Chapter 21 The Arrival
Once again thank you for taking time to review and favorite and follow this story. This chapter has been very a very difficult and long journey. I hope you enjoy the arrival of the babies.
The birth of the triplets comes earlier than Dr. Wilson desires. He gives Phryne permission to be up a bit for a New Year's Eve party since things are going so well. "One slow dance with Jack young lady and sitting for an hour – that's it! You are still not fully recovered from the kidnapping."
"Yes, Doctor," she responds meekly her eyes twinkling, "I understand." She doesn't tell him about her lapse in following his abstinence instructions; unable to bring herself to talk about such a sacred encounter with Jack to him in the clinical atmosphere of his examination. Her eyes soften inexplicably as the memory of their joining springs to mind, and then glint with mischief as she wonders how she might encourage Jack to repeat the encounter sooner rather than later. She is sure he is feeling guilty about giving in to his longing though he hasn't specifically said so. She wonders what on earth she will be able to wear for New Year's Eve. She has two dresses that will still fit. There is a gown with a cream velvet underskirt that has a sleeveless deep purple velvet overlay that flows out from an empire waistline forming an inverted v that Madame Fleuri and Simone insisted was meant for her, and she had bought it on a whim loving the feel of the soft fabric against her skin, and there is the cotton Christmas dress. She rejects the Christmas dress as she muses, though it would be cooler, due to the mistletoe embroidery.
New Year's Eve dawns bright and clear – a very warm day in Melbourne. As she and Dot prepare for the party, Phryne feels strange, her back is hurting a bit, and she feels like she needs to use the loo constantly. Her energy level remains high. She had a lot of extra energy the previous two days and directed changes to the nursery from her bed. She also interviewed the wet nurses, finally selecting two ladies with whom she got on well and could see that they cared deeply about their own bubs. She also agreed to them bringing their infants with them when they come to work, for even though she can't yet grasp the appeal of parenthood, she can understand that the infants need to eat, and she can't imagine being the cause of them going hungry.
As she rests prior to getting dressed, Phryne feels a slight tightening across her belly. She dozes thinking about their lovemaking and how it felt almost like their honeymoon they had waited so long. She shivers as she remembers again their joining as one flesh – huge tummy and all. "It really is an exquisite and amazing thing to join my body with Jack's," she muses, the awe of it wending its way into her heart again. Lost in her thoughts, she is rudely brought to alertness by a much more forceful tightening of her belly.
She rings the bell beside her bed, and when Dot appears she asks, "Dot, could you ask the Inspector to come in please?"
"Yes ma'am, he's in his room. I believe he is dressing for the party," she says turning to leave.
"You look very pretty, Dot," Phryne calls after her. And Dot's "Thank you Miss," echoes back through the door.
Jack comes in fussing with a cufflink on his shirt, "I can't get this fastened, can you help me with it please?" he asks distractedly.
"Jack, can you come feel this please?" her slightly anxious question captures Jack's attention and he moves closer from where he is pulling on his shirt sleeve. "Feel this," she gasps placing his hand on her tight tummy sure he can feel the rippling.
Jack's baby blue eyes widen, dismay etching his face, "Oh no."
"I think this may actually be, "Oh yes". "And Jack," she adds after a pause, "I won't have you feeling guilty" her voice soft with anxiety, but firm with resolve.
"Phryne, I shouldn't…"
"Not another word on the subject Jack. I insist. It was my decision to push you…" Jack cuts off her words with a soft kiss, "There wasn't much pushing involved, my love."
"Very well, Inspector, we share equally in the outcome whatever it may be, and likely we would be in this moment regardless of our, um… activities, and Jack, I love you so much I couldn't deny my yearnings and behave any longer."
Holding her slightly anxious face between his hands he kisses her with abandon, passion flaring again between them until another contraction hits Phryne. Breathless she breaks off the kiss and compresses her lips until it passes.
"Call Dot to come up, and then call Dr. Mac and Dr. Wilson," she breathes. "And move everyone else to Aunt Prudence's house," she says as an afterthought.
