A Parent's Sorrow
Rated: Teen for romance (Kataang and Sukka), character death (depending on how you look at it…) and a birth scene.
Summary: Companion fic to "A Son's Love". Just because you are the Avatar and the Avatar's wife, and your duty is to repopulate a nation does not make the road to parenthood an easy one.
Disclaimer: "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is owned by Bryke.
LES: This is a companion fic to "A Son's Love" but it can be read as a stand-alone fic. That is mainly because "A Son's Love" is the only fic that I have that features Aang and Katara struggling to have a child. This is the story of that struggle. Aang and Katara got married immediately after Aang's sixteenth birthday and now they are in their mid-twenties, with no children. Now… begin!
Sokka and his wife Suki were having an awkwardly quiet day. A lot of the people who lived on Kyoshi Island with them and all of their neighbors thought that the unnatural silence was a result of some sort of spat between the two. They couldn't have been more wrong.
There was nothing wrong with their marriage, and they were just as in love as ever. No, the reason for their silence was because they were waiting… waiting for visitors who only dropped in very occasionally, but they eagerly awaited every time.
They had gotten the message some time ago that Aang and Katara, Sokka's sister and her husband, were on their way down to the South Pole for some official Avatar business and they wanted to stop on Kyoshi Island to visit them. Sokka had eagerly sent back his reply, telling them that they could stay as long as they wanted, and thus the waiting began.
The days passed and, finally, the day of Aang and Katara's arrival came, and just on time, the form of a giant Sky Bison appeared on the horizon. The residents of Kyoshi Island happily gathered in the town square as Aang brought in Appa for a landing.
Every time Sokka saw his brother-in-law, he couldn't help but be impressed by how much he had grown from the twelve-year-old boy that they found in an iceberg. He was now the tallest person in the old Gaang, without a question, and his features had all sharpened into those of a man. To the women of the world, he was a Grade-A heart-throb… unfortunately, a married Grade-A heart-throb. And, if anything else, he was loyal and completely devoted to his wife.
Katara's maturity had done little in the way to change her beauty except to make her look even more like her mother. She had her own group of admirers who cursed the Avatar every day for daring to marry one so beautiful. But she would not stray, for she was as loyal and devoted to her husband as he was to her.
Katara stood up from the saddle and, instead of sliding down the side as she did in the old days; she walked carefully down the slope of Appa's tail. The giant animal held still for her as she moved.
Aang, however, dismounted in his usual way, jumping down from Appa's head and floating down to the ground easily. As he landed, he gave Sokka a smile, which was just as warm as normal, but somewhat reserved with his maturity.
"Sokka, it's so good to see you." Aang said, greeting Sokka in the common Water Tribe way, by grasping Sokka's elbow while the older man did the same to him.
That formality aside, Sokka gripped onto Aang harder and pulled the startled man into a brotherly embrace. "You too, Aang. You still treating my sister well?"
"You ask that question every time we come, and we always give you the same answer." Katara said, walking over to her brother. "Being with Aang makes me happy."
Sokka smiled at his sister, throwing his arms open for an embrace while Aang moved aside to greet his sister-in-law. Katara returned Sokka's embrace firmly. "Katara, I missed you." Sokka said.
"So where's my little nephew?" Katara asked, gazing around for the boy.
"He's off with Toph." Suki said. "Who would think that two non-Benders would be able to have an Earthbending child?" She laughed.
"It's all about Spirit." Aang said.
"Yeah, you just like me freaking out every time he used his Earthbending powers." Sokka commented sourly, and Aang just laughed. "So, why are we all standing out here for? Let's go inside!" The small family heartedly agreed and they all followed Sokka to his house.
The company was good and the conversation lively in Sokka's house that afternoon. Aang and Sokka fell into a discussion about politics, and how the rebuilding was going. Katara and Suki started discussing their various woes related to wifely duties and housekeeping.
"I can't imagine how you do it, Katara." Suki said, gazing at her sister-in-law in admiration. "Most days I can barely keep one household in order, but you have to take care of dozens of houses in every single one of the nations and every large city on the planet. How do you do it?"
"Oh, you know… just one day at a time." Katara said. "It's not like I have to do everything alone either. We have volunteers who help us keep the houses in order when we are not there. I just remember that my husband lives a very tough and very stressful life, so I do everything I can to make our homes pleasant."
