Chapter 237: Clearer
Abby woke up feeling, clearer, better, more attached to the real world.
She was still sore, but that unhinged, unteathered feel was gone.
She made a mental note to find out whatever pain meds she had been on and to avoid it in the future, because obviously she didn’t get along well with that one.
Then she had to deal with a new challenge. Getting up.
She’s been sitting or lying on her back since the c-section, and at first it was brilliant and novel because it’d been months since she’d been able to lay on her back, but now, after three solid days of it, she’s sick of it. But (as she found out when she tried in the hospital) lying on her side HURTS.
Getting from her back to her side, HURTS.
So, she’s on her back, and needs, wants to get up. She’s feeling pretty hungry, her breasts ache, which means Kelly is probably due to eat soon, and she can smell hamburgers and that’s making her ravenous, so she has to get out of bed.
She gingerly places her hands on the mattress, tells herself that the more she moves the more functional the scar tissue will be, and slowly, gently pushes up, and… yeah, these are better pain meds because that wasn’t nearly as bad as she was afraid it was going to be, but it really wasn’t a walk in the park either.
She’s really tempted to get a shower as she heads to the bathroom to change out her pad. She hates the smell of blood that just clings to her, but at least right now that wanting to rip her skin off revulsion seems to have passed.
But hungry is winning out over clean, so she heads downstairs, realizing she’s walking better, and maybe lying flat out wasn’t a comfortable position to get into, but it may have helped make walking easier.
When she got downstairs, Tim was setting the table, Gibbs was on the porch tending the grill, the rain had stopped, (it’s not sunny or anything, but at least there’s no rain falling.) and Kelly was in the bouncy seat at the far end of the table, snoozing.
Tim looked up at her. “You’re looking better. You feeling better?”
She nodded. “A bit. How long did I sleep?”
“Six hours.” He hugged her, from behind, very gently. Mostly he just pressed up against her and laid his chin on her shoulder. He didn’t need to be told her entire front was really sore. “We fed Kelly, but she’ll probably wake up and want to eat again soon.”
“Good, my boobs are killing me.”
He glanced at them. And they do look really swollen, and hard, and not in a good way, at all. “I’d imagine so.”
She headed outside, for a moment standing on the porch just sucking up the early evening air. Gibbs saw her and kissed her cheek.
“Feeling like you again?”
“Feeling like I might be able to pick her out of a lineup.”
“That’s good enough.”
“They smell good.”
“Good, made you two, hoped you’d be hungry.”
“Yes! I am!”
He smiled at that, flipped them over. “Five minutes.”
“Okay.” She gently lowered herself into one of the porch chairs and just rested in the warm, honeysuckle and burger scented air, listening to the hum of cicadas and the hiss of fat hitting flame.
Kelly slept through dinner.
Of course she did.
At first that was great. Time to actually eat. Talk a little. Enjoy the fact that Gibbs is really handy with a grill and beef. (He’s telling them that once upon a time he was good with chicken and ribs, too, but hasn’t done that in forever. Though it seems like Fourth of July might be at his place this year.)
And Kelly slept through it all. Blissfully out of it in the bouncy seat.
She made a little noise, fussed for a second, opened one eye, and looked around, as they were eating dessert (Abby and Gibbs had ice cream; Tim looked at it longingly and had one spoonful of Abby’s) and Abby was feeling pretty hopeful that Kelly would wake up and she could nurse, because at that point she was starting to understand why cows moo when they need to be milked, because she’s feeling like moaning, too.
But nope, that one eye closed and back to sleep she went.
And while, in general, she’s all in favor of Kelly having a long sleep, she’d A: prefer it was at night, real night, the part of the night she’d like to be sleeping, too, and B: it wasn’t right now.
Then comes the quandary. If she’s going to be awake, and she’s going to be awake, this hurts way too much to sleep, and the idea of getting into any position other than upright, where her breasts would have to move, hurts to even think about, so doing it would be insane. What, is she going to do?
She could pump and go back to sleep. That’s tempting. It might not feel good per se, but it would certainly be a relief. But she’s almost certain that if she does that, Kelly will wake up two tenths of a second after she pumps and then that’ll be another bottle feed and she doesn’t want Kelly getting too used to the idea that food comes out of a bottle.