Nodding Jack strides purposefully to the stairs going quickly down to call Dot to Phryne's side, and then making telephone calls to both doctors from the foyer, allowing Dot and Phryne a few moments alone. He also calls Mrs. Stanley who immediately insists everyone come to her house until Phryne is sorted.
"Thank you Prudence," Jack says gratefully. "Let's keep this to ourselves until we know what is going to happen."
"Very well Inspector. I understand. Give my niece my love, please."
"I will," he answers.
Once Jack speaks to both doctors' hospitals and knows messages are on their way to them, he searches out Mr. Butler to give him the news.
"Let's get the party moved to Mrs. Stanley's home and let's don't tell anyone else just yet Mr. B. Let's make sure the contractions aren't stoppable first. I don't know if the doctors can do anything, but we are still ahead of Dr. Wilson's time line so if there is anything that can be done medically he may attempt it. Let's tell the others Phryne is feeling ill, but doesn't want them to miss out on the New Year's Eve party."
Mr. Butler's nod of assent is all Jack needs, and he bounds back upstairs leaving Mr. Butler to gather the supplies that will likely be needed, as well as handling the movement of the rest of the family to Prudence's home. Once Mr. Butler bundles the family off to Mrs. Stanley's with hampers stuffed full of goodies, he collects his supplies - towels and sheets and scissors and twine and lots of boiling water at the ready because Phryne made it clear to the family that the babies will be born at home even though Dr. Wilson and Mac want her to go to the hospital. Mr. Butler knows it is unlikely the doctors will make Phryne Fisher Robinson do anything she doesn't want to do, so he quietly prepares for a home birth until he knows it won't happen.
"Dorothy, please prepare the bed, it is unlikely Mrs. Robinson is going to go to the hospital."
"Yes, Mr. Butler. I will get her ready."
Dot helps Phryne to the bathroom where Jack helps her bathe and prepare for what lies ahead.
While Phryne is in the bathroom, Dot quickly prepares her bed by putting rubber sheeting and many layers of towels down under the sheets. She moves Phryne's other bed linens out of the way and places a stack of clean sheets, towels and night gowns in the bathtub.
Phryne's labor proceeds rapidly, and by the time Dr. Wilson and Mac arrive from deliveries and a surgery, it is too late to move to the lying-in hospital.
"I was afraid this would happen," Dr. Wilson tells Mac as they move out into the hall to discuss strategy, "We are going to need Dot, Jack and Mr. Butler's help I believe. I also need to go get the forceps and my other tools for delivery. I will be quick."
Mac nods, and goes to have a word with Dot, Mr. Butler and Jack. Normally Jack and Mr. Butler would be banned from the room, but the number of babies requires "all hands on deck".
Mr. Butler's initial jobs are to keep the clean towels and sheets and aprons available and to have boiling water for the sterilization of tools ready at all times, and to provide drinks and food.
Mac and Dot move Phryne's changing screen from its location by the tub to the foot of the bed to provide some privacy. Phryne's groans of pain rip at Mac. "It is ok to scream if you want, Phryne."
Phryne gives her the look of death and clenches her jaw against the pain refusing to let out the cries that swallows back. "Don't clench quite so much, Phryne, try to breathe through the contractions like this," Mac says demonstrating the breathing that will help her most. "Jack please remind Phryne to breathe."
Once Phryne reaches 7 cm, things slow down a bit but her contractions are intense and she asks for Jack, who had stepped out for a bite of dinner at Phryne's insistence, gritting her teeth against the pain rippling through her back and belly.
Jack returns and holds her hand and she squeezes his tightly during contractions, perspiration breaking out on her face and chest; her gown becoming soaked.
Dot gets a fresh gown and Phryne allows Dot to sponge off the sweat and dry her before slipping on the fresh gown.
When Dr. Wilson checks her again she is 81/2 cm, and she is thrashing with pain.
"My dear, you may see if there is a position you prefer, or you may try standing.
Given permission to move around, Phryne and Jack try several things, but nothing works for long, and she is trembling violently and retching as well with the worst contractions.
Another three hours pass, and Phryne is finally at 10 cm. Dr. Wilson gives her the go ahead to push, a frown of concern marring his features.
