Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chapter 7-4: Come Home

                “I’m glad you could make it for lunch,” Josephine greeted Hanley and ushered her inside. “How are you feeling these days?”
                “Oh, you know, probably the same as you. Sick of being pregnant. I’m never doing it again.”
                “Really? I love being pregnant. It’s, I don’t even know how to describe it; spiritual or magical. Of course, I can’t wait to meet this little one but he’ll come when he comes and I’m okay with that. Here, you have a seat while I go finish getting the food ready.”

                Sadie had other plans for Hanley. Plans that did not involve sinking comfortably into Jo’s well cushioned sofa. Hanley didn't mind though. She missed having a pet of her own. With the baby arriving soon though, a puppy or kitten was out of the picture for the near future.

                After the ladies had finished their lunches, they made their way to the back porch. The day was beautiful: the autumn air was crisp and the smell of burning leaves wafted by on the breeze from a few houses down. The leaves had started their glorious transformation and the burnished copper color of the cottonwoods made the whole town look as though it was glowing.

                “Have you and Jesse talked anymore about baby names?”
                “We've talked about them but the better question is have we decided on any. And the answer is no. We still have half of dozen at least on our list. I have no idea— Are you okay?” Hanley’s face had suddenly taken on a confused, slightly pained look.
                Hanley took a deep breath before answering, trying to steady herself. “Just a minor contraction, I’m fine.”
                “Why didn't you tell me that you were having contractions? Have you called your doctor?”
                “I said, I’m fine. They’re probably just Braxton Hicks. I have another week left and babies rarely arrive on their due date anyway.”

                “Hanley Eastman!” Jo stomped her foot and placed her hands on her hips. “Your dress is wet. How long were you going to wait before you told me your water broke?”
                “It’s not. You know as well as I do that water rarely breaks unless you’re in labor. I’m not in labor—” Her words cut off as she breathed heavily out of her mouth, trying to manage the pain of the next contraction.
                “You damn well are and you are going to the hospital.”
                “No! I can’t have this baby without Ben. It’s just pre-labor. I’m sure the baby will wait another couple of weeks.”
                “You better get your ass in my car and let me drive you to the hospital or I’m calling an ambulance and letting them cart you off. End of discussion.”

                Hanley finally relented and climbed into Jo’s vehicle to make the short drive to the hospital. Once they arrived Hanley tried, once again, to insist that she was not in labor. The orderly ignored her and eased her down into a wheelchair to take her to her room where she could wait on the obstetrician with a little privacy.
                The doctor came and did an exam and left again. Hanley was indeed in labor and already 5cm dilated. She wasn't ready to push yet but Dr. Thompson was sure it wouldn't be long now.
                “How’re you feeling?”
                “Like crap. Jo, I’m not ready to have this baby. Ben should be here.”
                “Honey, I know, but that baby is coming whether you’re ready or not. Hopefully Ben can be home soon.”

                The door to her room opened and Noah, Josephine’s cousin came in, carrying a bag. “What’s he doing here?”
                “He is here to bring your hospital bag. While you were being admitted, Jo asked me to pick it up for you. I, uh, also grabbed this for you.” Noah handed her a small framed picture that usually sat on the fireplace mantle. It was the picture of her and Ben at the summer carnival. Before she could say thank you, Noah had already disappeared from the room.

                Fourteen hours and a lot of pushing later, Isaac Benjamin Eastman was born; 6 pounds, 13 ounces and perfectly healthy. Hanley knew a lot of parents tried to label which of the two a baby looked like but Hanley didn't care if Isaac had her eyes or Ben’s nose. He was perfect.

                Unable to contain her emotions anymore, Hanley began crying. “Are you okay?” Josephine was by her side in an instant.
                “Yes.” She hiccuped. “No. Oh, I don’t know and everything in between! He’s everything I could ever want and I’m so happy he’s here. But I miss Ben so much and hate that he missed the birth of his son.”