Plus, she doesn’t want her body getting out of whack with Kelly’s eating schedule. The idea is that boobs swell up, baby takes care of it, and they match each other in a perfect supply/demand curve.
She could get that shower, but like with pumping she’s fairly certain that as soon as she’s covered in soap, Kelly will wake up screaming for food.
But eventually the kitchen was cleaned up, and Gibbs headed home. Apparently the plan is he’d be there during the day. It’s even entirely possible they had a conversation about it, planned it out, but if they did, she doesn’t remember it.
And of course, the longer she puts off any decision of what to do next, the more likely Kelly is to wake up while/right after she’s done it.
Tim’s listening to her dither. “Just get the shower. It’ll make you feel better, and it won’t kill her to wait the two minutes it would take you to get rinsed off and out of the shower.”
“What are you going to do?”
He thought about it, because, yeah, free time… Huh… “Haven’t been online in three days. Probably post some baby pictures for the family. Maybe, if she keeps sleeping, I might game a little.”
“Yeah, living dangerously.” He winked at her.
It wasn’t until she was upstairs, in the bathroom, starting to get undressed that she realized that was her one trip up and down the stairs for the day. Anything else she wants or needs from down there either Tim’s got to bring to her, or he’s got to bring her to it.
She gets undressed, not looking at herself in the mirror. She doesn’t want to see herself right now. Yeah, she’s healing, but she’s also pretty sure she’s not looking incredibly different from how she looked yesterday, and she didn’t like the way yesterday looked, at all!
So, she’s not looking, not looking as much as it’s possible to not look at yourself while getting a shower, but right now her breasts do hold a sort of sick fascination for her, so she does look, and… fuck. How does that even happen in three days?
They’re the size of grapefruits and just about as hard, too. Covered in veins, which wasn’t precisely new, all of the major veins in her chest have been really visible since she got pregnant, and stretch marks, which were. She’s really, really hoping those heal up because it’s one thing to have stripes on her hips and tummy, but she’d like to be able to wear things that show some cleavage eventually. On the left one she can see… she’s not entirely sure what it is, a milk duct, maybe? Whatever it is it looks like a vein, that same sort of vascular appearance, but this one is swollen but not the blue of her blood veins.
She very gently, because she knows it’ll hurt, dabs a little foamy soap on, and her boobs responded to that by deciding that was a call for milk release, so it was squirting everywhere. Which is kind of fascinating. First of all, it’s probably a good thing Kelly’s not trying to drink this, because she’s at least eighteen inches away from the wall of the shower, and she’s squirting it, hard. Her two day old daughter might not need quite that much high pressure milk being poured straight down her throat.
She’d never really thought about how the milk comes out. Apparently the correct answer is take a water balloon, poke a whole mess of holes into one spot, then squeeze. Milk is squirting from all over the nipple in a whole lot of different directions.
She watched it, amazed, milk still flowing out, for probably a good minute, and then she started to get scared. What if Kelly woke up in the next few minutes, and her dinner was now circling the drain? Any second now, Tim could be bringing her up, hungry, and there’d be no milk for her.
This is stupid. Each breast is practically bigger than Kelly is. Both of them together have to weigh more than she does. There’s more than enough milk in there for you to let off some pressure and still feed her.
That didn’t make her less nervous, and it didn’t quell the fear, but it did feel good to hear that little, quiet, rational voice and know it hadn’t died.
Would have been nicer if it had managed to shut up the panicking baby’s-gonna-starve voice. It didn’t, couldn’t. Rational was fighting way out of it's weight class when going up against new mama hormones.
And maybe it would have been better--as she was standing there, crying, trying to figure out how to make the milk stop, to not have had rational sitting there telling her that getting upset about this is stupid and that she’s a scientist for God’s sake, so stop being stupid--if it had just shut up. But it didn’t. So she cried and felt like an idiot for it.
But she’s been a mom for two days and is drowning in frenzied hormones. And the little rational voice, in addition to telling her that freaking out about milk production is stupid, is saying that freaking out about milk production is also normal.
Eventually the milk slowed down, and her breasts felt better. Sore, they knew they’d been stretched too far, but that anything-touches-them-I’m-going-to-scream sensation was gone. Eventually she got washed up, and while the blood smell didn’t vanish, it did get beaten into submission, so that was good.