He has Dot and Mac provide leverage for her pushing. She continues to cling to Jack's hand, staring into his concerned blue eyes, hers bright with pain, her brow furrowed in concentration.
The next hours are a blur of pain and exhaustion for Phryne and in the end she faints.
Jack Robinson sits on the steps of Wardlow guilt wracking his thoughts. "If only…If only….If only I hadn't been so weak…"
One baby already dead, and Phryne hemorrhaging so badly that they sent him out of the room.
He feels hot tears on his cheeks as he thinks about the tiny little girl he had held in the palm of his hand her blue eyes looking into his, her little face red with effort and her chest sucking in as she tried to draw breath and as he went to wrap her in a soft warm blanket she stopped breathing. He yelled for Mac and Dr. Wilson, but they were both too busy with Phryne and the rest of the babies to help him. "We can't Jack- we'll lose everyone. Try to breathe for her – into her nose and pat her on the back and rub her vigorously with the blanket. Jack did all he could and Mr. Butler helped as well, but the little girl never took another breath.
Finally Mac insists he stop, "She's gone Inspector. You've done all you could," an agonized moan from Phryne recaptures Mac's attention. Not knowing what else to do, he and Mr. Butler carefully clean her tiny body and wrap her in a fresh soft as a cloud pink blanket. Mr. Butler leaves the room for a moment with tears in his eyes and returns with a French bread basket. He takes the baby from Jack's arms and places her gently in the basket, then reverently places the basket on Phryne's vanity.
At that moment Dr. Wilson's cry of, "It's a boy," drags Jack's attention back to the bed. Just in an initial glance Jack can tell this baby is bigger than his sister and that Dr. Wilson seems fractionally more at ease.
A boy! A son! Jack can't stop the grin the briefly splits his face even in his grief as the baby boy begins to cry. He and Mr. Butler wash him quickly taking care to remove mucous from his mouth and wrap him warmly and place him in the cradle on top of toasty blankets that are kept that way by the thoughtful application of hot water bottles beneath the blankets.
Jack gazes at the infant his heart swelling with love until Phryne's exhausted cry tugs him back to her side.
"Jack, we may need your help. Mr. Butler can keep an eye on Baby B. An issue that arises with multiple births is that the babies are pushed up high into the mother's womb and they have trouble getting engaged in the birth canal. We may have to push the baby down and I will need you to help push on Phryne's stomach. I want to avoid forceps if we can – they are disturbing though sometimes necessary instruments."
Jack nods, Phryne taking most of his attention. Her usually sleek glossy bob is plastered to her head with sweat, her eyes are pain filled and she looks utterly exhausted and she is shaking uncontrollably.
"All the afterbirth thus far is accounted for," Mac announced to Dr. Wilson. "Shall we help this bub along? Phryne looks done in."
He nods and grabs his stethoscope in order to determine the baby's position. As he listens a frown crosses his face and then he smiles in amazement and concern. "Mac, please take a listen."
Nodding Mac places her own stethoscope on Phryne's belly listening intently, "This is not possible!" she exclaims.
"What?" Jack asks bewildered.
"There are two additional babies, not just one," Mac says in amazement.
"What? How? What?" Jack sputters.
Dr. Wilson shrugs, "apparently they were lying on top of each other and the heart beat wasn't distinguishable. It does happen. I thought once I heard another heartbeat, but I didn't ever hear it again."
Jack suddenly remembers the time he had meant to ask Dr. Wilson a question about something it appeared he had noticed, but had then forgotten to do so in the bustle of all that was going on at the time.
Phryne groans loudly again her lips tightening in pain.
"Ready to finish this my dear?" Dr. Wilson asks his kind eyes taking her in. "I know you are exhausted. Only two to go now. You are doing magnificently."
"More than," Phryne says through gritted teeth attempting to stop their chattering.
Dr. Wilson tells Jack what to do again and while Mac and Dot hold Phryne's legs, Jack pushes down on the babies and Dr. Wilson reaches inside Phryne to see if he can grasp a baby and help it get lower in the womb so it can be born.
Phryne is in agony and Jack wants to stop torturing her, "Don't stop Jack and push harder," Dr. Wilson admonishes in a kind, but commanding voice. "She's weakening; we need to get these babies here sooner rather than later. Keep pushing. That's it. I can feel the baby moving closer. Good work. Just a bit more," he says his face flushed and set.