                After mother and son were discharged from the hospital, Hanley soon learned that having a baby was tough work. Isaac, though not particularly fussy, was not a good sleeper and woke multiple times each night. She would stagger to his room and try to discern exactly what it was that he needed. Most of the time, he just wanted to be cuddled so she would stand and rock him while humming to him until he fell back asleep. One day perhaps they could have an actual rocking chair but the crib and changing table had been the priorities for the nursery.

                Before Isaac was born, Hanley had struggled to make it through each day with something to do. Now she was lucky on the days that she managed to get a shower before 2 in the afternoon. Often, it felt that she spent all of her time changing diapers, feeding Isaac, and catching naps when he managed to sleep. The days the two of them got out of the house for a walk were good days.

                Bath times were one of her favorite moments with Isaac. He seemed to love the water. She’d fill his little bath and plop him in and he’d grin and giggle. He would only start to cry once she took him out and toweled him off.

                “Dad, what are you doing here? I didn't know you were in town.” Embarrassingly, she had answered the door in her pajamas. It was one of those days and a shower hadn't been squeezed in just yet.

                “I wasn't. I flew in as soon as I could. I had to come meet my first grandchild, didn't I? Where is the little guy?” She led him to the swing where Isaac was playing and hoped her father didn't notice the absolute disaster of the kitchen. “Why don’t you go get yourself showered? Take your time. I promise; he’s in perfectly capable hands.”

                With Miles as a house guest for a few days, Hanley was able to relax a little bit. She even was able to take an actual bath and soak in the tub with a book for a little while rather than hopping quickly in and out. Her father missed having kids around the house and was quick to get up with Isaac when he fussed so Hanley was even able to sleep in some. She wondered if Ben being home would make a newborn that much easier as well or if her dad was one of a kind.

                “That’s wonderful news Jesse!” It had been two weeks since Isaac’s birth and Hanley was ecstatic that he would now have a playmate to grow up with. “No, no. I’ll let you guys have a day of peace before I barge over. I can’t wait to meet him!”

                As she was about to ring the doorbell at the Spencer house, Jesse opened the front door to invite her in. “We just got him settled down,” he added in a whisper before taking his place at his wife’s side.
                “Isn't he beautiful,” Josephine cooed. Hanley could see the tears in her friend’s eyes and understood exactly how Jo was feeling. The gaze of adoration Jesse bestowed upon the two of them was almost more than Hanley could take. “He’ll be home soon, he’ll be home,” soon she chanted to herself.

                Finally, the email came. Ben would be home in a week! Hanley felt like she would explode from happiness. There was so much to do before he got back. She wanted to get a new outfit to meet him with and maybe get her hair cut and clean the house and get Isaac a cute outfit as well. She wondered how she would find the time to do everything. It didn't matter though. Ben was coming home!

                The next morning, Hanley bundled Isaac up and situated him in his stroller for a walk to the department store near the downtown area. It wasn't too much of a walk and though the morning was a little brisk, it looked like a beautiful day for a stroll. The mannequins in the display windows were all dressed for fall. She normally wasn't too fond of shopping but this day she felt a rush of excitement for the occasion.

                As she was getting ready to turn into the entrance, Hanley saw a little dart of movement in front of her. A tiny puppy was rushing towards the street! Hanley quickly applied the stroller’s brake and took off towards the little ball of fur.

                Just in time she scooped him up. “Where do you think you’re going little guy?” She saw makeshift pens on the sidewalk in front of her, filled with all manner of dogs.

                “Oh mercy, thank you! This little sh—ball of fur has escaped three times today. I have no idea how she is doing it but I am sure you can imagine the heart attack it’s giving me, being this close to the street.”
                “I don’t think I've seen you around before. Are you new in town?”
                “Oh, forgive me. I’m Jenny. I run the local dog rescue,” the willowy redhead extended her hand. “I spend most of my time at my house, where I foster most of the dogs myself. Every couple of months though, I’m able to get permission to set up outside a shop to, hopefully, get more public interest and maybe find some of them homes.”

