Calleigh – January 5-6, 2037
Calleigh went into labour on AJ's birthday.
It started as a regular day for the doctor-to-be, including cravings for pears and yogurt. She spent some time doing research, studying and prenatal yoga.
The twinges started around lunch. She thought nothing of it originally because it was early and Braxton-Hicks had been the bane of her pregnancy for almost a month. Sarah had said it was natural and to listen to her body.
She spent the afternoon doing everything she could to make them go away. Walking, resting, eating, drinking…. They were regular, but Calleigh kept telling herself that it was early. Her baby wasn't coming yet.
"Are you sure?" Seth asked when he picked her up for his sister's party. "We can go by the hospital, just to be safe."
"Sarah said everything was fine at the last checkup," Calleigh reminded him. "And they're far apart."
He didn't look convinced, but did as he was told.
Kate was the next to notice. "Cal?"
"Braxton-Hicks," she said in a panic.
Kate's brow wrinkled. "Honey, I don't think it's Braxton-Hicks."
"Of course it is," Calleigh snapped, even as she registered that her "pseudo"-contractions were getting more intense. "I'm the pregnant doctor. I know the difference."
Kate had backed off, but kept and eye on her best friend.
It went from there. Nate, her mother, her aunts, her uncles, even her father, who as much as she loved him wasn't typical and usually off in his own world.
The first sign of trouble came just before cake. Calleigh had stopped by the bathroom, knowing that cake meant presents and she didn't want to miss a second. She knew that hope was futile when she spotted the blood. She was bleeding.
Her brain went into panic and she felt her chest tighten with it. The next contraction ripped through her stomach with enough force to make her scream, drawing her mother and Seth to the door of the bathroom.
Seth. Soothing. She reached out and gripped his arm as tight as she could, doing her best to breathe through the contraction. And she knew now that it was true labour. There was nothing false about blood and pain.
Stern now. He wanted answers. She gasped to try and catch her breath before finally managing to say, "I'm bleeding."
Seth, bless his heart, kept his cool. "Okay. You're in labour?"
"Ambulance or car, Calleigh?"
Oh God. An ambulance. EMTs and people she knew… "Ambulance."
There was approval in Seth's murmur. She'd made the right decision, even she knew it. If there was something wrong with her baby, her little girl, it would be better for trained medical personnel to be there, rather than just her family.
The bellow made Calleigh wince, but she didn't scold him. She didn't look up, kept her eyes closed as she focused on the grip she had on Seth's arm, but she heard Kate gasp.
"Is she okay?"
Great, now she couldn't even speak for herself.
"She's in labour," Seth said, voice still calm. This was why she loved him. The world could be going to hell in a handbasket and he'd still be there, calm and steady. A rock. "She's bleeding. Aunt Jen's called 911."
"Oh my God."
"Kate." Harsh shock. Calleigh registered it all passively as Seth instructed his sister to calmly explain what was going on. And to keep everyone out of here.
It was hard enough knowing she was bleeding, that her baby was in danger. The stress of all those people, as much as they meant well…
Kate was gone and Seth was back at her ear. "It's okay. It's going to be okay. Your mom called the ambulance. You know they're fast. They'll be here, Calleigh. You'll be okay."
"Hey. No bad thoughts, remember? Can't have the mama-to-be panicking unnecessarily."
"You used unnecessarily in a proper sentence," she breathed out just seconds before another contraction hit. She gasped, hissed, and hung on.
"No," Seth scolded. "No, Calleigh breathe. Remember? They taught you how to breathe through this."
"I can't," she mewled in pain.
"You can and you will. Your baby, Cal. Your baby needs you to breathe."
She did, harshly until Seth breathed with her, regulating her. "She's early."
"I know," he reassured her. "And the EMTs are going to be here any minute and then it'll all be okay. You know the hospital, Cal, you know the people. It's all good."
"It's not," she contradicted on a wail. "It's all terrible."
"Now, now," a new voice sounded. "That's a terrible reflection on my profession."
Calleigh managed to look up. Tom Hookham was an EMT she was already familiar with from her time in the ER and she offered him what passed as a smile.
