Ok, I decided not to wait to post this chapter as it is done. Pauline, as always, read and checked over it for me as well as my husband. Thanks to you both! This chapter is really where I have been headed all along with this story. I hope that you have enjoyed the journey as well as this (likely) last chapter. If you have enjoyed it, read the my message at the end of the story because I am taking it in new direction and would love to have you along as a reader! The characters all belong to Suzanne Collins as does the series the characters come from. I am just glad that she shared them with us.
Concern etches Peeta's features as he watches the TV and calls my mother. Before she picks up I try to tell him to relax. I don't think he hears me. The pregnancy is drawing to full term and the weather has been especially bad this winter. He is currently worrying over wether my mother will be able to arrive on time if the current line of storms continues to bear down on us. She had planned to arrive in just over a week, two weeks before the baby is officially due. We are carefully following the weather reports as they are updated. I hear him discuss with her wether she will be able to change her flight to beat the storm. She has a few things to tie up but apparently agrees to do her best to come early. I guess she has dealt with soon to be dads often enough to know how to handle them. It isn't as if the baby is showing possible signs of coming any time soon, but it is nice not to be the one worrying for once.
Every announcement this winter of bad weather and blizzards has pushed my poor husband to new manic heights. He has been overly vigilante about shoveling not only the walkways around our house but also starting on the paths into town, not stopping until he meets the large snow plows on the roads. He even tried to attack one drift that was almost over his head until I yelled at him that he was going to get himself buried. Since it is so rare for us to fight it shocked him into some sanity, however temporary.
Peeta seems slightly mollified with my mom's earlier flight but he is unable to be still and thus attacks the next project on his list. I have to admit, he has taken care of things that I had not remotely thought of. About a month ago Haymitch started a devious little game where he would come over for dinner and then subtly point out things that needed to be completed before our daughter arrived. I think he might have even fabricated a few of them. I stayed quiet the first couple of times thinking it was a harmless joke until I caught my husband staying up all night to paint our baby's room. I felt so bad that I promised myself that I would try to go easy on Peeta and make Haymitch behave.
I grow bored watching him baby proof cabinets. I make my way into the kitchen feeling a craving for cheese buns. I am digging around trying to decide what else I want when I turn around and run straight into Peeta. He catches me with his hands. "What can I get you?" He asks me.
"I can get myself something to eat, really!" I reply sharply. Immediately I feel bad about being cranky with him so I find something I can ask of him. "Well, what you can do for me is keep me company while I eat. And for heavens sake, eat something yourself! I thought that it was supposed to be your duty to gain weight with me, not get so skinny." I look closely at him and am mildly alarmed at his thinness. I guess all his frenzied activity and hard labor has coincided with his not taking enough time to eat. And now he looks stretched a tad too thin. Good thing he has always been very strong or I would wonder how he would have the strength left to keep up with all the heavy shoveling of snow still heading our way.
After we are seated and eating I tell him, "you really need to take better care of yourself Peeta. You are doing a great job taking care of us, but just as importantly you need to slow down and keep yourself healthy. You aren't going to do me any favors if you keep running yourself down."
"Don't you worry about me Kat, I'll be fine. How are you feeling?"
"Huge, and yucky!"
"No, I think you're beautiful," he tells me as he reaches out a hand to stroke my face. His eyes take on a slightly starry look. "I love the way your body looks with our baby tucked inside of it. And, your face simply glows."
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. "And I think you are a little insane but I'll take it anyway."
We bundle ourselves in the warmest clothes we can and head out into the cold. This is the last doctor's appointment. Once my mother arrives she'll take over and delivery our daughter at our home. It will be a welcome relief not to have to go out in this mess, especially since the walkways are icy and it is hard enough to walk as it is. Fortunately Peeta keeps me from falling and busting my head open as we carefully make our way to the place.
I happily dart into the waiting area and try to defrost. Before long we are in to be seen. Everything looks good, my cervix has just started to soften and is mildly dilated which we are told is on track. The baby has finally dropped. It certainly explains why it is a little easier to breathe, but I can tell hearing all of this is making Peeta even more nervous with my Mom still on the other side of the country. Our baby is just past 37 weeks and seems to be thriving from her estimated size. I secretly hope that she isn't going to get too big as I wonder how I am going to manage pushing her out. But at least she seems to be healthy which fills me with a deep satisfaction that my body has kept her safe for these past nine months. Now my worry focuses into keeping her safe once she actually arrives. My nightmares have begin to pick up again, but not the ones of long ago. Those have been replaced by new horrors related to the child I carry inside.