                “Wow,” Hanley looked around at all the dogs, “that must get pretty hectic.”
                “It can but it’s totally worth it,” Jenny waved her hand towards the rest of the litter. “She goes back in there, if you don’t mind. It’s time for these little ones to find homes of their own.”
                “They’re all up for adoption?”
                “Yes. I’ll miss them but I don’t have the attention for everyone so it’s not fair for me to keep them.”
                “How does someone who fosters dogs get puppies though? I thought spaying and neutering was pretty important in rescue organizations?”

                “If you’re asking indirectly if I’m running a backyard puppy mill, the answer is no. Lola there, she was pregnant when I got her. Seems her owner didn't consider the fact that an unspayed female could, in fact, get pregnant.” Jenny rolled her eyes and motioned towards the other adult shepherd. “They wanted a playmate for her so they got Brutus and, surprise, surprise, she ends up pregnant. They decided they didn't have the time, energy, or money for any of them anymore and dropped them off at my door.”
                “That’s awful!”
                “It could be worse I guess. They could have decided it was a great idea and bred her every chance they got. At least with me, she’ll be fixed and then find a good home, hopefully.”

                “Do they usually find homes?”
                “Sometimes. It’s easier with the puppies. Everyone wants puppies because they’re cute and cuddly and at their prime for training. Trying to find someone who knows what they’re getting into when they adopt though, that’s harder. I’m pretty picky about who my dogs go to. It’s even harder with these guys,” Jenny rubbed the head of another dog in a pen close by. “I’ve had Raggedy Ann for almost two years now. No one wants her because she’s getting gray.”

                Hanley reached out to the scruffy dog, letting Raggedy Ann sniff her hand. She looked up at Hanley and whimpered quietly before licking her hand and leaning in for an ear scratching.

                “I do not need a do, do not need a dog. I’m only here for new clothes”. She argued with herself. “But the dog needs a home more than I need clothes. She’s just been waiting to find someone to love her. Ben would absolutely kill me. Besides, Jenny said she’s picky. I've never had a dog before. We live in an apartment. No yard. Not a lot of space. Or money. And we have a newborn. It’s pointless to even consider it.

                “Are you nervous?” The day had finally arrived and Hanley stood with Emme and their children, waiting for the buses to arrive. “Darcy Brynn, you stay right here and hold my hand!”
                “A little,” Hanley gazed down at Isaac, trying to quell the tumultuous nerves. She almost felt like she was going to be sick.

                “Mama, bus.”
                “Yes Darcy, we’re waiting for the bus. Hanley, don’t be. As soon as they get off—“
                “Mama, mama, look. Bus!”
                Sure enough, the procession of buses was making its way down Falls Avenue and getting ready to turn into the parking lot.        

                The buses braked and men in uniform began pouring through the now open doors like ants in pursuit of a discarded piece of candy on the sidewalk. It was pandemonium on the parade deck as families reunited. Children and women alike threw themselves into their loved ones arms.
                Then she saw him step off the bus and his eyes immediately found her across the crowd. Her heart stopped for a moment before beating out a triumphant, erratic rhythm. She felt her eyes start to burn and swallowed the thick lump in her throat as she watched Ben make his way across the pavement towards her.

                As Ben reached them, his eyes fixated on the small bundle in her arms. “He’s beautiful.” His voice was hushed and reverent as he gazed upon his son for the first time.

                “I've missed you, more than words can say,” Ben pulled her close after she placed a dozing Isaac in his stroller. “Let’s go home."

Deployment Interlude: Part 3                                                                                                                     Chapter 7.5

Author's Notes:

* More Excuses: those of you who follow me on tumblr saw that I made myself some sims new year's resolutions. And then promptly broke them. Less than a week after I made them, my husband and I found out we have gotten orders to move across the country. We leave the first weekend in February. I hope to still get some of my resolutions done, maybe on a slightly altered time line but I'm working on it.

* Ben is finally home! I didn't kill him! I know at least some of you had your doubts. *cough*Buckley*cough

* A lot of this chapter was staged. The pregnancy and baby stage only lasts so long and I didn't really want to increase those in game since sim life spans are short. So while it feels like Hanley was pregnant forever, I promise, it was the standard 72 hours.