"Well, just you wait…" Suki said. "Once you start having children, everything will get more complicated." Suki missed the unreadable expression that crossed Katara's face at the mention of children. "When my son was still small, there were days that I wanted to either tear my hair out or sell him to a zoo." Suki looked up just in time to see the strange expression before Katara got herself under control. "So, why haven't you and Aang had any children yet?" She asked. Aang heard the question and stopped answering Sokka's question about the Fire Nation colonies in mid-sentence. "You've been married for ten years; don't you think it's time for you two to have your own little bundle of joy?"
A blush crawled onto Katara's face. "Well, we've… uh…"
"It's complicated." Aang said finally, jumping into rescue his wife.
Suki scrutinized the two of them, and finally accepted that maybe they were still busy with putting the world back in order that they did not feel ready to have children yet. It shocked her because she always viewed Katara as the maternal sort.
"So… uh…" Aang began again, turning towards Sokka. "About those colonies…"
The four talked late into the night, and it was only when Sokka was starting to nod off that he noticed something unusual.
There was a small red spot on the front of Katara's dress. It took him only a few moments to connect the dots and realize what it must be. The realization sent a hot flush across his face. How could Katara… not keep track of those things? She should have known better…
It was dreadfully embarrassing for him, but he was not one to let others go through that sort of embarrassment without telling them. "Um… Katara? I don't mean to embarrass you or anything, but I think you've got a bit of a situation going on there…" Sokka gestured vaguely towards her abdomen.
Katara glanced down to where he indicated, as well as Aang. Immediately, Sokka realized that something was not right. Sokka had expected Katara to be embarrassed by the situation, but that was not her reaction at all. Instead, she began to scream and cry, causing Sokka and Suki to jump in shock. Katara clung onto her husband, screaming "Not again!" over and over.
Aang's expression hardened and he scooped up his wife. "I'm sorry." He apologized shortly before rushing her away. A second later, Sokka and Suki heard the bathroom door slam shut, Katara's continued sobs, and Aang's whispered reassurances.
"What… just happened?" Sokka asked.
Suki, however, seemed to know something that he couldn't figure out. "Oh Spirits… I think I know what just happened…" She gasped, getting up and following the couple towards the bathroom.
Sokka followed after her as she grabbed some of their towels. "What? What just happened?" He asked desperately.
"I think Katara just had a miscarriage." Suki said shortly. Sokka froze in his tracks, horrified at the very thought. Suki left Sokka behind, and gained Aang's permission to come into the bathroom to help them.
How could this… Katara was pregnant and they did not tell me? Sokka wondered to himself. Why would they not tell me? And, oh Spirits, she just lost the baby right in front of us! How could this happen?
An hour later, they came out of the bathroom. Katara's eyes were red from her tears, and Aang was holding her in an embrace, both of them clearly devastated. Sokka longed to say something, but the words died in his throat when he saw the looks on their faces. Aang swiftly moved past Sokka to their room.
Suki came up behind them, holding bloodied towels. Sokka stepped towards her. "So, was it…?"
"A miscarriage?" Suki finished. "Yes, it was." She held the bloodied towels closer to herself, heedless of the blood that she was getting on herself. "I'm going to go bury… um… dispose of…" She trailed off, apparently too emotional to say what Sokka knew she had to say. She walked past Sokka, and he could do nothing except stare at Aang and Katara's door, wishing that there was something he could do for them.
Later that night, Aang finally left the room, though it seemed it was only because he no longer had any comfort to offer his wife. So Sokka stepped into the room in his place.
Aang slumped down on the couch, burying his face in his hands, and finally breaking down in sorrow. Suki moved over to him and pulled her brother-in-law into a tight embrace. Suki held him until the tears stopped and then she whispered quietly. "This isn't the first time this has happened, is it?" She heard how Katara had screamed 'Not again' when the miscarriage started, and the way they handled themselves in the bathroom, while clearly devastated, was akin to people who had dealt with the situation before. They hardly needed Suki's assistance.
Aang nodded wordlessly. "We've been having… trouble."
"And this is why you and Katara don't have children yet?" Suki asked softly.
Aang nodded. "We both want children so badly… and we've been trying so hard… but it hasn't worked out for us. It takes Katara a long time to get pregnant, and when she does, it always miscarries before the fourth month."
"How many times has she…?" Suki began to ask, but trailed off.
"This will be the sixth time." Aang said, his voice filled with shame.
"Six…!" Suki gasped. She could hardly imagine what it was like to lose one unborn child, let alone six of them. No wonder Katara had been so devastated. No parent should have to go through the pain of losing their child, and losing six of them was just unheard of.