"He's just being ridiculous," came his partner, Alex Sims spoke up from the doorway. "How're ya doing, Doc?"
"Yeah, that's what we heard," Tom said, slipping in to take Calleigh's other hand. "When we heard it was you, Sims and I jumped."
"We've got a comfy ambulance just waiting for you," Alex agreed. Still, the bathroom was too small for another person, so he waited while Seth and Tom helped Calleigh up. She tried not to be embarrassed as Seth helped slide her pantyhose off her legs – and yes, she was irrationally happy she'd ended up choosing a dress for this party, but she found them easier with how often she had to go to the bathroom – and she stumbled with Tom towards the door.
Alex caught her with a playful oomph that she ignored completely, lest she slap him with less strength than usual. They kept things light-hearted as they headed for the ambulance, trying to keep Calleigh calm, fighting to keep her focused on anything but the fact that something could be wrong. And she was trying, she was trying with all of her might to keep from actually sliding into a panic attack.
"And are you, kind sir, accompanying our good Doc to the hospital this evening?" she heard Tom ask Seth.
"I'm coming," she heard him agree. She felt him grip her hand as Alex settled her back, strapped her into the oxygen. She felt herself relax marginally at the declaration, and further when he slipped his hand into hers again. Then the doors were closing and Tom was driving them away.
"You help her out with this?"
Calleigh groaned and glared at Alex for the insensitive, blunt question.
"Nope," Seth replied without thought. He was used to the question by now. Very used to it.
"You sure about that?"
"Then what is your role in this whole drama."
Calleigh removed the oxygen mask from her face. "Alex leave him – AH!"
Seth didn't even hiss as she tightened her hand again and Alex replaced the max.
"No touching," he scolded.
She said something mean and sharp. Both Seth and Alex laughed even as the latter slid down the ambulance. "Let's take a look huh?"
. . . . .
The panic didn't settle. Not in Calleigh and definitely not in Seth when he saw the look on Alex's face. Something was very, very wrong.
"Hey Tom, get on the radio. Her doc should be there when we pull in."
Tom didn't ask questions, but there was a quick discussion between them regardless. Seth felt his heart rate speeding up. His first niece. The first girl of the next generation, The last thing he wanted was to lose her. And what about Calleigh? Seth had done his research, he knew that bleeding was as dangerous to Calleigh as it was to her baby. Losing either of them would be terrible, but losing both of them would be unacceptable.
Alex shifted around until he sat beside Seth on the ambulance bench. Calleigh was busy breathing through another contraction when Alex leaned over.
"She's losing blood fast. They're going to want to rush her in for a cesarean," he told Seth. "Our job is to keep her calm."
Though Seth's heart rate hit the roof, he let none of that show on his face. Cesarean. "Do you know what it is?" he murmured back.
"Could be a number of things. The most important part of this is she's bleeding, and the baby's heartbeat's dropping fast."
Low foetal heartrate. Jesus.
He cleared his face at Calleigh's low murmur. "All good, Cal. Hang in there, okay?"
She nodded. And passed out.
The next three hours were a blur. Seth hated that he was the one who had to break to his family that Calleigh had been rushed into surgery. Hated it with every piece of his being, but as the only person who had ridden in the ambulance with her, the task fell to him by default.
Aunt Jen and Uncle Spencer had looked horrified.
Nate and Eric had collapsed to chairs.
The rest of them were just trying to stay strong.
Seth looks up to see Sarah in the doorway. He jumped up, knocking his chair about and startling the rest of the family from their conversations and distractions. They crowded around quickly and Sarah looked startled. Seth offered her a slightly apologetic smile.
"The family," he said and searched the small crowd for Calleigh's parents. He pointed them out. "Mr and Mrs Reid."
"Jennifer," JJ said stepping forward and shaking the doctor's hand.
Sarah offered a tired smile. "The surgeon's just closing," she told them. "Calleigh made it through."
"And her baby?" Kate asked, clinging to Landon tightly.
"We rushed her to the NICU. We're running tests but she's severely underweight. We'll keep her here for a couple of days to make sure."