On the walk home Peeta considers calling my mom again, but I remind him that she has already promised to come as soon as she can. She does not need to be anxious, too, since we have plenty to spare. He acknowledges my point but I know he will not relax until she arrives.
The next day my mother is rescheduled to fly in but she calls in the morning with the bad news that they have cancelled all flights to our area. A hovercraft went down during the previous night in a district further west so they are taking no chances. She promises to arrive as soon as they allow. I have to remind Peeta that it could take as long as a month before I go into labor and that surely sometime soon the roads will be passable enough to let her through. When we climb into bed that night I can tell that he won't be getting much sleep.
By the time I wake up the next morning the winds have begun to howl as they have picked up throughout the night. Our house shutters a little with the occasional hard gusts. Peeta continues to stoke the fires lit though the house, trying to keep us sufficiently warm. There is plenty of wood as he has chopped and stocked enough to probably last through the next several winters in his zealous quest of preparation. We get an unexpected visit from Haymitch. I am not quite sure what he is doing out and about this early and with the weather getting bad but I think he has come to check on us. Perhaps in his old age he is growing sentimental, or else he still sees it as his role to mentor us and keep us safe. He hangs around for a while, clearly on good behavior. We send him home finally before things get too much worse. The last thing we need is to be stuck inside with Haymitch for the next week if we are to get snowed in. As patient and good as Peeta usually is, I think right now he would actually be more likely to kill him than I would.
When we finally do go to bed there is no doubt that the storm has arrived in full. It is hard to shut out the noises and get to sleep. I attempt to turn to my husband for a little distraction but he has grown scared of making love to me in this last month. He is too nervous about bringing on an early delivery. I have to settle for him rubbing the aching muscles of my back and pelvis. It finally relaxes me enough to sleep.
In the morning we are thoroughly imprisoned in our house by the snow. There will be no leaving for possibly several days. I wonder if the imposed stillness will drive my husband over the edge but he seems to have developed a new sense of calm in the night. As he is more relaxed, I am now the one who is nervous staying true to our bizarre pattern. It is funny how Peeta and I have developed this during the pregnancy. It is as if one of us takes the gauntlet of worry for a while, and then when they tire, hands it off to the other. There is no conscious thought or signal, but it works out this way just the same. He has been the most tense one for a while and I in turn had relaxed. Now that he is calmer, I am uptight. Maybe I just hate the feeling of being trapped.
The day drags on while we find ways to occupy ourselves. Peeta picks up his sketchbook and wiles away the time mostly there. I pick up one thing after another, never really successfully settling in. I finally take a nap out of boredom. It turns out to be a mistake as a nightmare about our unborn child starts almost the moment I am asleep.
Close to dawn I am awakened by a tightness in my abdomen. I have been having occasional but increasingly frequent tensing there on and off for about the last few weeks. Both my mother and the doctor have reassured us that this is normal. The doctor even has a fancy name for it. My mother explains it as the uterus practicing for the real thing. But as long as it stays irregular and inconsistent then it is nothing to worry about. So I roll over and go back to sleep.
I am awakened in the morning again by a tightness. I wait for it to pass before I get up and head down the stairs. Peeta is at the ovens pulling out something smelling of cinnamon and fruit. It makes my mouth water so I sit down to wait for it to cool. I watch him finish until he sits with me and we eat. He points out that he is eating an extra muffin to show me that he is getting enough calories. I tell him it does not count if I can still match him in what I eat so he grabs another to pacify me. As I begin to rise from my chair I feel another tightening sensation but this one is a little stronger. It halts me somewhere between sitting and standing as I grip the side of the table. This causes Peeta to fly out of his own chair to my side supporting me with his hands. It lasts a little longer than any before as well. When it is over I decide to head for the couch.
"Was that a real contraction Katniss?" Peeta asks, anxiety seeping into his voice.
"I don't know, but I doubt it." No need to get too excited yet.
"Have you had anything before this one?"
"Well, not quite like that, but I guess a couple did wake me up this morning."
Peeta runs his hands through his hair, deep in thought. "Sit on the couch and we'll start keeping track of them," he tells me as he heads for the phone. "I am going to double check with your mother and make sure of what this might be."