"That's why we haven't been saying anything about Katara's pregnancies." Aang said. "The first time she got pregnant, we were just about to tell everyone, and she miscarried. After that… we just started keeping the news to ourselves. There was no reason to get everyone all excited if it was just going to end in disappointment."
"Aang…" Suki said, embracing him once again. "I know that you really want children, but don't you think that you should stop forcing yourself to go through this pain? You could adopt. There are always young orphans who need a home."
"It's not as simple as that." Aang said. "The fact that I keep trying with Katara is the only thing keeping the national council from forcing through their own plans to save the Air Nomads."
Suki had forgotten for a moment that Aang was the last living Air Nomad, and therefore, it was doubly important for him to have children. They certainly would never accept Aang just adopting a child because that child would not carry his genes or his ability to Airbend. Therefore, Aang only had two opinions, have a child with Katara or…
"Have they…" Suki began, horrified to even think of the possibility. "Have they asked you to take another wife?"
Aang nodded. "At first they wanted me to leave Katara, now they are saying that I could just have a second wife, one who will bare me children. But I… I can't do that to myself or to Katara. I love her too much to just give up on this."
"What does Katara say?"
"She wants me to take a second wife." Aang said. "Every time she miscarries, she gets depressed and tells me that I should go with the council's plans. But I can't. I don't want to. I can't have a child with anyone except for Katara. The fact that Katara and I keep trying is the only thing keeping them away from my marriage. But every miscarriage makes them more desperate to get me a second wife."
Inside Aang and Katara's room, Sokka hovered in the doorway, staring at his sister. She sat on the bed, staring blankly out the window. She didn't even seem to notice his presence.
"Katara?" Sokka spoke finally. "I'm really sorry that this happened to you."
"It's not a surprise, though, is it?" Katara asked flatly. "If you miscarry five times, why is the sixth one such a surprise?"
"Six times?" Sokka gasped. "Oh Spirits, Katara…"
Katara ignored her brother and broke down into tears, drawing her knees up to her chest as she sobbed. "Oh, Spirits, something's wrong with me!"
"What?" Sokka asked, moving over to the bed and sitting down next to her. "What do you mean there's something wrong with you? There's nothing at all wrong with you."
"There is!" Katara insisted. "What is the most fundamental of wifely duties? To provide your husband with children, and I can't even do that! I keep trying and trying, but I just can't!" She fell into Sokka's embrace. "The world needs Aang to have children so badly, and I… can't give it to them. And it's not just the world… he wants children… I want children so badly…"
"Listen, Katara…" Sokka said. "There's nothing wrong with you. This is just the Spirits telling you that it's not time for you and Aang to become parents yet. It will happen when it happens."
"But when will it happen?" Katara asked. "I want my own baby… so badly… I don't want to lose any more of my unborn children…"
"Of course you don't." Sokka said. "What mother would want to lose their unborn children like this? It's a terrible thing. Just listen to me, Katara… you can't rush this or force it to happen. It's something that's beyond your control. You just have to let it happen."
Katara tightened her embrace on Sokka. "Can you go get Aang, please?" She asked softly.
"Of course." Sokka said, standing up. He slowly walked out the door, stopping in the doorway to look back at his sister. "You can stay here as long as it takes you to recover from this."
"Thank you, Sokka." Katara said softly. With that, Sokka left to get Aang.
Aang stepped back into the room and was instantly at Katara's side, pulling her into an embrace. Katara sobbed into his chest, tightening her grip on him. "I'm sorry, Aang… I've killed your child again."
"No, no, it was not your fault. This is nobody's fault." Aang whispered to her.
"It is my fault." Katara insisted. "There's something wrong with my body. I'm starting to seriously think that I'll never be able to have children."
"Please…" Aang begged.
"You need to take a second wife." Katara insisted.
"No. Absolutely not. I refuse." Aang said firmly.
"No. You know that I would do practically anything for you, but this is not one of them. I love you, Katara. I married you and I took a vow to be with only you as husband and wife. I won't share that with anyone else."
"But if you don't, then you'll never be able to have children. It's the only way."
"I refuse to accept that. We will have our own baby. We just have to keep hoping." Aang said. "And if the Spirits will us to never have children, then so be it."
Katara started crying again. "How do I ever deserve you?" She asked.
"You don't need to deserve me." Aang said, pulling her into a kiss. "We love each other, and that's all that matters."