"But they're okay?"
Sarah's face was cautious. "So far so good."
The entire family sagged as one, reaching for hands, shirts, support.
"When can we see her?" Spencer asked, voice choked. His social skills may not have improved over the years but this was his first born, his little girl. His first grandchild.
"It'll be another hour, probably two," Sarah replied. "We'll send someone out."
But Seth was far from finished. He held Sarah's eyes as the family dispersed to wait. Again. She cocked her head and he followed until they rounded the corner.
"How is Calleigh?" He wanted straight answers. He wanted to know what to expect.
"The surgery went well," Sarah replied, meeting his eyes head on. Seth hadn't given her an inch in any of Calleigh's prenatal appointments. She was used to his blunt honesty by now and his need for nothing but the straight truth. "Mom and daughter came through."
"But," Sarah agreed on a sigh. "The baby's risk for complications is very high."
"What kind of complications?" He needed to know. This was research he hadn't done. This was a surprise.
Sarah huffed out a breath. "Breathing problems, sometimes vision or hearing problems. We're checking to see how well developed she is in terms of blood vessels and the strength of her heart and regular infections. The NICU is staffed for this, Seth. This is what they do."
He knew that and he believed in the staff. "I don't want to tell Calleigh she lost her baby."
"It's still much too early for those thoughts," Sarah reassured him. "I'm not going to lie and tell you it's going to be smooth sailing. The next couple of days are going to be critical for the baby but there's no reason to think that she's going to die tomorrow either."
"So death is a risk."
"Seth, if you're in the hospital, unless you have a broken arm, death is always a risk." She reached out to squeeze his shoulder. She like him because she liked how animated Calleigh became with him around. Sarah liked Calleigh, a lot and John had entrusted his star pupil to her care. Sarah had taken up to checking on Calleigh at the hospital before this and the woman on duty was completely different from the woman that came to her appointments.
Seth sucked in a breath and released it slowly. "Can we see her?"
"The baby? Not yet. And you won't be able to hold her."
Seth shook his head. "What happened?"
"She hemorrhaged," Sarah said bluntly. "It happens, Seth. There's no signs to watch out for."
"She said she'd been having Braxton-Hicks all day."
Sarah nodded slowly. "She probably should have come in, just to make sure. But there's no guarantee that it would have changed anything. We still may have had to go in and get the baby."
"She needs a name," Seth said on a bark of laughter. "The baby."
"Yeah," Sarah agreed, squeezing his shoulder again. "When Calleigh wakes up."
Sarah offered him a smile. "Until I tell you otherwise, everything's going to be okay. Calleigh came through like a trooper. She's going to be fine. And we're doing everything we can to make sure her little girl is too."
"Thank you," Seth said sincerely after a beat. "I'm glad she was in your hands."
"Trust me, Mr. Hotchner, so am I."
When Calleigh came to her world was blurry.
"You've been through surgery." That was her mother's voice. "They took your little girl out via cesarean."
And Calleigh's world cleared quickly. "Is she okay?"
"They're running tests," JJ said, automatically reaching out to push her daughter against the pillows. It was just immediate family in the room now. The rest were waiting in the room outside, dying for their turn to see Calleigh alive and safe. "She's in the NICU."
Calleigh shifted again, hissing when she pulled the stiches.
"Cal, no." Her father. Her dad was there.
Calleigh reached out for him without thinking, grateful when he wrapped his long fingers around hers. "You just got out of surgery. You're going to pull the stitches out and that increases your risk of infection by-"
"Spence," her mother scolded quietly. "Now's not the time for statistics."
Calleigh felt the tears welling. "What happened?"
"You were bleeding," JJ answered, brushing her hair over her daughter's forehead. "The baby's heartrate was falling fast so they took her via cesarean."
"Is she okay?" God, drugs were terrible. She hated anesthetic. It made her slow, loopy.
"She's in the NICU," JJ repeated. "So far so good."
"She doesn't have a name."
Calleigh's eyes had fallen closed, so she missed the look exchanged between her mother and father. "Did you have one in mind?"