"Ok, Jack stop pushing now," Dr. Wilson says authoritatively. "Phryne, I need you to push. You can do it. Stay with me now."
Phryne pushes and pushes, and finally another baby is born. "It's a little girl," Dot says softly to Phryne, awe evident in her voice.
"Jack, we need to engage Baby D. I need your help," Dr. Wilson commands as Mac cuts the umbilical cord of Baby C and hands her off to Mr. Butler around the screen.
"I'll take good care of her Inspector, Mrs. Robinson," he says taking the baby from Mac, thrilled to hear her tiny cries and see a rosy pink complexion on the tiny, but perfectly formed little girl, her blue eyes looking into his and her fine black hair slicked to her head with blood. She is the tiniest baby he has ever seen, but she waves her arms and legs as he bathes her and she continues to cry until he gets her bundled into her pink blanket and in the bed beside her brother.
As Jack pushes once more on Phryne's stomach he can tell she is in agony and that she is beyond exhausted. His worry shifts from the babies to Phryne as he sees a gush of blood around Dr. Wilson's arm as he pushes and Dr. Wilson pulls on the baby.
Once the baby is engaged in the birth canal, Phryne attempts to push, but the exhaustion is too much, and with blood seeping onto the sheets, Dr. Wilson decides he must use the forceps. He does so as gently as he can, but Jack can see the total worry in his eyes now and he glances at Mac whose eyes are wide with concern as well.
"Phryne, I need you to push one more time. Can you do that for me?" Dr. Wilson asks. "Jack, get behind her so she can push against you as well."
Jack does as he is told and gets into the bed and positions himself behind Phryne. He can feel the uncontrollable shaking resonating through him now. "Come on Miss Fisher," he whispers in her ear, "you can do this. You can do anything and I love you more than life itself. You are incredible."
She rallies briefly and pushes with all the strength she has left and as she pushes Dr. Wilson pulls gently with the forceps, but he is having issues, and Phryne is leaking more blood.
"Mac, my scalpel," Dr. Wilson calls. Mac hands him the scalpel and Dr. Wilson does an incision to give the baby more room. He then pulls again with the forceps and the baby appears, inch by inch until the head and shoulders appears and he can pull the baby on out without the forceps.
"It's another baby girl," Dot shouts.
The baby isn't crying and Mac snatches her up and rubs her vigorously with a towel and clears her airways, then the baby mewls softly, and Mac sighs with relief.
"Keep an extra eye on this one, Mr. Butler. All three of course, but she isn't crying with the strength of the other two."
"Mac!" Dr. Wilson shouts, "She's hemorrhaging."
"Out of the room Jack and Mr. Butler. Dot watch the babies. Mr. Butler we need Ergot tea – as quickly as possible," Mac rattles off these instructions like a drill sergeant as she hurries to help Dr. Wilson.
Dr. Wilson and Mac race to keep Phryne from bleeding to death, but her hold on life is tenuous as they do manual uterine manipulation, one from the outside on her stomach and the other pushing against her uterus internally. And then work to stitch the incision as well. Both doctors are covered in blood, and both look determined, but extremely grave.
"Inspector, we need you to come now," Dot shakes his shoulder, and he raises his tear stained face.
"I can't live without her Dot. I can't do it. This is all my fault," he says in a voice so low that Dot strains to catch what he says.
"The doctors are doing everything they can Inspector. They need to do a blood transfusion. They need you to be the donor."
Jack is off the front steps and taking the stairs two at a time. He bursts into the room and takes one look at Phryne lying still as death in the bed, Dr. Wilson continuing to work frantically.
Jack strips off his shirt and flings himself into the chair that has been placed by Phryne's bed. She is paper white, the blue of her veins a stark contrast. Her heartbeat is so faint Jack can barely see the pulse in her neck and her breathing is very slow and shallow.
His face blanches as his eyes take in the amount of blood staining the sheets to vivid crimson. He closes his eyes against the sight silently praying she will survive, thinking because "I can't live without her."