(Ten Years Later…)
Aang and Katara had long thought that they would never be in this position. Over the years, they had suffered more miscarriages and more pressure from the national council for Aang to take on a second wife, but they never wavered. They comforted themselves after every child lost and clung to each other every time the council tried to tear them apart.
Now, after twenty years of failed pregnancies and being childless, Katara had finally managed to carry a child to term, and she was currently in the process of giving birth to their miracle child: the result of more advanced medical help.
"You're doing lovely, Lady Katara." The midwife spoke over the end of Katara's scream of pain. "Just a few more."
Katara hunched over, gritting her teeth against the pain that tore apart her lower body as she pushed through the contraction. "Ah! Aang, help me!" She cried out as the contraction ended and she flopped back down on the pillows behind her.
Aang scooted on the bed next to her, pulling her into an embrace. "I'm right here, my love. You're not facing this alone. I'm right here. Just a little longer, and we'll finally have a child!"
"Now, Lady Katara, one more big push and it will be over!" The midwife said in encouragement, and Katara instantly bore down on the pain, a cry of anguish escaping her lips. There was nothing but blinding pain, and then, suddenly… relief.
Katara let out a small sob and she fell back on the pillows, utterly spent and exhausted, her chest heaving. She barely noticed Aang pulling her into an embrace, whispering to her: "You did it! You did it, Katara!"
Katara closed her eyes, her body exhausted, but sleep was the furthest thing from her mind. She waited on tether hooks for the one sound that would make it all worth it… the sound of her child's first cries.
Several moments later, her wishes came true as the midwife finished clearing the fluid from the newborn's nose and mouth. Instantly, the tiny being released a loud screech of displeasure as if demanding to be put back inside the warm comfort of Katara's womb.
"Wow… the baby's really not happy about being in the world." Aang commented.
"I am." Katara whispered. "This baby will be able to experience the world that our other children could not." Aang nodded sorrowfully and took Katara's hands in his.
The midwife finished wrapping up the tiny infant. "My Lord and Lady, you have a boy." She said, handing over the tiny child to his father.
A wave of fresh tears came over the brand new parents as they gazed at their son, their little miracle. To Aang and Katara, there was no more perfect baby that had ever been born. Everything from his red, scrunched up face to his little toes was completely perfect.
"What should we name him?" Katara asked.
"Me?" Aang asked.
"You're the father. You should name him." Katara whispered.
They really were in a pickle. They had stopped naming their unborn children before-hand after the first few miscarriages, and most of their first-choice names went to the unborn children. They couldn't bear to name their living child after their unborn ones because they would never be able to forget each of the children they had lost.
"There's an Air Nomad legend…" Aang began. "…that the first human Airbender was the child of a mortal woman and the Great Air Spirit. They fell in love with each other, but had a great deal of trouble siring offspring because Spirits and Mortals were never meant to fall in love. Desperate, they begged for the Great Spirit of the Planet… still a full Spirit at the time… to allow them to bear a child together. The Spirit of the Planet could not allow a child that was half mortal and half spirit to be born, so he took away the Great Air Spirit's immortal spirit from him just long enough for them to consummate their love and a child to be conceived. A mortal child was born to them, one who managed to retain the air powers of his father. The woman named him Tenzin, and he was the first Airbender. I think I want to name our son Tenzin."
It certainly fit… this child would be the first of a new generation of Airbenders, and he really was a miracle child. "Tenzin." Katara whispered, testing the name. "Ten for short. I love it, Aang."
"I love you." Aang counted softly, pulling Katara into a kiss. "I knew we did the right thing by not giving up. But, Katara…"
"I don't want to do this again." Katara said. "All those miscarriages. It hurt worse than giving birth did. I don't want to try for any more children."
"I was about to say the same thing." Aang said, embracing her. "I don't want you to go through that pain ever again."
"The national council won't be pleased."
"I'll deal with them. They strung me along for over twenty years. It's about time I stood up to them."
Their son stopped crying and let out a small sneeze, which caused the air to ripple around them. The parents smiled at each other. Their duty was done, and now they could devote their lives to raising their single son right.
LES: I don't know why I keep going back to writing depressing drama. Oh well, as long as I'm not depressed myself. So now I have three potential Kataang families: one when Aang and Katara have several children, one when Aang and Katara only has a single child, and even one when Aang does go through with a plan to father children with multiple women. There. I've got all the bases covered.