, as she looked at Jess.
"Well he has had a lot of practice," Celeste commented, sitting up in bed.
The entire pregnancy Jess had expected Celeste to be the one to really bond with Evie, to be the primary caretaker, and he'd almost feared that he wouldn't feel the same. But clearly the change in the situation had reversed that. And while Celeste was irreplaceable and had felt the love at an instant too, the connection that he felt with her was otherworldly. Evie was a part of his soul now, as was Celeste.
Jess had taken the leap and landed, and he knew for sure, he'd never regret it.
AN: Don't panic! I know you probably expected a few more chapters, but I felt like for this particular story it was time to close up. The baby is born, they'll both be fine, they'll go home and live happily as they adjust to their new lives.
Thank you for reading and reviewing - they make my day and make me want to write more!
And now for the GOOD NEWS: I am writing a sequal - give me a few days and I'll have you the first chapter. The reason for the sequal format is that I want to bring back more ROGAN and others as well, so it wouldn't be just about the one coupling. But I suck with titles - so recommendations are welcome (Maine Event meets Leaps and Landings, set a little in the future)!