Eventually, she stopped crying, put some clean clothing on, (okay, it’s Tim’s, but it’s clean, and soft, and smells like him, so that’s good.) and tried to figure out what to do next.
Or not. She was eyeballing the bed (most of the time having it hip high is a good thing, but right now it’d be a lot easier if she could sit down onto it) thinking through what and how exactly she’d have to move to get into it on her own and lying down when she heard footsteps and baby cries.
“Good timing,” Abby said as Tim walked in with Kelly.
“She woke up a few minutes ago. Got her all cleaned up and thought she might like some Mom time.”
She held out her arms, took Kelly into them, and just having her right against her chest and crying set her milk to letting down. See, plenty of milk.
Tim sees her staring at the bed, holding Kelly, looking a little uncomfortable, and after a second the problem hit him. “Do you need help getting into bed?”
“Not a problem.”
He took Kelly from her, and carefully set her smack dab in the middle of their bed. (Just because she’s the size of a loaf of bread, can’t roll over, and they’ve got a king-sized bed does not mean he wants her anywhere near an edge.) She squeaked at that, signaling displeasure at once again being teased by being allowed to get close enough to smell the food, and then having it cruelly taken away.
Abby stacked the pillows against the headboard. Then Tim carefully picked her up and set her on their bed. She scooted back a little, turned, winced. Twisting at the waist hurts, too.
“I can get the pillows, too.”
“No. The more I move the more functional the scar will be.”
She got herself set, and picked Kelly back up again, and a little more juggling, trying to get arms and pillows and baby all comfortable, but eventually, she unbuttoned the shirt (one of the reasons she grabbed one of Tim’s, she’s awfully low on button-downs of her own) peeled off the nursing pad, accidentally squirted Kelly in the face before she got latched on, (Got a startled look out of Kelly, and a laugh out of Tim as he whipped out a cloth diaper to blot off Kelly. Abby’s not sure when they appeared, but suddenly they seem to have a ton of them, and they’re really useful.) and finally got into Hallmark card, idealized mama-nursing-baby-daddy-looking-on-everyone-happy-and-blissful-doing-exactly-what-they’re-supposed-to-do mode.
Kelly’s so tiny, and perfect, and her little mouth it wrapped around Abby’s nipple, pulling gently, and it’s not even hurting all that much this time. Her eyes are open, looking up into Abby’s, really there, with her in this moment. Her skin is so soft. She’s just in a onesie right now, so warm little arms and legs are resting against Abby’s arm and breast, and one tiny hand is curled around Tim’s finger.
Abby’s with it enough right now to really see this, really soak in the details. Tiny little lips, shaped like Tim’s, and the way Kelly’s looking up at her puts her in mind of Tim very strongly, too. (Of course, coming from Tim, she’d call that look mild confusion.) She stroked Kelly’s cheek, and nose (probably looks like her nose, but she’s not sure about that), finger slipping along her ear. It’s a perfect ear. When God designed ears, this is what He had in mind.
She studies the fingers wrapped around Tim’s. Kelly’s just so little and perfect. Each little fingernail has this miniscule crescent, shaped exactly right, and all of the little wrinkles around her knuckles are there. How can something so tiny have that level of perfect detail?
Abby pets Kelly’s hair. She knows she’s done this before, but memories of it are all sort of blurry. This time it’s sharp. Silk fine hairs, not a whole lot of them, and they’re pretty short, blondish brown, or brownish blonde, whatever that in between color is.
Tim’s free hand strokes over hers, and over Kelly’s head, and he leans down to kiss her head. “Looks like we’re gonna have to wait a while before we can put all those little bows we got in her hair.” Then he sat up a little, and kissed Abby, gently.
He pulled back, looking her in the eye, palm of his hand stroking over her cheek. “I love you so much, Abby. Love her so much. Thank you. Sarah was asking me how I knew you were the one, and I was telling her that for a long time it didn’t matter if you were the one because we didn’t want the same things… and just… Thank you. Thank you for deciding to do this with me. Thank you for becoming my ‘the one.’”
And for what felt like the fiftieth time that day, Abby burst into tears again. Tim held her close. And Kelly continued to nurse.