"A few," Calleigh replied. "I figured I'd pick when I saw her, when I held her."
"Well, then be glad I love you."
Calleigh's eyes popped open to find Evelyn and Naimi in the doorway a wheelchair between them. Calleigh sobbed out a laugh. "Are you breaking me out?"
"Something like that," Evelyn replied as they wheeled the chair close. "We got the all clear from Donovan to take you to visit her if we're slow and careful."
"I want to see her," Calleigh replied, already slowly sliding the blanket back. "I need to see her."
"Oh, trust me," Naimi grinned, "you really do. Helms hasn't left that incubator's side. I've never seen him so bewitched."
"And the kid's what? Two hours old?" Evelyn groused.
Calleigh smiled. It was good to have her friends there. Good to have her family there.
Introductions were made while Evelyn and Naimi maneuvered Calleigh into the wheelchair and prepared to take her to see her daughter. Spencer stepped out to tell the rest of the family while JJ kept a hold on Calleigh's hand. Evelyn paced beside her with the IV cables and Naimi moved forward slowly and smoothly. This was breaking the rules, so they were going to follow the stretched ones to the letter.
Or, as close as they could. It was hard to follow the slow, steady and calm requirements when the rest of the family caught up to them. Seth took up a place beside Evelyn and Kate flanked JJ.
"How are you doing, Champ?"
"I'm exhausted," Calliegh answered Seth's quietly spoken question. 'And I just want to see my daughter."
But, she realized as they moved closer and closer to the door, there was the serious possibility that she wasn't ready to see her daughter. The NICU. God, what had she done wrong to hemorrhage and leave her daughter fighting to survive?
Sarah and John met them at the door.
"She's tiny," Sarah warned, even though her eyes were warm. "We're keeping an eye on her weight gain and her breathing. So far we haven't even seen a blip."
Calleigh released a breath she didn't realize she was holding. "She's okay?"
"She's okay," John promised, reaching out to squeeze Calleigh's hand. Then he addressed the family at large. "Only Calleigh right now," he said, to the family's dismay. "We don't want to expose the infants to anything we don't have to."
Then John was taking the wheelchair and pushing her thought the doors to the NICU. Towards her little girl.
But even Sarah's warning hadn't prepared her for what she saw. Tiny was an understatement as Calleigh took in her daughter's naked form. She was in an incubator, hooked up to electrodes and monitors. Calleigh reached blindly for John. "Oh my God."
"Hey," he interrupted before she could fall into full out panic. "Not yet, okay? You heard Sarah. So far she's fine. You know this hospital, Cal. You know what they're capable of. You know they're watching her like a hawk."
"Did I do this?"
"Of course not." She was irrational. Completely irrational. "You know that these things happen. You can take perfect care of yourself and sometimes things go wrong. If I've learned anything about pregnancy it's that the entire ten months are entirely unpredictable. That's why you have check ups, remember? That's why we monitor pregnant women. You can do everything in your power and still go into premature labour."
Calleigh sucked in a breath, then reached out and slid her hand carefully into the hole. She brushed a finger along her daughter's arm, watching as the infant squirmed. "Hi, baby," she whispered, unable to stop the tears from flooding her vision. "Hi, sweetie."
John brushed a paternal hand over her head. "She needs a name, Cal."
"Allison," Calleigh answered after a moment. Her finger moved to brush against her baby's tiny cheek. "Allison Johanna."
Calleigh laughed. "No. Ally." She smiled up at him, the miracle of her tiny baby hitting her finally. "We already have an AJ."
John reached over, wrote the name down on the infant's chart. Then he walked back over to her. "You did good, Cal."
"Yeah," Calleigh agreed on a sigh, a smile stretching her mouth. "I did."
I skimmed over so much in this. I've never been pregnant, never had to struggle with this kind of stuff and none of my research would have done any of this justice. It's also why a good chunk of this chapter is from Seth's point of view. It's easier to write the struggle from the outside because that I do know.
So, my apologies if things are wacky in here, bigger apologies if they're completely wrong.
Thanks for reading!