Dr. Wilson and Mac prep him for the blood transfusion, both noting the scars that cover his body. Mac knows the full story of how Jack was attacked and how that attack had changed Phryne; made her realize a life without Jack in it was an unbearable thought, and so she had married him not even quite a year ago. "How tragic it will be if we lose her just as she is beginning this new chapter of her life," Mac thinks as she goes through the mechanics medical practice has drilled into her brain.
Dr. Wilson wants to ask questions, but knows there is no time for them. Speed is of the essence, and if Phryne survives he can learn about the scars later.
"Jack, we will take blood from you and put it directly into Phryne's body. We are going to need a lot of blood so you will begin to feel weak. I think you should move to the bed before we start so that we don't have to move you once the transfusion actually begins."
Jack nods his understanding and moves to the bed, Mac placing pillows behind him so he isn't lying flat for the beginning of the process.
Once they begin the transfusion, Jack watches life drip from his body down the tube into her, but he soon grows weak with the speed that the blood is leaving him and he grows faint as well. Slumping down on the pillows, the sounds of the doctors working fades as Jack loses consciousness.
Dr. Wilson and Mac work feverishly on packing Phryne's uterus with strips of clean material Mr. Butler boiled for them. The packing continues until they can pack no more into her body. They had nearly forgotten about Jack and the transfusion during this process and they see that he is out on the bed and becoming quite pale himself.
"We have to stop the transfusion now. We can't weaken Jack further. Phryne has to choose to live. We have done all we can for the time being. If we need to do another transfusion we can likely use Aunt Prudence or one of Jack's parents."
Dr. Wilson and Mac, along with Dot clean up as best they can removing as many of the bloody towels and sheets as possible and replacing with a fresh set so they will be able to quickly tell if Phryne is bleeding again. Mac forces some Ergot tea down Phryne's throat blanching at how limp Phryne remains. Dot covers Jack and Phryne with warm blankets and returns to watch the babies.
"Dot, Mr. Butler we need you to do the following for the babies," Dr. Wilson gives directions in a clipped manner. "They must be watched constantly and roused to make sure they are breathing because they are so tiny. I estimate each is 2.5 to 3 pounds; Baby B may be closer to 4 pounds. I want each baby massaged with olive oil every two hours and fed warm boiled water sweetened with corn syrup. They must be kept warm so the hot water bottles need to be rotated constantly as well. After 24 hours we will start a 70/20 formula of cow's milk, boiled water, 2 spoonsful of corn syrup and 1 drop of rum. We will supplement with this until Phryne's milk comes in and the babies are strong enough to suckle."
"How will we feed them?" Dot asks perplexed. "Miss Phryne interviewed the wet nurses and has two on call, but the bubs won't be strong enough to nurse"
"We will use medicine droppers for them," he answers, and adds thoughtfully, "Mr. Butler we will need to have medicine droppers and they must be kept clean in boiling water."
"We will have the family return to help tomorrow, but in the meantime the 4 of us need to take turns sleeping and caring for the babies and Jack and Phryne," Mac says wearily.
"Dot and I will take the first shift," Mr. Butler says knowing the two doctors need baths, food and rest.
"I think we should keep one of us on each team, Mr. Butler" Dr. Wilson says, "I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but Mac and I will know what to do if a crisis arises."
"Good thought," Mac says. "Dr. Wilson you should take a shower and clean up first. Mr. Butler will prepare food while bathe, and then I can shower and we can set the rest of the plan while I eat."
Dr. Wilson agrees and heads off to the shower, where Mr. Butler puts out fresh towels and brings the set of clothes Dr. Wilson was smart enough to grab when he went to get his tools.
"Mr. Butler, would you also call my wife and let her know I won't be home this evening and perhaps not tomorrow either?"
"Yes, sir. I will take care of the call."
Phryne feels weightless for the first time in months, and she looks at the activity below her with some interest. A voice is beckoning her. "Phryne, Phryne, come on, come play."
The voice sounds so much like Janey that Phryne is drawn to it and so moves toward it. "Where are you?" she asks.
"I'm here, come to the light."
Phryne moves toward the light, the voices below fading away. Suddenly she finds herself in a meadow full of daisies, and a young girl is waiting for her. The light blinds Phryne at first, and she can't really see that well. "Janey is that you?"