Peeta's face pales slightly as he puts the phone to his ear. "No dial tone." His voice is now deadly calm but I can see the tightness in his eyes.
Throughout the day he stays near my side wherever I go. He times and assesses each contraction and there is no doubt that they are building in both intensity and frequency. He periodically rechecks for a dial tone but with no success. We are completely cut off from the outside and can not even receive anything on our TV. Eventually I feel a gush of warm liquid spill from between my legs as my water breaks. This is about the time that Peeta really begins to get upset.
I watch him as he cleans me with some towels and I am filled with the strangest sense of peace. Everything that he has been to me in my life becomes clear in a sudden moment of clarity. My memory opens up a vault to our past. When I thought I was going to fail my family, had given up and accepted death, it was Peeta who brought us all life with his bread. Then by simply seeing him the next day I was given a solution to taking care of them. During the first games it was Peeta who dedicated his life to saving mine. I have no doubt that his efforts are a big part of why I am here today. Even after we returned home and I held him at bay, he never stopped looking out for me and was always there for me, if only in the background. His determination to take care of me never wavered through the second games either. Except for, really, the briefest of times and due to something out of his control, nearly his whole life has been about taking care of me. And he has always done it extremely well. "Always" I remember. I am filled with a complete confidence that I am in no better hands right now than his. I have supreme faith in his ability to get both me and our daughter though this. Peeta would lay down his life for either of us and with these thoughts I finally take comfort in her future. He will always take care of us both and I can depend on that.
"Peeta!" I grab his hand and pull him from his frantic pacing down to my side. I look deep into those blue eyes, far into their depths. I think I might even see all the way to his soul. I grab his face between my hands and tell him softly but firmly, "you can do this. You can handle this, I believe in you!"
As he looks into my eyes I see the shift in his features. He goes from distressed to determined. I continue on, "you will take good care of me and bring our baby safely into this world. I believe in you." With that, Peeta is a new man, no longer frightened but calm with intensity. He focuses on remembering everything he might need and sets about preparing.
By that night I am in full labor. I practice the relaxation and breathing techniques during each contraction that my mom had taught me. I remember Peeta and I trying not to laugh when we would practice them, but it does not seem very funny to either of us at the present. He helps me as best he can, whispering soothingly into my ear, counting with me and reminding me what to do next. I squeeze his hands as each contraction peaks. I try to focus through the pain sucking on the ice chips he puts in my mouth.
The night nearly passes before a new sensation develops. I need to push, have to push really. It is overwhelming and I can not resist it. I tell Peeta what I am about to do. He positions himself and catches our baby girl when she finally enters the world. We both breathe easier when she gives a strong hard cry nearly the moment her head is out. Peeta takes the time to clean her face with a cloth, wiping his finger down and across the back of her mouth clearing any stray secretions. Then I push my daughter fully into this world. My husband places her on my stomach, then he secures the cord with binding tying it tight in two places. He takes the sharp scissors he has sterilized and cuts through and finishes by cleaning with antiseptic. He expertly cleans her with some more towels then he wraps the baby in blankets heated near the fire. He resumes the duty of delivering what is left while I stay absorbed in my daughter as I hold her in my arms.
Her wet dark hair is plastered against her head. She calms in my arms and almost seems to be looking at my face though I don't know what she can really see yet. Her eyes are blue, but perhaps those will change in time. I hope that she will keep Peeta's blue eyes, the eyes that I looked into so deeply tonight and found everything in them that I will ever need. I coo to her and babble words hardly catching what I am saying since I am lost in my happiness.
Before long Peeta is lying next to me on the bed with his arms wrapped around us both. I look up at him and he has tears in his eyes as he looks at our baby girl in my arms. They are the tears of joy and of triumph. In this child our love is immortalized forever. I am glad that my mother was stuck and that everything happened the way that it did. Peeta and I were reminded of what we can do together. Besides, I know that my mother will be present and included when I deliver our next child that I am now determined will follow.
I hope that you have enjoyed it! If would love to hear your comments or suggestions! I kind of think that I have taken this story as far as I can from Katniss' point of view. I won't officially close this story just yet, in case I find something else for her to say. But I do want to continue on. I am currently working on a continuation of this story from Katniss' daughter's point of view. Because of the change in point of view it will actually be put under a new story. But it has been very interesting to see this world from the daughter's eyes. I hope you will find it once I post. Thanks to everyone who has read this first story of mine. It has started a new hobby for me.