"Phryne, come play with me. Come see the baby."
"What baby? Jane, where are we?"
"Silly Phryne, can't you guess? We're here. Heaven. Come on. Come see the baby and let's play."
"What do you want to play?" Phryne asks.
"I want to play the Pirate Girls of Collingwood. I have a boat."
Now Phryne sees a small boat by the edge of a small but lovely lake at the edge of the meadow, and she hears the gurgling of a baby.
"Whose baby is this Janey?" she asks confused.
"Why this is your bub Phryne. She hasn't been here very long, but I found her straightaway. I'm calling her Daisy."
"Daisy is a lovely name. May I hold her Janey?"
"If you must. You hold her and I will captain the boat!"
"Very Well Janey," Phryne says with a smile gathering the tiny infant to her breast. "Hello Daisy, I am very pleased to meet you."
The baby opens huge navy blue eyes and stares into Phryne's eyes. Phryne instantly falls in love with her and strokes the downy soft head whispering words of love."
She doesn't know how long they stay like that staring at one another while Janey hums a song and mans the sail of the small craft.
Suddenly there is another voice, one filled with anguish, "Phryne, don't leave me. Please fight. I need you. The babies need you – two beautiful daughters and a son. Please Phryne, Don't leave us. God please bring Phryne back to us."
"Don't listen Phryne, stay here with Daisy and me," Janey says grabbing Phryne's arm. "I miss you so much."
"Phryne, please, I love you. I love you more than I can possibly say in words," the voice from far away says, "Please try Phryne; please come back to us."
Phryne is torn as to what to do, and she sits for many long minutes or perhaps hours gazing into her daughter's face and taking in the rosebud mouth and fair skin and holding the tiny hand. "Janey, I would love to stay with you and Daisy, but what about the other two babies? They don't seem to be here. I think they need me."
Underneath her words to Janey she hears another voice calling, pulling on her, "I love you Miss Fisher, come back to me. I want to spend a lifetime loving you."
Janey sighs loudly and then comes over to Phryne and sits beside her, "You can go or you can stay. The choice is yours. I love you Phryne," Janey says putting her thin arms around Phryne's waist. "If you stay with Daisy and me, we can play every day. And you will never be hungry."
Phryne smiles down at Janey's blonde head thinking hard about her choice. She hears a baby crying in the distance. Daisy is sleeping now a soft smile gracing her rosebud mouth. The crying tugs at Phryne's heart and along with it, she continues to hear that voice, the one that has become so dear to her saying over and over, "Come back to me. I love you. We need you. Our daughters and son need you."
"Janey, will you take care of Daisy for me?" Phryne asks softly.
"Of course I will. I'll take care of her just like you took care of me. Phryne, you are the bestest big sister in the world. I love you!"
"I'm sorry I lost you Janey," Phryne says tears coursing down her cheeks.
"You didn't lose me. I left you in the tent, and I went with that man. It is so beautiful here Phryne; I am never hungry or scared here."
Phryne places the baby back in the bottom of the boat and pulls Janey into her lap for a long hug. "You are the best little sister any girl could want. I love you very much."
"Don't forget us," Janey says sliding off of Phryne's lap and gathering the bub close to her heart. "We'll walk with you to the edge of the meadow."
Phryne holds Janey's hand as they walk back through the meadow so thickly covered in daisies that she couldn't tell where they had walked in the before. At the edge of the meadow Janey stops. "We can't go any further."
Nodding Phryne gives each of them kisses and hugs and whispers words of love. Then she walks on turning to wave as she hears Janey's "Bye Phryne" floating on the breeze, but she can no longer see them. She can however hear Jack's frantic words and the cries of other babies and her heart swells with love for all of them. She wants to go home to see Jack and the other babies. Her choice is made.
"Good bye Janey, Good bye my baby Daisy," she says softly.
"Inspector, did Phryne just say something?" asks Dr. Mac.
"Yes, it was so faint I am not sure I caught it. Something about daisies."
Jack and Mac share a puzzled look as well as a grin since these are the first words out of Phryne's mouth in two days.